Monday, January 25, 2021

Brad Cox, RIP

Legacy (Hacker News):

Dr. Cox was a computer scientist known mostly for creating the Objective – C programming language with his business partner, Tom Love, and for his work in software engineering (specifically software reuse) and software componentry.


Stepstone hoped to sell “ICPaks” and Dr. Cox focused on building his ICPak libraries and hired a team to continue work on Objective-C, including Steve Naroff. The late Steve Jobs’, NeXT, licensed the Objective-C language for it’s new operating system, NEXTSTEP. NeXT eventually acquired Objective- C from Stepstone. Objective-C continued to be the primary programming language for writing software for Apple’s OS X and iOS.

Bill Bumgarner:

His impact on many of our careers and on computing in general was immeasurably huge. Certainly, I can point to much of my career and have Dr. Cox to thank for enabling it!

Gus Mueller (tweet):

Everything just sort of aligned in my brain. Previously I found myself struggling to express the ideas I had in my head, and it was a frustrating experience. Now I was struggling to type fast enough and come up with new ideas that I could express in Objective-C. I felt like I could do anything I wanted with it.

Dave Dribin:

I love that Objective-C came from Brad reading the now infamous Smalltalk article in the Aug 1981 (Vol 6, No. 8) issue of Byte with the balloon on the cover and him thinking “I could do something pretty similar in C”.

Becca Royal-Gordon:

Even though I don’t use it much these days, Objective-C is a much better language than it has any right to be—a genuine pleasure to use thanks to its brilliant balance between conceptual purity and practical concessions. Dr. Cox and his colleagues helped make it that way.

Ken Kocienda:

Objective-C remains one of the best languages ever for creating apps and frameworks. Mac OS X, iOS, and the App Store all sat on the foundations of this great language. There would be no iPhone without Objective-C.


Objective-C is presumably the mainstream language with the most outsized influence. Along with Ruby and Squawk later on, it carried the values of Smalltalk into the modern programming era. Introspection and messages and dynamism, rather than C++ vtable optimization and trickery inventing seven kinds of memory management/ownership subtlety and delegating all to the programmer. Getting things to work together in a coherent and easy way that befits a small system, rather than spending 90% of your attention making sure no performance is untowardly spilled on the floor.

John Gruber:

Great programming languages are great for writing certain types of software. Objective-C is great for writing apps and app frameworks. Turns out that made for a great language — and an enormous competitive advantage for the one company that banked its entire software stack on it.

Nick Heer:

Cox sure made his dent in the universe.

See also:


Update (2021-01-26): John Gruber (tweet):

When I listen to my favorite app developers speak of Objective-C and its runtime, they almost never talk of the source code they wrote. They speak about it like Kocienda does, like it gave them the ability to put their fingers on the apps themselves. Like they weren’t writing instructions to make the app, but that they were writing the app itself. Not writing a recipe for baking a cake, but somehow baking a cake directly, and tweaking it to taste better and look prettier as it’s cooking. And if you needed to write ungainlier-looking recipes to get that on-the-fly dynamic feel for the cake as it’s being made, so be it, because the cake is the thing, not the recipe.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

It was an elegant language, for a more civilized age, and it served me well.

See also: Core Intuition.

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

What a brilliant man who created a brilliant language. Swift can't hold a candle to Objective-C. I'll be writing Obj-C till I'm dead and buried.

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