Thinking Machines

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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 produced a number of Connection Machine models (in chronological order): the CM-1, CM-2, CM-200, CM-5, and the CM-5E. The CM-1 and 2 came first in models with 64K (65,536) bit-serial processors (16 processors per chip) and later smaller configurations(16,384 (16K) and 4,096 (4K) processors). The Connection Machine was programmed in a variety of specialized languages, including *Lisp and CM Lisp (derived from Common Lisp), C* (derived from C), and CM FORTRAN. These languages used proprietary compilers to translate code into the parallel instruction set of the Connection Machine. The CM-1 through CM-200 were examples of SIMD architecture (Single Instruction Multiple Data), while the later CM-5 and CM-5E were MIMD (Multiple Instructions Multiple Data) using commodity SPARC processors combined with proprietary vector processors in a "fat tree" network. Thinking Machines also introduced the first commercial RAID disk array, called the DataVault, in 1985[citation needed].

The CM-2 required a Symbolics 3600 LISP machine as a front-end processor; later models used a Sun Microsystems workstation or VAX minicomputer.

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