This week, Dennis M. Ritchie, co-creator of C and Unix, died. His death has not made the front page like Steve Jobs’ did. But although the non-tech world had never heard of him, he was more important than Jobs.
I can still remember buying my copy of K&R, that slim volume that was my reference manual and introduction to C. Shortly before term in my second year, my Dad drove me up to Cambridge, and after unloading my stuff and having lunch, we went into Heffers on King’s Parade. On the upper tier, about two-thirds of the way toward the back on the right, was the Computer Science section. My Dad bought for me a copy of K&R and also a copy of Modula-3. K&R cost £25.
Modula-3 I seldom used after graduating, but C became a permanent part of my life. I spent my university summers compiling Linux kernels and fiddling with programs, and then I got a job in the games industry, and the rest is history. Until only a few years ago, I still used my copy of K&R now and then, mostly for reference (p53, operator precedence; p122, complicated declarations, and of course the appendix for remembering the order of arguments to fread() et al). At my last company, at one point it was issued to every engineer as a matter of course. It has now been retired only because of “proper” C++ I/O finally being acceptable in games.
As for the rest, Wired says it better than I can. Thank you, Dennis.