Dennis Ritchie, RIP

Well.  It turns out that Dennis Ritchie passed away five years ago.  In an article on Slashdot, they describe the anniversary of the death of famous people sometimes launches a ‘second death’ response, making it look like it just happened.  I somehow noticed that the reported date of his passing was different between the article and his Wikipedia entry but failed to look at the year.  *facepalm*

The Slashdot summary:

Dennis Ritchie invented the “C” programming language, so a second round of honors comes as no surprise. Although five years ago he passed away, some confusion over a tweet started the social media avalanche known as “second death syndrome”. The problem, especially if you look at it from Ritchie’s perspective, is that he’s been dead for five years — exactly five years. That time gap seems to have escaped some of the biggest names in tech, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who late Wednesday tweeted out Wired’s five-year-old obituary on Ritchie, thanking him for his “immense contributions.” Om Malik, a partner at True Ventures and the founder of tech site GigaOm, retweeted Pichai’s tribute before soon recognizing his mistake and tweeting an apology for “adding to the confusion and noise.” Craig Newmark, founder of the popular online bulletin board Craigslist, also paid his respects, saying, “this guy made a huge contribution to the world.”

I learned today that Dennis Ritchie passed away on October 8 at the age of 70 (Wikipedia says he died 10/12, I don’t know which date is correct, it doesn’t matter much).  Dennis was one of the gods of the early days of modern computing, being a major part of the team that created Unix and C.  The most respected C system used to be known as K&R C, the initials being for Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie.

In many ways he was more fundamental to modern computing than Gates or Jobs as C and Unix are core to so many things today.  While I am not a fan of C as I prefer higher level languages, I definitely respect Unix and Linux.


Is what is new actually old, just relabeled?

My first job doing actual database programming was around 30 years ago, writing a dBase III+ system that sucked information from a commercial time charge billing system and produced much nicer and richer reports.

That’s ETL. The E and L were easy, the T took a bit of interesting work (setting the third bit of the last byte of a number to 1 to represent the field being a negative value?!). But when did the term start being bandied about in SQL Server as common nomenclature? At a guess, I’d say when Data Transformation Services became a part of the package, whenever that was.

Then a decade or so later, I wrote a system in Microsoft Access (probably 2.0) that allowed multiple users to coordinate individual databases so that each user could see other people’s information, but couldn’t change it.

That was sneaker net replication. Everything was copied on to floppies (some data sets were so minuscule back then!) and it worked reliably. I have no idea when replication entered the database lexicon, but I certainly didn’t use the term back then. We had SQL Server, but this group was isolated from our network because of reasons, so I had to provide the service through some unconventional means. And it worked.

So what’s next? What are we doing today, that we think is a one-off process, which will become a TLA or known term in a couple of decades? I have no idea, I hope to be fully retired and enjoying the German countryside then.