Bell Labs Remembers Dennis Ritchie

Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, celebrates the life and legacy of the late Dennis Ritchie - co-inventor of the UNIX operating system and father of the C programming language, with a special event on Friday, September 7, at its headquarters in NJ.

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  1. The Dennis Ritchie event was a unique combination of a where the world was when Dennis invented UNIX, where the world has gone since and a heartfelt personal remembrance of the brother, the beloved colleague and the person whose work forever impacted the world.  I was reminded again that genius happens even in a seemingly messy corridor of a building in suburban NJ. It can pour from a humble, quiet, unassuming man. We may not even completely recognize it at the time -- and when we look back -- we may wonder how we may have overlooked it was happening.

    So as I was walking the long hallways towards the UNIX room in Bell Labs on September 7, 2012 I was thinking about Dennis -- but I was also thinking what other genius was lurking in these famed hallways and that decades later someone else from the future would think "this is where it all happened"

  2. The true highlight of the event for me was Dennis' brother singing a song in his honor:
  3. And now the words to his song:
    He was the living epitome of self-effacement;
    He worked 'til the wee hours, down in our basement.
    Mom sort of wondered what she did beget,
    And she remained puzzled by the Internet.  

    Being his siblings made us lucky kids,
    But don't ask us to explain what the...heck he did;
    His prose revealed him as an elegant styler,
    I have a vague sense that it dealt with compilers.    

    Dennis, our brother  
    Unlike any other  
    The solar system's most unlikely star   Dear old dmr  

    The story of his thesis was shrouded in mystery,
    Seemingly lost in the dust heap of history;
    For decades we'd languished in doubt and perplexity,
    Til Lynn discovered "Program Structure and Computational Complexity."  

    Just like Mom, I don't understand code,
    But everyone tells me he wrote it so it flowed:
    Elegant, spare, eschewing cheap new tricks, The King in his palace, surrounded by UNIX.     

    Dennis, our brother   
    There won't be another   
    The solar system's most unusual star     We love you, dmr
  4. Eric Schmidt's (Chairman of Google) presentation:
  5. You can see Al Aho's presentation here:
  6. Some great pics!
  7. The best 5-minutes of what Bell Labs is up to:
  8. Great comments:
  9. To get some background on Dennis' work the best first stop is his home page -- preserved on the Bell Labs web site:
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