Posts tagged "John McCarthy"

One just wanted to tell the computer what to do, the other wanted it to talk back

Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy, both pioneers in computer science, died this passed October.

Unless someone tells computers what to do, they are pretty much a dumb collection of rare earth minerals, wires, silicon and plastic. But the computer’s language is the same language of a light switch. It is either on or off. And to talk to these machines in their own language is a very difficult exercise of building a structure ones and zeros in a very hardware-specific way.

What Ritchie and McCarthy had in common, besides very healthy beards, was what they accomplished. They created high level languages we humans can use to tell these boxes what to do. McCarthy create LISP and Ritchie created C. With C, Ritchie helped to create Unix.

Article: Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy | The Economist