alt.embedded

Remembering The C Programming Language

Recently it seems that I have been writing a lot about people that have made a significant contribution to our industry that are no longer with us. This is again the case. There are few on this planet that have not heard about Steve Jobs (see Steve Jobs, 1955-2011). I also wrote a piece about passing giants that included Steve and Ken Olsen, another notable figure that co-founded Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). I should have added Dennis Ritchie, co-author of The C Programming Language, and Robert Galvin of Motorola.

The embedded community has been built on the C programming language. It remains at the top of the list for programming languages within that space even now with C++ second. C++ is a superset of C making it more than a 2nd cousin. More like a super clone.

Dennis and Brian Kernighan were involved in the creation of C and UNIX. The book, "The C Programming Language," probably did more for its adoption than anything else. It is one book I read cover to cover. It was only 228 pages but it was clear and concise. The "K&R style" of writing has often been quoted. It made the language approachable to millions of programmers.

Dennis Ritchie received many accolades for his wide range of work that matched that of Jobs although fewer knew about Ritchie's impact. He received the Turing Award with Ken Thompson in 1983 and the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal in 1990. They also received the National Medal of Honor and the Japan Prize.

Dennis started with the Multics project and worked with Thompson's B language to create C. There is actually a D language created by Walter Bright of Digital MARS. D that "combines the power and high performance of C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python." C's impact can be found in most major programming languages from C# to Java.

I tend to wander on some of my blog posts and this is no exception. In particular, I wanted to highlight Richard Stallman's blog post about Steve Jobs where he states:

Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, "I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone." Nobody deserves to have to die - not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs' malign influence on people's computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.

We typically write and remember the best of what people and often overlook these other issues. Unfortunately many of these issues are not well understood by the public in general that like their flashy Android and Apple smartphones and tablets. While the smartphones and tablets may be replaced on a regular basis, things like licensing issues typically remain or cause things you thought you owned to disappear. The "walled garden" approach of popularized by Apple's App Store continues to grow. The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet (see Amazon Fires a Silk Proxy In The Cloud) has its own community complete with a cloud-based caching system for its web browser. I'll probably write more about this later but it galls me that I have to use different apps and content depending upon the source of the material. I know how to get content without DRM from publishers like Baen (see EReaders: Kindle Versus Droid) because I use some many different systems but most people only use content on one device.

Check out the Free Software Foundation website for more on these issues.

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