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The Connection Machine

Connection Machine CM-1 in operation

Each of the CM-1’s up-to 65,000 processors had an LED allowing programmers to see how their programs were executing on the machine.

The Connection Machine

Parallel processing relies on making connections: coordinating multiple processors for a single task. Our brains do that too. Danny Hillis at MIT based his CM-1 on that human model.

Hillis’s novel architecture featured 65,536 simple single-bit processors interconnected to exchange data. Its varied applications included real-time stock market trading and artificial intelligence.

Connection Machine architect Danny Hillis at Thinking Machines Corporation

Hillis attracted a talented group of people to TMC, including a stint by world-famous physicist Richard Feynman.

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CM-1

Danny Hillis co-founded Thinking Machines Corporation in 1982 to build massively parallel computers. Like the ILLIAC IV 15 years earlier, the CM-1 was a SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) supercomputer, useful only for certain problems. The company produced four more designs before declaring bankruptcy in 1994.

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Connection Machine CM-1 heat flow study

As in all supercomputers, removing the heat generated by the closely-packed electronics posed a key challenge.

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