Monday 9 September 2013


There can't be many people who come up near the top of the page with a Google search of their initials.  But just under
Designated Marksman Rifle
Digital Mobile Radio
. . . and before
Differential Microwave Radiometer
Department of Mineral Resources
. . . and 12 million other hits 
"dmr" points you to Dennis M Ritchie's home page.  Which you might read for a moving note from his surviving siblings acknowledging an extraordinary level of response to Ritchie's death in October two years ago.  And also for a fascinating, illustrated view of Being There at the birth of universal computing.

Google: BtS points to the British Thoracic Society, Bratislava Airport, Base Transceiver Station and 63 million other hits without acknowledging me at all at all.  Part of the difference is that Dennis Ritchie had dmr as his username and e-mail address at Bell Labs for 50 years whereas I go by Bob rather than BTS.  He could do that (corner the name) because he was galloping about on the wide open prairies of computer-land years ahead of the posse 
He wrote the C programming language!  
He wrote The Book (with Brian Kernighan)! !
He wrote half of the Unix operating system (with Ken Thompson)! ! !
These are awesome tasks in the world of geekdom: a bit like being the chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad, founding St Louis  and being half of Lewis and Clark. His contributions to the world as we now experience it - the whole internet runs on Unix boxes; and that operating system is written in C! ! ! ! - are so important that they almost defy belief.  Without Ritchie's take on it, it would ALL be different.

"What we wanted to preserve was not just a good environment in which to do programming, but a system around which fellowship could form. We knew from experience that the essence of communal computing [is] to encourage close communication." dmr, 1980.
That's a fellowship of which I have been a member for the last 25 years, not as a grey-beard Wizard like Ritchie, Kernighan and Thompson, of course, but in the ethos of that fellowship even humble hobbits like me have been succored, trained, empowered and treated with respect. Without Ritchie's take on it, it would ALL be different.

So seventy-two candles for the birthday of dmr today, hats OFF and a sweeping wholly respectful bow.

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