HAL to miss birthday

While UIUC has always had a concentration of computer technology, HAL is not due to arrive anytime soon.

By Alicia Kawa

      In the midst of the excitement surrounding the re-screening of the Star Wars trilogy, the University of Illinois is planning to celebrate another legendary science fiction movie.
      The week-long celebration called Cyberfest will honor HAL 9000, the world's first talking computer from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
      It's not a coincidence that the film's creator, Arthur Clarke, chose Urbana as HAL's birthplace. Clarke's mentor, Dr. George McVittie, was Clarke's math professor at King's College in London before McVittie moved to the UI to serve as chair of the astronomy department. Plus, according to Michael Kuzma, a network technician at the Digital Computer Laboratory, the University has been home to one of the strongest computer programs for over fifty years.
      "At the time, it was an up and coming place for computer hardware and software," Kuzma said. "I imagine it was like today, the computer Mecca of the world."
      While the idea of a talking, thinking and feeling computer seemed far-fetched when the film was released, Keith Rohrer, a graduate student in computer science at the UI said that a computer like HAL is not impossible to build with current technology.
      But, even though the technology exists, computer scientists doubt that a computer as emotional as HAL will be built any time soon. Isaac Green, a UI computer science teaching assistant agrees.
      "HAL is not being built in Urbana now," Green said. "He's going to miss his birthday by a couple hundred of years."