back to article Dennis Ritchie: The C man who booted Unix

It was 1968 and students and workers were on the march, protesting against the Vietnam War, with the western world seemingly teetering on the brink of revolution. In the sleepy, leafy suburb of New Jersey's Murray Hill, a young maths and physics graduate was laying the groundwork for an entirely different revolution. For Dennis …

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Anonymous Coward

Sad news.

PS Isn't Bell Labs at the Murray Hill in New Jersey? It's not the same as the one in New York.

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Correct !

The one in NY is on Manhattan Island, between 42nd & 30th, runs down from 5th Ave to the East River - if you know the Empire State Bldg is then you're over the street from Murray Hill. AFAIK Bell were never in the NYC Murray Hill.

However, Bell Labs were in West St in Greenwich Village - the building is now the the Westbeth Arts centre. Don't think the software group was ever at that site - some exchange kit was there.

I did some research into Bell when it morphed into Lucent and then got hoovered up by Alcatel.

The loss of Bell Labs was a disaster for mankind - it presaged the coming of the anti-science crowd that's now infecting the planet. How could a country let something like Bell disappear in a puff of smoke - criminal. I think it was Carter who dealt the coup de grace to AT&T, Nixon was a mere toreador.

I know there were good commercial reasons to break up AT&T, but Bell Labs should have been given a status like Livermore or Argonne :cry:

Bye Dennis.

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Anonymous Coward

Excellent article. More of this top stuff please.

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Childcatcher

More of this top stuff?

I hope you're not suggesting we start culling pioneers of IT to feed your hunger for obituaries...

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Most popular language? By what metric?

I keep reading that C is the second most popular language, and some suggestion that the most popular is Java. Based on LOC, I guess. That seems a little unfair since C is one of the world's least verbose languages and used in situations which demand a small amount of code running extremely quickly and reliably.

Shouldn't the count be of number of instances of the software running? In which case, count a handful of instances of Tomcat for each corporate Java project and hundreds of millions for every embedded device, phone, TV, car dashboard, router, GPS (...) running a C-based RTOS or Linux.

And what are Java VMs written in, anyway?

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See http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

Not too sure about the methodology.

And note that it's C excluding derivatives such as C++ (surely it ought to

have been ++C !) and C#

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Thanks for the link, that's really interesting. It appears they are counting people-popularity (number of engineers, courses etc.) rather than LOC, projects or whatever. Interesting to see how C# has stolen quite a bit of Java's fire, leaving C almost back at pole position.

But I wonder if this might favour old and university-course languages. For example, (who (uses-p `LISP)) any more??

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Metric = Google

OK, scrap that - here is the definition of the Tiobe metric:

http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/tpci_definition.htm

Basically counting search results on +"<language> programming"! Worthless, surely? What's the betting C will spike next month?

Well, here's my contribution to the index in roughly cronological order:

BBC Basic programming ARM Assembler programming C programming C++ programming Javascript programming

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Verbosity in programming languages

Unqualified generalizations like "C is one of the world's least verbose languages" are worthless, particularly in a context like measuring SLOC, since that generally - by definition - doesn't include runtimes. Many programming languages have huge, feature-rich runtimes available to them as part of the standard language spec, which isn't the case with C. In domains where those runtimes cover a large portion of the application's requirements, such languages can be used to implement the application with far fewer lines of source code than you'd need with standard C.

There are domains for which C is very well suited, and there are a lot more where it does a decent job. But it's not "least verbose" in general. Take a typical commercial APL application (yes, there still are some) and rewrite it in C, then see how many characters of source each one has. Or a typical non-trivial Ruby app, and so on.

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Sadly missed. You can do virtually anything with C, and that is surely the point. Richie devised a language with a relatively simple instruction set which was also very powerful allowing programmers all over the world to utilise target hardware better.

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A summer in 84

Ritchie remains engraved in my memory as one of the authors of "The C Programming Language," a first edition book through which I struggled as I learned to code in that "new" language. I was attempting to get a video camera and an 8088 based computer to "see" objects, and grew to appreciate the difficulty inherent to emulating even one narrow aspect of human perception.

Still have the book.

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Did Google post a link about Dennis Richie on their front page?

I didn't see one. Odd considering that Google stood on his shoulders.

C was a great language back in the day and still stands the test of time today. It's powerful and also allows you to shoot yourself in the foot, but it does so elegantly. Such side effects can't really be avoided in a language which assumes that the programmer knows what they're doing, that's why it's so powerful.

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Unhappy

R.I.P.

Nothing against that other famous tech fellow who departed not long ago. But for this geek, Ritchie's departure is much sadder news.

raise(SIGTERM);

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OK, you win the prize for best C fragment - encompassing both C and UNIX concepts in a wistful wrapper - nice one!

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Anonymous Coward

printf("Goodbye, World!\n");

Thank you for the workhorse...

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Adventure

This adventures express its deep impact of value.

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Thank you, dmr!

Condolences to the family.

Can't even imagine what kind of IT it would be without those bearded altruistic guys. (S. Jobs is not included due to the lack of altruism).

What a beautiful life! Requiescat in pace!

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Anonymous Coward

Another Obit

My friend has a nice tribute here:

http://iheardacouplethings.blogspot.com/2011/10/rip-dennis-ritchie.html

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Boffin

?You can do virtually anything with C"

Except write efficient and readable, and relatively bug free code.

It's one of the worst languages ever produced.

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Trollface

@Vendicar Decarian1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

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As a company that has trained over 3,000 graduates in UNIX and began its business by offering UNIX training, FDM Group has commemorated the life of Dennis Ritchie.

Check out what our CEO has to say about the pioneering efforts of this inspirational man: http://www.fdmacademy.com/fdm-group-commemorates-unix-inventor-dennis-ritchie/

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Anonymous Coward

Too soon?

Has anybody double-checked that he hasn't become a zombie(1)?

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