Blog Post

A curious collection of code eulogies in honor of the late Dennis Ritchie (1941-2011)

How does one praise another in code?  The passing of Dennis Ritchie (1941-2011, a.k.a. "dmr"), the legendary designer of the C programming language who also played a pivotal role in the creation of UNIX, provoked an outcry from the global community of programmers who expressed their condolences and deep respect in Ritchie's own language.

 

Below are a few especially poignant eulogies that I found on the web.  Some play on features of C while incorporating aesthetic norms of elegance and simplicity that Ritchie's designs--especially UNIX--were famed for (e.g., "for(;;);").  Others (e.g., "goodbye, dad") refer to now ubiquitous examples such as the "hello, world" filler text, originally introduced in Ritchie's famed textbook, "The C Programming Language" (1978, co-authored with Brian Kernighan).  Others still refer not to C but rather to commands related to shutting down a UNIX system (e.g., "sync; sync; halt") or other bits of operating system lore (e.g., "} \r\n EOF", which refers to the end of a C function followed by an end-of-line character sequence and then an end-of-file symbol).

 

EDIT: I especially want to draw these eulogies to the attention of those interested in critical code studies (CCS), which like any nascent field is still working to establish what is valid subject matter for criticism.  I would like to suggest that in addition to finding non-functional meanings in code, CCS scholars should strive to understand the non-functional (especially the affective) effects of functionality.

 

Too often, we think of functionality as monolithic concept when in fact it has many gradations.  For instance, regarding Plan 9, an operating system that Dennis Ritchie worked on extensively at Bell Labs, Eric S. Raymond noted that Plan 9 could never dipslace UNIX despite its numerous improvements because UNIX "gets the job done well enough to hold its position."  Plan 9's elegance and consistency, which stem from its functional design, has nevertheless been widely admired.  Programmers in general feel emotional and even spiritual bonds to their code that has little to do with sensory aesthetics.  Consider this comment on OSNews:

 

"Dennis Ritchie deserves being remembered. He was but one of the many involved in early Unix, but these men were inventing everything we take for granted today.

 

UNIXv6 sources are like ancient poetry in that they lack the refination of more modern pieces, but have a wild purity that is just impossible to emulate.


if (p1->op==NAME||p1->op==CON||p1->op==AUTOI||p1->op==AUTOD)
if (p->type!=LONG)
return(12);" 

 

The bits of code below straddle not only functional and affective meanings but also functional and affective effects derived from functional meanings. 

 

 

main()

{

printf("hello, afterworld\n");

}

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333392137)

---

#include <stdio.h>

 

int main()

{

printf("goodbye, dad\n");

return 0;

}

(http://www.muppetlabs.com/~breadbox/rip-dmr.html)

---

#include <time.h> #include <stdio.h> void main(){ printf("One minute of silence"); sleep(60000); printf("RIP DennisRitchie"); }

(tweet by FredyVasquez)

---

main(){puts("fair winds Dennis\n");}

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333454091)

---

echo RIP Dennis Ritchie!

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333485793)
 

---

init 0

(http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158803http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158803)

---

/sbin/halt -p

(http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141316217&plckFindCommentKey=CommentKey:df6e7998-a04a-403d-809e-330921b6ead1)

---

sync; sync; halt

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333800270)

---

free(dmr);

(http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158662http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158662)

---

for (;;);

(http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2473586&cid=37702624)

---

“He made the words that allow me to speak digitally.

;_;”

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333364326)

---

for(;P("\n"),R--;P("|"))for(e=C;e--;P("_"+(*u++/8)%2))P("|"+(*u/4) %2);

(http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2473586&cid=37700784http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2473586&cid=37700784)

---

} \r\n

EOF

(http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2011/10/dennis-ritchie/#comment-333974565)

---

static void *dmr = (void *)&dmr;

(http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2011/10/dennis-ritchie/#comment-333960544)

---

dmr = NULL;

(http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158745)



In response to “dmr = NULL;”: “Dammit, has DMR taught you nothing?! Free that shit first, lest he become an undead spirit that haunts you from beyond the grave ;)

It's sad that a well-meaning tribute to a man with a great idea is a memory leak..."

(http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158979)

---

“We all -told- him to use memcpy() instead of strcpy()”

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333285899)

---

void main() {

break;

}

(http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1199980)



“Please.. no void main () stuff. Probably won't make him turn in his grave, but I reckon you owe it to this guy not to do this :P”

(http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1200954)

---

#include <stdio.h>
int main(void)
{
printf(“RIP, dmr.\n”);
return 0;
}

(http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1)

 

“Ritchie would write

int main(void) {

instead of

int main(void)
{

It's called the K&R(itchie) brace style, you know :)”

(http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158672http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/10/dennis-ritchie-the-giant-whose-shoulders-we-stand-on.ars?comments=1#comment-22158672)

---

“exit code 0? No, hell no. Exit code 1. Subroutine successful!

(edit: i suck at c! i do apologize for my error. RIP Mr. Ritchie)”

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333285652http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333285652)

---

Semicolons are for the wishy-washy. Either use a comma or a period and leave that half-way garbage for 8th grade English.
:-P

(posted by MikeMa, 10/13/2011 at 11:14 AM, http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/10/dennis_ritchie_has_died.php?utm_source=mostactive&utm_medium=link#comment-5516973)



sprintf("Sorry Dennis, just kidding.");

(posted by MikeMa at 11:50 AM, http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/10/dennis_ritchie_has_died.php?utm_source=mostactive&utm_medium=link#comment-5517164)

---

“He was deserving of a Nobel prize possibly for literature, the Unix operating system could be a story in itself.”

(http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141316217&plckFindCommentKey=CommentKey:aa5b4287-fbb7-4ff7-ae8a-2115dba27aae)

---

“malloc gibt es
free nimmt es”

(A play on the German saying “Der Herr gibt, der Herr nimmt”, similar to the English “What the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh”, both derived from Job 1:21, http://www.pro-linux.de/news/1/17603/comm/496727/re2-dennis-ritchie.html)

---

“I am from India. Dennis Ritchie is the first name rings our ear. Author of C Language.
Every Young engineer falls in love with him. First Love - Innocent and pure. R.I.P Sir Dennis.”

(http://boingboing.net/2011/10/12/dennis-ritchie-1941-2011-computer-scientist-unix-co-creator-c-co-inventor.html#comment-333422904)

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1 comment

There is a depressing dualism in the coincidental deaths of Jobs and Ritchie.  The people will mourn for Jobs and portray him as a visionary, but most do not understand and are not interested in understanding the amount of impact that Ritchie had on the field of computer science.

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