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Muammar Gaddafi, Dennis Ritchie, Sylvia Robinson, and Betty Driver

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 21 October 2011

Jane Little on

Muammar Gaddafi - Libyan authors reflect on growing up under the dictator and coming to terms with the news that he's gone.

Tributes from Tim Berners Lee and others to Dennis Ritchie, computer scientist whose work played a key role in shaping modern technology, from laptops to smart phones.

Sylvia Robinson, singer, songwriter and entrepreneur who launched Hip Hop and rap into the mainstream.

And the nation's longest-serving barmaid, Betty Driver, whose popular role on Coronation Street formed the second act in a career that spanned eight decades on stage and screen.


4 items

    Libyan dictator who ruled for 42 years.

  • Dennis Ritchie

    Dennis Ritchie, pioneering computer scientist whose work played a key role in shaping modern technology. Sir Tim Berners-Lee pays tribute.

  • Betty Driver

    The actress Betty Driver, best known as the nation's longest-serving barmaid in her popular role on Coronation Street.

  • Sylvia Robinson

    Sylvia Robinson, singer, songwriter and entrepreneur who launched Hip Hop and rap into the mainstream. Chuck D pays tribute.

  • Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi

    Libyan leader who has died aged 69.

    The news has been dominated around the world by stories that have celebrated the killing of a tyrant who called himself Brother Leader, King of Kings, and Imam of Muslims. To many Libyans who grew up under his 42-year rule, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was a figure to be loathed and feared.

    Two young Libyan writers who grew up haunted by his voice, Suaad Alfitouri and Ghazi Geblawi, reflect on how they felt in the moments after they heard of Colonel Gaddafi’s death.

    Muammar al-Gaddafi was born 7 June 1942 and died 20 October 2011.

  • Dennis Ritchie

    Pioneering computer scientist who has died aged 70.

    Dennis Ritchie was by no means a public figure, but his work in computer science had a major impact on the development of the digital age. He was the co-creator of the operating system, Unix, and he wrote a new computer language, C. Together they paved the way for portable computing. Dennis Ritchie studied physics at Harvard and then followed his father into Bell Labs, home to many technology breakthroughs. When a large venture to create an operating system failed, Dennis worked quietly and persistently with a colleague to find a simpler, portable solution.

    Last Word hears from inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, from Ritchie’s former colleague Professor Brian Kernighan and from the technology writer Bill Thompson.

    Dennis Ritchie was born 9 September 1941 and died 12 October 2011.

  • Betty Driver

    British actress who has died aged 91.

    Betty Driver’s career began in the 1920s and ended just a few months ago when she made her last appearance on Coronation Street. As the Lancashire barmaid, Betty Turpin – later Williams – she doled out maternal advice and her famous hotpots to customers in the Rovers Return for forty years. But hers was very much a career in two acts – the first began as a child star of the music halls. She went on to make Ealing Comedies in the ‘30s, entertain the forces during the second world war, and then sing with Henry Hall’s orchestra on the radio.

    Jane spoke to the actress Sarah Lancashire and to Peter Kemp, literary Critic of The Times.

    Betty Driver was born 20 May 1920 and died 15 October 2011.

  • Sylvia Robinson

    Hip Hop music producer, singer and songwriter who has died aged 75.

    Sylvia Robinson was a singer, producer and record company owner who became known as the ‘Mother of Hip Hop'. She was born Sylvia Vanderpool in New York and in her teens began recording rythmn and blues songs. She later married the musician Joe Robinson and together they formed All Platinum records. She wrote and produced hits such as Shame, Shame, Shame and Pillow Talk, which she also performed. But later, when the company hit financial trouble, it was saved and turned into Sugar Hill records with the discovery of a new sound – rap.

    Last Word hears from Chuck D, of the rap band Public Enemy and from Dan Charnas, author of ‘The Big Payback’ on the history of the rap business.

    Sylvia Robinson was born 6 March 1936 and died 29 September 2011.


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