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On a New Road

I've run out of adjectivesThursday October 13, 2011
The news of Dennis Ritchie's passing hit hard. So much has been written in the past day. His impact was enormous, and outside the tech world, mostly unknown - but very much felt. C underpins everything. My whole career has grown out of C and Unix. Wow.

For most engineers working today, it's hard to understand the euphoria I felt in the 70s when a programming language finally came along that I (and everyone else) could use to move up from writing in assembler to a real programming language. We could do everything we needed to do to write all the low-level bits of systems. Before C, programming languages just weren't up to the task: the overheads were just too large. The sophistication of systems was really held back by the difficulty of writing large pieces of software in assembler. C was like JATO for code.


Truely James. For every Computer professional in the world, the first language they come across is C. With so much of wonderfulness and which also makes the learning experience so fun and entertaining. RIP Ritchie!!!

Posted by Siva Guruvareddiar on October 13, 2011 at 11:10 PM PDT #

Same. I still remember when I got my first copy of K&R from my high school teacher. I took it home and read a piece of it every night. Between that and studying the source code for the C library (yes, my high school had a source code license of UNIX back in 1981) I was off to a good start! That and looking at your Emacs source code (beware all ye who enter here ...). It might not be mainstream but the world is full of programmers are are grateful for his huge contributions ...

Posted by Jonathan Payne on October 14, 2011 at 01:22 AM PDT #

But you did your huge part to spread his work. Where would I have been without K&R C and SunOS when I was was getting going? My first company purchase was a Sun too, embodying all that goodness. (And where would I be without Java now?) So remember with a :) not a panic()! Rgds Damon

Posted by Damon Hart-Davis on October 14, 2011 at 02:19 AM PDT #

Great ones are falling. I still love C. So simple. So powerful.

Posted by Royster on October 14, 2011 at 02:23 AM PDT #

Yes, my sw developer career also started with C. Still fondly remember the days sitting at my desk, working through K&R and trying out pieces of code on the Hyperion portable.

Posted by Onno on October 14, 2011 at 06:54 AM PDT #

I remember C being like Adventure for programmers: lots of little pits for the unwary to fall into. Even after many years there were a few I hadn't found. It was a good time.

Posted by Boob on October 14, 2011 at 08:14 AM PDT #

The way a smell triggers you back to remembering the entire sensory experience and mental state of some place and time in the distant past, remembering the time when I was learning C and Unix brings me back to the amazement of being able to do these incredible things that just weren't possible before, and wondering what existed beyond the boundaries of what little I already knew. It compelled me to keep learning. The network of friends and mentors who enabled me learn, and the long hikes I took through other people's code (like James's Emacs and NeWS, or Owen's PostScript code), wondering what wonders I might glimpse over the next hill, that I might appropriate, learn to imitate, and call my own.

Posted by Don Hopkins on October 14, 2011 at 05:37 PM PDT #

James, I, a humble Java Joe, like hundreds of thousands of others, owe my career to you. You, probably owe it to DMR! I don't know what more to say... :(

Posted by kodeninja on October 14, 2011 at 06:18 PM PDT #

I learned C (my sixth programming language) sometime in 1983 by writing code next to a couple of expert C hackers, who would let me hit every possible pitfall, and then explain what I'd done wrong. It was quite a frustrating experience, but today C is my second-most comfortable language to use. -jcr

Posted by John C. Randolph on October 14, 2011 at 07:16 PM PDT #

Was Ritchie married?

Posted by hks on October 14, 2011 at 09:31 PM PDT #

The equation is quite simple : Richie is like Einstein, pure Genius. All the IT is built on K&R works. Thanks man, and RIP...

Posted by stef13013 on October 15, 2011 at 03:06 AM PDT #

Your contribution is among the greatest to the mankind. RIP Ritchie!

Posted by Praveen on October 15, 2011 at 09:26 PM PDT #

Ritchie's Code will live in our machines , cell phones and everything else ...

Posted by Hassan Habib on October 18, 2011 at 02:05 AM PDT #

We owe him the 'hello world'! The world says 'thank you'!

Posted by htm on October 18, 2011 at 12:35 PM PDT #

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