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!