A lot happened this month. Two of the most influential people in the world have died: Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie. Everyone knew of Steve Jobs from his days with Apple Inc. The computing world knew Dennis Ritchie from the C programming language.
Both have a memorable impact in my life.
In Junior High, I was hooked by Apple when they made computers with “Hi-Res” graphics that looked spectacular (at the time). I asked my Dad to buy me an Apple //e. I sunk a lot of time playing with it – learning everything from doing school work, tinkering with computer graphics, and word processing1. I remembered visiting downtown Toronto and hung out at the computer stores along Queen St. I remembered forming a Toronto Apple User Group with a bunch of friends I knew online via BBS, to talk about the latest hardware hacking and software recommendation.
Fast forward to 1990. In University, I was doing a computer science major. They introduced a C Programming class.2 I always wanted to learn a programming other than Fortran and BASIC, so I dove right in. The text book I used was Kernighan and Ritchie’s C Programming Language. I remembered it well, a clean white book with lots of text. If you ask me now what was in it, I couldn’t recall, because of a couple of reasons. One, it was over 20 years ago since I last read it. Two, the book was written like a documentation. I like learning by example, and this book had very few of it. I’m terrible at theories, so I tend to forget most of it. Nevertheless, the learning experience was a good foundation. I recalled spending hours in the computer lab doing an assignment on re-inventing a parser by making a version of Karel interpreted programming language. Also, learning C made me comfortable in doing hacks for Netrek servers in campus.
So the products both Jobs and Ritchie produced made quite an impression on me. As a geek growing up in front of computers, I can definitely appreciate their contributions. Their products were a part of my life – from my humble beginnings to my professional life.
RIP, Mr. Jobs and Mr. Ritchie.
- With a package called “Gutenberg“ [↩]
- It was a popular language at the time, until C++ and Object Oriented programming takes over. [↩]