Dennis MacAlister Ritchie (1941-2011) – My Inspiration by a Great Man Who Quietly Shaped an Industry

NOTE: The intrusion and profusion of projects in my life, has prevented blogging for some time. As 2011 draws to a close, I thought I needed to make an effort to provide my perspective on some important milestones in my world.

Back in October, when Rob Pike posted on Google+:

I just heard that, after a long illness, Dennis Ritchie (dmr) died at home this weekend. I have no more information.

I trust there are people here who will appreciate the reach of his contributions and mourn his passing appropriately.

He was a quiet and mostly private man, but he was also my friend, colleague, and collaborator, and the world has lost a truly great mind.

Although the work of Dennis Ritchie has not been top of my mind for a number of years, Rob’s posting dredged up some pretty vivid early career memories.

As the co-creator of UNIX, along with his collaborator Ken Thompson, as well as the C Programming Language, Dennis had a huge and defining impact on my career, not to mention the entire computer industry. In short, after years as a leader in technology yet market laggard, it looks like in the end, UNIX won. Further, I was blessed with meeting Dennis on numerous occasions and, to that end, some historical narrative is in order.