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Being a wedding crasher


Paine Mansion – our headquarters
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Bill Paley was on my board. And he had... and he asked to have... he said, 'I'll do it, but I want somebody else to come with me.' And he got Frank Stanton to be on the board, too, and this was after Bill Paley had fired Frank Stanton from CBS. So Frank Stanton... I called him up and said, 'Bill Paley wants you to be on the board of this company.' And Frank Stanton said, 'Bill Paley is like a self-centred son of a bitch, but if he asked me to walk off a cliff for him, I would.'

And so I had Frank Stanton and Bill Paley on the board. Bill used to fly up in his helicopter from East Hampton to attend board meetings. And the company started out in this beautiful old house which we got from the City of Waltham by going to the city council and telling them we were doing something of historical importance, and they rented us this house called the Paine Mansion, which was built by Robert Treat Paine. It was actually designed by HH Richardson. So we were in this fantastically beautiful house in the middle of the woods, an extraordinary historical house, with our drawings all over the place and running Ethernet cables all over the place.

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: Christopher Sykes George Dyson

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: Frank Stanton, Bill Paley, Paine Mansion, Robert Treat Paine, HH Richardson

Duration: 1 minute, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017