Why HAL sang Daisy Bell as he died

In one of the more poignant moments of the film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the HAL 9000 computer sings the song “Daisy Bell” (A Bicycle Built for Two) in the final moments of its consciousness. Why was this song chosen? The use of this song was among the many inside jokes for computer nerds in the movie audience.

In 1961, “2001” author Arthur C. Clarke attended a computer music demonstration at Bell Labs using Max Mathews’ pioneering MUSIC program. Mathews, who just turned 82 years old this month, is still professor of Music Research at Stanford University. At his 80th birthday bash, Mathews gave an encore performance of a computer generated “Daisy Bell.”

Hat tip: Ed Borasky. And Elias says that it was also used by Alexander Graham Bell to demonstrate the telephone (although Daisy Bell was written nearly 20 years after Bell patented his “Improvement in Telegraphy.”) Does anybody have evidence of other early technology demonstrated with this song?

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do
I’m half crazy all for the love of you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two

We will go tandem as man and wife
Daisy, Daisy
Wheeling away down the road of life
I and my Daisy Bell

When the nights dark, we can both despise
Policemen and lamps as well
There are bright lights in the dazzling eyes
Of beautiful Daisy Bell

12 Comments

  1. …so what is the inside joke ???…

    …it's hard to even remember much of that flic simply because it's been so long…

    …as i recall, the song was allegorical in that 'hal' had evolved into creative intelligence & he was beginning to grasp the concept of consciousness…the further concept of sharing conscious thought w/ others was intriguing to 'hal' because while he "thought" himself superior, he also "felt" he was lonely…
    …but hey, what do i know ???…

    …a quick "bay area" local bike story…
    …when tony tom opened his shop in sausalito in 1975, he gave it the name 'a bicycle odyssey' because of his intrigue w/ the movie '2001: a space odyssey'…now considered to be one of the top ten movies of all time…& tony has always run a pretty cool little shop through the years…

  2. …so what is the inside joke ???……it's hard to even remember much of that flic simply because it's been so long……as i recall, the song was allegorical in that 'hal' had evolved into creative intelligence & he was beginning to grasp the concept of consciousness…the further concept of sharing conscious thought w/ others was intriguing to 'hal' because while he "thought" himself superior, he also "felt" he was lonely……but hey, what do i know ???……a quick "bay area" local bike story……when tony tom opened his shop in sausalito in 1975, he gave it the name 'a bicycle odyssey' because of his intrigue w/ the movie '2001: a space odyssey'…now considered to be one of the top ten movies of all time…& tony has always run a pretty cool little shop through the years…

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