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In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the spaceship Discovery is run by a supercomputer named ‘HAL 9000’. Kubrick seemed to be particularly concerned with HAL, spending more time, care, and attention lovingly crafting its character than that of the film’s humans. Much ink has been spilled on the origins of HAL’s name, particularly its proximity to the letters, and hence the company, IBM. In what will be argued is an example of his signature misdirection, Kubrick denied any connection, insisting that it simply stood for ‘Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic Computer’. The odds of such a coincidence, however, were very high. As General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) put it in Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, Stanley Kubrick), ‘we are ploughing through every possible three letter combination of the code […] there are seventeen thousand permutations’. Drawing upon extensive research into the Stanley Kubrick Archive, coupled with a detailed knowledge of Kubrick’s oeuvre, this article will suggest alternative readings of the character of HAL to (re-)locate “him” in the context of Kubrick’s New York Jewish background and, in particular, how Kubrick’s construction of the character showcased his sense of humour that so powerfully animated his previous two films, Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick) and Dr. Strangelove.


  • Kubrick, Film, Cinema, Jewishness, IBM
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-435
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Issue number3
Early online date28 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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