Rather than try to write something profound (at least on the surface), I thought I’d start writing in this blog again with an observation about today’s date, at least in terms of the History of Computer Science:
On today’s date, HAL, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey turns 17 year’s old, as the movie says:
I am a HAL 9000 computer, Production Number 3. I became operational at the HAL Plant in Urbana, Illinois, on January 12, 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. It’s called ‘Daisy’
I always thought that the production number being 3 was intriguing. It couldn’t be a nod to Windows 3.1, the first successful version of that software because the book was written decades before that appeared on the scene. What happened to production numbers 1 and 2? (It was mentioned, I seem to remember, that HAL 1000-8000 series had problems of some sort and were “not entirely successful”).
The idea of a mutinous, murderous central computer is a theme that is still alive and well in movies today: the movie WALL-E has one of these, the Autopilot computer that looks a bit like HAL’s red eye inserted into an old fashioned ship’s wheel (and the voice actor who gets to do it, in the credits is, wait for it… Macintalk, the speech synthesis software on the Macintosh (!))
Needless to say, in this year, 2009, there is no HAL 9000, no similar level of Artificial Intelligence, no ships to Jupiter, and no permanent base on the moon. We do have a space station, but Pan Am airlines never survived to create that beautiful space liner, and although there is talk of private citizens doing flights, it is Virgin Airlines that is going to be doing that.