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Dennis M Ritchie

My personal tribute

My copy says it all...

I must have spent hundreds of hours pouring over every detail of his book.

My copy is still in my bookshelf and is held together with sticky tape.

My copy of Dennis Ritchie's Book about C


It's no exaggeration for me to say that Dennis Ritchie's influence on computer science has been a very strong guide in my life and my professional career, and I truly mourn his recent passing.

I was fortunate enough to discover computers in the late 20th century and the first real operating system I used was co-created by Mr. Ritchie. It was called UNIX. (FYI: DOS & early versions of Windows were not real operating systems because they didn't actually control the hardware.)

The second computer language I learned was "C" - DMR was the father of "C".

I believe UNIX and C taught me how to think about computer systems in the best way:

  • Design, not guess work.
  • Efficiency of components.
  • Segmentation of function.
  • Readability.
  • Portability.

And I can see these same influences in my like-minded colleagues throughout the computer industry.

We all love our new Apple products, but did you know that Mac OS X and even iOS for the iPhone and iPad owe a large debt to UNIX and "C", and, therefore, Mr. Ritchie?

The concept of segmenting an operating system into an inner kernel with strong independent outer systems and an API is obvious to those of us who know anything about real operating systems.

But, nobody knew this until Mr. Ritchie, and his colleagues, came up with the idea and showed us how well it would work!

Before Dennis Ritchie, operating systems were written in Assembly language. These were almost impossible to read and maintain, and certainly not portable to other hardware. Since the 1970's, no sensible computer scientist would consider this a viable option.

To understand more about the influence of this great man, I recommend this wikipedia article.

Thank you, Mr. Dennis Ritchie - the world has lost a truly great man.

Russell Robinson, 14th October, 2011