Honoring the life of Dennis Ritchie, UNIX co-creator and father of C

  • Luminaries from academia, science and business to celebrate life and work of Dennis Ritchie
  • Bell Labs hosting a full day of personal remembrance and reflection, to be webcast

Honoring the life of Dennis Ritchie, UNIX co-creator and father of CBELL Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, will be celebrating the life and legacy of the late Dennis Ritchie (pic) -- co-inventor of the UNIX operating system and father of the C programming language – with a special event on Friday, Sept 7, at its headquarters in Murray Hill, New Jersey.
Hosted by Jeong Kim, president of Bell Labs, the event will include remembrances from leading thinkers in information, communications and computing technology, including:
Al Aho, Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University, and original member of the Bell Labs Computer Systems Lab where UNIX and the C programming language were invented. Aho co-authored the AWK programming language.
Brian Kernighan, Professor of Computer Science, Princeton University. Kernighan is an original member of the Computer Systems Lab, and co-authored the C programming language book with Ritchie.
Doug McIlroy, Professor of Computer Science, Dartmouth College. He led the Computer Systems team at Bell Labs, and developed UNIX pipelines and several UNIX tools.
David Patterson, Professor of Computer Science, U.C. Berkeley. Paterson has taught computer architecture since joining the university, and has led the design and implementation of RISC I (Reduced Instruction Set Computer).
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google, Inc., who has helped grow the company from a Silicon Valley start-up to a global leader in technology. Schmidt co-authored the Lex analysis software program for UNIX.
Also on the agenda is Steve Fortune of Bell Labs Enabling Computing Technologies research, who will present some of the most innovative research under way in the labs.
Members of the Ritchie family will also be among other speakers and guests attending the event, Bell Labs said in a statement.
Dennis Ritchie - who passed away in October last year - significantly advanced computer software, hardware and networks along with Dr Kenneth Thompson, a former Bell Labs colleague and now a distinguished engineer at Google.
Their development work more than 40 years ago facilitated the realization of the Internet. Both men received the 2011 Japan Prize in information and communications from the Japan Prize Foundation last year.
“Dennis meant so much to Bell Labs. He and his long-time research partner Ken Thompson revolutionized computing, and society continues to reap the lasting benefits of their work.  It is a privilege to recognize Dennis’ lifetime of accomplishments,” said Jeong Kim.
Much of the progress in computer hardware, software, and networks has its roots in the innovative research conducted by Ritchie and Thompson. UNIX, created in 1969, is the operating system of most large Internet servers, businesses and universities, and a major part of academic and industrial research in operating systems.
The C programming language is prized for its efficiency and has since spread to many other operating systems, becoming one of the most widely-used programming languages for both system software and applications. UNIX was also a driving force behind the development of the Internet and a later edition led to the advent of the Open Source culture.
Ritchie received numerous prestigious awards for his work, including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) award for the outstanding paper of 1974 in systems and languages; IEEE Piore, Hamming and Pioneer medals, Bell Laboratories Fellow; ACM Turing Award and ACM Software Systems Award (both in 1983); NEC C&C Foundation Award (1989); the US National Medal of Technology (1999); the University of Pennsylvania’s Harold Pender Award (2003); and the Japan Prize (2011).  These awards were shared with Ken Thompson.

Ritchie and Thompson were named Bell Labs Fellows in 1982, the first year the Bell Labs Fellowship program was established. Ritchie also was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering in 1988.
As one of the most respected researchers from Bell Labs, Dennis had a long list of accomplishments. In addition to his work on UNIX and the C language, Dennis also contributed to the Plan 9 operating system, generally released in 1995, and also to the Inferno operating system, which was announced in April 1996. His last contribution to the UNIX system was a Stream input-output mechanism for connecting networks, terminals, and processes in a unified way.
Dennis joined the Bell Labs Computer Systems Research department in 1967, and though he retired in 2007 from the Computer Science Research Center, he continued to maintain close ties as a consultant for Bell Labs until his death in 2011.
The complete program is available online and the event will be webcast live at http://www.livestream.com/belllabs. You can also share memories on Twitter using the hashtag #DennisRitchie.

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