14 October 2011

The Passing of Two Computer Greats

Last week we heard of the passing of Steve Jobs.

Now, while the entire Internet was going crazy in praise of him, I must confess I had difficulty at first in relating to all that. You see, when I think of Apple, I think mostly of (overly) expensive hardware, restrictive and dysfunctional operating systems that make a mockery of their Unix roots, and DRM galore...

But of course it is not fair to judge Jobs by the Apple we know now. Jobs and Apple early on did have a profound impact on the modern state of home computing, and perhaps particularly on user interfaces.

With this in mind, I (as did probably almost every other webcomic author) did a little tribute strip for Escape from Lowresia.

Then, yesterday, I read of the passing of Dennis Ritchie.

This was not a name I would have instantly recognised, although I've probably run into it before (I've never been good at remembering names). But once I read the articles, I was more than a little impressed. This was the man credited with the creation of the programming language C, and one of the main original developers of the Unix operating system.

While I've never actually used C myself, it's impact on all modern coding and software is simply immense. You could perhaps go as far as calling it a sort of lingua franca of the programming world, since it has been, and still is, one of the most used languages around.

While the majority of the software I (and you) use is likely coded in C, Unix has perhaps had an even more direct impact for me personally. As some of you will know, for years already I've used variants of GNU/Linux, which is, of course, very much based on Unix, as my main operating system (with a brief interlude using Mac OS X, also a Unix-based system, albeit crippled by Apple). I couldn't imagine using another OS in the foreseeable future.

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