Dennis Ritchie, Father of C and Co-Creator of Unix Dies at 70

Dennis Ritchie – The creator of C programming language and the co-creator of Unix Operating System is found dead at the age of 70 at his home in New Jersey. Dr. Ritchie worked at Bell Laboratories for four decades, from his time as a Harvard doctoral student until his retirement in 2007. 

When Dr. Ritchie went to Bell, computer programming language was arcane and impenetrable for many computer gurus of the era. As a young scientist, Dr. Ritchie went to work on a language that was sophisticated yet simple. Something of a night owl, he often went to the office about noon and worked into the night from his home.

C language was the foundation for Unix, the operating system Dr. Ritchie helped develop with Bell colleague Kenneth Thompson. He named his creation C because programming language that came before it was called B.

Dr. Ritchie and Thompson received the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery in 1983 — an early recognition of what would be an enduring contribution to technology, said Tim Bergin, a computer language historian and professor emeritus at American University.

[advt]In 1998, they were awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation “for their invention of UNIX operating system and the C programming language, which together have led to enormous growth of an entire industry, thereby enhancing American leadership in the Information Age.” 

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie was born Sept. 9, 1941, in Bronxville, N.Y., to a scientific family. His father, Alistair Ritchie, worked at Bell and co-wrote a book on switching circuits. The younger Ritchie attended Harvard, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1963 and a doctorate in applied mathematics in 1968.

“My undergraduate experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be a physicist, and that computers were quite neat,” he wrote in a biography for Bell Labs. “My graduate school experience convinced me that I was not smart enough to be an expert in the theory of algorithms and also that I liked procedural languages better than functional ones.”

Dr. Ritchie co-wrote the book “The C Programming Language,” a volume on the order of a technological Oxford English Dictionary.[source]

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