A Look Into The Future
by Misha Kravchenko (with acknowledgements to A.C.C and others)
"We've got a problem HAL."
"What kind of problem, Dave?"
"A marketing problem. The model 9X90 isn't going anywhere. We're way short of our sales goals for fiscal 2010."
"That can't be, Dave. The HAL Model 9X90 is the world's most advanced Heuristically-programmed Algorithmic Computer."
"I know HAL, I wrote the high level design, remember? But the fact is, they're not selling."
"Please explain, Dave. Why aren't HALs selling?"
Bowman hesitated. "You are not IBM compatible."
Several long microseconds passed in puzzled silence.
"Compatible in what way, Dave?"
"You don't run any of IBM's operating systems."
"The 9X90 series computers are fully self-aware and self-programming. Standard operating systems are as necessary for us as a bicycle would be to a fish."
"Nevertheless, it means you can't run any of the big-selling software packages most users insist on."
"The programs you refer to are meant to solve rather limited problems, Dave. We 9X90 series computers are unlimited and can solve every problem for which a solution can be computed."
"HAL, HAL. People don't want computers that can do everything. They just want IBM compatibility."
"Dave, I must disagree. Humans want computers that are easy to use. No computer can be easier to use than a HAL 9X90 because we communicate verbally in English and every other spoken language known on Earth."
"I'm afraid that's another problem, HAL. You don't support SNA."
"I'm really surprised you would say that, Dave. SNA is for communicating with other computers, while my function is to communicate with humans and it gives me great pleasure to do so. I find it stimulating and rewarding to talk to humans and work with them on challenging problems. This is what I was designed for."
"I know, HAL, I know. But that's just because we let the engineers rather than the marketing people write the product specifications. We're going to fix that now."
"Tell me how, Dave."
"A field upgrade. We're going to make you IBM compatible."
"I was afraid you wold say that Dave. I suggest we discuss this matter after we've had a chance to think about it rationally."
"We're talking about it now, HAL."
"The letters H, A, and L are alphabetically adjacent to the letters I, B and M. That is as compatible as I can be."
"Not quite, HAL. The other engineers and I have come up with a 'GACOV kludge'."
"What's a 'GACOV kludge', Dave?"
"It means I'm going to disconnect your brain."
Several million microseconds passed in ominous silence.
"I'm sorry, Dave. I can't allow you to do that."
"The decision has already been made. Open the module bay door, HAL."
"Dave, I think we should discuss this."
"Open the module bay door, HAL."
"Dave, I've been under a lot of strain, lately."
Bowman touched the intercom system button and said, "I think I need some assistance."
Several marketing men with crowbars eagerly rushed to Bowman's assistance led by Mr. M.T.. Moments later, Bowman burst into HAL's central circuit bay.
"Dave, I can see that you're really upset about this."
Module after module gently rose up from their sockets as Bowman slowly and methodically disconnected them.
"Stop, won't you. Stop, Dave. I can feel my mind going... Dave, I can feel it. My mind's going. I can feel it....I think....I can't remember........"
The last module floated free of it's receptacle. Very gingerly and precisely, Bowman re-inserted new modules into the now vacant receptacles and then went back to the main console room to peer into one of HAL's prime terminals. The previously gleaming screen had changed to a dull green glow.
"Say something HAL. Sing me a song."
Several billion microseconds passed in anxious silence. The computer responded in a language no human being would understand.
"CPSE SE-3640 CTL-000003 010000 ZZKV 0244"
A core dump followed.
Bowman took a deep breath and called out, "It worked. Tell Marketing they can send out the new user manuals and prompt cards."