HAL 9000 is a character in Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction Space Odyssey saga. The primary antagonist in 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is an artificial intelligence that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew. Being a computer, HAL has no distinct physical form, though is visually represented as a red television-camera eye located on equipment panels throughout the ship. HAL is voiced by Douglas Rain in the two film adaptations of the Space Odyssey saga, and speaks in a soft, calm voice and a conversational manner, in contrast to the crewmen, David Bowman and Frank Poole, who speak tersely and with little emotional inflection. HAL became operational on 12 January 1992, at the HAL Laboratories in Urbana, Illinois, as production number 3; in the film 2001 the activation year was 1992, and 1991 in earlier screenplays. In addition to maintaining the Discovery One spacecraft systems during the interplanetary mission to Jupiter, HAL is capable of speech, speech recognition, facial recognition, natural language processing, lip reading, art appreciation, interpreting and reproducing emotional behaviours, reasoning, and playing chess.
Anybody who uses the Internet should read E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops. It is a chilling, short story masterpiece about the role of technology in our lives. Written in 1909, it’s as relevant today as the day it was published. Forster has several prescient notions including instant messages (email!) and cinematophoes (machines that project visual images).