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The worst day of my life turns out to be the best
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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On the day that India still had... it was a difficult pregnancy and we were very frightened that Pati would lose the baby, so she was very still the whole time, and this was the whole time when things were coming to a head at Thinking Machines. And so I had... the day that Thinking Machines finally filed Chapter 11 and we worked out this business of selling off the hardware business to Sun and had announced it to everybody, and it was really kind of up to that point, kind of the worst day of my life. And I came home just completely drained and exhausted and I said, 'I think I just had, like, the worst day of my life.' And Pati said, 'I think my water just broke.' So I got her into the hospital and we went and she actually had a surprisingly short labour and India was born and she was perfect and I collapsed and fell asleep. And that was... became one of the very best days of my whole life. So it went from being one of the worst days to one of the best days.

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: birth, daughter, labour, bankrupt

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017