Dennis Ritchie Passes Away at 70, End of an Era [Editorial]

Why do people love C even today?

Dennis Ritchie was the recipient of the prestigious  Turing Award and the  National Medal of Technology. He explained the popularity of C in  an interview, held in August 2000  where the three greatest contributors to programming (Dennis Ritchie, Bjarne Stroustrup, and James Gosling) came together.

This has always been a bit of a mystery to me to understand in any kind of detail. Obviously the use of C[1]  was during early times (meaning the ’70s and much of the ’80s) considerably encouraged by its use as the  lingua franca  of Unix during the period that Unix was growing in the research and academic community, and then when Unix was taken up as the software basis for the workstation industry of the ’80s. This in turn had to do in part with the non-political nature of C and UNIX (not tied to a power in computer hardware until post-1984). There were also technical and semi-technical aspects: the language turned out to be well-placed both for describing things at a high enough level so that portability across hardware was feasible, but simple enough in its requirements to make it cheap to implement.

The C family of programming languages was a major contribution to the world of programming. It defined the approach to programming that a number of languages use as an inherent standard today.

In the meanwhile, at Bell Labs

Bell Labs President Jeong Kim confirmed his death and has sent an email to employees saying,

Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed. He was truly an inspiration to all of us, not just for his many accomplishments, but because of who he was as a friend, an inventor, and a humble and gracious man.

What happens next?



As time passes, hardware evolves, programming languages evolve and so do the people who write those programs. One can imagine how difficult it is for a programming language to hold ground for decades. The C language has done it consistently and will stay here or a long time. The new standard for C, C11 came out a few days ago marking another milestone for the language.

Dennis Ritchie is no more here to see what is in store for C. May his soul rest in peace.

(Image source:  C programming language  and  Dennis Ritchie)

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Chinmoy Kanjilal

Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.