Dennis Ritchie, father of C programming language, dies

In addition to C, the pioneering computer scientist made significant contributions to Unix and received many awards honoring his work.

Dennis Ritchie (center) and Ken Thompson receiving the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in 1999. Alcatel-Lucent

Dennis Ritchie, an internationally renowned computer scientist who created the C programming language, has died at age 70.

Ritchie died at his home over the weekend, according to a Google+ post from longtime colleague Rob Pike. His Wikipedia entry was updated to say he had died in Murray Hill, N.J.

His death was confirmed today by Bell Labs, in a message from its president, Jeong Kim, to employees. That message reads, in part:

Dennis was well loved by his colleagues at Bell Labs, and will be greatly missed. He was truly an inspiration to all of us, not just for his many accomplishments, but because of who he was as a friend, an inventor, and a humble and gracious man.

In addition to being the creator of C, Ritchie co-authored "The C Programming Language," commonly referred to as K&R (after the authors, Brian Kernighan and Ritchie) and widely considered the definitive work on C. He also made significant contributions to the development of the Unix operating system, for which he received the Turing Award in 1983 (along with Kenneth Thompson).

President Bill Clinton awarded Ritchie and Thompson the National Medal of Technology in 1999 for their contributions to Unix and C. He won many other national and international awards for his work and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1988 for "development of the C programming language and for co-development of the Unix operating system."

Ritchie went to work at Bell Labs' Computing Sciences Research Center in 1967 and was widely known as "dmr"--his Bell Labs e-mail address. As part of an AT&T restructuring in the mid-1990s, Ritchie was transferred to Lucent Technologies, where he retired in 2007 as head of System Software Research Department.

In a tribute to Ritchie, Rupert Goodwins of CNET sister site ZDNet UK, offers some observations on Ritchie's work habits and his legacy.

Ritchie had the lifestyle and habits to match his position as an early guru of IT. Long-haired and bearded, and famously more owl than lark, he started work at midday in his industry-standard chaotic office, emerging late in the evening to go home and carry on working through to the small hours at the end of a leased line connected to the Bell Labs computers....

His ideas live on, in the rudest of health, at the centre of modern operating system design, in new programming languages, and in every electron and bit of open systems.

 

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