Kenneth Lane Thompson PDF Print E-mail
Kenneth Lane Thompson

Kenneth Lane Thompson studied programming languages, operating systems, and computer games. He was one of the inventors of the UNIX operating system; perhaps the most widely used computer system in the world. He also invented the C programming language and co-developed several chess-playing machines. UNIX is well known for its simplicity, generality, and portability. Thompson conceived of the system in the late 1960s, and together with Dennis Ritchie, a colleague working with him at Bell Laboratories, developed UNIX as an alternative to the old batch programming systems that dominated the industry at the time. Although Thompson created UNIX while working at Bell Labs, the system was developed independently by the two programmers. It was very unusual because it was not commercially marketed like other systems. Instead UNIX gained in popularity through a network of researchers long before it was released commercially, and it has had one of the longest gestation periods of any computer program. UNIX is now believed to be one of the most widely used systems in the world, supporting over twenty million dollars of equipment.
Kenneth Thompson was born on February 4, 1943 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Lewis Elwood Thompson, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, and Anna Hazel Lane Thompson. He majored in electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, also working at the computer center as well as participating in a work-study program at the General Dynamics Corporation. Thompson received his B.S. in electrical engineering in 1965 and his M.S. in electrical engineering in 1966, both from Berkeley.

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