main() { printf(“farewell,ritchien”); }

GeekMom Technology
Image credit: Flickr user Javi S&M

This week saw a second major loss in computing history, but unless you’re a programmer, you may not have even realized it.

His role in making computing what it is today didn’t involve appearing on stage with a hotly awaited product each year like Steve Jobs. But that doesn’t mean Dennis Ritchie should go unnoticed. Quite the opposite.

“Jobs was the king of the visible, and Ritchie is the king of what is largely invisible,” said Martin Rinard, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT in Wired’s story about Ritchie’s passing.

Dennis Ritchie (1941-2011) was known for development of the C programming language and his part in the creation of UNIX. Not only did create C, he literally wrote the definitive book on it, C Programming Language, which has sold millions of copies and been translated into 25 languages, and known as “K&R” (the authors’ initials) to countless computer science students.

If it weren’t for those two innovations, you wouldn’t be reading this post, at least not through the technologies we know today. C has influenced so many of the commonly used languages today. And if you’re reading this on a Mac computer, OS X was built on UNIX, which is just the most widely visible of its many uses.

My Facebook and Twitter streams filled with variations on the same sentiments over the last few days:

Dennis Ritchie, Creator of the “C” language and co-xreator of Unix is dead at age 70…..all programmers owe him a moment of silence.

Dennis Ritchie, the man, who without this message would not be possible to write, read or transmit electronically

the giant Steve Jobs borrowed the shoulders from: Ritchie

I wouldn’t be the me I am without this guy.

The last of those applies to any of you–not just my software-focused coworker who posted it to Facebook. Your digital life wouldn’t be the same without Dennis Ritchie. The world has lost a great mind.

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