Yes, I’m a sinner

I am sure that by now you have heard about Steve Jobs and his premature death. Here’s something you probably haven’t heard about.

Dennis Ritchie died this week. You probably never heard of him. I never heard of him until today, showing once again that I’m guilty of the developer sin #3. And the sad thing about it is that Steve Jobs might not have become the person we know if it weren’t for Dennis Ritchie.

How come? Wikipedia sheds some light:

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie (September 9, 1941 – October 8, 2011), commonly known by his user name dmr, was an American computer scientist notable for developing C and for having influence on other programming languages, as well as operating systems such as Multics and UNIX.

MacOS and Linux derive from Unix. They are mostly written in C. Either of those might not exist if it weren’t for Dennis Ritchie.

I can understand why the public wouldn’t know the names of great software engineers. I don’t understand how we, software developers, allow ourselves to not know their names, lives and principles. I don’t understand how we allow ourselves to forget history and why we have no heroes.

There’s still a hope: maybe I‘m the only one who didn’t know him. Maybe I need to learn history. Maybe I need heroes.

Somehow, I doubt it.

UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius to understand its simplicity. C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success — Dennis Ritchie