Categories: Astronomy

Why did HAL sing ‘Daisy’?

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:

Source: Switched, MOG, Bell Labs

Nicholos Wethington

I started writing for Universe Today in September 2007, and have loved every second of it since! Astronomy and science are fascinating for me to learn and write about, and it makes me happy to share my passion for science with others. In addition to the science writing, I'm a full-time bicycle mechanic and the two balance nicely, as I get to work with my hands for part of the day, and my head the other part (some of the topics are a stretch for me to wrap my head around, too!).

Recent Posts

More Views of the 2024 Eclipse, from the Moon and Earth Orbit

It's been just over a week since millions of people flocked to places across North…

5 hours ago

Baby Stars Discharge “Sneezes” of Gas and Dust

I’m really not sure what to call it but a ‘dusty sneeze’ is probably as…

10 hours ago

How Did Pluto Get Its Heart? Scientists Suggest an Answer

The most recognizable feature on Pluto is its "heart," a relatively bright valentine-shaped area known…

11 hours ago

The Milky Way’s Role in Ancient Egyptian Mythology

Look through the names and origins of the constellations and you will soon realise that…

11 hours ago

You Can't Know the True Size of an Exoplanet Without Knowing its Star's Magnetic Field

In 2011, astronomers with the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP) consortium detected a gas…

16 hours ago

Stellar Winds Coming From Other Stars Measured for the First Time

An international research team led by the University of Vienna has made a major breakthrough.…

2 days ago