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Hal 9000, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, starts working

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January 12 Hal 9000 becomes operational, perhaps the most famous computer in the world: that of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It must be said that in the film it is said that Hal had become operational in 1992, while in Arthur Clarke’s short story, from which the film draws inspiration and in the drafting of which Clarke himself collaborated, in 1997.

The reason for this difference is not clear. But the fact remains that in 1968 (the year in which the story was released and the film was shot at the same time) the idea was that since the 1990s there were artificial intelligence systems able to dialogue with human beings, to advise them, to make decisions and even to threaten them.

And so when things turn for the worst in the film and astronaut Dave Bowman removes some components of Hal related to his cognitive functions, this begins to recite his biography: “I am the Hal 9000 computer, the third computer to be produced and I became operational at the HAL factory in Urbana, Illinois on January 12, 1992.”

There has been much discussion on two things: the origin of the name and the voice it should have had. On the first point it has been written that Hal was a system of indicating IBM (which in fact has the three letters that in the alphabet follow Hal’s in the same order); but Clarke denied this by calling it embarrassing given all the support that IBM had given to the production of the film. Hal would be instead the acronym of “Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer”, a preferred name to the one initially indicated, Athena, which however did not convince Kubrick, who had a more masculine idea of ​​this menacing computer.

And indeed for the voice he came chosen a Shakespearean actor, Douglas Rain. In Italy the honor fell to the Palermo actor Gianfranco Bellini, whose interpretation, cold and aseptic, seems to have been much appreciated by the director.


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