October 17, 2011
Another sad day for the computing world – a few days back Dennis Ritchie died. Yes I know I am a bit slow off the mark. This wasn’t a mega-news story like the death of Steve Jobs, but you can find a few news articles at the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, and Tech Crunch. Of course the public at large knew almost nothing about Ritchie, but he was more important to the creation of the modern world than Jobs. He invented the C programming language and co-created Unix with Ken Thompson. These things underly the Internet, the Mac, the iPhone and Android. There is a straight line from C to Java to C# so even Microsoft is not a Unix-free zone.
I have in front of me my copy of “The C programming language” by Kernighan and Ritchie. One of the many remarkable things is that it is an inch thinner than all my other computing books. It is a paradigm of clarity.
Apparently the news was first broken by Google’s Rob Pike. Here is his very nice follow-on posting on Google Plus.
Rob Pike’s posting and the Tech Crunch article have lots of comments from distressed geeks. Somebody said inventing Unix is like inventing air. I think even folks who hanker after VMS would agree that in practice we all breathe Unix. Ny favourite comment from the Tech Crunch stream was from Mike Church in Malvern, who said :
int main(int argc, char** argv).
fprintf(stdout, “Goodbye World!\n”);.
October 6, 2011
Steve Jobs is dead. Headline news on Radio 4 as I woke up this morning. It feels deep. This is not because of the loss of a technology genius – hell, we all know Apple wouldn’t exist without Woz, the Mac was really Jeff Raskin, Pixar was really Jeff Lasseter etc. Its not just that he was an amazing business visionary – as Jonathan Fay tweeted this morning, “Steve Jobs championed design, pushed the limits of his people, and believed in dreams long enough to see them become reality.”
No. Its the story, the arc of a life lived in public that we all shared – the kid in the garage, the billion dollar success, the casting out into the darkness, the crossing of the Rubicon back into Rome as victor, the battle against cancer. Orbiting Frog quoted from his 2005 commencement address at Stanford. “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
I hadn’t seen this clip before. Its fifteen minutes but well worth a look. He tells Stanford students that the best thing he ever did was to drop out of college, and the second best thing was to get fired and re-think life. And then he tells these bright young things, on a sunny day, at the start of their adventure in Life, that the really important thing is to remember that you will die. He also recalls the Whole Earth Catalog (remember that ?). On the back cover of the final edition it had a picture of a country road, and the words “Stay Young, Stay Foolish”.
If you want a lighter Steve moment, try this. As ever, timing is all.