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Dennis Ritchie, Creator of C Programming Language, Passed Away 725

Posted by samzenpus
from the code-in-peace dept.
WankerWeasel writes "The sad news of the death of another tech great has come. Dennis Ritchie, the creator of the C programming language and a key developer of the Unix operating system, has passed away. For those of us running Mac OS X, iOS, Android and many other non-Windows OS, we have him to thank. Many of those running Windows do too, as many of the applications you're using were written in C."
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Dennis Ritchie, Creator of C Programming Language, Passed Away

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  • dmr (Score:5, Insightful)

    by suso (153703) * on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:09AM (#37699942) Homepage Journal

    Mourn for his passing, but celebrate his life. He didn't just change the world, he make world.

    • Re:dmr (Score:4, Funny)

      by alphatel (1450715) * on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:12AM (#37699984)
      I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party.
    • Re:dmr (Score:5, Funny)

      by ericvids (227598) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:15AM (#37700026)

      He didn't just change the world, he make world.

      I thought he just said hello to it... :)

      RIP

    • Re:dmr (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:56AM (#37700480)

      And yet there won't even by any news in most places about him, because he didn't make shiny things.

    • Re:dmr (Score:4, Insightful)

      by genjix (959457) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @09:16AM (#37700656)

      >Greedy misanthropist that sold shiny gadgets with sweatshop labor dies and is praised by millions.

      >Creator of the most widely used programming language of all time and pioneer of Unix, both arguably a significant contributing factor to the success of every modern tech company, dies and not a single newspaper cares.

      Inventor of C and UNIX. 4chan has a sticky for him. That's the extent of media coverage I could find.

      A real legend of technology has died and nobody will even understand what he did.

      exit(0);

      • Re:dmr (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @09:36AM (#37700842)

        he wasn't famous for being famous or sleeping around. he wasn't a sports hero. he didn't ruin an economy (or several). he didn't make billion dollar films. he didn't start or fight in wars.

        therefore, no one in the media cares. ;(

        yeah, we have our priorities right in this world. oh yeah.

      • by Kyusaku Natsume (1098) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @10:30AM (#37701436)

        Men like Ritchie developed the tools that we enjoy to use to do our jobs, men like Steve Jobs brought the customers that pay for the food in our table and the roof over our heads. The praise that both have received is well deserved, and, in the case of Ritchie, it has been far too low for his accomplishments.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It takes time, but it is percolating up to broader/general media [bbc.co.uk].

    • Re:dmr (Score:4, Interesting)

      by loxfinger (571135) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @10:13AM (#37701208)
      My computer science professors, back in the mid 1980's, were highly suspicious of any computer book thicker than "The C Programming Language." I understand now how they respected Dennis' gift for concision.
      • by bhsurfer (539137)
        I was thinking about that book myself - I don't know that I've ever read a better programming book. Not only could the guy invent a language but he could write well enough to explain it in as easy a manner as possible given the subject matter. That's a talented guy right there.
        • Re:dmr (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Zancarius (414244) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @01:39PM (#37703908) Homepage Journal

          I was thinking about that book myself - I don't know that I've ever read a better programming book. Not only could the guy invent a language but he could write well enough to explain it in as easy a manner as possible given the subject matter. That's a talented guy right there.

          If you (or others) haven't read his essays on the history of C [bell-labs.com] and UNIX [bell-labs.com], you should. He was a fantastic writer, and he managed to make such "dry" subjects palatable for even non-programmers. Indeed, reading memoirs of his time at Bell Labs during the 1970s takes you there, with him, while he and his colleges developed the core technologies that would create the world we're in today.

          There are several other essays written by him, but those two are the ones I've had bookmarked for a very long time and stand out in my mind.

  • by menkhaura (103150) <espinafre@gmail.com> on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:11AM (#37699966) Homepage

    Just a couple of words: Thank You.

    • Re:Goodbye (Score:4, Informative)

      by smash (1351) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:22AM (#37700104) Homepage Journal
      As stated above. Without C, we wouldn't have Unix (which he also co-developed), Windows, OS X (and thus the i-devices) or most of the other modern operating systems. His contributions will live on.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Look, dmr did have a huge impact on the current state of affairs within the computing industry, and far beyond. But let's not pretend that things wouldn't have developed otherwise. The direction and outcome may have been very different, of course, but progress would have continued.

        If C hadn't arisen, we'd likely be using a language derived from PL/I or Pascal, both of which were C's main competitors in the 1970s. Hell, in an alternate world, maybe even Smalltalk would have taken off, had C not been so popul

        • by Stumbles (602007)

          it may in fact have been far more open, without the need for the FSF and similar organizations and efforts.

          That's very unlikely since the FSF deals with licensing not the actual code.

          • Re:Goodbye (Score:4, Informative)

            by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @09:36AM (#37700838) Journal
            The FSF came into being because RMS had a printer with a buggy driver and couldn't fix it. With Smalltalk, the image contains all of the code. In a traditional Smalltalk environment, it's basically impossible to distribute code that the end user can't fix. If RMS' printer driver had been in Smalltalk, he'd have just fixed it and moved on, not founded the FSF.
  • stdout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:12AM (#37699972)

    goodbye world

  • Not just the apps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@@@gmail...com> on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:13AM (#37699990)

    Most of Windows is written in C.

    • by Rhaban (987410) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:18AM (#37700070)

      Most of everything computer-related owes something to C.
      Without his work, the whole world would not be the same.

      Thank you Dennis.

  • Thank you (Score:4, Insightful)

    by deconvolution (715827) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:14AM (#37700000)
    I am NOT glad he's dead, I am also NOT glad he's gone.
  • A lot of us will be thanking him for his fundamental contributions to computing.
    I would hope that, were Jobs still alive, he would thank Dennis for OSX.
    • by Servaas (1050156)
      Much like how I thank a certain Neanderthal-er for everything I accomplished these last 30 years.
  • And no patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:15AM (#37700012) Homepage Journal

    Dennis Ritchie had an impact on the technology world FAR beyond what Jobs and Apple could ever dream of. Do you have any idea how many billions of lines of C code are running in the world, or how many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Unix-derived systems are running? Linux, OS/X, AIX, Solaris, HP/UX -- they all owe their origins to this man. Rest in peace, sir.

    Had he been a patent hound, he'd have died a rich man.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      Had he been a patent hound, he'd have died a rich man.

      I doubt it. Most of what he created was part of the 'worse is better' philosophy. Given the choice between C and Algol, most people would have picked Algol in the '80s, but C compilers were cheaper (or free), so they went with C. The same with UNIX. There were much better operating systems around, but they were either expensive, required expensive hardware or, in many cases, both. C and UNIX were both good enough and free. That usually beats really good and expensive. If they'd tried to make a large

      • Re:And no patents (Score:4, Interesting)

        by JAlexoi (1085785) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:56AM (#37700478) Homepage
        Sorry, but ALGOL is just as awful as Pascal for an engineer. It's a freaking language developed by academics for developers. C on the other hand was the language by developers for developers. Obviously academics chose what's best for them, thus Pascal still survives...
      • Re:And no patents (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ericvids (227598) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:57AM (#37700500)

        The 'worse is better' philosophy is more an argument about simplicity rather than price ("worse" functionality correlates to "better" practicality). Some of the best patents are actually for simple inventions used to do something novel. The novelty in UNIX and C isn't price (i.e., cheap/free), but portability (they're VERY simple designs yet powerful enough to write a self-compiler) -- and that made it better than the alternatives such as Algol. Not just marginally, it really WAS much better because hardware was developing so fast at the time (birth of personal computing, remember?) and Algol simply couldn't keep up.

        Ritchie definitely could have made a large profit from the whole shebang if he wanted to. He didn't.

    • by Zocalo (252965)
      Exactly my sentiment. Perhaps a few hundred million people might own iThings, but just about everyone on the planet either directly interacts with, or is at least affected by, applications written in C and/or running on UNIX every single day of their lives, even if they might not realise it. Steve Jobs' passing went straight onto the breaking news tickers of the mainstream media, but so far dmr does not even appear to have a single byline - there's something telling about what's wrong with this world, rig
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617)

        This is as it always has been.

        The whole of humanity celebrates celebrities. (I wonder if there is a connection between those two words?) The reality is as reality always has been. Steve Jobs was a greedy sociopath. The people who actually make and do things are employed and used by the previously mentioned sociopaths.

        It is an EXTREMELY rare person who can create great things and also be a great leader and icon. At the moment, I can't think of any. But other parallel examples of this scenario come to mind --

    • by mykepredko (40154)

      Had he been a patent hound, he'd have died a rich man.

      I know that this sounds cheesy, but if you go by the sentiments of Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life", he was a rich man.

      Thanx Dennis and godspeed.

      myke

    • Re:And no patents (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:48AM (#37700408)

      If he had been a patent hound, we'd be years behind where we are now in software.

    • Billions? I'm wiling to bet trillions. Or more.

      When Steve died, i set my wall paper to a picture of him with a few clicks. When Dennis Ritchie died, I slipped a small quote from him into my bashrc. If there's not a stark contrast between what these two men did, and why, I can't find it.

  • RIP (Score:5, Funny)

    by neo12 (1892318) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:15AM (#37700018)

    main()
    {
        printf("Goodbye, World");
    }

    -RIP dmr

    • by eexaa (1252378)

      +1 with no mod points.

    • by AikonMGB (1013995)

      main() { printf("Goodbye, World"); }

      -RIP dmr

      Win.

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        Warning: no return type specified for function "main".

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Yes, he has moved on to the "void main()"

        I seriously did not care that Jobs died and was a little glad to see the end of the idol worship it cultivated through his marketing style. But with the passing of dmr, I actually feel a sense of loss even if he hasn't done anything recently or had any known "incomplete projects."

    • by OzPeter (195038)

      In this case /. needs a +1 poignant

    • Don't forget the linebreak.

      I always forget the linebreak.

    • You forgot
      #include

      One time I was frustrated from debugging some C code and a non coder figured they may try to help... In a brink of what he though was genius he went to me. "I found your problem you spelled Studio wrong!"
      Granted compiling the code I got less errors but it didn't solve the problem (I didn't quite want to explain that meant standard input output).

  • by Windwraith (932426) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:15AM (#37700030)

    ...but this is just sad. This guy did stuff I care about.
    Godspeed.

    • by 5hoom (937675)
      Totally. The 'nixes & C are incredibly huge contributions to our technology filled world. This guy gave us so much of what we take for granted every day. Rest in peace.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this world full of morons?

    One of the fathers of the modern computing operating sistem, co-creator of C and UNIX, and less than 10 comments?

    People is sick.

    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      That he died is something serious, not a popularity contest party like was Jobs death. All the ones that claim to be giants now (dead or alive), are mostly dwarfs standing over Ritchie's shoulders.
    • by inflex (123318)

      Well, I facebook'd it - and to this day I still write a lot of C code, for open-source, commercial and even embedded systems now. It's been over 20 years and I'm still finding it a useful tool a lot of the time.

  • by jregel (39009) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:20AM (#37700082) Homepage

    It's no exaggeration that without Dennis Ritchie's contributions, many of us would have very different careers. I've been fortunate to spend the first 12 years of my IT career working on multiple Unix and Linux systems, and although I'm not much of a coder, I've compiled a fair amount of C and recognise that if it hadn't been invented, neither would C++ or C#, which constitutes a lot of the code in use today.

    Without Unix, what would the Internet been built on? Perhaps something like VMS? Would tools like Sendmail or BIND been developed in those environments? The influence of Unix can be seen everywhere in IT.

    Actually, without Unix, we wouldn't have had NeXTstep, which became MacOS X, which became iOS. We wouldn't have had Minix or Linux, so no Android. So the mobile landscape would have been different as well.

    I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that Dennis Ritchie's legacy is the IT industry we have today. Most of us stand on this giant's shoulders.

    RIP Dennis Ritchie.


  • It's a little unnerving to think about how long Unix has been part of my career. Thanks, dmr.
  • I never met the man, but he was central to my love of computers.


    printf("Hello, Heaven");

    To me this is for more significant than the passing of Mr. Jobs.
  • Apart from personal loss.

    His contributions to computing have been effecting us all for nigh on 40 years and that effect has been overwhelmingly beneficial. It's extremely likely (barring anything bad happening in 2038) that we will all continue to reap the benefit of DMR's existence for many decades to come.

  • Always had a great respect for him for making C and UNIX. I guess it's early in the day, but way less comments than I was expecting for news like this.
  • I still have a copy of K & R on my bookshelf. His contributions to the field of computer science were wonderful. IMHO, C should be the entry point for anyone considering pursuing a life in computer programming.
  • May you be remembered and celebrated for all that you brought to computing. I hope your name will not be forgotten from history. The fact that your death is announced as 'another great one' in the same breath as... someone else makes me scared for your rightful place in it.

    I am truly sad that you are gone.

  • Have you realized that the first generation of hackers is starting to reach that age?

    It's a huge loss for the world. Ritchie was a genius, a great man, and he helped change the world forever in the right direction.

    C and Unix changed the entire world. The popularization of computing, moving it away from the universities and into the private space of companies and homes started with C and Unix. It revolutionized Operating System and software design in general completely, indirectly giving birth to just about

  • by sammyF70 (1154563) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:41AM (#37700348) Homepage Journal

    Here is a clip of Ritchie explaining Unix (although I ~knew~ him mostly through his work on C)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7FjX7r5icV8 [youtube.com]

  • Ha ! The value of *my* copy of 'C' can only go up !

  • I started off as an computer science student, but switched to engineering.
    time and again, i asked to take C rather than Fortran.
    they said C was just a passing fad.

    his language will out live us all.

  • by rkhalloran (136467) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:49AM (#37700424) Homepage

    Without the work of dmr and the rest of the 1127 group at Bell Labs, the computing landscape we take for granted would be radically different, and many of us would be in other lines of work.

    UNIX isn't the perfect OS, but it does better, in more environments, than anything else out there. Jobs and Torvalds would have very different lives if not for the work Ritchie did.

    Requiescat in pace, dmr.

  • SFW link, please (Score:4, Informative)

    by bjb (3050) * on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:58AM (#37700504) Homepage Journal
    Sorry to rant about this, but for the folks who live behind a websense firewall, a social networking site like Google+ is as good as no link at all.

    Spent 5 seconds to find one that isn't blocked by proxy servers:

    Father of C and UNIX Dennis Ritchie passes away at age 70 [techcrunch.com]

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @08:58AM (#37700506)

    I started learning C on FreeBSD 2.2.8 when I was in the 8th grade. In 9th grade, the internet was still a much wilder place than it is today, and felt a lot friendlier and smaller. As such, I didn't really see anything wrong with emailing random "public figures" to ask them questions. Of course, some didn't respond, some were rude assholes (Linus, I'm looking at you...), but some were truly amazing. In the amazing category would be Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson, both of whom would answer my emails promptly and regularly. I corresponded with both of them for the better part of a year and a half, before doing things like getting a girl friend. Both Ken and Dennis were more than happy to hep me out with questions, give me advice and steer me in the right direction.

    I wish I still had those emails but, alas, I don't. Of all the digital "property" I wish I had never lost, those emails are pretty much the only thing on the list. I don't know where I would be in life, or what I would be doing, if it weren't for the work they did and their guidance when I was younger. Dennis might be the first "famous" person that I've ever felt like the world was poorer in some way for losing.

    • My story goes back a bit further, I think. In 1985-6, I was a senior in High School and already a massive computer geek. My senior year school day consisted of a math class, an English class, and the rest of the day was spent in the computer lab. We mostly played on TRS-80 Model 4's but also enjoyed running a DEC PDP-8 which had 2K of core memory, two 512K drum drives the size of refrigerators, a Teletype printer console, and a bunch of whirring DECtape drives. Unfortunately it didn't run Unix, it ran RS

  • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062.gmail@com> on Thursday October 13, 2011 @09:26AM (#37700740)

    I never met the man, but it was his code that shaped the rest of my life. In 1978 I entered college to be a physicist. When I discovered I had to actually understand Calculus to get past the basics of physics, I found my way over to the computer lab. There I ran my first program, but as a consumer, not a creator. I was amazed and had to know how the program worked so I went to see the head of the department. The next day I signed up for CS101 for the next semester.

    the Head of Comp Sci, just the year before had decided to radically change the direction of the CompSci program from understanding/learning the mainframe world to the emerging mini computers. Out when IBM and in came DEC PDP/11. Out went COBOL, in came C, RATFOR, FORTRAN, and Pascal along with assembler. My first Comp Sci book was K&R and I referenced that book for years. I'll grant he shaped the world, but he did it one programmer at a time. My variation:

    Void Main() {
            printf("Thank You Richie, from The World");
    }

    (for those noting that he has not gotten any major press, that is the difference between creation and marketing. Jobs was marketing magician, and very good at his job. Folks like Woz, Richie, Tim Patterson, these creators were the foundations which allowed minds like Jobs or Gates to exist. Their drive was not on attention, but creation. Today's media has little time on depth so they just follow the rule, sex sells and the creator of a programming language is not sexy, the king of marketing shiny devices that do fun things, he's sexy)

  • by Compulawyer (318018) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @09:48AM (#37700970)

    #include

    int main()

    {

    printf("Goodbye Dennis and thanks for all the code!");

    }

  • I'll never forget... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bmacs27 (1314285) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @11:10AM (#37701932)
    His brother was the superintendent of my high school growing up, so in my programming class we got to ask him a question. We ultimately decided to settle a debate over how to pronounce the word "char." There was some debate over how it was pronounced, with some claiming that it should be pronounced "char" as in broiled, others insisting it be pronounced like "care" as in short for character, and others still thought "car," for reasons that still aren't clear. Anyhow, he said either of the former two pronunciations would be appropriate, but the third simply makes no sense.
  • Stuff that matters (Score:4, Informative)

    by Torodung (31985) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @02:24PM (#37704472) Journal

    Now this matters. Goodbye and well done.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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