• Nanos gigantium humeris insidentes

    by  • October 25, 2011 • Journal • 1 Comment

    Not everyone has learnt Latin; does anyone any more? but I think this phrase applies, roughly translated as the much more commonly retorted phrase ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’

    Over the last few weeks some of the truely great computer scientists have died, so they can dream of electronic sheep. Most people would instantly think of Steve Jobs, yes he was a great salesman and designer but didn’t fundamentally change how a computer worked, just how it was packaged to the end user.

    John McCarthy, the original computer Hipster, coined the term Artificial Intelligence in 1955 outlining what the fundamentals of a machine intelligence would be, and in 1971 received the Turing Award for his Major Contributions to the field of research with the end goal of having machines accurately pass the Turing Test.

    “The point will come when we do understand human reasoning.”

    Not content with the execution of programming languages in the field of AI, he created LISP, one of the oldest high level languages still in use today and father to other functional languages such as Scheme, Haskell and ML. If you have programmed in LISP you can definitely understand how he thought outside the box.

    Dennis Ritchie. If there is anyone who truely shaped the world in which we live it would be Dennis. He was one of the co-inventors of UNIX and the C Programming Languages while he spent his time at the Bell Labs.

    He designed UNIX over the course of a few months in 1969 and got a running version in 1970. In 1973 they recoded UNIX to use C; which itself was based on CPL (Combined Programming Language).

    To put this in context, C is EVERYWHERE, it is the cornerstone of most major Operating Systems and large systems. UNIX is still used, best known for its Linux derivatives and the underpinnings of Mac OS X.

    …In short, Jobs may have popularised computing, but these two made it what it is today. With their work, we are surely standing on the shoulders of giants.


    Software engineer. Tea drinker


    One Response to Nanos gigantium humeris insidentes

    1. January 31, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Given the numerous comments comparing the legacy of Jobs to Ritchie, I liked your more objective approach.
      Pingback (different topic) here:

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