Those working in tech owe much of their livelihood to Dennis Ritchie. The New-York born pioneer was among the early Bell Labs alums, and is credited with both creating the C programming language and co-developing Unix.
Image: Victoria Will/AP Images for Japan Prize Foundation
Unfortunately for those mourning his passing today, he died five years ago.
Among the first to Tweet about Ritchie’s second death were two people who really ought to have known better: Om Malik and Sundar Pichai, respectively the venture capitalist founder of GigaOm and the CEO of Google. Cnet spotted the screw up as it was unfolding.
Their tweets were followed not long after by similarly dashed-off crumbs of digital grief from the founder of Craigslist, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the CTO of Hubspot and the co-founder of CloudVolumes.
Though Malik tweeted out a correction, the damage was already done: Twitter included the New York Times’ obituary for Ritchie as “top news” for a search of his name, with 13 October 2016 as the publish date. (The obituary was actually published on 13 October 2011, when Ritchie died.) Various tweets containing the link were flagged as a “top news story,” adding credence to the idea that Ritchie had died for a second time.
Second funerals and hoax deaths have become commonplace, especially given the speed at which social media can spread misinformation. But it’s particularly odd to see it being endorsed by the platform itself. We reached out to Twitter for details but had not heard back at time of writing.
Ritchie died five years ago at his home in Berkeley Heights, NJ after a long fight against prostate cancer and heart disease. This is the world he helped to build.