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IBM Gave Tech Help To Stanley Kubrick For His Famous "Psychotic Computer"

A new L.A. exhibit shows the legendary director's concern that IBM, which advised him on "2001: A Space Odyssey," would not be happy with the 1968 classic's scary tech storyline.

Kubrick in 1975
Kubrick in 1975
Julie Bort

In the classic 1968 movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey" a computer named HAL is slowly revealed to be quite the psychopath.

That makes for some good dramatic scenes in the movie, but it also caused director Stanley Kubrick some nail biting of his own. He was worried that IBM would take offense that HAL went nuts and caused people to die, letters between Kubrick and one of his assistants show.

The letters are on display at a new Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and are part of the a free iOS app the museum released as part of the exhibit, as spotted by the DVICE blog.

You see, back in the day, IBM scientists advised Kubrick on the nature of computers and artificial intelligence for the film.

Remember, back in 1968, the average person had had no experience with computers at all. IBM was concerned that people would think HAL was a real IBM computer.

Kubrick took that concern to heart.

"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," he wrote.

In the end, Kubrick promised to make sure that IBM would "not be associated with the equipment failure by name" and IBM agreed to be named as an advisor in the film credits.

Here's a photo of one of the letters included in the free "Stanley Kubrick" exhibit iPhone app produced by


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