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My painful first experience with politics


The assassination of John F Kennedy changes America
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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And actually going back, I remember even earlier, a couple of years before, Kennedy had been assassinated. So this was the second school I'd gone to. Let me go back to the first school I had been to which was Hearthstone Elementary School which was a private school, it was a very good school. And I would actually take the public bus through San Antonio to get to Hearthstone.

And I would take it in as a six year old, take the public bus, and it went to first grade and the beginning of second grade there. And I remember when I was in first grade coming in one day from recess and the grownups were crying. And I had never seen grownups cry before. And I asked what happened, and they said, 'The president has been shot.' And we had just seen... The president had just come by our school the day before. It was in Texas, in San Antonio, and he'd come to San Antonio right before going to Dallas.

And eventually they cancelled school and we went home. And in those days there were only like three television channels, and all the television channels were just showing over and over again the footage of Kennedy being shot. Like nobody could believe that. And that went on for several days until the funeral and so it was sort of a big event in my life. And so it's not surprising that anybody kind of my age remembers when Kennedy was shot. It was also kind of a... It was kind of a change in the whole feeling of America, I think, when that happened.

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: Hearthstone Elementary School, JFK, John F Kennedy

Duration: 2 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017