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Dennis Ritchie, father of C and UNIX, dies

SoftwareNews
, 13 Oct 2011News

Dennis Ritche, the computer scientist responsible for the development of the C programming language, has died aged 70.

Ritchie's contributions to computer science are numerous: as the creator of the C programming language, Ritchie set in motion a chain of events which would directly lead to the object-oriented C++ language and the Objective-C language so beloved of Apple developers.

"C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success," Ritchie joked of his creation, prior to receiving the National Medal of Technology from Bill Clinton to add to his existing accolades including the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal and a Turing Award from 1983.

Ritchie's C language, still in widespread use today as one of the most common programming languages, was also used to help develop Unix. In partnership with Ken Thompson, Ritchie's UNIX operating system would go on to influence the creation of the open-source GNU/Linux project - one of the most successful server-oriented operating systems in the world, and the basis for consumer-level devices including smartphones and tablets based on Google's Android OS.

While most well-known for his work on C - including his authorship of the definitive guide to the language, The C Programming Language, with Brian Kernighan - and UNIX, Ritchie alsohad a hand in the Multics time-sharing computer system, C precursor B, and the ALTRAN rational algebra extension for mathematical language FORTRAN.

Rob Pike, creator of Plan 9 and Inferno and sometime collaborator with Ritchie, confirmed his passing early this morning. "He was a quiet and mostly private man," Pike explains, "but he was also my friend, colleague, and collaborator, and the world has lost a truly great mind."

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