Friday, 4 January 2013

Does IBM know that HAL is psychotic?

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In August of 1966, 2 years prior to the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick wrote to the vice president of his production company and asked whether IBM — a company with whom Kubrick consulted during production, and whose logo briefly appears in the film  — were aware of HAL's murderous actions in the story. His letter, and Roger Caras's reply, can be seen below.

It's worth noting that both Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke have since denied that HAL represented IBM, and have claimed that the "one-letter shift" between the names "HAL" and "IBM" is purely coincidental.

Transcripts follow.

(Source: LACMA; Image: HAL 9000, via.)



Transcript
STANLEY KUBRICK

31st August, 1966.

Mr. Roger Caras,
Polaris Productions Inc.,
239 Central Park West,
New York 24.

Dear Roger,

Does I. B. M. know that one of the main themes of the story is a psychotic computer? I don't want to get anyone in trouble, and I don't want them to feel they have been swindled. Please give me the exact status of things with I. B. M.

Best regards,

(Signed, 'Stanley')

MGM Studios
Boreham Wood
Herts



Transcript
September 13, 1966

Mr. Stanley Kubrick
Hawk Films Ltd.
MGM Studios
Borehamwood, Herts
England

Dear Stanley,

Here is your status report on IBM and the nervous computer:

Sometime ago I explained to IBM at great length the change in the script as effects HAL. To be absolutely certain that the situations was clear and in the open I called C.C. Hollister their Corporate Director of Public Relations again today and repeated the story going so far as to explain to him that HAL actually causes human deaths. I made it very clear, and this is completely true to the best of my knowledge, that the name IBM is never associated with equipment failure but that is is obviously not an IBM machine.

IBM's position is that if IBM is not associated with the quipment failure by name they have no objection if it is decided to give screen credit to the advising companies (and I hope you do decide to do this) they will not object to getting screen credit as long as their name is buried in a list with others and they are not specifically listed as being technical advisor for the computer.