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The Ignoble Comparison

Dennis Ritchie and Steve Jobs were two of the most formidable figures in the world of computers and automation, yet they were fundamentally different.

With the release of a new film on Steve Jobs by the redoubtable Danny Boyle, some old resentments have resurfaced in me. Why this hero worship of a talented demagogue and artful copier? Why this wilful neglect of Dennis Ritchie, a supreme innovator, genius and all-round good person?

Dennis Ritchie and Steve Jobs died within days of each other. Both played seminal roles in the history and practice of computers and automation. Jobs died lauded by millions while Ritchie died in relative obscurity. Jobs became a billionaire while Ritchie earned a modest income throughout his life. Jobs had reams and reams of paper and bytes spent on his deeds and psychology. Ritchie garnered a few faithful followers. Jobs has had one authorised biography and a couple of movies about him. Ritchie has had a few laudatory articles. Even Wikipedia deserted Ritchie. Just look at the size of the entries.

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