HAL… nothing to do with IBM

Reading “The Soul of a new Machine” by Tracey Kidder, pulitzer prize winning and a stonking good read (especially right off the back of “The Supermen” by Charles J Murray all about the development of the cray supercomputer).

It mentions that the name plays against the initials of IBM in the same way that two projects at Data General (EGO and FHP) played against each other by being one letter removed on the alphabet.

Intrigued, I checked this out but alas, not true. In his book, “The Lost Worlds of 2001”, Arthur C Clarke notes:

…about once a week some character spots the fact that HAL is one letter ahead of IBM, and promptly assumes that Stanley and I were taking a crack at the estimable institution … As it happened, IBM had given us a good deal of help, so we were quite embarrassed by this, and would have changed the name had we spotted the coincidence

Its a good story though and doesn’t everyone love an Easter Egg or insider joke?

BFR anyone? “Big Falcon Rocket”…. yeah right. What about Tesla models S, 3 and X. Heard a rumour that Ford wouldn’t let him use Model E so went with 3 instead. Think personalised number plates…”B3N”.

This nod and wink makes things more fun for consumers, even if done cynically. It gives a human face to corporations. Makes them approachable. Differentiates, at least until everyone is doing it. Then can you imagine how tiring that would get!

“Shark Drunk”, a book by Morten Stroksnes

This is a story about two men and their illogical pursuit of the Greenland shark in the coastal waters of Nordland, Northern Norway but it also much more than that. It takes the reader on a tour of relevant and wonderfully irrelevant anecdotes and facts all tied into the main arc of the chase.

The reader will be led a merry dance from subject to subject with wonderful ease and I found myself being confronted with uncomfortable truths about how we treat our oceans, the unknown extent of our cold water reefs (most of the public focus right now is on the warm water versions with their photogenic blue waters and colourful fish).

Then we effortlessly flit to the subject of creationism and the fascinating history of how we have defined the age of our earth over the centuries (and another book on Amazon order… “Earths deep history: How it was discovered and why it matters” by Martin Rudwick).

Also, who knew…the name “Scandinavia” comes from the work of the Roman author Pliny the Elder and means torn up or damaged and dangerous coast. Delightful.

Not since “Thinking Fast and Slow” has one book given me so many other spin off reads to pursue.

I was lucky to have this book with me on an expedition in these same waters to spend a week in the water with Orcas and Humpbacks as they pursued the herring into the Fjords around Tromvik and it captures the essence of Norwegian life by and on the sea.

Thought provoking, with a sliver of biographical anecdotes all interspersed with delightful trivia.