Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy Birthday HAL 9000!

HAL: I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it I can sing it for you.
Dave Bowman: Yes, I'd like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.
HAL: It's called "Daisy."
[sings while slowing down]
HAL: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.
In 1968, when the film first came out, I forced my mother to take me to see "2001: A Space Odyssey" about 3 times at the aptly named "Century 21" theater in Reno (remember those good old days of smoke curling up through the audience to cast a special nicotine haze over the film! After the third time, she said I had to go by myself. I went on to see it around 8-9 times in during the first release and many more times since then (and of course, had multiple readings of the novelization by Clarke as well as his original short story, "The Sentinel"). And The Lost Worlds of 2001, and The Making of 2001, yadda yadda (!). Can't say I really cared for the sequels, but that's another story ... this post is all about HAL.

It was/is a great film. And it star, if not the Black Monolith, was, of course, the HAL 9000 computer. Today, HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic Computer) turns 18 years old (or 13 - in the book version of the Clarke/Kubrick story.

Yes, as "he" notes in his fantastic death speech, HAL was "born" on on January 12, 1992. And his birth occured at the HAL plant in Urbana, Illinois. Yes, on the same grounds (fictional in HAL's case) where, at the University of Illinois, Mosaic, the first graphical web-browser was born at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in April 1993 (or just shortly after HAL became operational).

Here's a link to HAL's dialog in the film.

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