The 5 Most Famous Movie Computers Of All Time

Written by on October 30, 2012 in Technology - No comments | Print this page


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HAL 9000 — 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Without a doubt, the single most famous sentient computer in cinematic history is HAL 9000. Voiced by Douglas Rain, the adversarial sentience taunts astronaut Dave Bowman, played by Keir Dullea, in the famous airlock scene. HAL is an acronym for Heuristic Algorithmic Computer and the sequence is identical to IBM transposed one letter down. HAL 9000’s deceptively calm dialogue was the result of Rain’s pillowed feet during the recording of his lines.

JOSHUA — WarGames (1983)

In the 1983 thriller WarGames, Matthew Broderick became a fixture overnight as David, a teen hacker who inadvertently brings the world to the brink of nuclear armageddon. Broderick’s character David makes contact with an artificial intelligence program called Joshua, named after its programmer-creator’s deceased son. David and Joshua engage in a simulation called Global Thermonuclear War. Joshua takes the game to another level by accessing an authentic launch code in NORAD’s mainframe computer, WOPR. Joshua and WOPR engage in and exhaust every possible scenario as the film’s human cast watches helplessly.

DEEP THOUGHT — The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

In 2005, a full-blown Hollywood production of the late Douglas Adams’ cult science fiction comedy novel was released. Top acting talent was represented by the likes of Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, John Malkovich, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel and Helen Mirren. Mirren provided the voice for the megacomputer Deep Thought. It is Deep Thought who famously divulges the number 42, the answer to the ultimate question, halfway through the film. The story’s main characters travel to Deep Thought in their quest for the ultimate question to pair with the ultimate answer, which they already know. Things become more complicated when Deep Thought reveals it has designed a second supercomputer for expressly that purpose, and it is called…Earth.

COMPUTER VOICE — Logan’s Run (1976)

Lara Lindsay played two roles in the film, one as a human and the other as the Computer Voice in the film adaptation of William F. Nolan’s novel about future population control. Humans all have life clocks that change color as they age closer to 30, the age at which they must die. The life clocks are designed as diamond-like crystals that rest in the middle of one’s palm and cannot be removed. The Computer Voice is heard and seen as onscreen text in two sequences with the film’s titular character. Logan, played by Michael York, asks the Computer a series of progressively provocative questions. Suddenly the sentience switches his life clock to the flashing sequence that signals he is near Lastday, the end of his life. Logan can do nothing except flee the domed city, where he encounters outsiders who age normally and are not killed at 30.

COMPUTER — Dark Star (1974)

Another generically-named Computer was voiced two years earlier by Cookie Knapp. This Computer was John Carpenter’s nod to HAL. Dark Star was Carpenter’s first film, a student production he completed during enrollment at USC’s film school. What the film lacked in a budget was more than made up for by the story and actors. A lone scout ship called Dark Star runs into an asteroid field while on a planetary patrol for colonization of other worlds. The ship and Computer are inevitably damaged by the galactic debris. Computer becomes a royal pain for the tiny four-man crew, going so far as to nearly eject one of them as he struggles to squeeze through a tiny aperture in an elevator floor.

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This is a guest post.  Henry Dalton is a computer programmer and guest author at, a site with guides to top-rated computer science degree programs.


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