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C language inventor spurns Google's language exam

So Mr Thompson, you say you have some programming skills...

Google won't allow the co-inventor of Unix and the C language to check-in code, because he won't take the mandatory language test.

Between 1969 and 1973, Ken Thompson created Unix with Dennis Ritchie. At the same time he also developed the C language. The speed and simplicity of C helped Unix spread widely. Both have subsequently become quite popular.

Google hired Thompson to create a new language, Go. But Google also requires all of its recruits to pass a language test. According to Thompson, he hasn't quite got round to it yet - and so can't submit code.

The snippet emerged in a book called Coders At Work, published last September. We don't know if the information is still current, or whether Thompson has finally allowed himself to be subject to a humiliating examination on the language he invented by an acne-scarred, know-it-all Oompa-Loompa who is absent-mindedly flicking paper pellets into a Starbucks cup while Twittering.

But the snippet runs like this:

Q: I know Google has a policy where every new employee has to get checked out on languages before they're allowed to check code in. Which means you had to get checked out on C [which you co-created].

Thompson: Yeah, I haven't been.

Q. You haven't been! You're not allowed to check in code?

Thompson: I'm not allowed to check in code, no... I just haven't done it. I've so far found no need to.

A hat-tip to Gawker for unearthing this gem recently. Not many programmers read Gawker, so we thought you might enjoy it.

Three years ago Google admitted it employed robo-Loompas to weed out job applications. Well done to the inventor of Unix for passing that initial hurdle.

(You can find more tales from the Google Interview Room here, and a few more teasers from the Thompson interview at this blog.) ®

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