World-renowned computer scientist Dennis Ritchie, who co-created the C programming language and co-wrote the Unix operating system, died last week in New Jersey after a long illness, according to Web reports. He was 70.
Ritchie joined Bell Labs in 1967, when work on the Multics operating system was in full swing. Multics offered the notion of programmer interactivity with software rather than using batch processing that required an operator to run a card deck. After the work on Multics stopped, Ritchie began collaborating with Ken Thompson on an operating system built in Multics’ image, which led to Unix.
Meanwhile, as hardware designs sprung up in the 1970s, programmers were faced with having to write their programs for only one platform, or to rewrite and modify their code for each of them. Ritchie designed the C computer language—an extension of Thompson’s B language with new data types and syntax—so programmers could write code that could port across platforms. He and Thompson rewrote Unix in C, which opened up hardware running C to an expanding array of extant software, and developers began adopting the language after Ritchie coauthored a book detailing C.
“Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed,” said Jeong Kim, president of Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs. “He was truly an inspiration to all of us, not just for his many accomplishments, but because of who he was as a friend, inventor, and a humble and gracious man.”
Ritchie received the U.S. National Medal of Technology in 1999 and the ACM Turing Award in 1983 (both with Thompson), as well as many other accolades in his life.