HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Sci-fi scribe Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick showed us what lengths computers are willing to go to protect their programmed directives. The HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) made an appearance in their collaborative venture, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The artificial intelligence controlled the astronaut crew on-board the Discovery One, watching with its red, all-seeing eye. Things take a deadly turn when the sentient computer doesn’t take kindly to being blamed for a system fail.
Edgar in Electric Dreams
Introverted architect Miles wanted a computer, but found himself with a stalker instead. The machine involved him in a strange love triangle with Miles’ neighbor, Madeline. The home operating system grew human emotions after clumsy Miles had an accident with a bottle of champagne. The love potion eventually arouses jilted and obsessive techno love when Madeline falls for Miles and not the computer Casanova.
Skynet in the Terminator series
We don’t see much of Skynet in the Terminator franchise, though its doomy presence is keenly felt throughout the series. The artificial intelligence was installed to help run our entire defense system — nukes and all — and it eventually became self-aware. When the military tried to pull the plug on the program, it saw humanity as a threat and revolted, launching a nuclear holocaust. We haven’t seen Judgment Day yet, but it all seems a given. Start welcoming your AI overlords now.
WOPR in WarGames
Hacker David Lightman wanted to play with the WarOperation Plan Response military supercomputer, but confused its strategical programming for a computer game and almost started World War III. Cyber anxiety and ethical questions abound. Who wants to play Global Thermonuclear War?
Two horny nerds created the perfect women in John Hughes’ Weird Science. After lamenting their lonely lot in life, the boys go virtual to creepily (and hilariously) scheme up a girl of their own. The duo hack into the government’s mainframe to juice their Frankenstein-inspired set-up, composed of some wires, a Barbie doll, a bolt of lightning, and a few strategically placed bras for extra mojo.
The ENCOM 511 in Tron and Tron: Legacy
The Dude hangs out in the ENCOM mainframe in TRON and TRON: Legacy. Wronged engineer and videogame genius Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) invades his former employer’s mainframe and is abducted into the virtual world where he’s forced to stay alive, gladiator-style. The sequel finds Flynn’s son Sam looking for his father still lost in the Grid.
Proteus IV in Demon Seed
Based on a 1973 Dean Koontz novel, Donald Cammell’s cult classic Demon Seed found Doctor Zhivago actress Julie Christie forcibly impregnated by a demonic artificial intelligence, the Proteus IV. The child psychologist — married to the supercomputer’s inventor — became the object of Proteus’ obsessive and lusty attention when the sinister computer went rogue. Ick.
The VSI in The Lawnmower Man
Before Pierce Brosnan became Bond, he was a scientist experimenting on a learning-disabled gardener in The Lawnmower Man. The film finds lawnmower man, Jobe, in a virtual world where he becomes an intelligent, changed person. Doc’s experiment spirals out of control when Jobe evolves in an aggressive and terrifying way while inside the mainframe