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Pioneering IT Titan Dies

First published: 14th October 2011

Dennis Ritchie, father of C and co-developer of Unix died on 8th October 2011 after a prolonged illness.

Working at Bell Labs in the 1960's and 70's, Ritchie created the C programming language and, along with Ken Thompson, Unix. The C language allows fine control of the underlying hardware while providing the power of high-level features, making it an ideal choice for developing a general-purpose operating system. Unix was a successor of Multics, an early timesharing operating system, but it simplified it, keeping the best and developing its own philosophy, including everything is a file and providing small, simple tools that can be linked in scripts to provide complex functionality. Together, C and Unix were hugely influential on minicomputers in the 70's and 80's, and many Unix variants proliferated.

Today, C is still the world's second most popular programming language, after Java, which owes much to C in its heritage; and Unix variants, including Linux and Mac OS X, are widely-used. For example, in Netcraft's survey of the most reliable hosting company sites in September 2011, seven out of the top ten sites use a Unix variant.

In 1983, Ritchie and Thompson jointly received the Turing Award for developing Unix. Ritchie's humility can be seen in his quote, "C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success."

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