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Friday, October 14, 2011

Dennis Ritchie Creator of C Language and UNIX System Died at the age of 70

Dennis Ritchie, creator of the C programming language and co-creator of the Unix operating system, has died aged 70.

While the introduction of Intel's 4004 microprocessor in 1971 is widely regarded as a key moment in modern computing, the contemporaneous birth of the C programming language is less well known. Yet the creation of C has as much claim, if not more, to be the true seminal moment of IT as we know it; it sits at the heart of programming — and in the hearts of programmers — as the quintessential expression of coding elegance, power, simplicity and portability.
Its inventor, Dennis Ritchie, whose death after a long illness was reported on Wednesday and confirmed on Thursday by Bell Labs, similarly embodied a unique yet admirable approach to systems design: a man with a lifelong focus on making software that satisfied the intellect while freeing programmers to create their dreams.
In a statement, Jeong Kim, president of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, said: "Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed. He was truly an inspiration to all of us, not just for his many accomplishments, but because of who he was as a friend, an inventor, and a humble and gracious man. We would like to express our deepest sympathies to the Ritchie family, and to all who have been touched in some way by Dennis."
Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was born in Bronxville, New York, on 9 September, 1941, and grew up in New Jersey, where his father, Alistair Ritchie, worked as a switching systems engineer for Bell Laboratories. Ritchie went to Harvard University and received his degree in Physics in 1963.
It was at Harvard that Ritchie first encountered a computer, attending a lecture on Univac 1 that captured his imagination. He moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the first shifts away from the mainframe to smaller, cheaper computers were being ardently investigated, and thence in 1967 to Bell Labs — birthplace of the transistor and, at the time, one of the most important centres of digital innovation in the world.

Multics to Unix

Bell Labs was the home of the Multics project. Multics was an operating system that would replace the idea of batch processing (where programs were run one at a time from a stack of cards by an operator) with interactivity (where the programmer or user themselves had complete control during the writing or use of software). The lab was also home to Kenneth Thompson, who swiftly became one of Ritchie's primary collaborators.
When Bell Labs stopped work on Multics, Thompson and Ritchie were loath to abandon the ideas of interaction and collaboration that had been key to its design. Thompson began work on a successor, called Unix, and Ritchie soon joined in.
Having persuaded Bell Labs to buy one of the most advanced small computers of the time, a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-11, on the back of a promise to write a word-processing system for the patent department, the pair instead created the modern operating system. Unix spread within Bell Labs and was announced to the world in 1973.
Ritchie died at his home over the weekend, according to a Google+ post from longtime colleague Rob Pike. His Wikipedia entry was updated to say he had died in Murray Hill, N.J.
His death was confirmed today by Bell Labs, in a message from its president, Jeong Kim, to employees. That message reads, in part:

Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed. He was truly an inspiration to all of us, not just for his many accomplishments, but because of who he was as a friend, an inventor, and a humble and gracious man.

In addition to being the creator of C, Ritchie co-authored "The C Programming Language," commonly referred to as K&R (after the authors, Brian Kernighan and Ritchie) and widely considered the definitive work on C. He also made significant contributions to the development of the Unix operating system, for which he received the Turing Award in 1983 (along with Kenneth Thompson).
President Bill Clinton awarded Ritchie and Thompson the National Medal of Technology in 1999 for their contributions to Unix and C. He won many other national and international awards for his work and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1988 for "development of the C programming language and for co-development of the Unix operating system."
Ritchie went to work at Bell Labs' Computing Sciences Research Center in 1967 and was widely known as "dmr"--his Bell Labs e-mail address. As part of an AT&T restructuring in the mid-1990s, Ritchie was transferred to Lucent Technologies, where he retired in 2007 as head of System Software Research Department.
In a tribute to Ritchie, Rupert Goodwins of CNET sister site ZDNet UK, offers some observations on Ritchie's work habits and his legacy.

Ritchie had the lifestyle and habits to match his position as an early guru of IT. Long-haired and bearded, and famously more owl than lark, he started work at midday in his industry-standard chaotic office, emerging late in the evening to go home and carry on working through to the small hours at the end of a leased line connected to the Bell Labs computers.... His ideas live on, in the rudest of health, at the centre of modern operating system design, in new programming languages, and in every electron and bit of open systems.

Steve Jobs Died at the Age of 56 a few days ago . May both these great people rest in peace.

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