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Aaron McCollum
Aaron McCollum

Posted on • Originally published at codingwithaaron.wordpress.com

A Short History on the C Programming Language

The C programming language is one of the more classic languages we have today. C was developed by a computer scientist named Dennis Ritchie, when we worked at Bell Laboratories (affiliated with AT&T), between the years 1969 – 1973. The Unix operating system was new at the time, and Ritchie and his colleagues were developing programs during that time period to do things with Unix.

The language prior to C was simply called the “B” programming language, however that language had shortcomings, such as it was slower and not able to take advantage of some features in Unix. Ritchie took most of the syntax from B, and he added improvements such as having data types and giving the language the ability to represent structured data. Logically, he called it “C.”

In 1978, Ritchie and Brian Kernighan wrote and released a book entitled “The C Programming Language” which for a long time was the unofficial documentation of the language. It would be another five years though before C was ratified, and the first formal version of the language became official. In 1989, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standardized the C programming language.

Today, C is still a primary language for operating systems, as Unix and Linux have major parts written in C, and other operating systems like MacOS and Windows also contain a lot of C code. Additionally, other programming languages have C as the “under-the-hood” language, like Python, Java, and C++. Having a good understanding of C can be helpful when working with other products that are developed by the language.

Links to learn more:

"A Brief History of C Programming"

"What is C Programming Language? Basics, Introduction, History"

"The History of the C Programming Language"

Discussion (3)

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Andrew Clayton

“The C Programming Language” is still the goto C book...

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Aaron McCollum Author

That's awesome. I looked online for documentation for the language and didn't find anything like what you can find with newer languages. I read that you have to pay for it?

Do you have the book? If so, what do you think of it? Would you say it's a "must have" for developers?

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Andrew Clayton

I read that you have to pay for it?

For the official specs I believe so, however working drafts are made freely available. Such as (C11) open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg14/www/do...

en.cppreference.com/w/c is good for a quick reference guide.

Do you have the book? If so, what do you think of it? Would you say it's a "must have" for developers?

I have the second edition of The C Programming Language in both paperback and ebook. I wish I had it when I first looked at C 25+ years ago... The book is like the language itself, short and to the point.