Another titan of computer science died yesterday. Dennis Richie, father of C and UNIX passed away at 70. I enjoyed this post by Herb Sutter which gives an idea of the scale of cognitive leap that he had to make in order to think that he could make a universal programming language competitive with platform specific assembly.
For me it begs the modern question: Is it possible to build a dynamic modern programming language (ala Python, Ruby, R, etc.) that performs competitively with C? Most examples that I can think off are of by two orders of magnitude.