history, technology, cyberculture and nostalgia find a place to meet and mix

Tribute to John McCarthy

John McCarthy (September 4, 1927 – October 24, 2011)

American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. Recipient of the Turing Award in 1971.Inventor of LISP. Coined the term "Artificial Intelligence".

LISP Programming Language
The second oldest high-level programming language. Originally created as a practical mathematical notation for computer programs, it soon became the favored language amongst the artificial intelligence community, due to the ease with which AI programs could be read.

McCarthy published the design of LISP in a paper in Communications of the ACM in 1960, entitled "Recursive Functions of Symbolic Expressions and Their Computation by Machine, Part I". He showed that with a few simple operators and a notation for functions, one can build a Turing-complete language for algorithms.

McCarthy championed mathematical logic for Artificial Intelligence. In 1958, he setup the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory with Marvin Minsky.
He was instrumental in the creation of time-sharing systems. He envisaged a time when we would have national grids, like water and electricity, which people could tap into for computer bandwidth.

He moved to Stanford and created SAIL (Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory), and for many years the two groups he had setup were friendly rivals as they went deeper and deeper into the field of AI.

McCarthy was passionate about AI. He believed it to be a goal of AI to solve real-world problems, like humans. And was disillusioned by the lack of ambition shown by researchers in the field. He compare the chess competitions between computers to geneticists designing fruit flies so they could race them in races.

This was a man who believed in technology and talked often about the sustainability of human actions. He genuinely believed that we could have material progress, while still not destroying ourselves in a stupid rage.

John McCarthy's Home Page
John McCarthy (1927 - 2011), Believer in Humanity

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A Tribute To Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie was one of the greatest computer engineers. Winner of the ACM Turing Prize in 1983 and the 1998 US National Medal of Technology, his work has probably created more jobs than anyone else in the past many decades.

C. It was his creation, alongside Kevin Thompson. Developed between 1969 and 1973 at Bell Labs, it is the most widely used programming language in the history of mankind. Its use is pervasive, and there is hardly any domain where C has or can not be used.

It was designed to be portable, and to work on any hardware. Programs that were written in C could run with little or no modification on any other computer that ran C. It was a massive leap in software engineering. It freed programmers up, especially in the early days of the 70's and 80's, when hardware and computer systems were in a state of constant flux.

And its a symbol of greatness when a programming language can remain relevant even 4 decades after its creation. It, and its variants, are used everywhere! As an electronics engineer, I cannot even hope to describe its importance in the world of embedded systems. It has sometimes even used as an intermediate language by implementations of other languages.
C++ and Java, say, are presumably growing faster than plain C, but I bet C will still be around.
- Dennis Ritchie

UNIX. He helped make it. It revolutionized the computer industry. The he remade it with C. Made it portable. Brilliant. Need I say more? Sigh

UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity.
Dennis Ritchie

We need to remember that C and UNIX spawned a revolution in the computer industry. Every subsequent software owes something to these two. And no one can ever take that away from DR.

He was the truest of computer engineers. Intelligent, with enough brains to make lives easier for us dumber folks. And his death did come as a massive shock to me. The software industry all over the world owe enough to DR to award him every honour possible. Darn. And what made me sad was watching a world obsessed over Steve Jobs, a maker of shiny toys, while a true genius died in relative anonymity.
The world is unfair. Often.

Slashdot Comments - The true place to understand the pain software engineers feel at this news.

Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie. September 8, 1941–October 8/9, 2011
printf("Goodbye world.\n");

(Links to be updated in a while)

A non-updated version of his biography - Encyclopedia of World Biography - Dennis Ritchie
Dennis Ritchie, father of Unix and C, dies
Interview with Dennis M. Ritchie
The future according to Dennis Ritchie

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Dennis Ritchie - Creator of C dead at 70

Dennis Ritchie is dead, after a long battle against an unspecified illness. Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie. The man who created C with Kevin Thompson. Who helped develop UNIX. One of the greatest computer engineers ever.
And no newspaper cared to report it. I can find NO news articles about it anywhere.

The man who is responsible for pretty much most of the computer jobs all around us.

Sigh. I am sad.

Evidence : Rob Pike, co-creator of the Plan 9 and Inferno OSes at https://plus.google.com/101960720994009339267/posts/ENuEDDYfvKP?hl=en

As much as I might hate twitter, its the only reason why heard about this.
There is an epidemic out there. Tech revolutionaries dropping one at a time. Except this one is a little more brilliant than the last one.

Tribute to Dennis Ritchie - http://techretro.blogspot.com/2011/10/tribute-to-dennis-ritchie.html

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