Skip to comments.Why did HAL sing 'Daisy'? Writt
Posted on 11/16/2009 4:47:22 PM PST by Daffynition
Okay, so this may not be important breaking news about astronomy, but it may answer a burning question posed by most people who have watched or read "2001: A Space Odyssey": that is, why does the computer HAL-9000 sing the song 'Daisy Bell' as the astronaut Dave Bowman takes him apart? Well, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke made HAL's final act in the world this song as a tribute to HAL's great ancestor, the first IBM computer to ever sing. Click below for more on this geeky topic!
In 1962 Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the novel and co-wrote the screenplay for the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey", visited Bell Labs before putting the finishing touches on the work. There, he was treated to a performance of the song 'Daisy Bell' (or, 'A Bicycle Built for Two') by the IBM 704 computer. This evidently inspired him to have HAL sing the song as an homage to the programmers of the 704 at Bell Labs, John L. Kelly, Carol Lockbaum, and Max Mathews. Kelly and Lockbaum programmed the lyrics, and Mathews the accompaniment.
'Daisy Bell' was originally composed in 1892 by Henry Dacre, and English composer. Upon coming to the U.S., he was charged a duty fee for his bicycle. A friend remarked that it was lucky that he didn't bring a bicycle built for two, or he would have had to pay double duty. Taken by the phrase, he used in in a song to acclaim both before it became a smash hit with computers with a penchant for song, and after.
Here's a recording of the 704 talking and singing the song. If you want to sing along karaoke style to the original singer, here's a video of the 704 doing its ditty (ignore the different model name and year the 7094 exists but can't even sing backup):
And, of course, here is HAL-9000 in his death throes with a more maniacal version of the classic:
I’d love to bump this article, but...I can’t do that, Dave.
This some great trivia! Thanks!
Clarke may have heard the song in 62, but he didn't finish the screenplay until years later.
Got to see Arthur C. Clarke give a talk at the U, years ago. Gave an interesting presentation.
My assumption, when I saw the movie in 1968 or so, was that HAL was regressing to his early programming, and that the song was something that his early trainers had exposed him to when they were teaching him human language.
Exactly ... hooda’thunk?
Okay, so why did Kelly, Lockbaum, and Mathews choose “Daisy Bell” for the 704?
I always thought it was because HAL was mid-way through the loss of his “brain cells” and it was therefore totally appropriate to arrive at the point in the song “...I’m half crazy...”
And then he got Alzheimers and gradually everything new was lost and he had only really old memories.
Let HAL be HAL! HAL had feelings for Daisy. And how was HAL to know that Daisy was just a fictional character in a song from way back in the day? Poor HAL. It was to illustrate the earlier simplicities and growing complexities of the 20th Century and beyond.
Exactly. HAL stated earlier in the movie that he was activated at the University of Illinois-Urbana on January 12, 1992 and that Professor So-and-so had taught him the song as one of his first programming efforts.
I always thought the part about HAL computer company was in Urbana, IL. I wonder if it was because the university or because he could not use IBM and it was sort of in the same northern middle America like Armonk/Binghampton, NY area.
And of course, HAL is an homage to IBM in another way... just substitute the next letter in the alphabet for each letter in H, A, and L.
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