The C Programming Language (1978)

Creators

Brian Kernighan (writer), Dennis Ritchie (writer).

Extent

Read in 2017.

Read in the second edition (1988).

Commentary

The source of “Hello world”. True to the legend it is indeed a fine example of technical writing. It is easy to picture how, in 1978, the terseness, predictability and power of C were received in some way similar to Douglas Engelbart’s 1968 NLS demo, given that the main reference for comparison is Fortran, followed by the more recent Pascal. LISP is pretty much ignored.

It would be foolish to live by this guide 30 years after the publication of its second edition. Using a char as a character in 2017, for instance, would be an awful habit. Introductory books on modern inheritors of C, including Go and Rust, all tend to use a similar style but make the code examples interactive and runnable in a browser, a fine tribute to this classic.

non-fiction programming text