Friday, October 14, 2011

Departing Giants

October of 2011, the history will remember you as the month in which two pioneers of modern technology passed away. First Steve Jobs departed and withing a few days Dennis Ritchie too.

I've never been an Apple fan, let alone a customer. And I don't see that changing anytime soon. However hold a deep respect for the man Steve Jobs was. I used to think that he's some rich guy running a tech company. Listening to his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University was life altering for me to say the least. Not only it changed how I saw who Steve Jobs was, it taught me to "stay hungry", "stay foolish" and more.

If Steve Jobs was soaring high above there, Dennis Ritchie (dmr) was the giant whose shoulders he stood on. 'Dennis Ritchie' might not be a household name as 'Steve Jobs' is, but his legacy is far more vast. He made C. He co-created Unix.

C is not just a programming language, it's the programming language which paved the way for all the programming languages we have today. Without Unix, there would be no Linux and no Mac OS X. It's easy to overlook Dennis Ritchie's contribution to modern computing, but without those, computers and software would be a lot different today. You can read Herb Sutters post about why dmr's work considered "doing the impossible".

I used to tell my friends in other fields that our field has the privilege of living heroes and pioneers. Sadly, the times seem to be changing. With giants such as Steve and Dennis gone, it falls to our generation and ones to come, to carry on the good work. With that thought in mind, I'll mark this post my own little tribute.

Good bye, Steve... Good bye, Dennis... And thank you.


  1. We've been lucky because the people who made the things we love were still around. A lot of them still are, but it's inevitable that time will catch up with everyone. It's a depressing thought, but I'm thankful that their work is still fresh in our memories.

  2. It was pretty much a single generation that made it all great for us. And sadly it's the time that generation has to leave us.

    Sad sad times :(

  3. All the pioneers of the revolution of the late 60s are very old or dead now, and most people don't realise their contribution, which is the saddest part. :(

  4. @chanux: sad indeed.

    @Chavie: that's how it is usually, isn't it? Even today, I wonder how many of new programmers knew who Dennis Ritchie was. On the bright side, they weren't after glory, and their contributions live on.

    However I hope there'll be a parts in computing curricula that deals with history of computing.