Hello, strange new planet!
There have been countless Steve Jobs eulogies in the past week. Jobs is a complicated figure for me. He joins other historic American innovators such as Bell, Edison and Ford, who’s biographies celebrate the “land of opportunity” mythology, where anyone motivated could get ahead. On one hand they bettered society with affordable mass-produced technology, and on the other hand they employed aggressive business strategies, introduced bad labor practices, and ruthlessly quashed competition.
Dennis Ritchie passed away this Saturday. Eulogies are not competitions, obviously. But the contrasts between Jobs’s and Ritchie’s legacies are hard to ignore. Jobs introduced to the world iconic form factors, gadgets you could hold. But Ritchie and his co-inventors laid the foundation for modern software. That svelte iPad? Its operating system is 40 years old, Ritchie’s brainchild.
But along with the software, Ritchie and his friends introduced an entire philosophy. A philosophy that is just as seductive to an engineer as the latest Apple aluminium unibody product.
I grew up on UNIX. We had a machine at home with the hostname saris, Hebrew for eunuch. My dad taught me The Cool. Specifically the UNIX Cool of keeping it simple, less is more, and silence is success. It is this Cool that made me want to program, and it will outlast every fancy gadget.