While 5th October marked death anniversary of Steve Job which had led to huge outcry, little do people know about Dennis Ritchie who sadly passed in the same month as Jobs.While Steve Jobs might be famous for the iconic company that created a niche for aesthetically pleasing product with almost perfect synchronization of software and hardware, we tend to forget that it was Ritchie’s creation that Jobs and Gates used as a base to build on. The UNIX, which ironically is what OSX is made on owes everything to Richie. Let’s have a look at Dennis Ritchie and his iconic life.
- Dennis Ritchie was born on September 9, 1941, in Bronxville, New York to Alistair Ritchie, a switching systems engineer for Bell Laboratories, and Jean McGee Ritchie, a homemaker. moved to Summit, New Jersey, where Ritchie would graduate from high school.
Guess we know where the geek genes came from.
- He did very well academically and went to pursue his undergraduate and postgraduate studies from Harvard where he studied physics and applied Maths.
In his biography for Bell laboratories, which would be his home for next 4o years, he wrote-
“My undergraduate experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be a physicist, and that computers were quite neat and my graduate school experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be an expert in the theory of algorithms and also that I liked procedural languages better than functional ones.”
- His career with Bell Labs started as a doctoral student in 1967 and ended upon his retirement in 2007. Bell labs is where he rewrote the procedural language by authoring C language along with Princeton CS Professor Brian W. Kernighan.
- C was originally made because Ritchie and Kernighan needed a high level language rather than machine code to desgin UNIX.
Quoting Selzer, researcher at Harvard, Unix “has essentially been the model of modern operating systems for the past 35 years,” and serves as original ancestor for current Windows and Apple personal computers operating systems.
- Accolades; Ritchie and Thompson were awarded the Turing Award, the highest honor in computer science known informally as the Nobel Prize of computing, in 1983 for their development of Unix.In 1998, they were awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton, probably the second most prestigious medal in technology.
Harvard Crimson ran a story after Ritchie’s demise, here’s what eminent scholars had to say about him.
“Ritchie bears more personal responsibility than anyone else for C and Unix, and hence for their many derivatives. The world would be a VERY different place had he not created these things,” Jennifer Lewis, Professor at Harvard.
Kernighan said that though Ritchie is gone, his colleague’s legacy is everywhere.
“Dennis’s legacy is the stuff that makes it work. The operating system, the Internet, phone system, all of that system is written in C…and that’s Dennis’s legacy.”