Sun Picks Thinking Machines' Brains

Last spring, Sun Microsystems spurned supercomputer pioneer Thinking Machines' pleas for a buyout. Its finances exhausted by a decline in government purchases, Thinking Machines, based in Cambridge, Mass., filed for Chapter 11 on Aug. 18. So what company is now negotiating a license to Thinking Machines' parallel technology and gobbling up the company's top programmers and designers?

The transfer of key parallel-processor technology to Sun could be announced by mid-October. Sun has already hired 40 former Thinking Machines employees--one-fifth of its workforce today. That includes senior computer architect Gregory Papadopoulos and director of advanced software David Douglas. Most of the flock is now nesting at Sun's Parallel Open Systems Group in Chelmsford, Mass.

The star holdout: Danny Hillis, Thinking Machines' chief scientist. Hillis has removed himself from the licensing negotiations--a sign, say staffers, that he may also be talking to Sun about a position there. Sun declined to say if Hillis would join the company, and Hillis was unavailable for comment.

After emerging from bankruptcy, Thinking Machines expects to focus on software and services.

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