While we’re likely all nerds of some sort, we don’t all know coding. But we do know that everything we do on electronics is run by code. C was created in 1969 by Dennis Ritchie of Bell Labs. The name is nothing original, just an alphabetic procession, but that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the most portable programming languages in the world, as there is a compiler for nearly every computer architecture out there. In his own words: “C is quirky, flawed, and an enormous success.” Ritchie also co-authored The C Programming Language, which is widely accepted as the book about C. It was first published in 1978, and became known as K&R, for the last initials of the authors, Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie.
Dennis Ritchie was not only known for C, but also for his role in the development of the UNIX operating system. Along with Ken Thompson and others, Ritchie helped create an open and free operating system that is still widely in use today. Originally coded in Assembly, it was re-coded in C to maximize portability, thanks to C’s easily compiled code.
In 1983, he was awarded the Turing Award, known as the “Nobel Prize of computing,” for his work. In 1990, both he and Ken Thompson were awarded the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal for their work in the development in both the C language and UNIX operating system. Bill Clinton, in 1999, awarded both men the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for C and UNIX which allowed modern computing to flourish openly.
Known not only for his great accomplishments, Ritchie was said to be a humble and gracious man, and in a message from Bell Labs president Jeong Kim, he is named “truly an inspiration to all of us” and will be greatly missed.