Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dennis Ritchie

Today is a sad day for those of us who like computers... meaning just about all of us.

Dennis Ritchie passed away yesterday.  You should be very sad, even if you aren't sure why.

Dennis Ritchie developed a little programming language called C.  For years, C was it.  It was The Programming Language.  The language itself is being used less and less often in the real world these days, but other people have used it as the base for larger, more powerful languages, and if you have a computer I can guarantee that at almost any given time that you use that computer, you are either running something written in C, or running something written in a language that is either based on or derived from C.  The development of C is one of the biggest moments in the history of computing.  We wouldn't have computers as we know them today without C.

I knew all of that already, but in reading up on Dennis Ritchie's passing I learned something that I didn't know... or maybe did know, but just forgot about.

He worked on the development of the UNIX operating system.  I knew UNIX was written in C, but I didn't realize he was in on that project.  Why is that important to you?  Do you have a computer that is connected to a network?  You do?  Then you have to thank UNIX.  Do you have an Android phone, or a device running either Apple's Mac OS or iOS?  Then you have a UNIX system*.

Do you use the internet?  I assume you do if you are reading this.  The internet is just a great big network, and what OS was the first to allow for networked machines?  You guessed it... UNIX.

The computing world has lost a pioneer and a hero today.  Rest in peace Dennis Ritchie.

Read more here.

*Technically.  Mac OS, iOS, and Android OS** are all written on top of the LINUX kernel.  LINUX is a version of UNIX.

**Now that I think of it, I am not 100% sure Android uses the LINUX kernel.  I am more like 95% sure, but I could be wrong.  I don't think I am, but I could be.

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