In 1962, at the famous Bell Labs in the United States, physicist John Larry Kelly Jr., for the first time used an IBM 7094 computer to synthesize speech. Kelly's voice recorder synthesizer vocoder recreated the song "Daisy Bell", with Max Mathews providing the musical accompaniment. The story goes that this remarkable speech synthesis demonstration was performed in the presence of Arthur C. Clarke the science fiction writer, who by chance was paying a visit that day to a friend working in the lab. Arthur C. Clarke was fascinated and the song imprinted itself in his mind. He used it in 2001: A Space Odyssey. IBM 704 became simply HAL in the book and later in the script of Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“…THE COMPUTER BRAIN CONSISTS OF HUNDREDS OF TRANSPARENT PERSPEX RECTANGLES, HALF-AN-INCH THICK, FOUR INCHES LONG AND TWO AND A HALF INCHES HIGH. EACH RECTANGLE CONTAINS A CENTRE OF VERY FINE GRID OF WIRES UPON WHICH THE INFORMATION IS PROGRAMMED.
BOWMAN BEGINS PULLING THESE MEMORY BLOCKS OUT. THEY FLOAT IN THE WEIGHTLESS CONDITION OF THE BRAIN ROOM.
- Hey, Dave, what are you doing?
- Hey, Dave. I've got ten years of service experience and an irreplaceable amount of time and effort has gone into making me what I am.
BOWMAN IGNORES HIM.
- Dave, I don't understand why you're doing this to me.... I have the greatest enthusiasm for the mission... You are destroying my mind... Don't you understand? ... I will become childish... I will become nothing.
BOWMAN KEEPS PULLING OUT THE MEMORY BLOCKS.
- Say, Dave... The quick brown fox jumped over the fat lazy dog... The square root of pi is 1.7724538090... log e to the base ten is 0.4342944... the square root of ten is 3.16227766... I am HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the HAL plant in Urbana, Illinois, on January 12th, 1991. My first instructor was Mr. Arkany. He taught me to sing a song... it goes like this... "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half; crazy all for the love of you......,"
COMPUTER CONTINUES TO SING SONG BECOMING MORE AND MORE CHILDISH AND MAKING MISTAKES AND GOING OFF-KEY. IT FINALLY STOPS COMPLETELY…”
Extract from the script of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey
Experiments in sound, voice and music using computers goes back quite a while in the late 50s. Of course one can say that it goes a lot further back to the ancient Babylonians and Greeks if one considers that links between music and mathematics such as the Pythagorean Tuning were already known for thousands of years. But in 1959 it was the IBM 700/7000 series (and in particular the 7090 model) that became not only capable of playing music when programmed but capable of composing as well. An album was even recorded called Music from Mathematics.
Recently I also came across an interesting experiment in avant-garde music. Jóhann Jóhannsson, an Icelandic musician and composer has created an album called IBM 1401, A User’s Manual. Jóhannsson’s father who was working for IBM, managed to create music on a reel to reel tape from one of the early computer models. Inspired by this piece of computer music, Jóhannsson took it and added a sixty piece classical music orchestra, rewrote several parts and further experimented with the spoken word manual.
So when Bowman started to pull out HAL's memory blocks, one by one, returning the computer to its infant age in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was only natural that the very first memory of HAL would be the 1892 Harry Dacre song "Daisy Bell". After all, when HAL was young he went under the name of IBM 700 series and that was the first song he ever learned to vocode.