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Father of "C" Programming Language Dies at 70

By - Source: Next-Gen | B 74 comments
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Longtime colleague Rob Pike reports that the "father of the C programming language" died over the weekend at age 70.

Over on Google+, Google engineer and publisher Rob Pike announced that longtime colleague Dennis Ritchie, father of the "C" programming language, has died at age 70. According to Pike, Ritchie passed away at his home on Saturday, October 8, following a long illness.

"I trust there are people here who will appreciate the reach of his contributions and mourn his passing appropriately," Pike said. "He was a quiet and mostly private man, but he was also my friend, colleague, and collaborator, and the world has lost a truly great mind."

Bell Labs president Jeong Kim backed up the report with an official statement he released to employees on Thursday. "Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed," Kim said. "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."

Born in Bronxville, New York in September 1941, Ritchie graduated from Harvard with degrees in mathematics and physics before signing on with Bell Labs in 1968. He teamed up with engineer Ken Thompson to create Unix in 1971, and then created the C programming language in 1973. Since then, several variants have emerged including C++, C# and Objective-C.

Outside of developing C, Ritchie also co-authored "The C Programming Language," a definitive book commonly referred to as K&R (after the authors, Brian Kernighan and Ritchie). He also received the Turing Award in 1983 (along with Kenneth Thompson) thanks to his influential contributions to the development of Unix, and was elected into the National Academy of Engineering in 1988 for developing C and co-developing Unix.

Adding to his list of achievements, President Clinton presented Ritchie (and Thompson) with the National Medal of Technology of 1998 for creating C and Unix.

"The quality of life and economic strength that all Americans enjoy is due to the vision and dedication of innovators like those we honor here today with the National Medal of Technology," Commerce Secretary William M. Daley said during the award ceremony. "These Medalists have earned our highest honor for their work in creating life-saving practices and products, plants that increase crop yields, and the basis for modern computer operating systems and software."

Ritchie was transferred to Lucent Technologies in the late 1990s as part of AT&T's restructuring. He retired in 2007 as head of System Software Research Department, but continued to maintain close ties as a consultant for Bell Labs.

"This summer we were fortunate to celebrate with him as he accepted the 2011 Japan Prize for co-inventing the UNIX operating system and the C programming language at a ceremony in Murray Hill, NJ, which was viewed by Bell Labs colleagues around the world," Kim said on Thursday. "For many it was the first time they got to meet him and hear from him."

"I know I speak for all of Bell Labs when I say that he made us so proud of him that day," Kim added.

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  • 33 Hide
    rocso , October 14, 2011 10:18 AM
    it is men like this that have driven us to where we are today. i wonder where the world would be if they had had the same philosophy as apple in regards to innovation. you will be missed!
  • 31 Hide
    guru_urug , October 14, 2011 11:08 AM
    printf("Goodbye world.\n");
  • 28 Hide
    cats_Paw , October 14, 2011 10:42 AM
    Thanks for C mate, Rest in peace.
Other Comments
  • 33 Hide
    rocso , October 14, 2011 10:18 AM
    it is men like this that have driven us to where we are today. i wonder where the world would be if they had had the same philosophy as apple in regards to innovation. you will be missed!
  • 17 Hide
    ntdls , October 14, 2011 10:33 AM
    @rocso - Thank you for that comment. I do not believe I could have said it better myself.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , October 14, 2011 10:36 AM
    we were lucky that the monopoly AT&T abided by its (was it a consent decree?) limitations to avoid the appearance of moving into the computer business. As a result, they made it available to colleges and universities giving great numbers of students access to operating system kernels. AT&T's business decision led to widespread expertise in building and using operating systems. Only later did AT&T enter the computer business for profit, leading to the funding of BSD Unix, various Unix wars (such as POSIX), and eventually Linux. Innovation everywhere you look, based on a monopoly that's knows its place.
  • 24 Hide
    zorky9 , October 14, 2011 10:41 AM
    Steve Jobs was a great man. But he would have been nowhere without giants like Dennis Ritchie.
  • 28 Hide
    cats_Paw , October 14, 2011 10:42 AM
    Thanks for C mate, Rest in peace.
  • 21 Hide
    win7guru , October 14, 2011 10:56 AM
    What a sad sad month for the IT world.
  • 31 Hide
    guru_urug , October 14, 2011 11:08 AM
    printf("Goodbye world.\n");
  • 14 Hide
    alterecho , October 14, 2011 11:41 AM
    R.I.P
  • 17 Hide
    v1wer , October 14, 2011 11:58 AM
    Steve Jobs was merely a profiteer with street smarts at the right time, just like Bill Gates. They both stole others' ideas and exploited their employees for profit. Nothing else.
    No comparison with Dennis Ritchie, a genuine pioneer, who dedicated his time and genius to promoting knowledge through computer science.
    You will not be forgotten. The world is much better because of your accomplishments.
    owner of http://mdgx.com
  • 13 Hide
    ojas , October 14, 2011 12:04 PM
    /*
    great man :) 
    R.I.P, your legacy remains.
    */
  • 4 Hide
    Kurz , October 14, 2011 12:09 PM
    Rest In Peace! If I had the mind to program I would...
    It is as much as an Art as its a science. Though You would say that you given us the brushes we need to give life to these machines we call computers.
  • 6 Hide
    isamuelson , October 14, 2011 12:31 PM
    rocsoit is men like this that have driven us to where we are today. i wonder where the world would be if they had had the same philosophy as apple in regards to innovation. you will be missed!


    Actually, when Apple first started, they were very big into open systems. The Apple ][, ][+ and //e all were created to allow the user to open up, add cards, program, etc. It wasn't until the Lisa and Mac came out that the systems became closed.

    In fact, I learned C on an Apple //e using the Aztec C Compiler which had it's own Unix-like environment for programming. So, if it weren't for Apple, I might not have gotten into programming and computers.

    With Apple, I was able to program right from the DOS prompt. No need to buy anything as it was all built in. Next, I learned 6502 machine language programming. Again, no need for purchasing a program. CALL -131 put me into the monitor to begin entering hexadecimal operators to program in machine code. Or, you could launch into the monitor and then type F666G to launch into the mini-assembler to do assembly language programming. Once you were done, BSAVE was your friend to save it back to disk. Of course, that was good for small programs. I eventually got the Orca Macro assembler to do my assembly language programming.

    So, as much as people hate Apple (I myself have a droid, not an iPhone but I don't hate Apple), they really elevated the hobbyist computer to a new level that brought video gaming on the computer to the forefront. I had SO many games for my Apple it isn't funny. In fact, I will go and run the Apple emulator on my PC when I feel really nostalgic for games like Ultima, Wizardy, Karateka, etc.

    As it is, if it weren't for the iPhone, would we even have all the choices we have to choose from (iPhone, Android, Windows 7 phones)? That's the beauty of a free market. Apple is free to have tight reigns on their products which in turn drives innovation from other companies to create competing products. That gives us, the consumer, choices. That's better than some other countries where you don't have a choice.

    I'll take Apple existing to help drive the market over having only one choice.
  • 4 Hide
    fakie , October 14, 2011 12:39 PM
    rest in peace
  • 7 Hide
    euston , October 14, 2011 12:57 PM
    Along with how terrific the C language is, The K&R C book is still the best programming reference I own. Thin and concise while containing a reference to and an example of everything someone who programmed the base C language might ever need.

    It's strange how strongly I reacted to this news. C was my first language, and I've been aware of Mr. Ritchie's influence since the first time I programmed a computer, and now, he's gone.
  • 1 Hide
    del35 , October 14, 2011 12:59 PM
    Quote:
    [Steve Jobs was a great man. But he would have been nowhere without giants like Dennis Ritchie./quote]

    Steve Jobs greatness stems from his skills at propaganda, receiving unconditional MSM support, and deceit.
  • 8 Hide
    del35 , October 14, 2011 1:01 PM
    Quote:
    What a sad sad month for the IT world.


    Yes it is sad that true genius of the IT world died. Dennis was no propagandist, defrauder of the gullible masses. He was just smart and demur.
  • 1 Hide
    DSpider , October 14, 2011 1:04 PM
    Wasn't Windows initially written in C?
  • 11 Hide
    del35 , October 14, 2011 1:06 PM
    Quote:
    Steve Jobs was merely a profiteer with street smarts at the right time


    He was also a con-artist with unconditional support of the narrowly owned MSM. The media is not telling us about Dennis, but still insists on proudly trumpeting non stop their "genius" Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a good actor and impostor. It sadden me to see great men like Dennis pass away with so little commentary on his contribution to inf. technology and civilization.
  • 6 Hide
    del35 , October 14, 2011 1:08 PM
    Quote:
    he's the father of modern computing he dies and no1 cares. just look at the number of comments. Compare it to steve jobs that didn't do anything productive other then sue other companies over silly patents.


    So fucking true. So tragic. When are the people going to demand freedom from MSM propaganda?
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