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Friendship with my driver, Pratap
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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One that I became most friends with was our driver, Pratap, and he spoke six or seven Indian languages and would always get us out of any mess because, you know, whenever we travelled he drove. And driving in India is as much a diplomatic exercise as a road exercise because of course there's always traffic accidents and things to be negotiated along the way. So Pratap and I became great friends. And we got Pratap a little transistor radio as a gift. When my father would go back to the United States occasionally, and we got Pratap a transistor radio as a gift. And he managed to rig up a big battery next to it. So he had this little transistor radio and a big battery and Pratap was always very happy about that. I would go talk with him and I would go on adventures with him.

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: India

Duration: 1 minute, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017