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Dennis Ritchie dies at 70; computer
scientist helped develop Unix

Dennis Ritchie, a computer scientist who wrote the
popular C programming language and helped
develop the Unix operating system, has died. He was
70.

Ritchie died a month after his birthday, according to
his biography on a Web page of Alcatel-Lucent's Bell
Labs. Ritchie joined Bell Labs in the late 1960s.
The company announced his death Thursday but did
not give the cause or say when Ritchie died.
Ritchie is best known for his contributions to
computer programming and software. The C
programming language, which he developed in the
early 1970s, is still popular. It has gone through a
number of upgrades, and it is commonly used for
website development and other computer tasks.

The Unix operating software also surged in popularity. It
and its offshoots, including the open-source Linux,
are widely used today, in corporate servers and even
cellphones.
Ritchie was born Sept. 9, 1941, in Bronxville, N.Y.
His father, Alistair, was a systems engineer at Bell
Labs and his mother, Jean, was a homemaker. After
studying physics and math at Harvard University,
Ritchie joined Bell Labs.

"My undergraduate experience convinced me that I
was not smart enough to be a physicist, and that
computers were quite neat," Ritchie wrote. "My
graduate school experience convinced me that I was
not smart enough to be an expert in the theory of
algorithms and also that I liked procedural
languages better than functional ones."
At Bell, Ritchie and colleague Kenneth Thompson
worked closely to create Unix. In writing the C
language, Ritchie built on Thompson's earlier B
language. Their collaborations were intended to
simplify operating systems and make the software
portable and easy to move from existing hardware to
new computers, resulting in the open-source
movement of sharing ideas.
"I wanted to find out what things a program or
operating system could make possible that you
couldn't do before," Ritchie told Investors Business
Daily in 2003.

Bell Labs' emphasis on research provided
opportunities for Ritchie and Thompson to develop
pioneering innovations.

"There are features in C that everyone takes for
granted now," Doug McIlroy, a Bell colleague, told
Investors Business Daily. "But when Dennis created
them, they were new to the world."
Information on survivors was not available.

Source: news.obits@latimes.com
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

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