Monday, October 24, 2011
[Dennis Ritchie died at the age of 70.]
He was one of the most influential computer engineers ever. I could go into details as to what he did but lets look only at how his work contributed to Steve Jobs becoming a household name.
Ritchie created the C programming language and with Ken Thompson, Ritchie created the Unix Operating System.
With out Unix, Jobs would not have had a basis for his NeXT language which Apple bought bringing Jobs back into Apple and ultimately back into the CEO position.
Without Unix, Pixar would never have had Linux (derived from Unix) to do massive and cheap rendering. This means there would have been no Toy Story and all the movies that followed and no buy out from Disney.
Without Unix there would have been no base OS for iOS so no Operating System for the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.
C on the other hand is the base of almost every modern programming language from C (itself) to C++ to perl to java etc etc. No Java means no apps for the idevices. It also means no cross platform applications like itunes and no way to get Office to be on both Windows and iOS without having to write the entire program to work on each. Even worse - if programs like Office were written in Assembly (as was the norm before C) then you would have to get a totally new copy of the software for every device even if you upgraded your PC from one processor to another.
To be fair if Ritchie had not created Unix or C, someone would have probably jumped in and created something similar. Or one of the languages and operating systems around in the 70s may have been more successful and changed the world we live in like Unix has but this isn't the case. Ritchie's contributions to the world have radically changed it and we will miss the inventor of these tools. It may be that Jobs was tasked with making some genious idevices up in Heaven and he called up the one guy he needed to help him more than anyone else. A heaven without Unix.... doesn't make sense.
Ps. on the other hand... Jobs's biggest competition Android would also not have been possible without Linux (based on Unix) and Java (based on C).