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Dennis Ritchie, Software Trailblazer, Dies at 70

by Patrick on October 14, 2011

This week, the world of computing lost a hero. Dennis Ritchie, the creator of the C programming language as well as a key developer of the Unix operating system, passed away on October 8, 2011 at the age of 70.

Dennis Ritchie was born in New York in September of 1941, and when the time came, he attended Harvard University, earning degrees in physics and applied mathematics. He spent a significant portion of his career starting in 1967 at Bell Labs, one of the best known research labs of the time.  While there, he and his fellow engineers developed the Unix operating system by 1971 in an effort to develop a more efficient OS for new minicomputers.

Unix proved to be incredibly useful and is still around in many forms and being used in a nearly endless list of applications. The Linux and Mac OSX operating systems are evolved forms of Unix. Embedded Linux is used in an enormous amount of recent products including mobile phones, cable television boxes, networking equipment and medical devices.

His solo creation, the programming language C, has influenced most of the languages we program with today. Some of these include C++, Objective C (used in many Apple products), and Perl, as well the upcoming Go programming language being developed by Google. Other languages that came about because of C include Java, Python, PHP, and C# which was created for Microsoft’s .NET framework.

Many of the electronic devices we surround ourselves with today would not have come about, at least not yet and not in the forms they are today, without the achievements in computer programming from Dennis Ritchie. So wherever you are, say thank you to Dennis Ritchie for propelling the world of technology years into the future.

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