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USA: Legendary Computer Scientist Dennis Ritchie Has Died

Computer science legend Dennis Ritchie died on October 8, 2011 in his home in New Jersey at the age of 70, leaving behind a legacy of enormous impact on global development. Ritchie was the developer of the C programming language, one of the most widely used programming languages of all time.

According to Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing on October 12, one of the first to report the news publicly was Canadian software engineer Rob Pike via Google+. Like Ritchie, he is known for his work at Bell Labs.

She wrote (quoting a C programming pun from Twitter):

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie

One of the few public photos of Dennis Ritchie (1941-2011). Source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

He was the designer and original developer of the C programming language, and a central figure in the development of Unix. He spent much of his career at Bell Labs. He was awarded the Turing Award in 1983, and the National Medal of Technology in 1999.

“Ritchie's influence rivals Jobs'; it's just less visible,” James Grimmelman observed on Twitter. “His pointer has been cast to void *; his process has terminated with exit code 0.”

The official blog of Taxgedo (a web application to make word clouds) used the words from Ritchie's seminal textbook “The C Programming language” to create a word cloud as a tribute, and wrote:

We lost a tech giant today. Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie, co-creator of Unix and the C programming language with Ken Thompson, has passed away at the age of 70. Ritchie has made a tremendous amount of contribution to the computer industry, directly and indirectly affecting (improving) the lives of most people in the world, whether you know it or not.

A commenter in a science and technology news forum on Overclock.net named Andygoyap even compared him to Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most important physicists and mathematicians in history.

Isaac Newton once said he stood on the shoulders of giants. Dennis Ritchie was a giant on whose shoulders people like Steve Jobs stood on.
….
You don't know him? He is the Father of C, without him Operating Systems (Windows, Apple) wouldn't be here; Games, Programs, Apps on your Apple, Android, wouldn't exist. Many say he is the Father of Computer Science, He has so many achievements…

Anyone who hasn't studied basic programming (with some version of C as their first object-oriented programming language) might find it hard to grasp the importance of such a modest and private person. Ritchie neither flaunted his achievements nor became a business icon.

Most modern computer operating systems such as GNU/Linux and Apple's Mac OS directly descend from UNIX. Computers running UNIX or GNU/Linux basically provide the infrastructure for the Internet, either as servers or routers, or platforms for running applications like Google web search.

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