Dennis Ritchie -- An Appreciation

Discussion in 'C Programming' started by Steve Summit, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. Steve Summit

    Steve Summit Guest

    [I haven't posted here in quite some time, but I should
    definitely post this here. It's also on the web at
    http://www.eskimo.com/~scs/dmr.html .]

    I'm a programmer, and just about always have been.
    My favorite programming language is still C, and my favorite
    operating system is still Unix. Dennis Ritchie was, of course,
    jointly responsible for both. So I have definitely lost a
    personal hero and, to the extent that I can claim I've learned
    from his work, a mentor as well.

    It's been said that Unix killed research in operating systems.
    I find I don't mind, because Unix is just about perfect.
    It's said that you have to keep updating your skills in the tech
    world, but I've been programming professionally in C and Unix for
    more than 30 years now, and I don't expect to have to switch anytime
    soon. In a field that does tend to burn down and reincarnate
    itself at least once every five years or so, those two wonderful
    little programming systems have proved remarkably durable.
    (And they *are* little, which is one of their underappreciated charms.)

    Just about everybody of a certain era in programming probably
    considers Dennis a hero. The tech world being a bit more
    gregarious and less stratified than (say) Hollywood, Dennis was
    delightfully approachable. It was always a thrill to see a post
    from dmr in a Usenet newsgroup, the more so if it was in response
    to one of your own posts, the more so if he agreed with you.
    And if you got an email out of the blue -- well, that was
    *really* one to be treasured. But you didn't have to wait; any
    random hacker out there on the net could send an email to dmr,
    and he'd often reply. (I know this because he once thanked me --
    another email to treasure! -- for being able to save time by
    simply pointing supplicants to the comp.lang.c FAQ list I'd
    compiled.)

    Random reminiscence: it's a USENIX conference, sometime in the
    mid-90's. There's a session on copyright and other intellectual
    property issues, and as always happens when computer types
    discuss this topic, there are a bunch of flamboyant statements
    being made about how copyrights and patents on software are
    Evil, information wants to be free, etc., etc. One commentator,
    objecting to the possibility that too-strict copyrights might
    stifle progress, solemnly opines that he doesn't want to be
    stuck using 20 year old software. But sitting right in front
    of me happens to be Dennis Ritchie, who calls out in a rather
    commanding voice, "But you all do!"

    I'd like to say I'll miss him not only as a mentor but as a
    personal friend, but I only met him once or twice, so I can't
    honestly say that. But I can say this: every time I simply type

    r = read(fd, buf, 13);

    to read 13 bytes from a file without worrying about its record
    structure, Dennis Ritchie lives. Every time I pipe something to
    grep rather than having to eyeball it for a pattern I'm looking
    for, Dennis Ritchie lives. Most importantly, every time I have
    the pleasure of writing (or using!) a software tool that's
    wondrously small and simple, that does one job and does it well,
    Dennis Ritchie lives.

    In fact, that's not a bad epitaph. Dennis Ritchie: he did one
    job, and he did it well.

    Steve Summit
    2011-10-13
    Steve Summit, Oct 18, 2011
    #1
    1. Advertising

  2. Steve Summit

    Uno Guest

    On 10/17/2011 06:00 PM, Steve Summit wrote:
    > [I haven't posted here in quite some time, but I should
    > definitely post this here. It's also on the web at
    > http://www.eskimo.com/~scs/dmr.html .]
    >
    > I'm a programmer, and just about always have been.
    > My favorite programming language is still C, and my favorite
    > operating system is still Unix. Dennis Ritchie was, of course,
    > jointly responsible for both. So I have definitely lost a
    > personal hero and, to the extent that I can claim I've learned
    > from his work, a mentor as well.
    >
    > It's been said that Unix killed research in operating systems.
    > I find I don't mind, because Unix is just about perfect.
    > It's said that you have to keep updating your skills in the tech
    > world, but I've been programming professionally in C and Unix for
    > more than 30 years now, and I don't expect to have to switch anytime
    > soon. In a field that does tend to burn down and reincarnate
    > itself at least once every five years or so, those two wonderful
    > little programming systems have proved remarkably durable.
    > (And they *are* little, which is one of their underappreciated charms.)
    >
    > Just about everybody of a certain era in programming probably
    > considers Dennis a hero. The tech world being a bit more
    > gregarious and less stratified than (say) Hollywood, Dennis was
    > delightfully approachable. It was always a thrill to see a post
    > from dmr in a Usenet newsgroup, the more so if it was in response
    > to one of your own posts, the more so if he agreed with you.
    > And if you got an email out of the blue -- well, that was
    > *really* one to be treasured. But you didn't have to wait; any
    > random hacker out there on the net could send an email to dmr,
    > and he'd often reply. (I know this because he once thanked me --
    > another email to treasure! -- for being able to save time by
    > simply pointing supplicants to the comp.lang.c FAQ list I'd
    > compiled.)
    >
    > Random reminiscence: it's a USENIX conference, sometime in the
    > mid-90's. There's a session on copyright and other intellectual
    > property issues, and as always happens when computer types
    > discuss this topic, there are a bunch of flamboyant statements
    > being made about how copyrights and patents on software are
    > Evil, information wants to be free, etc., etc. One commentator,
    > objecting to the possibility that too-strict copyrights might
    > stifle progress, solemnly opines that he doesn't want to be
    > stuck using 20 year old software. But sitting right in front
    > of me happens to be Dennis Ritchie, who calls out in a rather
    > commanding voice, "But you all do!"
    >
    > I'd like to say I'll miss him not only as a mentor but as a
    > personal friend, but I only met him once or twice, so I can't
    > honestly say that. But I can say this: every time I simply type
    >
    > r = read(fd, buf, 13);
    >
    > to read 13 bytes from a file without worrying about its record
    > structure, Dennis Ritchie lives. Every time I pipe something to
    > grep rather than having to eyeball it for a pattern I'm looking
    > for, Dennis Ritchie lives. Most importantly, every time I have
    > the pleasure of writing (or using!) a software tool that's
    > wondrously small and simple, that does one job and does it well,
    > Dennis Ritchie lives.
    >
    > In fact, that's not a bad epitaph. Dennis Ritchie: he did one
    > job, and he did it well.
    >
    > Steve Summit
    > 2011-10-13


    I usually read you as a hard copy.

    Cheers,
    --
    Uno
    Uno, Oct 18, 2011
    #2
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  3. Steve Summit

    Dann Corbit Guest

    C is close enough to the hardware to allow me to avoid writing assembly
    in order to keep a program fast. Yet C is abstract enough to write
    complicated ideas in a symbolic way in order to make the code easy to
    maintain.

    C is the mother of the modern OO languages like C++ and Java.

    My first programming language was Fortran IV. My second programming
    language was PL/1. But C (while the 3rd programming language that I
    learned) was the first programming language that I loved.

    And I am really, really hard to please.

    There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?
    Dann Corbit, Oct 18, 2011
    #3
  4. Steve Summit

    Ian Collins Guest

    On 10/19/11 10:37 AM, Dann Corbit wrote:
    >
    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?


    Alan Turing.

    --
    Ian Collins
    Ian Collins, Oct 18, 2011
    #4
  5. Steve Summit

    James Guest

    "Dann Corbit" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    [...]

    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?


    Grace Hopper
    James, Oct 19, 2011
    #5
  6. On Oct 19, 12:47 am, "James" <> wrote:
    > "Dann Corbit" <> wrote in message
    >
    > news:...
    > [...]
    >
    > > There are some programming giants.  Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > > and Dennis Ritchie top my list.  How about yours?

    >
    > Grace Hopper


    Dijkstra
    Nick Keighley, Oct 19, 2011
    #6
  7. Steve Summit

    Bill Davy Guest

    "Dann Corbit" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    >C is close enough to the hardware to allow me to avoid writing assembly
    > in order to keep a program fast. Yet C is abstract enough to write
    > complicated ideas in a symbolic way in order to make the code easy to
    > maintain.
    >
    > C is the mother of the modern OO languages like C++ and Java.
    >
    > My first programming language was Fortran IV. My second programming
    > language was PL/1. But C (while the 3rd programming language that I
    > learned) was the first programming language that I loved.
    >
    > And I am really, really hard to please.
    >
    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?



    That "Programming Pearls" guy.
    Bill Wolf (for "Design of an Optimising Compiler")
    Aho, Weinberg, Kernighan (AWK)
    Kernighan (Di-Troff, and much else)
    Per Brinch Hansen
    Tony Hoare
    Bill Davy, Oct 19, 2011
    #7
  8. On Oct 18, 11:37 pm, Dann Corbit <> wrote:
    >
    > There are some programming giants.  Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list.  How about yours?
    >

    Ada Lovelace was not only the first programmer, she also understood
    what programming was and what a computer could and couldn't do. So
    she's got to be on the list.

    I'd also add Cooley and Tukey for the fast Fourier transform.
    Malcolm McLean, Oct 19, 2011
    #8
  9. On Wed, 19 Oct 2011 02:13:11 -0700, Malcolm McLean wrote:

    > On Oct 18, 11:37 pm, Dann Corbit <> wrote:
    >>
    >> There are some programming giants.  Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    >> and Dennis Ritchie top my list.  How about yours?
    >>

    > Ada Lovelace was not only the first programmer, she also understood what
    > programming was and what a computer could and couldn't do. So she's got
    > to be on the list.
    >
    > I'd also add Cooley and Tukey for the fast Fourier transform.


    Niklaus Wirth wasn't mentioned yet. Alain Colmerauer and David Warren for
    their work on Prolog and the WAM.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    _________________________________________
    / Thousands of days of civilians ... have \
    | produced a ... feeling for the |
    \ aesthetic modules -- /
    -----------------------------------------
    \
    \
    ___
    {~._.~}
    ( Y )
    ()~*~()
    (_)-(_)
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Kleuskes & Moos, Oct 19, 2011
    #9
  10. Steve Summit

    Jorgen Grahn Guest

    On Tue, 2011-10-18, Dann Corbit wrote:
    > C is close enough to the hardware to allow me to avoid writing assembly
    > in order to keep a program fast. Yet C is abstract enough to write
    > complicated ideas in a symbolic way in order to make the code easy to
    > maintain.
    >
    > C is the mother of the modern OO languages like C++ and Java.
    >
    > My first programming language was Fortran IV. My second programming
    > language was PL/1. But C (while the 3rd programming language that I
    > learned) was the first programming language that I loved.
    >
    > And I am really, really hard to please.
    >
    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list.


    I don't know Stevens as a programmer, more as an explorer/teacher.
    He's on my top lists, but not this one.

    > How about yours?


    The rest of Bell Labs, up to and including Stroustrup.

    /Jorgen

    --
    // Jorgen Grahn <grahn@ Oo o. . .
    \X/ snipabacken.se> O o .
    Jorgen Grahn, Oct 19, 2011
    #10
  11. Dann Corbit <> writes:

    > C is close enough to the hardware to allow me to avoid writing assembly
    > in order to keep a program fast. Yet C is abstract enough to write
    > complicated ideas in a symbolic way in order to make the code easy to
    > maintain.
    >
    > C is the mother of the modern OO languages like C++ and Java.
    >
    > My first programming language was Fortran IV. My second programming
    > language was PL/1. But C (while the 3rd programming language that I
    > learned) was the first programming language that I loved.


    My exposure was Basic, Pascal, C, then various assembly languages and
    other languages. C was my favorite for a long time. And while I have
    other favorites now, they were invented after C.

    > And I am really, really hard to please.
    >
    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?


    Here are a few more:

    Robert Sedgwick, for clear and cogent explanations of algorithms.
    Ralph Griswold (RIP), creator of Snobol and Icon.
    Daniel Murphy, primary creator of TOPS-20, the first modern timesharing
    OS.

    -- Patrick
    Patrick Scheible, Oct 19, 2011
    #11
  12. Dann Corbit wrote:

    >
    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?


    There is one of those whom I would exclude. I would add (in no
    particular order) Tony Hoare, Charles Moore, Bertrand Meyer and John
    McCarthy.

    --
    When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by
    this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
    Jonathan Swift: Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting
    Frederick Williams, Oct 19, 2011
    #12
  13. I recommend the Winograd's Fourier transform programs for 1 D DFT not covered by the Oppenheim nad Schaifer's text books, and programs of the Nussbaumer polynomial transform for multidimensional DFT.
    88888 dihedral, Oct 19, 2011
    #13
  14. Steve Summit

    Kaz Kylheku Guest

    On 2011-10-18, Dann Corbit <> wrote:
    > There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?


    Dough Smith: Very nice work on the game Lode Runner for the Apple II circa 1980.

    Philip Greenspun: http://philip.greenspun.com/narcissism/resume

    This new resume doesn't have a lot details of the cool exploits that I remember
    from a prior version. But I didn't know that Greenspun was one of the brains
    behind PA-RISC.

    ``Helped architect, simulate and design prototype of HP's Precision
    Architecture RISC computer. The prototype took two man-years to complete and
    ran at VAX 11/780 speed in June 1983. This architecture became the basis of
    HP's computer product line for 15 years and then became the basis for the
    64-bit generation of Intel processors.''

    That was in 1982-1983. He was only born in 1963. :)
    Kaz Kylheku, Oct 19, 2011
    #14
  15. Dann Corbit <> wrote:
    > ...
    >There are some programming giants. Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    >and Dennis Ritchie top my list. How about yours?


    Not sure if to call them "programmers", but ...

    Add Niklaus Wirth, Edser Djikstra, Per Brinch-Hansen, Chuck Moore,
    Alan Perlis (even if only for the humor,) Alan Kay.
    --
    Roberto Waltman

    [ Please reply to the group,
    return address is invalid ]
    Roberto Waltman, Oct 20, 2011
    #15
  16. Steve Summit

    AK Guest

    On Oct 17, 5:00 pm, (Steve Summit) wrote:
    > [I haven't posted here in quite some time, but I should
    > definitely post this here.  It's also on the web athttp://www.eskimo.com/~scs/dmr.html.]
    >
    > I'm a programmer, and just about always have been.
    > My favorite programming language is still C, and my favorite
    > operating system is still Unix.  Dennis Ritchie was, of course,
    > jointly responsible for both.  So I have definitely lost a
    > personal hero and, to the extent that I can claim I've learned
    > from his work, a mentor as well.


    Same here. In fact, I'm quite pissed at the press in my country, who
    gave a front page tribute to Steve Jobs and not even a mention about
    Dennis Ritchie.

    > It's been said that Unix killed research in operating systems.
    > I find I don't mind, because Unix is just about perfect.
    > It's said that you have to keep updating your skills in the tech
    > world, but I've been programming professionally in C and Unix for
    > more than 30 years now, and I don't expect to have to switch anytime
    > soon.  In a field that does tend to burn down and reincarnate
    > itself at least once every five years or so, those two wonderful
    > little programming systems have proved remarkably durable.
    > (And they *are* little, which is one of their underappreciated charms.)
    >
    > Just about everybody of a certain era in programming probably
    > considers Dennis a hero.  The tech world being a bit more
    > gregarious and less stratified than (say) Hollywood, Dennis was
    > delightfully approachable.  It was always a thrill to see a post
    > from dmr in a Usenet newsgroup, the more so if it was in response
    > to one of your own posts, the more so if he agreed with you.
    > And if you got an email out of the blue -- well, that was
    > *really* one to be treasured.  But you didn't have to wait; any
    > random hacker out there on the net could send an email to dmr,
    > and he'd often reply.  (I know this because he once thanked me --
    > another email to treasure! -- for being able to save time by
    > simply pointing supplicants to the comp.lang.c FAQ list I'd
    > compiled.)
    >
    > Random reminiscence: it's a USENIX conference, sometime in the
    > mid-90's.  There's a session on copyright and other intellectual
    > property issues, and as always happens when computer types
    > discuss this topic, there are a bunch of flamboyant statements
    > being made about how copyrights and patents on software are
    > Evil, information wants to be free, etc., etc.  One commentator,
    > objecting to the possibility that too-strict copyrights might
    > stifle progress, solemnly opines that he doesn't want to be
    > stuck using 20 year old software.  But sitting right in front
    > of me happens to be Dennis Ritchie, who calls out in a rather
    > commanding voice, "But you all do!"
    >
    > I'd like to say I'll miss him not only as a mentor but as a
    > personal friend, but I only met him once or twice, so I can't
    > honestly say that.  But I can say this: every time I simply type
    >
    >         r = read(fd, buf, 13);
    >
    > to read 13 bytes from a file without worrying about its record
    > structure, Dennis Ritchie lives.  Every time I pipe something to
    > grep rather than having to eyeball it for a pattern I'm looking
    > for, Dennis Ritchie lives.  Most importantly, every time I have
    > the pleasure of writing (or using!) a software tool that's
    > wondrously small and simple, that does one job and does it well,
    > Dennis Ritchie lives.
    >
    > In fact, that's not a bad epitaph.  Dennis Ritchie: he did one
    > job, and he did it well.


    Amen...
    AK, Oct 20, 2011
    #16
  17. On Oct 19, 10:13 am, Malcolm McLean <>
    wrote:
    > On Oct 18, 11:37 pm, Dann Corbit <> wrote:
    >
    > > There are some programming giants.  Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > > and Dennis Ritchie top my list.  How about yours?

    >
    > Ada Lovelace was not only the first programmer, she also understood
    > what programming was and what a computer could and couldn't do. So
    > she's got to be on the list.


    there's some doubt about these claims. Some think she was just a ghost
    writer for Babbage. She was rather over-rated as a mathematician too.

    > I'd also add Cooley and Tukey for the fast Fourier transform.
    Nick Keighley, Oct 20, 2011
    #17
  18. On Oct 18, 8:00 am, (Steve Summit) wrote:
    > [I haven't posted here in quite some time, but I should
    > definitely post this here.  It's also on the web athttp://www.eskimo.com/~scs/dmr.html.]
    >

    R.I.P Dennis.
    lovecreatesbeauty, Oct 20, 2011
    #18
  19. On Oct 19, 5:37 am, Dann Corbit <> wrote:
    > C is close enough to the hardware to allow me to avoid writing assembly
    > in order to keep a program fast.  Yet C is abstract enough to write
    > complicated ideas in a symbolic way in order to make the code easy to
    > maintain.
    >
    > C is the mother of the modern OO languages like C++ and Java.
    >


    I think C is just enough

    > There are some programming giants.  Donald Knuth, W. Richard Stevens,
    > and Dennis Ritchie top my list.  How about yours?


    Dennis Ritchie is the one on my list
    lovecreatesbeauty, Oct 20, 2011
    #19
  20. On Oct 20, 3:01 pm, AK <> wrote:
    > Same here. In fact, I'm quite pissed at the press in my country, who
    > gave a front page tribute to Steve Jobs and not even a mention about
    > Dennis Ritchie.
    >


    I read it on Google News and New York Times reported it.
    lovecreatesbeauty, Oct 20, 2011
    #20
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