Just read Herb Sutter’s post that Dennis passed away. This is another huge loss for the technology scene over recent weeks. For me, arguably even more pertinent and more relevant than Steve Jobs. Even though I respect what Steve did with Apple, and have used his products at various times over the years (including trying to figure out how to eject a floppy from a Mac), I have never owned an Apple product myself. But my life, and the course of my life, has been profoundly impacted by the work of Dennis Ritchie.
Having graduated as an Electronic Engineer I quickly ended up writing software as an integral part of that career, and ultimately becoming what defines me. Although initially this involved various assembler variants, and other (electronic) engineering based languages, like Fortran, Ada and PLM/86, I eventually came to know and love (at times) C, and it’s derivatives like C++, C#.
I am sure most professional developer’s have the definitive tome on C by Kernighan and Ritchie somewhere in their book collection. If you don’t, I wonder whether you can call yourself a professional coder.
From Herb’s post I think this closing summary encapsulates everything Dennis Ritchie stood for, and what looking back those first unsteady steps into C started: “C is a poster child for why it’s essential to keep those people who know a thing can’t be done from bothering the people who are doing it. (And keep them out of the way while the same inventors, being anything but lazy and always in search of new problems to conquer, go on to use the world’s first portable and efficient programming language to build the world’s first portable operating system, not knowing that was impossible too.)”
My condolences and thoughts are with his family and friends at this time, thank you for giving me the tools to do what I do and love.
Warning! Potential political points may be made!
The BBC recently published an article suggesting that Professions ‘reserved for rich’ discussing the fact that top professions such as law and medicine are in fact being reserved for a smaller rather than large pool of people. And then you read about the government’s threat to independent schools through the reappraising of their charitable status and gradual destruction and removal of grammar schools and you have to ask – WHY? Surely looking at this new report it is obvious that both wide access to grammar schools and schemes like assisted places were the route to giving people equal access to top professions and universities.
Trying to make everyone have the same education experience is never ever going to work since not everyone learns the same way, has the same skills, etc. We need to ensure that everyone gets access to the best education for them and destroying academic excellence, however divisive it can seem, is not the way to do this. We need to improve the access to academic excellence not remove it all together and then we stand a chance of both improving our standing in the world league and giving everyone a fair chance at the best professions. Currently the government’s stance is that now we have all but eradicated grammar school options for everyone, now let’s kill the independent option for all but the rich, firstly through the killing of the assisted places scheme and now through the potential of increasing fees at the more affordable schools such that those that can afford fund a new assisted places distorting the whole market once more.
Again we have the problem of the UK missing the point in putting Science development on the Agenda with the plan to remove critical funding for Jodrell Bank’s future in being able to make new discoveries. For the sake of £2.5m funding the whole future of not only Jodrell but the whole of the UK being at the forefront of astronomical research is being put at risk. We are continually implored to get more kids studying science and technology, and yet we continually loose key parts of our scientific past and future. Jodrell Bank stands out for all to see, lets keep it going.
Our local radio station has put together a song and video to add to the campaign. Join in, watch the video and spread the word, the blogosphere can and does make a difference to public and, even more importantly, government opinion.