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Arts & Culture

Tamiko Thiel

Connection Machine CM-1 t-shirt, 1998. Photo by Richard Eaton.

2a. Connection Machine CM-1 t-shirt, 1998

Tamiko Thiel initially created the visual design of one of the world's first artificial intelligence supercomputers as the research group’s official t-shirt in 1983.

Tamiko Thiel in front of an Apple Computer “Think Different" poster featuring Richard Feynman, wearing the CM-1 t-shirt.

2b. Connection Machine CM-1 t-shirt, 1983

Tamiko Thiel pictured in front of an Apple Computer “Think Different" promotional poster featuring Richard Feynman (Nobel physicist, noted for his major contributions to quantum computing and nanotechnology) wearing the CM-1 t-shirt.

Tamiko Thiel pictured standing next to the CM-2 machine (1987).

2c. Connection Machine CM-2, 2016

Tamiko Thiel pictured standing next to the CM-2 machine (1987), which is now on display in the Museum of Modern Art.

ravels of Mariko Horo wearable art, printed Mesh Turtleneck top. Photo by Richard Eaton.

9. Travels of Mariko Horo wearable art, printed Mesh Turtleneck top, 2006

For the first time ever, The Travels of Mariko Horo, the interactive 3D virtual reality installation is being sold as wearable art in collaboration with Bobblehaus.

Thiel was part of the group responsible for designing the physical and visual form of the Connection Machine at Thinking Machines Corporation (1983-1985). The Connection Machine “massively parallel supercomputer” project was led by Danny Hillis, a PhD student in the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab under Marvin Minsky (known as one of the grandfathers of Artificial Intelligence). The conceptual design of the supercomputer’s form drew on Nobel Physicist Richard Feynman's design for the internal routing network in the form of a 12-dimensional hypercube, as best exemplified by the logo that Thiel designed.

In an interview, Thiel revealed the significant impact that the design later had:

'Joanna [Hoffman] told me a few years after I had left Thinking Machines that when the connection machine came out, she was working directly with Steve Jobs at NeXT and he saw a photo of the machine and said “bring me that designer. I want them to design my next cube,” and Joanna said, “I'm sorry Tamiko went to Europe to become an arts student and she has no email and I have no idea where she is.” All of which was true. But now, at least 30 years later, it was confirmed that the machine had influenced Steve Jobs sense of design'.

– Tamiko Thiel, interview by Atkinson, March 15, 2022, for Mixed Realities, Gender & Emergent Media by Sarah Atkinson & Vicki Callahan (in press – to be published in Spring 2025).

Thiel has been at the forefront of virtual world creation over the past three decades, going onto create and exhibit multiple Virtual Reality works and Augmented Reality installations.

Project status: Completed