We had to design our own silicon integrated circuits, with processors and a router.We also had to invent packaging and cooling mechanisms, write compilers and assemblers, devise ways of testing processors simultaneously, and so on.We called it a "Connection Machine." Richard, always interested in his son's activities, followed the project closely.He was skeptical about the idea, but whenever we met at a conference or I visited Cal Tech, we would stay up until the early hours of the morning discussing details of the planned machine.His reaction was unequivocal, "That is positively the dopiest idea I ever heard." For Richard a crazy idea was an opportunity to either prove it wrong or prove it right. By the end of lunch he had agreed to spend the summer working at the company.Richard's interest in computing went back to his days at Los Alamos, where he supervised the "computers," that is, the people who operated the mechanical calculators.I can just tell them the name of the company." The technical side of the project was definitely stretching our capacities.
One day when I was having lunch with Richard Feynman, I mentioned to him that I was planning to start a company to build a parallel computer with a million processors.No one had thought about anything technical for several months.We were arguing about what the name of the company should be when Richard walked in, saluted, and said, "Richard Feynman reporting for duty. " The assembled group of not-quite-graduated MIT students was astounded.Richard did a remarkable job of focusing on his "assignment," stopping only occasionally to help wire the computer room, set up the machine shop, shake hands with the investors, install the telephones, and cheerfully remind us of how crazy we all were.When we finally picked the name of the company, Thinking Machines Corporation, Richard was delighted. Now I don't have to explain to people that I work with a bunch of loonies.
I was trying to design a computer fast enough to solve common sense reasoning problems.