13 October 2011

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie R.I.P.

We live in a society where CEOs, hedge fund managers and all around Galtian overlords claim that they need to be compensated by the billions - that's billions with a b-  if we want them to perform.

Personally, I am not impressed by Fabrice TourrĂ© or John Paulson.

I am impressed by people like Ray Tomlinson.

I bet you don't know who he is. He is the guy who invented the email as we know it (and love it) today. If there is one "killer application" in the last 30 years, to use venture capitalist jargon, e-mail is it.

Think about it, you may not be on FaceBook or use Windows in your computer but you use email everyday. Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are worth billions.

Tomlinson? Not so much. He is my hero.

So is or was Dennis Ritchie who passed on today. This is the guy who created the C language. C is a revolutionary software development language which gave programmers access to hardware like never before. Most computer programs you use have been created by this language or an extension of it, like C++ (pronounced cee plus plus) or C# (pronounced C Sharp). Even Java and JavaScript are cousins of that language tree.

He was also one of the critical creator of UNIX operating system. UNIX is still used in most heavy duty servers and for all mission-critical applications. It was also at the center of the Open Source movement, which eventually begat Linux, which is UNIX for ordinary folks.

If you remember, the widely praised luminary Steve Jobs used UNIX to develop the NeXT Operating System which later became the Mac OS X.

As someone put it today: "Ritchie's influence rivals Job's; it's just less visible."

So, next time a hedge fund manager or a CEO who was brought in to "slash" cost (which always means lay off working people) complain about "inadequate compensation" tell them about Dennis Ritchie.

Or Ray Tomlinson.

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