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Getting funding from Bill Paley

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My reflections on Thinking Machines
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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In the end, I think we had a lot of impact, in the sense that those people went off and did things like had Sun go into the Web business, or Eric Lander went off and did all the stuff he did with...

[Q] Like Los Alamos?

Yes. So it was kind of like Los Alamos, in the sense that it became a sort of touch point for people, that they all remember... remember those days. And in fact I was just out visiting Sydney Brenner in Singapore, and he was talking about how wonderful it was to show up there in those days and meet everybody. We served food. That was the other thing. That was the other big innovation nobody had ever heard of, is that we had great food served. And so it became the place where everybody would come and have lunch together. So it ended up being a pretty wonderful thing and I'm proud of it. I'm sad it ended the way it did, but it had a lot of flaws in the way it had been set up as a business, and of course at the time I helped found it, I really wasn't thinking about that. I knew nothing about business, and so I made a lot of mistakes that I would never make again. So, it was a sad moment for me, but it also freed me up to really get to spend time with my children when they were infants and young. And that was kind of a wonderful opportunity.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Sydney Brenner

Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017