When it comes to who is the greatest — Dennis Ritchie, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs — it’s just not about what they invented, but it’s more about how we have always perceived them. Taking a cue from psychology and history, explore the fact yourself.
Eulogies were raging all over when Steve Jobs passed away. Internet was mourning the death of Steve Jobs. The world also saw the death of Dennis Ritchie, who is seen as an unsung hero by many of us. Before I write something more, I would like to speculate moreover how a “Personality upon death” and “Popularity upon death” are connected.
Psychologists visualize a personality based on five elements:
- Conscientiousness: How strong is your drive to follow the rules and finish what you start?
- Agreeableness: How far will you go to help others or make them happy?
- Neuroticism: Is life a series of hazards to avoid or a feast of opportunities to pursue?
- Openness to experience: Do you have a hunger for mental stimulation and yearn for novelty?
- Extraversion: Are you more energized by interacting with people or by time alone?
I am not going to explain each of these elements one by one. Instead, I will try to find a nexus between these elements which define a person and hence, popularity.
Let me ask you something — What is your source of knowledge about the primitive world, medieval world and even until the second world war?
Since we are a part of 21st century, I would just jump back into the 20th century. Surely, ancient world and medieval world are too far to ponder upon at this moment for us. So once again, how do you know about second world war? Let’s think about the probable sources of knowledge about the second world war:
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- Classified documents
- Unclassified documents which were later revealed
- Mouth picked stories
- History books (Surely got twisted a lot with time)
- Newspaper pieces
And what else? You can count on to the documents you think you can get information from.
Now, let me name some of the personalities from the second world war. Just try to evaluate yourself, how many of them you know:
- Winston Churchill
- Joseph Stalin
- Franklin Roosevelt
- Benito Mussolini
- Chiang Kai-shek
Well, Most of us would identify the first four, and last three might not be known to many of us. Now why the top four personalities are famous, while the last three personalities are not so much when compared to the first four, though all held the same position in their country and were equally responsible for the war? Has it something to do with the personality? OR, it has something to do with the popularity? Surely. Popularity.
Propaganda, mass media, charismatic authority, heroic idealization and other methods undoubtedly gave the first four personalities a boost while last three were not the faces of mass media. If you put together all the ways of gaining popularity, it’s called “Cult of Personality.”
Now let’s come back to Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, and Bill Gates.
If I ask you to rate these modern century technology pioneers based on their “Cult of personality,” in what order you are going to list them? Irrespective of the order, I think Steve jobs would top the chart. I am not sure who will hit the bottom line. Let’s take another plunge into the history and see what happened after the deaths of Dennis Ritchie and Steve Jobs?
Dennis Ritchie: A-70-year-old old man in long beards died a no man’s death. Someone who lived a solitary life and whose time and cause of death is still not known. Someone who was not socially active over the internet and remained secluded in his binary world. The irony is that he died after Steve Jobs. I would say to get the proper recognition and to let the people realize what his achievements truly meant; he died a tail-end death.
Steve Jobs: Termed as an entrepreneur, visionary, and inventor, Steve Jobs died an announced death. He died with billions of dollars after him. An email was created for people who wanted to send remembrances messages. Invitation only memorial and private memorials were also held for him.
In a nutshell, Dennis Ritchie died inside the core, and Steve Job’s demise happened on the crust.
Now who was greater, Dennis Ritchie or Steve Jobs?
As we know, Dennis Ritchie’s works were always the core works:
- C language — the heart of many things in the computer world today
- Unix operating system — the inspiration of most of the advanced and reliable operating systems today
Many knew Dennis Ritchie because they had read his name somewhere. Whereas people had heard the name of Steve jobs, which makes an obvious difference. What significance can you count of when someone reminds you of Steve jobs, apart from the great Apple products? Anything as technical as C-compiler or Unix systems? Think….
Next question comes, who was greater among these three? Bill Gates, Dennis Ritchie, or Steve Jobs? Well, the answer depends on how would people remember Bill Gates in the future?
On the surface level, it’s surely Windows that enabled almost everyone to use computers. The second most popular thing people might remember Bill Gates is for his philanthropy. We might accuse Windows OS of many things, but at the end of the day we all are grateful for it.
Thus, when it comes to the comparison of people like Bill Gates, Dennis Ritchie, and Steve Jobs, these comparisons are heavily influenced by the what so-called “cult of personality.” Something that you made and something that you force people to believe. Yes, it’s all about impression over our minds. Yes, it’s something about our niche. Ultimately, it’s all about when and how you die.