Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Richard Feynman, computer designer?!

Who knew? Well, I didn't. Danny Hillis' eulogistic tribute to Feynman's contributions at the now-defunct Thinking Machines corporation has so many quotables that I won't even try to pick the best one. Read the whole thing. Here's a teaser:
We tried to take advantage of Richard's talent for clarity by getting him to critique the technical presentations that we made in our product introductions. Before the commercial announcement of the Connection Machine CM-1 and all of our future products, Richard would give a sentence-by-sentence critique of the planned presentation. "Don't say 'reflected acoustic wave.' Say 'echo'." Or, "Forget all that 'local minima' stuff. Just say there's a bubble caught in the crystal and you have to shake it out." Nothing made him angrier than making something simple sound complicated.

Getting Richard to give advice like that was sometimes tricky. He pretended not to like working on any problem that was outside his claimed area of expertise. Often, at Thinking Machines when he was asked for advice he would gruffly refuse with "That's not my department." I could never figure out just what his department was, but it did not matter anyway, since he spent most of his time working on those "not-my-department" problems. Sometimes he really would give up, but more often than not he would come back a few days after his refusal and remark, "I've been thinking about what you asked the other day and it seems to me..." This worked best if you were careful not to expect it.


At 12:11 PM, Anonymous top pills said...

I am a computer designer and I have to tell you that Richard Feynman can be anything he wants but a computer designer and I have my grounds, but I prefer not to tell them here because I respect him.

At 1:15 AM, Anonymous email archiving said...

Computer jargon can be more understood by people if there are more Richard Feynman to remind the "smart guys" to simplify their words. I really admire all his achievements.

At 2:15 AM, Anonymous document storage said...

Richard Feynman has given a lot of help to the computer industry, although he is rarely mentioned. He has been an inspiration to many.

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