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Brian Kernighan

 

Brief Description: One of the creators of the AWK (from the initials of Aho, Kernighan, and Weinberger) and AMPL languages; coauthor with Dennis Ritchie of the 'bible' of C, The C Programming Language.

Further Details:

Although he had no part in the birth of C - which is entirely the work of Dennis Ritchie - Brian Kernighan wrote a tutorial on how to use C for people at Bell Labs, and Ritchie's arm into writing a book with him. Just about every respected C programmer learned C from this book, The C Programming Language.

He worked in Bell Labs alongside Bjarne Stroustrup, Ken Thompson, and Dennis Ritchie - all four were all friends and close colleagues for many years, all in the same small group at Bell Labs.

He once told an interviewer: "There are only two real problems in computing: computers are too hard to use and too hard to program. We've made enormous progress on both of these over the past fifty years, but they are still the real problems. And I predict they still will be problems 50 years from now."

The AWK langauge was a joint effort among Al Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Kernighan (the name is their initials) - the three were pretty equal in their contributions, though Kernighan has maintained and modified it on his own since about 1980.

AMPL - a language for specifying optimization problems such as linear programming - is joint work with Bob Fourer and David Gay. It acts as a sort of compiler, converting a natural and convenient mathematical notation into whatever a particular solver program needs.

After several years as visiting professor in the CS department at Princeton, Kernioghan eventually accepted a permanent faculty position and retired from Bell Labs to become a full-time professor.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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