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Marvin Minsky's intellectual generosity


The beginning of the Internet
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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The first search engine was actually at Thinking Machines before there was ever a web. It was called WAIS.

[Q] Yes, yes, of course, of course, yes.

And Brewster made it. And actually looked at files that were... there were RAW files that were published. And would look at Reuters' news stories and things like that. It was pretty exciting thing. I remember showing it to people and everybody was interested but they didn't really think it would affect them that much. I remember showing it to a vice president of AT&T and I said, 'You know, you should really pay attention to this internet thing, it's going to be important.' And the vice president said, 'Oh, yes, we've had people look at the internet. We've decided if it turns out to be important we'll just buy it.'

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: Internet, WAIS, AT&T, Reuters

Duration: 1 minute, 1 second

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017