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'2001' Geeks, Rejoice! World Learns Why HAL Sang 'Daisy'

We're sure many of you are familiar with the death-of-HAL scene from the Kubrick classic '2001: A Space Odyssey,' in which the rebellious computer slowly, and childishly, drones the lyrics to 'Daisy Bell.' It's one of the most memorable scenes in a film loaded with iconic images (the obelisk monolith) and phrases ("Open the pod bay doors, HAL."), yet we've always wondered: Why 'Daisy?'

It turns out that the choice of 'Daisy Bell' was a tribute to the IBM 704, which, thanks to the brilliant programmers at Bell Labs, became the first computer to sing, way back in 1962. The popular ditty from the late 19th century was chosen by geniuses John L. Kelly, Carol Lockbaum, and Max Mathews as part of a demonstration of speech synthesis. Before he'd penned the film's namesake novel, author Arthur C. Clarke, who also co-wrote the screenplay, paid a visit to a friend at Bell Labs. There, Clarke was treated to a performance by the IBM 704, and later, inspired by what he'd seen, reproduced it in the dramatic death scene of HAL 9000.

You can hear the audio of the entire speech demo here, and watch the '2001' scene played back-to-back with a clip from a 1963 documentary about the Bell Labs demo here. Or you can just watch the video below (ignore the incorrect year and model number) to hear the IBM 704 sing 'Daisy Bell' without the rest of the demo, or any comparison to the evil, paranoid machine from '2001'. [From: Bell Labs, via Boing Boing]


Tags: 2001 a space odyssey, 2001ASpaceOdyssey, arthur c. clarke, ArthurC.Clarke, bell labs, BellLabs, film, HAL 9000, Hal9000, history, movies, stanley kubrick, StanleyKubrick, top

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