Dennis Ritchie died this morning.
Forty years ago, he invented two things: the C programming language (together with Brian Kernighan) and the UNIX operating system (together with Ken Thompson).
I first came across the C programming language when I was 16 in Lower VI. At that time, I had an Amiga and I wanted to do some game and AI programming. I read in magazine articles that this required a powerful programming language such as C and, by sheer luck, I managed to get a copy of the seminal book, The C Programming Language, from Editions de l’Océan Indien in Curepipe. I distinctly remember that the book cost Rs 120.00 and that I had to borrow the money from a good friend of mine, Ritesh, to buy it.
I started reading the book when I got home and couldn’t leave it until the end. After 20 years, I still have the book and I still like to open it at random and marvel at its conciseness and precision.
What can I say? UNIX is a marvelous operating system: powerful yet easy to understand. The historical UNIX has given way to modern variants like Mac OS X and Linux but the philosophy has remained the same and even has a name: it’s called the UNIX-way. In UNIX, each tool does one thing and only one thing. The trick is to combine the tools (using pipes or logical operators for example) to build more complex workflows…
Funnily, laymen do not realise that they depend on UNIX all day long as all Mac computers, the Orange Livebox, Sony and Samsung LCD televisions, Android smartphones, the iPhone and the iPad as well as all the computers at Google, Yahoo! and Amazon (among others) run some variant of UNIX.
Interestingly, the most powerful computers on the planet are powered by Linux.
So, thank you again to you Dennis Ritchie. You changed the world.