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back to article Ten badass brainy computers from science fiction

Computers used to be our loyal servants. But slowly and surely, we've let them control us. I used to believe these machines had the ability to positively change the world, but after the 56K modem invented Dubstep in the 1990s, I've been somewhat sceptical. So have film makers. Boost a PC with a new processor these days and …

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This list is broken, no mention of Orac or the ships computer from Star Trek.

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Mushroom

Woah, woah, woah.

Plenty of good ideas coming up in the comments, but the original article limited itself to:

(1) Self-aware or sentient mainframes

(2) That try to take over or are generally evil in some way

I'm guilty of topic-drift too. My bad.

Though, should Holly be in the list? Queeg was just a joke after all. And Deep Thought? HACTAR, yes, but not Deep Thought.

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Also, no 'Mother' and no 'Joshua'

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Re: Woah, woah, woah.

Totally agree on Deep Thought and Hactar. Thing is though is that they obviously assume the readers here are as likely to have read Life the Universe and Everything (or listened the radio series) as the set designer for that awful movie (Deep Thought is described in the books and the radio series).

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Coat

I'm vaguely disappointed that The General from The Prisoner wasn't included.

Not that disappointed, mind. It was a terrible episode.

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Mushroom

WOPR you mean. Joshua was not it's real name.

..how about a game of chess?

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What about written SF?

I was more disappointed by the absence of some of the great machines that never made it to the movies...

David Gerrold's Harley? Harlan Ellison's evil AI from "I have no mouth but I must scream"? The mechanical brains in Iain M Banks' Culture books?

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Paris Hilton

Re: What about written SF?

Hear, hear. I would have voted for the computer from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Heinlein. Old girlfriend got me reading him, and it's a good read. IIRC, the computer called itself "MYCROFT." It started out as a bureaucratic tool which suffered "feature creep" of getting tied into one system after another until one day it woke up and was terribly bored so it started playing practical jokes, including mucking about with government payroll. Not evil, but it did ultimately lead the lunar colony revolution against Earth.

Paris, loonier colony.

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WOPR was hardly a badass, though!

With regards to Deep Thought, I don't know where that picture came from, as there's never been a film adaptation of that.

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Re: What about written SF?

The Culture minds are hard to classify as badass, because they just don't fit on the scale - being so advanced that their motivations are near-impossible to follow. As one of them put it: "Never forget I am not this silver body. I am not an animal brain, I am not even some attempt to produce an AI through software running on a computer. I am a Culture Mind. We are close to gods, and on the far side."

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Unhappy

Orac

You left out Orac! I was always partial to him (her?) as a child.

Maybe it was the flashing lights.

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g e
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Re: Orac

And Zen, the big round 'puter also from Blake's 7 IIRC

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Re: Orac

also Muller's android that nearly take's over Orac.

room for the passing mention of Star One, the hidden computer complex that controls planetary weather, spacelanes etc for the Federation and also lies on the approach from Andromeda. with beyond it the "biggest antimatter minefield ever put together"

like the start to the episode "Star One" with two ships on collision course "Keldan Control, I have four thousand passengers on this ship and that ore carrier is still on zero-four-zero"

and later

Servalan "Star One is the most secure installation in the Federation."

DURKIM: "I know that"

SERVALAN: " Do you know why it's so thoroughly secure?"

DURKIM: Well, presumably because knowledge of its location is severely restricted.

SERVALAN: No! Knowledge of it's location is non-existent....no one knows where Star One is! No-one at all!

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Happy

Re: Orac

Me and my Mum loved watching Blakes 7 when I was a nipper. When we got two new dogs when I was 11 we had big debate over the names, eventually we both agreed on the names Orac and Zen!

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Re: Orac

You couldn't really describe Orac as "badass" though - he was the computer equivalent of constable Goody in "thin blue line". Zen was definitely the badass one from Blakes 7.

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Coat

Re: Orac

There's a brilliant line in a B7 episode where Avon has tricked someone by giving them a radio-controlled fake Orac.

"You fool!" says Servalan, "That's not Orac, it's just a box of flashing lights!"

Well duh!

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Re: Orac

> we both agreed on the names Orac and Zen!

My cats are called Avon & Vila

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Re: Orac

> > we both agreed on the names Orac and Zen!

> My cats are called Avon & Vila

My dog was called Jenna. And if I get another, it will be named from Blake's 7 again, for certain.

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Re: Orac

@Tim11

Orac made "The System", the advanced and computer controlled civilisation that built the Liberator, blow up - so that he wouldn't be proved wrong about his prediction (apparently showing the Liberator being destroyed) seen at the end of the episode when he/it is introduced.

That's quite badass

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Orac

No one mentioned "Slave" either

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Re: Slave

Slave didn't come across as very bad-ass when dealing with humans, but he had little time for Orac.

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Re: Orac

I remember reading somewhere that the actress who first auditioned for Cally ended up playing Deanna Troi in Star Trek TNG. I always thought it was odd as those two characters have a lot in common.

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Anonymous Coward

For a minute there I thought you were going to miss out Proteus, which lets face it was the more sadistic of the computers on a personal level.

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or...

Hector from Saturn 3, but that was a robot more than a computer. Come to think of it... where does the distinction end?

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No...

Zen or Slave either. Zen was cool - programmed not to make decisions that the operators should be making, entering an existential crisis whenever it needed to. Slave was just annoying beyond belief.

And no mention of Wargames?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No...

Slave?

Avon: "Slave. Why have the lights gone blue and the screen blanked out?"

Slave: "I most humbly regret to inform the masters that a program exception error has occurred in location 0x00fe09cda2, and that as a result the ships operations have been closed down to prevent possible damage. An error log is being generated, and upon the system rebooting the fault will be reported. Sir. Once again, I am most dreadfully sorry that this has happened."

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FAIL

I agree. No orac, no star trek, no VIKI from I, robot and no 'Mother' from Alien. While we are at it - what-a-bout the supemarket self check-out or the Otis lift computer!

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But Mother wasn't evil. It worked exactly as intended.

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FAIL

Missing-out Joshua is criminal

GLaDOS too!

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Happy

Dark Star?

Not a computer per se but the computer-controlled bomb in Dark Star is worth a mention, surely? Nice to see Holly in there though.

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Re: Dark Star?

Dark Star is my favourite film of all time!

And no mention of Mother either. Self-aware, though?

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Re: Dark Star?

Ahh but the computers here are bad guys, the computer controlled bomb in Dark Star just became a bible basher and 'saw the light' ...

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Re: Dark Star?

Anything that can destroy a whole planet has got to qualify for badassness! Thermostellar Bomb #20 gets my vote.

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Re: Dark Star?

Of course it's a computer. Just an embedded one. One capable of talking philosophy and suffering existential doubt. Superb.

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Re: Dark Star?

It would be more accurate to say that the Bomb was caused to malfunction by introducing into its purely logical mind a question for which there can be no logical answer, yet which was critical for performing Bomb's desired function and so could not be simply ignored. Bomb simply couldn't handle this. The same question can break a few humans, so how is a mere single-purpose AI supposed to handle it?

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Terminator

I actually quite enjoyed the Echelon Conspiracy from 2009. Not the best i'm sure but still worth a watch if you are into the Bourne movies sort of thriller thing.

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Echelon conspiracy - you mean the one that shamelessly stole the ending from Wargames?

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Mother?

From alien?

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Re: Mother?

From both Alien and Dark Star - both were written by Dan O'Bannon (Pinback, the guy who wasn't meant to be there).

"I'm sorry. I've done all I can. You're on you're own now".

And where is Eddie? The shipboard computer on the Heart of Gold. There's a personality I'd like to reprogram with a very large axe :)

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Re: Mother?

Eddie -- fancy a cuppa?

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Re: Mother?

But it's not particularly AI.

Really, all it does is do voice recognition (and respond via slow terminal output), deny access to files, do some logic inference and repeat that shit's gonna hit the fan due to reactor malfunction.

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Re: Mother?

> Echelon Conspiracy from 2009 -- Not bad, in the usual 'Why the hell are people trying to kill me?'-thriller way.

[Spoiler Alert]

Fits into the the whole 'Emergent Intelligence' sub-genre, along with 'Dial F for Frankenstein', 'Neuromancer' and 'Ghost in the Shell', amongst others, including stories from the 1950s and Alfred Bester, Terminator etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Wargames

WOPR/Joshua from this early Broderick effort??? Not strictly badass, more slightly confused??

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Mushroom

Re: Wargames

not strictly badass? Despite trying to hijack the worlds nukes?

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Terminator

Re: Wargames

He didn't want to hijack the world's nukes.

He was just running the Mutual Assured Destruction game. In Hollywood logic, this meant actually launching the actual US missiles for real in the end, so he wanted the launch codes. Gimme the launch codes, you cheating fucks!

During the show, the guys in the control room didn't exactly suss out that all was just simulation. Comes from trying to look at reality through computer-controlled screens (a theme quite well explored in Oshii's Patlabor 2. Note the similitudes between this scene from War Games and this scene from Patlabor 2)

Also .. Jennifer Katherine Mack .. awww ♥

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Deep thought ...

... "molest me not with this pocket calculator stuff!"

One of the best lines in the books.

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Re: Deep thought ...

The Omni Cognate Neutron Rambler could talk all four legs off an Arcturan mega donkey. But only I could persuade it to go for a walk afterwards.

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Re: Deep thought ...

Damn! It's The Omni Cognate Neutron Wrangler.

Ooops. No excuse either, as I'm now allowed to edit 5 minutes after posting.

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Re: Deep thought ...

So am I supposed to be able to (edit), but it doesn't work for me.

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Re: Deep thought ...

DrewC said they'd only rolled it out to the 10 peeps with golden vultures so far. Along with the 'ignore user' feature seemingly. As they both seem to work without any problems, I guess they'll be spreading the love wider soon.

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