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Receiving a special award from Jyoti Basu
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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Then somehow we plugged into somebody... India had a science fair that the winner of different schools could go to the Indian Science Fair and it was the all India science fair was held in Calcutta. So I got to take my computer to the all India science fair. So people came from all over India from the schools with their things. And so I got to meet all these other nerdy kids from India.

And they ended up awarding me the special prize which was a great set of tools including like a much better soldering iron than I had. I was very excited. And it was presented to me by Jyoti Basu, he was the head of the communist party there. Because that part... Calcutta was under communist control at that time. And I think that Jyoti Basu, other people have said afterwards that he wasn’t so happy about giving a science prize to the Americans. And Jyoti Basu was the one that renamed the street that the American embassy was on, Ho Chi Minh Boulevard. So that was fun.

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: Jyoti Basu

Duration: 1 minute, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017