Unix inventor Dennis Ritchie dead at 70

Dennis Ritchie, the software developer who brought the world the Cprogramming language and Unix operating system, has died at the age of 70.

Ritchie (known by the username “dmr”) was part of a dynamic softwaredevelopment duo with Ken Thompson at Bell Labs, which they joined in1967 and 1966, respectively. Ritchie created the C programminglanguage, which replaced the B programming language Thompsoninvented. 

The two later went on to create Unix, initially for minicomputers andwritten in assembly language, in 1969, and written in C in 1973. Unixwent on to become key software for critical computing infrastructurearound the world, though wasn’t for everyone. 

Ritchie once said: “UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius tounderstand its simplicity.” Unix , of course, became the inspirationfor newer operating systems including Linux and Apple’s iOS.

In fact, Unix supporters are out in force on social media networks this week,making sure that Ritchie’s accomplishments are recognized. 

Jon “Maddog” Hall, executive director of Linux International, tweeted:”…all programmers owe him a moment of silence.” 

Rob Pike, who worked with Ritchie at Bell Labs, including on Unixdescendent Plan 9, wrote on Google+: “He was a quiet and mostly privateman, but he was also my friend, colleague, and collaborator, and theworld has lost a truly great mind.” 

Many others made mention of The C Programming Language book thatRitchie and Brian Kernighan co-authored and first published in 1978,noting it’s still sitting on their bookshelves for easy reference. Thebook is commonly referred to as K&R in honor of the authors’last names. 

Ritchie during his lifetime was recognized for his accomplishments manytimes over. Most recently, he and Thompson won the $600,000 Japan Prizefor their work on Unix.  

Ritchie and Thompson previously won the Turing Award from theAssociation for Computing Machinery in 1983, and the U.S. NationalMedal of Technology and Innovation in 1998, presented to them byPresident Bill Clinton. The two also were named ComputerHistory Museum fellows in 1997.  

Ritchie retired from Lucent Technologies in 2007. Bell Labs is nowAlcatel-Lucent’s R&D arm. Ritchie’s passing marks the thirddeath of a technology industry giants in the past week. Steve Jobs died last week at theage of 56 and former Motorola CEO and cell phoneindustry leader Robert W. Galvin died earlier this week at the age of89. 

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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