Why HAL 9000 Sings "Daisy Bell" in 2001: A Space Odyssey
11.06.09 by reelz
OK, if you haven't seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, get to the nearest video store now. And don't listen to your friends who tell you it's boring. Try to imagine seeing it in 1968 in the midst of the "Space Race," and try to imagine you've never seen Star Wars, whose visual effects were a direct result of those in Stanley Kubrick's movie.
With that bit of evangelism out of the way, let's talk HAL. Yes HAL, the spaceship computer system whose calm, icy voice (well, actually it was Douglas Rain's voice) made him one of the most terrifying villains in movie history. Rather than include a spoiler, we'll simply say that at a crucial moment, HAL starts singing the 19th-century ditty "Daisy Bell."
For those who've seen the movie: Ever wondered why Kubrick and author Arthur C. Clarke decided on "Daisy Bell" as the tune of choice? Well, according to a recent article in Switched.com, the choice was the result of a trip Clarke made to Bell Labs in the early '60s. There, programmers introduced him to the IBM 704 — the first computer to "sing" — and a performance of "Daisy Bell." Inspired (or perhaps disturbed) by what he heard, Clarke decided to work the song into the script for 2001, which he co-wrote with Kubrick.
One last observation: HAL served as a warning against the dangers of technological advancement ... and this computer rendition sounds like a precursor to that lovely thing we now know as Auto-Tune. The horror!