Dennis Ritchie, the father of the C programming language, has died. He was 70.
His book The C Programming Language (often referred to as K&R, for his co-author Brian Kernighan) was my first introduction to “real” programming beyond Atari Basic. As a teenager, I spent weeks one summer studying its pages intently, trying to wrap my brain around the difference between pointers and traditional variables.
Eventually, I could explain it without really understanding it, the mark of sophisticated ignorance.
To this day, C confounds me. As I look through Nima’s coding for FDX Reader, I’m always perplexed why some things belong in .h files while others live in .c files. It doesn’t fit my brain right.
Like my father, Ritchie spent his career at Bell Labs. I don’t know if my dad knew him or not, but I suspect they crossed paths. My father’s work was developing systems for reporting errors; in the end, all programming comes down to dealing with errors.
Ritchie outlived my father by two decades. I think that’s what strikes me most: how strange and amazing it would be to see technology reach this point. Even the iPhone has its roots in UNIX, the operating system Ritchie helped create.
The times I miss my father most aren’t birthdays or holidays. It’s unboxing a new gadget. He would have loved to see this.