Thinking Machines Corporation was a supercomputer manufacturer founded in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1982 by W. Daniel "Danny" Hillis and Sheryl Handler to turn Hillis's doctoral work at MIT on massively parallel computing architectures into a commercial product called the Connection Machine. The company moved in 1984 from Waltham to Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, close to the MIT AI Lab and Thinking Machines' competitor Kendall Square Research. Besides Kendall Square Research, Thinking Machines' competitors included MasPar, which made a computer similar to the CM-2, and Meiko, whose CS-2 was similar to the CM-5. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1994, with its hardware and parallel computing software divisions eventually acquired by Sun Microsystems.
Thinking Machines developed the C* programming language as an extension of the C programming language for the Connection Machine data parallel computing system.
Thinking Machines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 1994. The hardware portion of the company was purchased by Sun Microsystems, and TMC re-emerged as a small software company specializing in parallel software tools for commodity clusters and data mining software for its installed base and former competitors' parallel supercomputers. In December 1996, the parallel software development business was acquired by Sun Microsystems, forming the basis of Sun's entry into High Performance Computing.
Thinking Machines continued as a pure data mining company until it was acquired in 1999 by Oracle Corporation.
The program WAIS, developed at Thinking Machines by Brewster Kahle, would later be influential in starting the Internet Archive and associated projects including the Rosetta Disk as part of Danny Hillis' Clock of the Long Now.
Key architect Greg Papadopoulos later became Sun Microsystems, Inc.'s Chief Technology Officer.
Thinking Machines alumni ("thunkos") were instrumental in forming several parallel computing software start-ups, including Ab Initio Software and Applied Parallel Technologies. Ab Initio is still an independent company; Applied Parallel Technologies, later renamed to Torrent Systems, was acquired by Ascential Software, which was in turn acquired by IBM.
Besides Danny Hillis, other noted people who worked for or with the company included Greg Papadopoulos, David Waltz, Guy L Steele, Jr., Karl Sims, Brewster Kahle, Bradley Kuszmaul, Charles E. Leiserson, Marvin Minsky, Carl Feynman, Cliff Lasser, Alex Vasilevsky, Doug Lenat, Stephen Wolfram, Eric Lander, Richard Feynman, Mirza Mehdi, Alan Harshman, Alan Mercer, James Bailey, Tsutomu Shimomura and Jack Schwartz.
DARPA's Connection Machines were decommissioned by 1996.
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