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T O P I C     R E V I E W
Member # 199
 - posted October 14, 2011 02:54
We've lost another giant of the computer industry...and he may actually be more important than Steve Jobs:

Dennis Ritchie, pioneer of C programming language and Unix, reported dead at age 70

This man, along with Ken Thompson and Brian Kernighan, invented what may be the single most popular operating system and programming language in history. Love them or hate them, nothing can take the place of Unix and C, in their respective fields. Without them, I would literally not be posting this for you right now...because the Internet, and modern computing as a whole, rest on their shoulders. Including most of the popular products for which Steve Jobs was lionized!

Consider this: Pretty much every current "mainstream" computer operating system, that is not either (1) Windows, or (2) running on an IBM "dinosaur," is somehow derived from Unix. That includes Mac OS X (BSD via NeXTstep), Solaris (BSD via SunOS), Linux (Linus Torvalds used SunOS as a template, in addition to Minix, in building the Linux kernel), OpenBSD/FreeBSD/NetBSD (from BSD, of course, via the 386BSD project), iOS (modified Mac OS X), Android and Palm webOS (both use the Linux kernel), and it just goes on and on. And Unix did have an influence on Windows at one point, with the concept of hierarchical directories (first appeared in MS-DOS 2.0, carried forward from there). And, of course, those IBM "dinosaurs" can and do run Linux, in addition to their proprietary OS.

As for C...it's almost too much to list. Both C++ and Objective-C are both straight derivatives, of course. Java and C# are also, ultimately, derivatives of C...and their runtime environments (the JVM and CLR, respectively) are written in C. All the "dynamic" languages the kids like today--Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby--guess what their interpreters are written in? Same thing for databases, from SQLite and MySQL, up through Postgres and SQL Server, all the way to the mighty Oracle, and Web servers like Apache and IIS--indeed, network servers of all types. Even Windows is written in C (along with C++ and assembler), not unlike Unix itself. And C itself is self-hosted; pull down the source code for gcc (the GNU C compiler) and you'll find a lot of .c files in there.

The concepts embodied in both Unix and C are as simple as they can be made, which makes them uncommonly powerful. Their simplicity is why dmr could make them work with only a couple of other engineers, while other contemporary OSs and programming languages required huge teams. And it's what keeps both of them, not just alive and relevant, but damn near ubiquitous today.

Dennis Ritchie was a true inventor, and a light to the entire world. May he find the same peace we all wish for Jobs. I'm quite certain he's earned it.

#include <stdio.h>

printf("Goodbye world - Rest in peace, dmr\n");

The Famous Druid
Member # 1769
 - posted October 14, 2011 04:06

Ritchie was indeed a master of the 'Less Is More' school of design, if only the young whipper-snappers of today would follow his example...
Member # 1089
 - posted October 14, 2011 08:51
Total dude. His book never seems to be outside of arm's reach -- I can't even say that about my favourite issue of 'Big and Bouncy'. :-)
Member # 199
 - posted October 16, 2011 06:17
TFD, I still have my copy of the original K&R I used as a college text. It is one of the slimmest volumes on my bookshelf. Heck, I have manuals for computer games that are thicker than K&R. That should tell you how committed the designers of the language (Ritchie being the "R" of the pair) were to keeping it simple.

I am reminded of a quote by Henry David Thoreau, from Walden:
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, not as a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.


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