Dennis Ritchie – Creator of Of C and Unix

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie, famously known as Dennis Ritchie, was one among the most prominent as well as influential computer scientists of all times. An American by nationality, Dennis Ritchie introduced the entire world to the C computer programming language, which through all these decades has helped in shaping the way we use computers as well as all related functionalities. Dennis Ritchie created the renowned C programming language and along with a long- time colleague as well as a friend of his, Ken Thompson, he created the UNIX operating system.

Dennis Ritchie

 For his commendable work and contribution in the world of computer sciences, Dennis was awarded the Turing Award in the year 1983, the Hamming Medal in the year 1990 as well as the National Medal of Technology in the year 1999. This is the reason the world has very proudly honored this computer scientist as the “Father of the C programming language”.

Early life of Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie was born in the city of Bronxville in New York, the United States of America on 9 September 1941. Dennis’s father Alistair E. Ritchie was a long time scientist at the Bell Labs, and he was also the co-author of the famous book The Design of Switching Circuits [Buy This Book].

Beginning of Dennis Ritchie’s career as a computer scientist

Dennis Ritchie was an alumni of the world- renowned Harvard University. In the year 1967, Dennis Ritchie started his work at the Bell Labs Computing Sciences Research Center and it was in the year 1968 that Ritchie defended the “Program Structure and Computational Complexity”, his Ph.D. thesis at Harvard University. It is rightly said that there is no designation or degree required for fulfilling one’s dreams. In the case of Dennis Ritchie, he completed his Ph.D. thesis under the supervision of Patrick C. Fischer but officially, Ritchie never received any Ph.D. degree. It was his continued efforts and innovation put in the Bell Labs Research Center which helped him in achieving such great heights.

Birth of C programming language

Dennis Ritchie was known best as the creator as well as the father of C programming language. Very few people are aware of the fact that he was also the co- developer of the UNIX operating system. Among his commendable contributions to the world of computer programming is the book “The C Programming Language”. Dennis Ritchie was the co- author of this book along with Kernighan. [Buy this Book]

Contribution to the UNIX operating system

Unix creator Dennis ritchie

Dennis Ritchie worked in association with Ken Thompson, the prominent computer scientist who was credited with the creation of the original UNIX. The fact that Ritchie was able to introduce the feature of portability of UNIX operating system across different machines as well as platforms is what makes his works truly commendable in the creation and distribution of the UNIX operating system.

The use and relevance of Ritchie’s invention: C language

Every human being who works in association with operating systems, computer programs as well as applications must be grateful to Dennis Ritchie. The C programming language invented by Dennis is widely used in all kinds of computer applications, embedded systems as well as operating systems these days. All the programming languages which the world boasts of uses the C programming language as its base and this is exactly why the influence of this language is widely prevalent across all high- level programming languages. In the meanwhile, UNIX has also evolved as an influential operating system that has paved the way for several crucial aspects of computing and related concepts.

Awards won by Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie was awarded the Turing Award in the year 1983 along with Ken Thompson for the successful creation as well as the implementation of the UNIX operating system. The lecture delivered by Ritchie during the reception of the Turing Award was termed as “Reflections on Software Research”. Ritchie received the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal in the year 1990 from IEEE for the creation of C programming language as well as the UNIX operating system. In 1997, Dennis Ritchie was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum. He also received the National Medal of Technology in the year 1991 from none other than President Bill Clinton. He was awarded by the Industrial Research Institute with the Achievement Award in the year 2005 for his imminent contribution to the field of science and technology. In 2011, Ritchie was awarded the Japan Prize for Information and Communications for his contribution to the UNIX operating system.

Dennis ritchie-japan-prize
Dennis M. Richie, 2011 recipient of the Japan Prize in the category of Information and Communication.

Let’s remember and never forget Dennis Ritchie

The world lost Dennis Ritchie on 12th October 2011, and his age was 70 when he passed away. His death defined the world’s hypocrisy to the max when we saw the whole world mourning for Steve Jobs when he passed away, but very few people cared when Dennis Ritchie took his last breath. That was Sad!

Rob Pike, who is one of the most distinguished computer engineers at Google said that “When Steve Jobs died last week, there was a huge outcry, and that was very moving and justified. But Dennis had a bigger effect, and the public doesn’t even know who he is”. This is actually 100% true.

Let us all agree to one thing, without Dennis Ritchie or his creations like C and UNIX, the world of computing still won’t have been what it is today so we should always remember him as a prodigy who made our lives better by contributing towards better computing.

Here is a very famous quote by the Father of C language, Dennis Ritchie himself:

At least for the people who send me mail about a new language that they are designing, the general advice is: do it to learn about how to write a compiler.”

Salute to this great person!

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