APOLLO 11 MOON LANDING
(July 20, 1969 – USA / The Moon)
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Official Story
(2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968)
HAL 9000 is a fictional (predatory) artificial intelligence character and the main antagonist in Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series. First appearing in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL (Heuristically Programmed ALgorithmic Computer) is a sentient HAL/AL 9000-series computer (or artificial general intelligence) that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew. While part of HAL’s hardware is shown toward the end of the film, he is mostly depicted as a camera lens containing a red or yellow dot, instances of which are located throughout the ship. HAL 9000 is voiced by Douglas Rain in the two feature film adaptations of the Space Odyssey series. HAL speaks in a soft, calm voice and a conversational manner, in contrast to the crewmen, David Bowman and Frank Poole.
In the film, HAL became operational on 12 January 1992 at the HAL Laboratories in Urbana, Illinois as production number 3. The activation year was 1991 in earlier screenplays and changed to 1997 in Clarke’s novel written and released in conjunction with the movie. In addition to maintaining the Discovery One spacecraft systems during the interplanetary mission to Jupiter (or Saturn in the novel), HAL is capable of speech, speech recognition, facial recognition, natural language processing, lip reading, art appreciation, interpreting emotional behaviours, automated reasoning, spacecraft piloting and playing chess.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Trailer
|Full Name||Heuristically Programmed Algorithimic Computer 9000|
|Origin||2001: A Space Odyssey|
Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey saga
|Occupation||Discovery One spacecraft’s computer|
|Powers / Skills||Emotional capabilities|
Lip reading, speech and face recognition
Control over the Discovery One ship’s technology
|Hobby||Controlling and overlooking the Discovery One ship.|
|Goals||Kill the crew of the ship to prevent them from ruining the mission or shutting him down (succeeded).|
Prevent David from doing the same (failed).
|Type of Villain|
|Manipulative Artificial Intelligence|
2001: A Space Odyssey (film/novel)
HAL became operational in Urbana, Illinois, at the HAL Plant (the University of Illinois’s Coordinated Science Laboratory, where the ILLIAC computers were built). The film says this occurred in 1992, while the book gives 1997 as HAL’s birth year.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), HAL is initially considered a dependable member of the crew, maintaining ship functions and engaging genially with his human crew-mates on an equal footing. As a recreational activity, Frank Poole plays chess against HAL. In the film, the artificial intelligence is shown to triumph easily. However, as time progresses, HAL begins to malfunction in subtle ways and, as a result, the decision is made to shut down HAL in order to prevent more serious malfunctions. The sequence of events and manner in which HAL is shut down differs between the novel and film versions of the story. In the aforementioned game of chess HAL makes minor and undetected mistakes in his analysis, a possible foreshadowing to HAL’s malfunctioning.
In the film, astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole consider disconnecting HAL’s cognitive circuits when he appears to be mistaken in reporting the presence of a fault in the spacecraft’s communications antenna. They attempt to conceal what they are saying, but are unaware that HAL can read their lips. Faced with the prospect of disconnection, HAL decides to kill the astronauts in order to protect and continue his programmed directives. HAL uses one of the Discovery‘s EVA pods to kill Poole while he is repairing the ship. When Bowman, without a space helmet, uses another pod to attempt to rescue Poole, HAL locks him out of the ship, then disconnects the life support systems of the other hibernating crew members. After HAL tells him “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it”, Bowman circumvents HAL’s control, entering the ship by manually opening an emergency airlock with his service pod’s clamps, detaching the pod door via its explosive bolts. Bowman jumps across empty space, reenters Discovery, and quickly re-pressurizes the airlock.
While HAL’s motivations are ambiguous in the film, the novel explains that the computer is unable to resolve a conflict between his general mission to relay information accurately, and orders specific to the mission requiring that he withhold from Bowman and Poole the true purpose of the mission. (This withholding is considered essential after the findings of a fictional 1989 psychological experiment, Project BARSOOM, where humans were made to believe that there had been alien contact. In every person tested, a deep-seated xenophobia was revealed, which was unknowingly replicated in HAL’s constructed personality. Mission Control did not want the crew of Discovery to have their thinking compromised by the knowledge that alien contact was already real.) With the crew dead, HAL reasons, he would not need to lie to them.
In the novel, the orders to disconnect HAL come from Dave and Frank’s superiors on Earth. After Frank is killed while attempting to repair the communications antenna he is pulled away into deep space using the safety tether which is still attached to both the pod and Frank Poole’s spacesuit. Dave begins to revive his hibernating crew mates, but is foiled when HAL vents the ship’s atmosphere into the vacuum of space, killing the awakening crew members and almost killing Bowman, who is only narrowly saved when he finds his way to an emergency chamber which has its own oxygen supply and a spare space suit inside.
In both versions, Bowman then proceeds to shut down the machine. In the film, HAL’s central core is depicted as a crawlspace full of brightly lit computer modules mounted in arrays from which they can be inserted or removed. Bowman shuts down HAL by removing modules from service one by one; as he does so, HAL’s consciousness degrades. HAL finally reverts to material that was programmed into him early in his memory, including announcing the date he became operational as 12 January 1992 (in the novel, 1997). When HAL’s logic is completely gone, he begins singing the song “Daisy Bell” as he gradually deactivates (in actuality, the first song sung by a computer, which Clarke had earlier observed at a text-to-speech demonstration). HAL’s final act of any significance is to prematurely play a prerecorded message from Mission Control which reveals the true reasons for the mission to Jupiter.
The reasons for HAL’s malfunction and subsequent malignant behaviour have elicited much discussion. He has been compared to Frankenstein’s monster. In Clarke’s novel, HAL malfunctions because of being ordered to lie to the crew of Discovery and withhold confidential information from them, namely the confidentially programmed mission priority over expendable human life, despite being constructed for “the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment”. This would not be addressed on film until the 1984 follow-up 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that HAL, as the supposedly perfect computer, is actually the most human of the characters. In an interview with Joseph Gelmis in 1969, Kubrick said that HAL “had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility”.