Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Interview with Ken Thompson

Filed under
OS
Interviews

The Japan Prize, one of the highest honors awarded for outstanding contribution to science and technology, was awarded jointly this year to Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie for the creation of UNIX. The prize is normally given to the recipients at a lavish banquet in Tokyo attended by the emperor. However, due to the April earthquake and tsunami, the prizes this year were distributed at the honorees' place of work. I was able to attend the ceremony for Ken Thompson, held at Google headquarters, where he currently works. After the ceremony, he consented to this exclusive interview.

DDJ: You've received a lot of awards over the years for UNIX. At what point in UNIX's development did it become clear it was going to be something much bigger than you'd anticipated?

KT: The actual magnitute, that no one could have guessed. I gather it's still growing now. I thought it would be useful to essentially anybody like me because it was not built for someone else or some third party. That was a perjorative term then. It was written for Dennis and me and our group to do its work. And I think it would have been useful to anybody who did the kind of work that we did. And therefore, I always thought it was something really good that was going to take off.

Especially the language [C]. The language grew up with one of the rewritings of the system and, as such, it became perfect for writing systems. We would change it daily as we ran into trouble building UNIX out of the language and we'd modify it for our needs.

rest here




More in Tux Machines

Uselessd: A Stripped Down Version Of Systemd

The boycotting of systemd has led to the creation of uselessd, a new init daemon based off systemd that tries to strip out the "unnecessary" features. Uselessd in its early stages of development is systemd reduced to being a basic init daemon process with "the superfluous stuff cut out". Among the items removed are removing of journald, libudev, udevd, and superfluous unit types. Read more

Android One: Let us fill you in on Google’s big game

India is now the world’s third largest Internet market and “on a bullet train to become the second”. But even when we become the second with around 300 million Internet users, India would still have over 75 per cent of the population that has no access to this so-called information superhighway. It is this chunk of population that will form the “next billion” which companies like Nokia, and now Google, has been talking about. And it is this next billion that Google thinks will line up to buy and good smartphone that is also affordable. Read more

Mesa Gets Closer To Having OpenGL 4.0 Tessellation Support

A significant patch-set was published on Saturday night that implements the driver-independent bits of OpenGL 4's ARB_tessellation_shader extension inside Mesa. The tessellation support has been one of the big pieces missing from Mesa's OpenGL 4 implementation and fortunately it's getting close to mainline. Chris Forbes of Intel published fifty-six patches this weekend that implement the driver-independent portions of the extension inside Mesa. Of course, the driver portions still need to follow for it to be useful. Read more

Small Console Menu Utilities

One of the great strengths of Linux is the whole raft of weird and wonderful open source utilities. That strength does not simply derive from the functionality they offer, but from the synergy generated by using them together, sometimes in conjunction with applications. The Unix philosophy spawned a "software tools" movement which focused on developing concise, basic, clear, modular and extensible code that can be used for other projects. This philosophy remains an important element for many Linux projects. Good open source developers writing utilities seek to make sure the utility does its job as well as possible, and work well with other utilities. The goal is that users have a handful of tools, each of which seeks to excel at one thing. Some utilities work well on their own. This article looks at four tiny utilities that offer menu facilities. They get virtually zero coverage in the Linux press, so you may not have heard of them before, but they are well crafted and might just fit the bill. Read more