It was announced today that Dennis M. Ritchie – the ‘R’ in ‘K&R’ – has died. Although it has been mentioned in some mainstream news sources, it hasn’t exactly generated the same amount of reactions as the death of Steve Jobs.
However, I believe dmr was probably more important in the development of modern computers.
I’m sure many people read in the obituaries that he was the co-inventor of C and Unix and then just shrugged their shoulders. However, the importance of those inventions can hardly be overstated.
C is one of the most successful programming languages of all time, and it lives on as a subset of its successor languages, C++, C# and Objective-C (apart from the number of languages that have been inspired by C, such as Java, Perl and PHP). Most users might not realise it, but the vast majority of iPhone apps are written in Objective-C, just to take one example.
Unix is probably the most important and influential operating system ever. Lots of modern operating systems, such as Linux and Mac OS X, are practically speaking modern varieties of Unix, and iPhones, iPads and Android phones are basically portable Unix computers.
Of course both C and Unix were team efforts, but there’s no doubt that dmr played a crucial role in the development of both. His memory will live on for a very long time.