Feynman in The Connection Machine

    Da je bil Richard Feynman res nekaj posebnega, govori veliko zgodb. A kljub vsemu me je presenetilo, da je Feynman v svojih zrelih letih, v desetletju pred smrtjo, delal v start-up podjetju. In to ne v start-up podjetju na domacem pragu nekje v Pasadeni, pac pa na drugem koncu ZDA, v Bostonu. Iz clanka objavljenega v Physics Today l. 1989 (celoten clanek, kljub temu, da je relativno dolg, je vreden branja, kot prakticno vse, kar se tice Feynmana).

    Richard arrived in Boston the day after the company was incorporated. We had been busy raising the money, finding a place to rent, issuing stock, etc. We set up in an old mansion just outside of the city, and when Richard showed up we were still recovering from the shock of having the first few million dollars in the bank. 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. OK, boss, what’s my assignment?” The assembled group of not-quite-graduated MIT students was astounded. 

    After a hurried private discussion (“I don’t know, you hired him…”), we informed Richard that his assignment would be to advise on the application of parallel processing to scientific problems. 

    “That sounds like a bunch of baloney,” he said. “Give me something real to do.”
    So we sent him out to buy some office supplies. While he was gone, we decided that the part of the machine that we were most worried about was the router that delivered messages from one processor to another. We were not sure that our design was going to work. When Richard returned from buying pencils, we gave him the assignment of analyzing the router.

    During those first few months, Richard began studying the router circuit diagrams as if they were objects of nature. He was willing to listen to explanations of how and why things worked, but fundamentally he preferred to figure out everything himself by simulating the action of each of the circuits with pencil and paper. 

    In the meantime, the rest of us, happy to have found something to keep Richard occupied, went about the business of ordering the furniture and computers, hiring the first engineers, and arranging for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to pay for the development of the first prototype. 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. “That’s good. Now I don’t have to explain to people that I work with a bunch of loonies. I can just tell them the name of the company.”