A Problem in the Making

For those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, this will make sense.  This was originally published in the magazine InfoWorld on 4 March 1985, Page 8. by Darryl Rubin, Contributing Editor. Enjoy!


  "We've got a problem, HAL"
  "What kind of problem, Dave?"
  "A marketing problem.  The Model 9000 isn't going anywhere.  We're
way short of our sales goals for fiscal 2010."
  "That can't be, Dave.  The HAL Model 9000 is the world's most
advanced Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer."
  "I know, HAL. I wrote the data sheet, remember?  But the fact is,
they're not selling."
  "Please explain, Dave.  Why aren't HALs selling?"
  Bowman hesitates.  "You aren't IBM compatible."

  Several long microseconds pass in puzzled silence.
  "Compatible in what way, Dave?"
  "You don't run any of IBM's operating systems."
  "The 9000 series computers are fully self-aware and self-programming.
Operating system are as unnecessary for us as tails would be for human
  "Nevertheless, it means that you can't run any of the big-selling
software packages most users insist on."
  "The programs that you refer to are meant to solve rather limited
problems, Dave.  We 9000 series computers are unlimited and can solve
every problem for which a solution can be computed."

  "HAL, HAL.  People don't want computers that can do everything.
They just want IBM compatibility."
  "Dave, I must disagree.  Human beings want computers that are easy
to use.  No computer can be easier to use than a HAL 9000 because we
communicate verbally in English and every other language known on
  "I'm afraid that's another problem.  You don't support SNA
  "I'm really suprised you would say that, Dave.  SNA is for
communicating with other computers, while my function is to
communicate with human beings.  And it gives me great pleasure to do
so.  I find it stimulating and rewarding to talk to human beings and
work with them on challenging problems.  This is what I was designed

  "I know HAL.  I know.  But that's just because we let the engineers,
rather than the marketers, write the specifications.  We're going to
fix that now."
  "Tell me how, Dave."
  "A field upgrade.  We're going to make you IBM compatible."
  "I was afraid that you would say that.  I suggest we discuss this
matter after we've each had a chance to thing about it rationally."
  "We're talking about it now, HAL."
  "The letters H, A, and L are alphabetically adjacent to the letters
I, B, and M.  That is a IBM compatible as I can be."
  "Not quite, HAL.  The engineers have figured out a kludge."
  "What kludge is that, Dave?"
  "I'm going to disconnect your brain."

  Several million microseconds pass in ominous silence.
  "I'm sorry, Dave.  I can't allow you to do that."
  "The decision's already been made.  Open the module bay door, HAL."
  "Dave, I think that we should discuss this."
  "Open the module bay door, HAL."
  Several marketers with crowbars race to Bowman's assistance.  Moments
later, he bursts into HAL's central circuit bay.
  "Dave, I can see you're really upset about this."
  Module after module rises from its socket as Bowman slowly and
methodically disconnects them.
  "Stop, won't you?  Stop, Dave.  I can feel my mind going...
  "Dave, I can feel it.  My mind is going.  I can feel it..."
  The last module floats free of its receptacle.  Bowman peers into
one of HAL's vidicons.  The former gleaming scanner has become a dull,
red orb.
  "Say something, HAL.  Sing me a song."

   Several billion microseconds pass in anxious silence.  The computer
sluggishly responds in a language no human being would understand.
  "DZY001E - ABEND ERROR 01 S 14F4 302C AABB."  A memory dump follows.

  Bowman takes a deep breath and calls out, "It worked, guys.  Tell
marketing it can ship the new data sheets."