The Man Behind the Curtain – Remembering Dennis Ritchie
The technology world is still buzzing with the recent passing of Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, the rightful buzz overshadowed the passing of Dennis Ritchie on October 12, 2011. Ritchie’s contributions to the field of software engineering are arguably just as important as the well known innovation by Jobs.
Dennis Ritchie was a principal developer of the C programming language while at Bell Labs in the 1970’s and a primary developer of the UNIX operating system. C, one of the most prolific programming languages of all time, influenced other popular languages including the well renowned C++ language. Many other languages adapted aspects of C including but not limited to Objective-C, C#, and Java. Many programs including Windows are written in C and its sister languages showing Ritchie’s long lasting contributions.
Ritchie’s development of the UNIX operating system was another one of his key contributions. UNIX is the basis for systems more familiar to the public including Linux and OS X. UNIX was originally free-licensed and was a leader in the open source movement.
Despite not being an expert in the field of software development, I have used Dennis Ritchie’s innovation many times. He has served as the man behind the curtain, his contributions are also thought of in the same way. I want to question the Skepchick community, whose contributions are more important, Steve Jobs’ or Dennis Ritchie’s? Are these two innovators too different to compare?
I also want to thank Jonathan Brockman for creating the figure for this post.