Dennis Ritchie died today at the age of 70. Who was he and why you should care? Well there are 2 main reasons that make him a very important person in the history of computer science.

  • Unix
  • C

He is the one that co-created Unix and he is also the one who created the C programming language. Unix Operating System and C Programming language are among the most important inventions in the history computer software. Without these inventions, we might not be able to see the computer and mobile devices the way they are nowadays. C language and Unix are the 2 things on which the modern software world is built upon.


Why Unix is important?

Unix is an operating system that is the foundation of all major operating systems (except Microsoft Windows) including Android, Mac OS, iOS and Linux. After first version of Unix,  it was recoded again in later years entirely in C language (The language created by Dennis Ritchie). To an ordinary user, Unix is not a consumer friendly operating system with UI and other eye candy stuff but it is actually the base on which these modern operating systems stand. Unix became a standard for developing the core/base of operating systems. It has all the basic things one needs to build upon an operating system.  It is so perfect that the mainstream operating systems developers, like Apple, Linux and Android chose Unix as the foundation for their operating system instead of coding their own entirely. Only Microsoft was the one that didn't use Unix as foundation. Windows was coded entirely from scratch. Some inspiration of Unix standards can be still found in the Windows anatomy (It doesn't mean they copied Unix).  There were many operating systems developed in the history but Unix is the one open source software that is adapted at very large scale.

Why C is important?

C Language is known as the mother of all languages. It was developed between 1969 and 1973. It is still used in the modern world to program many applications. It's been 4 decades and C is still considered as a powerful programming language. It will not be wrong to say that C programming language was the first programming language that has evergreen standards or in other words the first high level programming language that is fruitful enough to sustain its standards for 4 decades. All modern programming languages like C++, Objective C, Java, C# and many others are influenced  from C.

The world today.

Dennis_RitchieThe computer world today is generally known by two great people: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. But you might not have heard of Dennis Ritchie unless you read about him somewhere or took a history class of Computer Science specifically when stumbling upon the history of programming languages. The foundation of how software is built and how apps are programmed today stands on the core innovations by Dennis Ritchie: C Language and Unix operating system. Without Unix, there might not be Mac OS on our Macs, there might not be iOS on our iPhone and iPad, there might not be Linux and Android. And without C language, the current generation of programming languages might not have existed - the programming languages that allow us to code amazing life saving apps empowering the industry.

Also read: Faces behind popular Programming Languages