Dennis Ritchie (September 9, 1941 – c. October 12, 2011) was an American computer scientist and winner, with Kenneth Thompson, of the 1983 Turing Award. He created the C programming language and, with Thompson, the Unix operating system, which have had pervasive and lasting influence on subsequent programming languages and operating systems.
- What we wanted to preserve was not just a good environment in which to do programming, but a system around which fellowship could form. We knew from experience that the essence of communal computing, as supplied by remote-access, time-shared machines, is not just to type programs into a terminal instead of a keypunch, but to encourage close communication.
- In a 1980 lecture "The Evolution of the UNIX Time-sharing System", as quoted in Christopher Negus, Linux Bible 2010 Edition (2010),
- I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party.
- Google Groups : net.unix-wizards (1984-03-13).
- Usenet is a strange place.
- Google Groups : comp.lang.c (2006-08-23).
- [C has] the power of assembly language and the convenience of ... assembly language.
- Quoted in Cade Metz, "Dennis Ritchie: The Shoulders Steve Jobs Stood On", Wired, 13 October 2011
- UNIX is very simple, it just needs a genius to understand its simplicity.
- C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success.
Reflections on Software Research (1984)
- Computer science research is different from these more traditional disciplines. Philosophically it differs from the physical sciences because it seeks not to discover, explain, or exploit the natural world, but instead to study the properties of machines of human creation. In this it as analogous to mathematics, and indeed the "science" part of computer science is, for the most part mathematical in spirit. But an inevitable aspect of computer science is the creation of computer programs: objects that, though intangible, are subject to commercial exchange.
- The greatest danger to good computer science research today may be excessive relevance. Evidence for the worldwide fascination with computers is everywhere, from the articles on the financial, and even the front pages of the newspapers, to the difficulties that even the most prestigious universities experience in finding and keeping faculty in computer science. The best professors, instead of teaching bright students, join start-up companies.
- Another danger is that commercial pressures of one sort or another will divert the attention of the best thinkers from real innovation to exploitation of the current fad, from prospecting to mining a known lode.
- The working examples of important new systems seem to have come either from entrepreneurial efforts (Visicalc is a good example) or from large companies, like Bell Labs and most especially Xerox, that were much involved with computers and could afford research into them, but did not regard them as their primary business.
Quotes about Dennis Ritchie
- There's that line from Newton about standing on the shoulders of giants. We're all standing on Dennis' shoulders.
- Brian Kernighan, as quoted in Cade Metz, "Dennis Ritchie: The Shoulders Steve Jobs Stood On", Wired, 13 October 2011