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Danny is one of the great spirits of the computer industry. He's the one fellow every techie I know would give his right arm to work for. Although his last company, Thinking Machines, didn't survive, Danny is the sort of guy to place your bets on.

THE THINKER (Doug Carlston)

W. Daniel Hillis

The Genius

"People are so tuned in to the near term that they aren't thinking in terms of decades. Yet, over the long run, we have a chance of fundamentally changing humanity. Many people sense this, but don't want to think about it because the change is too profound. Today, on the Internet the main event is the Web. A lot of people think that the Web is the Internet, and they're missing something. The Internet is a brand-new fertile ground where things can grow, and the Web is the first thing that grew there. But the stuff growing there is in a very primitive form. The Web is the old media incorporated into the new medium. It both adds something to the Internet and takes something away. "

There's nothing odd about Danny Hillis's working for Disney. The founder of Thinking Machines Corporation and the innovative designer of the massively parallel "connection machine," Danny used to drive to work in a fire engine and was once a toy designer for Milton Bradley. In college, he became interested in building a computer out of anything. As a demonstration, he and some friends built the Tinkertoy computer, which was comprised of 10,000 Tinkertoys and could play tick-tack-toe. His interest in building gadgets and games was, to some degree, influenced by his friend, the late physicist Richard Feynman, who would leave Caltech in the summer to go to Cambridge to work for Danny at Thinking Machines.

DANNY HILLIS is vice president of research and development at the Walt Disney Company and a Disney Fellow. He was cofounder and chief scientist of Thinking Machines Corporation.