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.
“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.”
Oh, come ON! “HAL” is an acronym for what??? Where does it end?
Of course, that's the story behind the acronym "HAL," each letter one before "IBM." But, if you look at the flight deck controls on the shuttle Dr. Floyd takes from the space station to the moon, the instruments are clearly labeled IBM.
Clarke stated that was never the case but the story became so strong and embedded that he gave up fighting it.
Now that there is cool! Thanks!
...........or maybe it's a 'D' instead of an 'O'...
Yup. And I think the pilot was American-Anglo actor Edward Bishop who became Colonel Straker in UFO who also was in two Bond films.
By the way, Hal was the name of Clarke's nonfiction editor at Harper & Row.
Aries 1B space-station-to-moon shuttle.
Didn’t Apple use this same song for one of their early computer commercials? Maybe the Apple II or the Lisa?
One version of the movie soundtrack had the inventor's name as a "Doctor Chandra." Amusingly, there was a Doctor Chandra at UIUC at the time. (Imagine that! A professor at a major university named "Chandra!" ≤]B^) However, when interviewed he explained that he was not involved directly in any type of computer science. Just the same, he opined, perhaps there was some mystical communication force that caused Clarke to choose his name.
Some time subsequent to the movie, there was for several years a "HAL Communications" in Urbana.
I’m afraid Dave......
The answer is simple.
The HAL9000 was a very sophisticated computer...but a computer nevertheless. He sang that song because, at some point, he was programmed to do so.
[I’m not sure] ;)
So if my computer crashes, I should sing “A Bicycle Built for Two” in memoriam?
Actually, it was explained in the sequel “2010” that HAL was NOT derived from IBM, but from the words Heuristic ALgorithmic. The way it was explained leads me to believe that Clarke was NOT happy with people making that connection. If I remember correctly, it was Dr. Heywood Floyd that talks about it in the story.
The Daisy song was sung by HAL as he regressed back to “childhood” because his storage modules were being removed by Dave Bowman in order to release Discovery from HAL’s control. HAL had become murderous because of a conflict between priorities in his programming(Keeping the true nature of the mission secret vs the stated mission and keeping the crew alive). This is also explained in 2010 when they introduce the Dr. Chandra character.
‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’.
“Dr. Chandra, I have a question.”
“Yes, HAL. What is it?”
“Will I dream?”
I never understood the movie, especially the ending...
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