Passings: Of Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie

The death of Steve Jobs was a major world event,  accompanied  by an odd but affecting outpouring of grief from people who did not know him but whose lives he had somehow touched. So I was a little saddened, but hardly surprised, when the death of Dennis M. Ritchie attracted hardly any notice outside the world of computer science. Ritchie’s work touched at least as many people of Jobs’s–they just never knew it.

Unlike the showman Jobs, Ritchie toiled quietly in the vineyard’s of AT&T (later Lucent) Bell Labs where, with Ken Thompson, he revolutionized computing by making software independent from the hardware it ran on. Prior to the 1970s, software was bound tightly to its hardware. An IBM computer ran a proprietary IBM operating system and programs written in higher-level languages such as Fortran or COBOL were translated into code the computer could run using a proprietary IBM compiler.

Ritchie’s biggest contribution was the C programming language. C was a new sort of language, high level enough that could be written relatively quickly and without knowing much about the architecture of the computer it would run on, but with enough low-level control over things such as memory allocation that it could be used to write the operating system itself.

And the first great accomplishment of C was the writing of the UNIX operating system, on which Ritchie collaborated with Thompson. It was the first machine-independent operating system.  Originally written for Digital Equipment minicomputers, it was quickly ported to run on a vast variety of hardware. Today, UNIX and it descendants, which include Linux, Mac OS X, and Android, run on everything from telephones a TV set top boxes to the world’s largest supercomputer.

Though little known by the public at large, Ritchie was extensively honored by his fellow computer scientists. He received the Turing Award from the Association for computing Machinery, the Hamming Medal from the IEEE, the National Medal of Technology, and the Japan Prize. His memorial sits on the bookshelf of just about anyone serious about programming, a slender white volume  he wrote with Brian W. Kernighan called simply The C Programming Language and known universally as K&R.


Published by

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

119 thoughts on “Passings: Of Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie”

  1. It’s really a great and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have to express my thanks to you just for rescuing me from this circumstance. Right after looking out throughout the the web and finding opinions that were not powerful, I figured my entire life was done. Existing without the approaches to the difficulties you’ve resolved as a result of your review is a crucial case, and ones that might have in a wrong way affected my career if I had not encountered your website. Your own personal know-how and kindness in playing with every aspect was tremendous. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I hadn’t encountered such a point like this. I can also at this moment look ahead to my future. Thanks a lot very much for the professional and results-oriented help. I won’t think twice to refer your web blog to any person who will need guidance on this problem.

  3. Good blog! I really love how it is simple on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a great day!

  4. Your style is so unique compared to many other people. Thank you for publishing when you have the opportunity,Guess I will just make this bookmarked.2

  5. Thank you for all your efforts on this website. Gloria delights in managing investigation and it is obvious why. All of us hear all of the dynamic form you give very helpful things on this web blog and welcome participation from other individuals on that theme and our child is certainly becoming educated a lot of things. Take advantage of the remaining portion of the new year. You have been conducting a glorious job.

  6. Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share. Thanks!

  7. Hi there, simply become aware of your weblog thru Google, and found that it’s really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I’ll be grateful in the event you continue this in future. Lots of other people might be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  8. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

  9. My spouse and i were really excited that Edward managed to round up his research by way of the precious recommendations he gained in your weblog. It’s not at all simplistic to just find yourself giving out things which often most people have been selling. And now we know we have you to appreciate because of that. The type of illustrations you made, the straightforward web site navigation, the friendships you make it easier to instill – it’s got all overwhelming, and it’s really making our son and us recognize that this issue is satisfying, which is certainly truly serious. Thanks for everything!

  10. I am no longer certain the place you are getting your info, however good topic. I must spend some time finding out more or working out more. Thanks for wonderful info I was searching for this info for my mission.

  11. Great weblog right here! Also your web site rather a lot up very fast! What host are you the use of? Can I get your affiliate hyperlink for your host? I want my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  12. Those are yours alright! . We at least need to get these people stealing images to start blogging! They probably just did a image search and grabbed them. They look good though!

  13. certainly like your web-site but you need to check the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I’ll certainly come back again.

  14. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your weblog. You have some really great articles and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested. Regards!

  15. Hi there! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this issue. If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!

  16. I will right away grab your rss as I can’t find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  17. I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But want to remark on some general things, The website style is ideal, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  18. Thanks , I’ve recently been searching for information about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you certain about the source?

  19. I am curious to find out what blog platform you’re utilizing? I’m having some minor security issues with my latest website and I’d like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any recommendations?

  20. We’re a gaggle of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your website offered us with valuable info to paintings on. You have done a formidable task and our whole group will probably be thankful to you.

  21. Whats up this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding knowledge so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  22. I simply wished to thank you so much all over again. I do not know what I would’ve used in the absence of the type of points provided by you concerning such area. It absolutely was a very frustrating problem in my view, however , witnessing the professional style you managed the issue forced me to weep with contentment. I’m grateful for the information as well as sincerely hope you know what a great job you are always carrying out teaching people thru your web page. I know that you have never encountered any of us.

  23. Thank you so much for providing individuals with remarkably special chance to read articles and blog posts from this blog. It’s usually very awesome and full of fun for me and my office friends to visit your web site on the least 3 times in a week to read the new guidance you have got. And indeed, I am just actually contented with your incredible techniques you give. Selected two areas in this posting are without a doubt the best we’ve had.

  24. I like this weblog very much, Its a really nice spot to read and incur information. “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” by Ernest Hemingway.

  25. I’ve been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles or weblog posts on this sort of area . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this web site. Studying this info So i am satisfied to convey that I have a very excellent uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I most definitely will make certain to don’t overlook this website and give it a glance regularly.

  26. Definitely consider that which you said. Your favourite reason appeared to be on the web the easiest factor to keep in mind of. I say to you, I definitely get irked even as other folks consider worries that they plainly don’t recognize about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing with no need side effect , other people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

  27. I was more than happy to seek out this web-site.I wanted to thanks to your time for this glorious learn!! I definitely enjoying each little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  28. Hey very cool website!! Man .. Excellent .. Superb .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds also…I am glad to find a lot of useful info here within the put up, we need develop more strategies on this regard, thank you for sharing.

  29. You really make it seem really easy with your presentation however I find this topic to be actually something that I believe I would by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very broad for me. I am having a look forward to your next submit, I will try to get the cling of it!

  30. Nice post. I learn one thing more challenging on different blogs everyday. It’s going to all the time be stimulating to learn content from different writers and practice slightly one thing from their store. I’d desire to use some with the content on my weblog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Fantastic goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent. I actually like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is actually a wonderful website.

  32. I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings fast. Your write up is a good example of it.

  33. Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. Nevertheless think about if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this blog could undeniably be one of the best in its field. Very good blog!

  34. hello!,I love your writing very so much! percentage we communicate extra approximately your post on AOL? I require a specialist on this space to unravel my problem. Maybe that is you! Looking forward to look you.

  35. Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  36. Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic. I really like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it smart. I can’t wait to read much more from you. This is really a terrific website.

  37. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Many thanks

  38. I’d have to examine with you here. Which is not one thing I usually do! I take pleasure in reading a post that may make folks think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  39. Nice post. I study one thing more difficult on totally different blogs everyday. It will all the time be stimulating to learn content from other writers and follow a little bit something from their store. I’d prefer to make use of some with the content on my weblog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a hyperlink on your net blog. Thanks for sharing.

  40. I have been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or blog posts on this kind of area . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this information So i am happy to convey that I have an incredibly good uncanny feeling I discovered just what I needed. I most certainly will make sure to don’t forget this website and give it a glance on a constant basis.

  41. Hi there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to give it a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Excellent blog and superb style and design.

  42. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

  43. Just wanna remark on few general things, The website design and style is perfect, the content is very excellent. “Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” by Andre Gide.

  44. As I web-site possessor I believe the content material here is rattling fantastic , appreciate it for your hard work. You should keep it up forever! Best of luck.

  45. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *