Bell Labs introduces a thing called ‘UNIX’

Retrotechtacular: Bell Labs introduces a thing called ‘UNIX’

Modern operating systems may seem baroque in their complexity, but nearly every one of them  – except for Windows, natch – are based on the idea of simplicity and modularity. This is the lesson that UNIX taught us, explained perfectly in a little film from Bell Labs in 1982 starring giants of computation, [Dennis Ritchie], [Ken Thompson], [Brian Kernighan], and others.

At the time this film was made, UNIX had been around for about 10 years. In that time, it had moved far from an OS cloistered in giant mainframes attached to teletypes to slightly smaller minicomputers wired up to video terminals. Yes, smallish computers like the Apple II and the VIC-20 were around by this time, but they were toys compared to the hulking racks inside Bell Labs.

The film explains the core concept of UNIX by demonstrating modularity with a great example by [Brian Kernighan]. He took a short passage from a paper he wrote and found spelling errors by piping his paper though different commands from the shell. First the words in the paper were separated line by line, made lowercase, and sorted alphabetically. All the unique words were extracted from this list, and compared to a dictionary. A spell checker in one line of code, brought to you by the power of UNIX.

(Via Hack a Day.)

Dennis Ritchie, 1941-2011

Dennis Ritchie, 1941-2011: Computer scientist, Unix co-creator, C programming language co-inventor

Computer scientist Dennis Ritchie is reported to have died at his home this past weekend, after a long battle against an unspecified illness. No further details are available at the time of this blog post.

Wikipedia biography here.

He was the co-inventor of the C programming language, and a central figure in the development of Unix. He spent much of his career at Bell Labs. He was awarded the Turing Award in 1983, and the National Medal of Technology in 1999.

“Ritchie’s influence rivals Jobs’s; it’s just less visible,” James Grimmelman observed on Twitter. “His pointer has been cast to void *; his process has terminated with exit code 0.”

(Via Boing Boing.)