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Cold-calling Dennis Ritchie
By Dave Winer on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 10:52 AM.

When I was a grad student at the University of Wisconsin in 1978, I called Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs to tell him about the work I was doing with the Unix line editor. I had added structure. You could nest lines under other lines. Dive and surface. Move a line up and everything under it would move up too.  #

I also built a parser into the editor so it would understand the structure of Pascal (for some reason I chose Pascal and not C, I don't remember the rationale). So you could import a bunch of code and it would automatically arrange it into a hierarchy that my editor could edit. #

He was really gracious, asked a bunch of questions about what it was like to use. The questions indicated that he understood what I was describing.  #

I got off the phone with a glow. For a student to connect with an adult that way, especially a hero like Dennis Ritchie, whose code we were studying, whose coding style was what I aspired to -- that was a thrill. Of course I still remember the feeling even if I don't remember all the details. #

I mention this today because Ritchie died recently.  #

I read somewhere that, while he wasn't as famous as Steve Jobs, that his legacy was on the same level. I totally agree. He created the modern interactive operating system. He taught a generation of programmers, of which I am luckily one, how to think like a programmer. That loving code was exciting and rewarding. And he did this all by sharing with everyone the results of his own creativity, totally. Long before "open source" or "free software" were rallying cries.  #

I just wanted to say Thanks! and that I aspire to pass on whatever I can from what I learned from him.  #

Christmas Tree
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