Dennis Ritchie died today. In computer circles, he is like Einstein.
For those curious about this computer science version of Einstein, this Economist article will give you some background.
I’ve written only a bit in C, which he created and is arguably the most important computer language, but of course I use GNU/Linux, arguably the closest to the spirit of the original Unix, which he co-created.
Since I write more than I code, I’ll note one of his most direct and enduring influences on me came through a single sentence in the book he co-wrote on the programming language called, “The C Programming Language.” People write big books on programming languages, but he co-wrote a short one that has become the book on C. I posted elsewhere on this influence he had on me.
His great works had such amazing style — simple, elegant, meaningful, effective. I think this sentence, which he not only co-authored but also executed on, summarizes it in plain English, all the more so when you read if from the small book in your hands.
“C is not a big language, and it is not well served by a big book.”
These words have guided my writing as much as anything in Elements of Style.
The title of my post refers to the title of my post of a more popularly known computer figure dying the other day, which was more critical.
EDIT: I thought this later memorial article expressed my sentiments well.
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