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God of Programming, Dennis Ritchie [1941 – 2011]

The Creator of worlds most powerful computer programming language is no more now. Dennis Ritchie, the Developer of C Programming Language has passed away this weekend after battling an unspecified illness. “Ritchie’s influence rivals Jobs’s; it’s just less visible,”  said James Grimmelman on Twitter.

His pointer has been cast to void *; his process has terminated with exit code 0.”

Dennis Ritchie
Bell Labs, Rm 2C-517
600 Mountain Ave.
Murray Hill, New Jersey 07974-0636, USA.

This is the address of a legend who is a single reason for the total change over in the history of Computing and Software development. The most sad thing right now in world among all the other software programmers, developers and technology enthusiasts that world have lost yet another possession. This post is to give a detailed biography of Dennis Ritchie and his wonderful Gift to this world.

Early Life

Ritchie was born on September 9, 1941, at Bronx-Ville Town, New York to Alistair Ritchie and McGee Ritchie. His Fater Alistair Ritchie is a Switching Systems Engineer at Bell Laboratories for a long time. And this is the most viable thing that came handy for Dennis to understand about circuits and machines later. Dennis spent his childhood schooling done on New Jersey and here most of the time he’s the topper in Academics. Then Ritchie is been switched to Harvard University. Dennis is very fond of Physics right from his school days and so he did a Bachelor’s degree on Physics at Harvard.

Interest On Exploring Machines

While studying at Harvard, Ritchie usually attends some lecturers about how the Harvard’s Computer System, A Univac 1 Functions. He got fascinated about the things he heard on that session and wished to explore more. This happened to be the sprout inside Ritchie and he started examining machines and wondered how they are been programmed to work as instructed.

Ritchie in MIT

Dennis Ritchie, being at Harvard joined a part time job which would support his thirst for knowledge as well as to maintain his being livelihood got in through MIT (Massachusets Institute of Technology). During those days there is no specified computer courses or certification. Ritchie is been hired only on the basis as he seemed to be curious about computers. Ritchie worked for several years in MIT helping the Scientists alongside in developing advanced computer systems and software.

Ritchie’s First Effort

During those time Computers occupy a full room and it has a limited dial-access. Slower some smaller desktop computers were developed and those carry a complex to use operating system. Ritchie came forward with his experience at MIT and made a proposal for a simple, easy to use operating system. MIT, Honeywell, and General Electric accepted his proposal and allotted a set of scientists from colleges and some private companies to built this big venture which can be accessed by 1000 members at once and runs 24 hours a day.

Ritchie always says this phrase, “Programming is not at all a Problem, its an interesting puzzle to be solved

The project was a successful outcome and Ritchie is been honored a graduate degree at Harvard. This is the time when Ritchie chose his path that his destiny will be computers and not Physics.

Ritchie Inside Bell Laboratories (1967)

It became an easy task for Dennis Ritchie to enter Bell laboratories as his father is been a dedicated worker inside it. Inside Bell Ritchie got a right person who got a passion just like him in thinking new ways for computing. Kenneth Thompson, who joined Bell Labs in 1966 and its been a year for him inside it before Ritchie joins.

Both of them watched how the computers started evolving in early 1970’s and they were stubborn in their ideas for bringing a simpler and more feasible interaction between computers. The solution didn’t came just like that and they worked hard and written the Unix Operating system.

Birth of UNIX

Ritchie’s ideas were to bring an Operating system which will help users do all such things like copy, delete, print, and print files. It should also allow to move the data files from one drive into a printer screen and back to disk storage again. Till before that time Operating systems and computers were only accessible by Experts few and Ritchie brought in Unix to break this thing. Unix is comparatively cheap and simple which attracted many buyers. It also relieved them in some ways like you can use variety of software from any vendors without stuck to those backup from the single developer alone.


The Official release of Unix Operating system was held on a Public Symposium hosted by IBM, and the show is a grand success. Ritchie and Thompson involved in developing the system even more simpler.

Developing C Language (1969-1973)

Later on Ritchie and Thompson the developer of Unix operating system thought that why don’t they bring an even more simple and user based language system and not like the machine language they used for Unix. Ritchie thought of combining the aspects of older system and his new ideas into those, and came up with “C Programming Language“.

Early 21st century has the dominance of C language during which all the computer maker switched to it due to simple and concise language. By the middle of 1980‘s C language became the most consistent and popular language in the world. Mainly the speed of writing down the programs and executing them is the major success of C programming language and so all the companies preferred C to develop their own software.

Improving C and Computer Functionality

By the end of 1973 Ritchie and Thompson have re-written the Unix Operating system into C-language and done massive testing on their work. Meantime Bell Labs changes to Lucent Technologies Inc., and they started distributing Unix to developers. Ritchie is been honored as the Leader of Computer Techniques Research Department at Lucent Technologies Inc., where he continued his good work and in late 1995 Ritchie became the head of Lucent Technologies Inc., where he worked continuously in researching even simpler computing for users till his end of days.

Awards & Honors

Dennis Ritchie have got many awards for his brilliant work in computing and also in development of Unix OS, C language and Simple computing for all users.

1974 – ACM Award for his paper on Systems and Languages.

1982 – IEEE Emmanuel Piore Award.

1983 – Bell Laboratories Award.

1983 – Association of Computer Turing Machines Award.

1983 – ACM Software Systems Award.

1988 – Elected to the United States National Academy of Engineering.

1990 – IEEE Hamming Medal.

1999 – United States National Medal of Technology.

We really miss another great person who was the base for everything we do with our computer today. We see Dennis Ritchie behind every beautiful applications that we use and experience today. He really helped millions of users to earn and grow more in their career to see the change and feel the same to distribute it further to others. Please express your views in the comment box below.

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About the Author: Robin C

Security Consultant, Engineer, Technology Enthusiast and Blogger.

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