Technology in Kubrick’s *2001: A Space Odyssey*

This post serves up some spoilers of detail, though no major spoilers of plot until the penultimate “you must go see it” paragraph.  Upon a re-viewing of this movie, I found the following striking:

1. There is a Skype-like service for phone calls, but it never occurs to anyone that something like sending an email might be possible or even desirable.  A lot of major and even apparently simple technological advances just aren’t that self-evident.  The cameras in the movie also remained quite primitive and clunky, even by pre-smart phone standards.  Maybe people expected a great stagnation in cameras back then.

2. At the time, Kubrick apparently thought it plausible that the audience would buy into common, widespread and indeed commercially viable space travel by 1992.  The film was released in 1968.

3. Pan American flies people into outer space, and apparently used this new market to avoid total bankruptcy.  Their stewardesses still have silly hats and costumes, and they act in a vaguely self-demeaning manner.

4. The film shows some signs of recognizing that Moore’s Law might happen.  Hal for instance is advanced AI, but he is not huge in size.  And the portrait of voice recognition technology is quite realistic.

5. Stars do not twinkle in outer space, however.

6. Hal 9000 would be less creepy with a female voice, and indeed Apple and Amazon figured that out some while ago.  Note to my tech friends: do not program your personal assistant bots with a resentful, quivering, paranoid, passive-aggressive male voice.

7. The movie seems to suggest that chess-playing computers are a major achievement, when in fact this was mastered relatively easily, compared to many other AI problems.  The movie shows this chess game, with Hal as Black.  It is the kind of game you might expect a strong computer to play against a human, namely with a finish based on visually counterintuitive tactics.

8. It is a truly dystopic vision to think that Howard Johnson’s will be serving us food in space.

9. The first time I saw the movie, which I believe was in the mid-1970s, I was more stunned by seeing Americans talking to Russians “as if they were normal people” than by any of the technology.

Here is a good Wikipedia page on technologies in the movie.  Now a few spoilers:

The movie, which I had not seen in many years, I found quite stunning.  It took so many chances, and with so much self-confidence that the originality could be pulled off.  Imagine opening a film with minutes of discordant Gyorgy Ligeti music, played against a dark screen, with no signal that this is even part of the movie.  Then you see a long scene with apes, no dialogue to speak of, and no explanation of how this might fit into a commercially viable product.  Finally the Solow residual is explained!  There is not only no love story, the film arguably has no characters, Hal aside.  Kubrick often expects ballet music to keep you interested, and various movements in space are stretched out to interminable length, yet almost always with striking aesthetic success.  You could generously describe the ending as “underexplained.”  Hardly anything happens in the movie, and yet at the same time it encapsulates the entire history of humanity with extra material on both sides, beginning and end, and a nod in the Hegelian direction.

Go see it on the large screen if you can — I can’t think of any film that is so much worse (or simply different) on TV as this one.  It is one of the better movies ever made, and it dates from a time near Hollywood’s peak.  It is sad that nearly two generations of Americans now do not know this creation as it was intended to be seen, and indeed must be seen.  On 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, the theatre had no more than twenty people in attendance.  When it comes to culture, salience usually matters more than you might think.


1, 'but it never occurs to anyone that something like sending an email might be possible or even desirable'

And they did not even show the importance of the fax in the current world, did they? But then, this was the e-mail network at the time of the making of the movie -

2. 'the audience would buy into common, widespread and indeed commercially viable space travel by 1992'

First man in orbit - 1961. First men to circle the moon - 1968. It did not seem a stretch to think that in the next two decades, low earth orbit commercial travel would be unlikely. Basically, it seems as a lot of major and even apparently simple technological advances just aren’t that self-evident.

6. 'Hal 9000 would be less creepy with a female voice' What makes HAL 9000 creepy is his accent, apparently (something our president would undoubtedly agree with) - 'Kubrick was attracted to Mr. Rain for the role partly because the actor “had the kind of bland mid-Atlantic accent we felt was right for the part,” he said in the 1969 interview with Mr. Gelmis. But Mr. Rain’s accent isn’t mid-Atlantic at all; it’s Standard Canadian English.

As the University of Toronto linguistics professor Jack Chambers explained: “You have to have a computer that sounds like he’s from nowhere, or, rather, from no specific place. Standard Canadian English sounds ‘normal’ — that’s why Canadians are well received in the United States as anchormen and reporters, because the vowels don’t give away the region they come from.”'

"that’s why Canadians are well received in the United States as anchormen and reporters, because the vowels don’t give away the region they come from."

How abote that, eh?

People did have a problem with Peter Jennings saying "leftenant" for "lieutenant."

For those of us that are hard of hearing the female voice is often more difficult to understand than a male voice. The female voice may be less threatening but it comes at a cost for those of us who don't hear well.

The Andromeda Strain from c. 1971 uses an automated female voice in contrast to 2001.

Roddenberry's Starship Enterprise main computer had a female voice (provided by Majel Barrett, I think) well before Kubrick's 2001, and there were femail-voiced alien computers as well, though character Dr. Daystrom's psychotic M-5 Multitronic Unit had a male voice.

The 1969 book "The Andromeda Strain" by Michael Crichton (post-Kubrick's 2001) includes an amusing discussion about female voices for computers: character Dr. Hall is impressed by the luscious female voice of a medical computer at Wildfire and aks if he can meet the voice actress-- his host tells him she is a shut-in 67 years of age.

HAL 9000 has a male voice because: (a) he will become a murderer (it would have been a whole 'nother kind of creepy with a female voice); (b) "Hal" is a male name (diminutive of Harold); (c) he's introduced to the news media as "the sixth member of the [all-male] crew" and a female voice would have made the computer into a den mother instead of sort of peer.

Third paragraph, good.
I watched it when it came out (and hated it, made no sense at all, but then a week later, I "got" it), and once again on the big screen (3-4 years later), once on a small B&W TV, and numerous times in various DVD and VHS formats. You have to see it the way Stanley Kubrick wanted it to be seen, or you aren't seeing the movie he made.
The same could be said about Enter The Dragon for that matter.

For those of us that are hard of hearing the female voice is often more difficult to understand

The voice you can hear all to well. It's the semantic content you can't understand.

hal sounds a lot like mr rogers

But Mr. Rain’s accent isn’t mid-Atlantic at all; it’s Standard Canadian English.

As uttered by a hairdresser.

I first saw it in college in the early 1980s, and it is still my favorite movie. I read the book first, and so didn’t find it underexplained at all. I was thus in a position to simply enjoy the directorial magic.

I should add that one thing Arthur C. Clarke failed to see was unpredictable entrepreneurial ingenuity. Technology in 2001 was supposed to be more or less a linear continuation of technology in the late 1960s, without encountering any unexpected problems. But many of the advances we have seen were utterly unforeseen.

What technology today was utterly unforeseen in 1968?

What is surprising is that space travel isn't like jet travel given US government policy took jet planes from first military use into widespread commercial use in 25-30 years. Prop planes did not develop in the US to widespread commercial use until Congress acted.

Thus the unexpected event was government stopping so much technology advancement. Not across the board, but in some major areas which impact tens of millions of people with good jobs.

Transportation technology is almost unchanged today from 1968. What changes have occurred have been forced by US government policy, and many consider these technologies to be near evil: emissions controls, no leaded gasoline, air bags, passive seat restraints, lighter vehicles, low wind resistance (no fins, hood ornaments, open car windows, convertables).

Government policy in Europe and Asia advanced cell phone technology faster than in the US such that there are no US cell phone makers. Cell phone tech companies had to compete on better implementations outside the US where policy promoted proprietary standards with marketing lock in of customers to restrict competition while hiking profits.

On the other hand, US government policy has been extremely favorable to electronics, computers, with hundreds of billions in government cash flow funding new generations of technology. Satellites, NSA, DOE funding supercomputers in the 90s.

And just consider how it was the Vietnam era air force that trained about half of today's commercial air pilots. That supply of workers has been significantly curtailed to cut taxes and shift work to the private sector, a shift that did not save money or increase innovation.

The existence of SpaceX today, as opposed to SpaceX in 2006, is entirely due to government industrial policy. In 2006, Elon still expected to fail to be viable due to being crushed by Boeing reacting. In 2008, he was bankrupt. If Obama had not won in 2008, SpaceX would not exist. Or Orbital ATK. Blue Origin might exist, but probably wouldn't have the quality of workers, the young upstart engineers.

I started reading sci-fi in the 50s and continued reading it heavily into the 70s. The only surprise is how quickly some ideas became reality, and how some obvious small innovations have not happened IN THE US.

Come on, high speed train was invented in the US between WWI and WWII, as a commercial product service. E.g., 20th Century Limited. So, almost four decades after Reagan was going to unleash American innovation, the leader in high speed rail is China and US airports suck, and air travel has gone from luxury to hell. Even dystopian sci-fi promised better travel.

Government policy in Europe and Asia advanced cell phone technology faster than in the US such that there are no US cell phone makers. Cell phone tech companies had to compete on better implementations outside the US where policy promoted proprietary standards with marketing lock in of customers to restrict competition while hiking profits.

The main contribution the European governments made was maintaining a phone monopoly. So yes, the US did invent the mobile phone. But the US also broke up Bell into the Baby Bells. That meant that landlines were competitive and hence cheap.

The Europeans on the other hand kept government-run phone companies for a long time. If you wanted a landline you had to apply in triplicate and wait six months. Sometimes you could only get a line if you belonged to the ruling party - this was actually the case even in Austria.

So mobile phones were embraced with joy by Europeans. They could get around government regulations and incompetence. US consumers took a long time to warm to mobiles because they did not need them.

>> "The movie, which I had not seen in many years, I found quite stunning."

[STUN: To daze or render senseless; To stupefy]

Com'on now ... you think such silly hyperbole bolsters your analysis?

Mountains of commentary have been produced about this classic Kubrick movie, but somehow everyone else missed these new 2018 insights?

That old movie is frivolous, highly subjective Hollywood 'fiction' !
( there any other kind from Hollywood)

Guess we've run out of substantive real-world stuff to discuss.

I sent my son off to college with the words "Don't be a Dick".

And your father sent you off to college with the words "Don't be a Peter", but here we are.

I saw it last month -- so much better than I remember it being, but no surprise since I only ever saw it on a TV. The theater in San Francisco was gigantic and jam-packed, though I'm pretty sure I and my friend were the youngest people there by a margin of 20 years.

An interesting take on a particular facet of 2001, is the site:

I saw it in Cinerama back in the '70s. (This was a wraparound widescreen that required three synchronized projectors.) I would pay real money to see it that way again.

I also saw it in Cinerama, in downtown Detroit as a 9-year-old in 1968. Awesome experience and it influenced my decision to study computer science. The city of Detroit didn't fare as well, of course.

I, too, saw it in downtown Detroit, but probably a decade after you did. As I recall, the theater was on of the older movie palaces that even then looked like a building you might see in Aleppo.

Does Cinerama still exist? If you sat in the center of the first row(of course) the screen curvature exceeded the limit of your peripheral vision and you were in the movie.
p.s. read the book--it's different.

This is still a great place to watch an adventure movie:

I saw it when it was first released (I was still a teenager). I suppose I was expecting Star Trek, and what I saw completely perplexed me. When the (Mosaic?) monolith suddenly appeared among the apes and the apes began screaming and jumping up and down, I had no idea what I was seeing (knowledge). And so it went. This is not an action film. I'm not sure there's much of an audience for this type of film, not today - there's too much dead space (literally!). At the height of the Vietnam War, there was. The Graduate had its 50th anniversary last year, and received lots of attention (and critical commentary). One of the weird things about The Graduate is that it never mentions the Vietnam War, even though the setting as at the height of the War and at the center of its resistance (Berkeley). Cowen seems as interested in the gadgets in 2001 as in the film's meaning. Gadgets don't really impress me that much. I was more impressed with the Alfa Romeo in The Graduate.

At the Co-Ed in Champaign, 1968. Would have been even cooler to have seen it a block East in Urbana.

#8. Could do worse than Howard Johnson. It's worth noting that top chefs Pierre Franey and Jacques Pepin worked for Howard Johnson successfully scaling up a number of recipes for the restaurants. Pepin's reminiscence is in this NY Times Op-Ed:

That was a good read ty.

Though it is before my time, I'm sure the food at the Pepin lead Howard Johnson was better than modern industrial food.

I went to see it when it came out, but the theater was so crowded I had to sit in the front row. I was annoyed at the time but the movie definitely seemed diminished when I saw it on a tv screen many years.

Definitely a center of the front row movie

I think the visual depiction of space travel in 2001 is still to this day the most accurate/realistic that has been depicted on screen... amazing considering that the movie was made decades before cgi etc.

2010 does the physics just as well. Terrible film though :-)

Small point-the stars don't twinkle in 2001, you may be seeing a digitisation artifact.

Can't actually think of any space movie where they do twinkle, as that would have been more difficult to do

Stars only apear to twinkle when viewed through a perturbed atmosphere is my guess. Do they apear to twinkle when viewed from space? Our suns output seems pretty constant.

>commercially viable space travel by 1992. The film was released in 1968.

Those who fancy themselves brilliant analysts of the present and therefore the go-to predictors of the future (hi, Tyler) really enjoy saying that Great Important Things are going to be happening in 20 years.

It's far enough ahead that it's plausible that no one sees any compelling evidence the matter today, and yet soon enough that the target audience will care because it "will happen" in their lifetime.

Global warming catastrophe, driverless cars, Americans caring about soccer... just 20 years away! And they always will be.

Commercial air travel had not quite begun by twenty years after the Wright Brothers, but certainly by the 1930s it was up and running. Presumably that's what Clarke and Kubrick were modeling.

Meh, sometimes it happens that way and sometimes it doesn't. Nuclear power went from nearly nothing to a substantial power source in 20 years. Jet engines went from first wide spread application to dominating travel in 20 years. Cell phones achieved dominance in a 20 to 30 year period.

However, what technologies are actually viable and economic is generally not obvious at the start. It's a crap shoot.

You forgot the ipads:

Did they predict a Republican president looking into the good soul of a Russian dictator and another one being cosy with the same dictator?

Progress on computing and progress on space travel are sort of in opposition. As electronics got more powerful and smaller the need for humans in space has diminished and the size of the rockets needed to put things that are interesting into space becomes smaller. I think the same is happening to commercial aviation - who needs to fly to Australia in 4 hours when you can just Facetime people there in an instant.

Its a 14 hour flight from LAX -> Sydney.

Fly much?

7 PM on a Saturday night? - maybe the audience was home waiting for the beginning of one of the last Hot Jazz Saturday nights (Rob Bamberger's last hot jazz saturday night show - after 40 years on public radio - is next Saturday) .... :( :( :(

Yes, for those of us in the DC metro region that have been listening to his show for all this years this is very disappointing. A petition against this move has already gathered over 6000 signatures.

The predicted advance that always makes me chuckle? Asimov's Foundation characters speaking of the invention of super-fast spaceships and what are, essentially, USB sticks (that can hold the contents of a library in a device the size of your thumb, something like that). Of which one do they seem to be in awe of? Yep, the USB drive.

So forget asking about our jet packs and interstellar spaceships. We've already got - and perfectly take for granted - the superior advancement... (In fact, we've almost made it obsolete, e.g., cloud-based storage supplanting it.)

'In fact, we've almost made it obsolete, e.g., cloud-based storage supplanting it.'

Richard Stallman has a two decade old story concerning that 'supplanting' - 'From The Road To Tycho, a collection of articles about the antecedents of the Lunarian Revolution, published in Luna City in 2096.

For Dan Halbert, the road to Tycho began in college—when Lissa Lenz asked to borrow his computer. Hers had broken down, and unless she could borrow another, she would fail her midterm project. There was no one she dared ask, except Dan.

This put Dan in a dilemma. He had to help her—but if he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong—something that only pirates would do.

And there wasn't much chance that the SPA—the Software Protection Authority—would fail to catch him. In his software class, Dan had learned that each book had a copyright monitor that reported when and where it was read, and by whom, to Central Licensing. (They used this information to catch reading pirates, but also to sell personal interest profiles to retailers.) The next time his computer was networked, Central Licensing would find out. He, as computer owner, would receive the harshest punishment—for not taking pains to prevent the crime.'

+1. Made me 80% laugh, 20% wince.

I totally agree - a stunning and surprising movie. It literally took my breath away. I saw it with my teenage pals in Boston when it first came out. I would love to share it with my teenage sons on the big screen.

Kubrick was a strange but brilliant man, supposedly on the spectrum. His works are mostly fantastic. His characters in 2001 have that blank, nerdy, flat affect.
Perhaps his own reflection - I dunno.

True. And I think Kubrick was also a perfectionist, requiring massive and arguably unnecessary retakes before signing off on a scene. The part where the stewardesses walk upside down apparently was not special effects but took forever to film. Kubrick also liked chess I think. He also was ahead of his time in showing sex in movies, though his Eyes Wide Shut was not a blockbuster ($162m box office, $65m budget)

I liked the no dialogue opening of 2001, which is underrated (that Adam/Eve caveman film and Tom Hank's Cast Away tried it, successfully), and the invention of the lever arm, aka club, to kill the leopard was a true pioneering invention, transitioning into a tubular space station. Too bad they did not (could not) patent it, otherwise we'd be way ahead now, probably traveling at or even beyond light speed. The 'twin paradox' ending was striking, but almost like it was a setup for a sequel. Clarke's idea of a interstellar burglar alarm was not emphasized, but you cannot follow a book exactly in a movie.

The part where the stewardesses walk upside down apparently was not special effects but took forever to film.

I guess!

In the 1951 movie Royal Wedding, Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling. The set was built inside a tube that rotated with the camera. YouTube has a cool video showing how it was done (dance starts about 0:40):

Kubrick on the autistic spectrum?? I think not; I have close relatives on the spectrum and every description I've read of Kubrick is that he was a warm, congenial person off the set - that's not autistic spectrum behavior. There's a big difference between being a perfectionist at work and being on the spectrum.

I saw 2001 when it first came out. It contains not characters, no plot really and, actually, no ideas and no thought.

What it is is a visually arresting blast of pomposity that allows the adolescent viewer to opportunity to insert his own grandiosity, which has happened now for half a century.

Think of it as a Hollywood take on an epic poem where none of the characters actually speak, or think or act in any significant way, or have any distinguishing characteristics. A Triumph of the Will for nerdy American teenagers.

'A Triumph of the Will for nerdy American teenagers.'

Then where is out lunar base? The Nazis managed to get rockets out from their film propaganda, after all.

They had The Reich Stuff.

"The Nazis managed to get rockets out from their film propaganda, after all."

The reality is that America got rockets out from their film propaganda. There aren't any Swastika's flying on the moon.

I think there's an inextricable element of nostalgia in the views of those who first saw the movie in a state of awe because the effects were cutting-edge. Certainly, any other movie about which one might say, "the pacing is inert, and there is no plot, no characterization, and no ending, but the special effects are fantastic" would be unlikely to be deemed high art. Claiming to embrace it precisely because of these features strikes an outsider as special pleading.

I will say, the individual sections generally work quite well as separate pieces of visual art according to a certain chilly aesthetic. Had they been filmed as such, however, I think the notion of stringing them together into a single movie would seem artistically random.

"You could generously describe the ending as “underexplained.”

Yes, but the companion book by Arthur C. Clarke is good, and so is the sequel. Another Clarke book, "The Lost Worlds of 2001," also is a rather good read.

Sigh. I'm such a philistine. Pretty sure my favorite movie is Die Hard.

Well, there's no bio-engineering in 2001. But that wasn't really the theme of the story. There is the tablet computer that one of the guys uses to watch a video of his parents (no realtime conversation due to the lightspeed barrier).

HAL is depicted as a sentient AI which, of course, we don't have yet. We do have the voice synthesis and recognition. I "talk" to my car's bluetooth system when making phone calls.

The big thing of course is the lack of space activities. The 2001 movie is the cinematic depiction of what I call the Clarke/Von Braun scenario for space activities. This was largely conceived of in the 1950's by Von Braun as well as Clarke's novels from the time. Key components of this vision are the rotating "wheel" space station, the moon base, and manned missions to Mars. All of these were predicted to be reality by 2000. The Discovery's trip to Jupiter is the replacement for the manned Mars missions envisioned at the time.

Even by 1968 this vision was starting fade. The lunar landing was summer of the following year. Both the end date for the Apollo program as well as the final rejection of Von Braun's Mars missions occurred in 1971.

Lesson from the movie? Technology that can be developed privately with a large potential market tends to get developed rather quickly (semiconductors, PC's, smart phones, etc.). Materials science that results in improvements in everything from clothing to airliners also gets developed rather quickly. Space, which requires huge multi-billion dollar investments without any clear market, does not.

However, SpaceX does seem to be changing this picture somewhat. If they are successful in developing the BFR (which I'm still skeptical of), the space stuff will change dramatically. Jeff Bezos was at an SSI conference earlier this year, where he announced that he is fully on-board with the Gerard O'Neill space settlement concept.

Time will tell of any of this actually happens.

'Well, there's no bio-engineering in 2001.'

Depends on your definition of bio-engineering. The opening scene shows some sort of 'engineering' going on.

'But that wasn't really the theme of the story.'

Not bio-engineering, precisely, and the story is muddled in many ways, but engineering evolution (for a clumsy phrasing) seems to be a major theme.

2001 is the film equivalent of a painting of a white circle on black background. Good for some but most will think it sucks.

Are you Asian? The Asians like Byzantine designs and explanations, and eschew (that means 'avoid') simplicity. Hence there's no word "NO" in Chinese (nor "YES"), instead, you say something like "I don't want that widget" or "I do want that widget". Likewise, the simplest transactions take forever since there's constant handshaking in the verbal channel. The first person: "I want X", the second: "I understand you want X, when you say 'want', can you clarify whether you want to buy, to consume, to rent?", the first person then answers this, and this dialogue goes on for about three minutes in rapid fire discourse. I kid you not. Even and especially when asking for simple things. It's the Asian way my friend, and if you don't like 2001 you'll love some Asian director plot where there's a couple of dozen story lines and characters all jumbled up.

WTF does any of that mean? That garbled paragraph makes me think you're a bot.

Ray Lopez may be many things, but a bot he's not.

The must stunning fact about 2001 is that it was the highest-earning movie of 1968. I can't imagine anything like this would even get a wide release today.

Gravity? Not nearly as good but...

Gravity is 90 minutes of almost non-stop action, not really comparable.

Christopher Nolan also emitted some excrement recently re: black holes that was lapped up eagerly by middle-brow viewers

'I was more stunned by seeing Americans talking to Russians “as if they were normal people” than by any of the technology.'

This is still one of the most sci-fi aspects of the movie.

The monkey discovered repetitive trials in self training, and watching the dominant hand use the tool. That was what the movie got right, human consciousness is about development of hand dominance by practice.

HAL was memorable but I don't recall much else from seeing it back then. I was nuts for sci-fi but 2001 was never one of my favorites.

Another notable computer-voice performance was by Vic Perrin as NOMAD, the perfectionist little floating tin can that terrorizes the Enterprise crew. His discussions with Shatner and Nimoy were among the series' wittiest moments.

Perrin was also terrific as the Outer Limits' unseen narrator.

Co-written by Arthur C. Clarke. The book was released, I think, at the same time, and it is also very thoughtful. If the film doesn't make sense, at times, read the book.

The book was originally planned to be released the same day but Kubrick vetoed that I think because he wanted the attention to be solely on the film, which Clarke was not happy with. The book was released two months later and rumor has it Clarke was quite pleased that it became a best seller.

I read the book when I was 12 and just finished it in the car as my father drove me to a college theater to see it. Reading the book definitely helped me (somewhat) understand the film then.

The link below is to a Meaning of Life interview with Michael Benson,who recently wrote Space Odyssey. Benso says that the original screening was panned and much of the audience left at the intermission and that "Clarke had tears of humiliation." Kubrick cut some exercise scenes and trimmed others and the shorter by 20 minute version became the highest grossing movie in 1968. (The audience who saw the premier was made up of older people while those who saw it in the theater were mostly young.)

Any Sacramento readers?

It's playing at The Tower theater the evenings of 6/25 and 6/26.

Yes! Thank you!

I've seen this three times on the big screen. First in 1968 (age 13), then 20 years later and then 45 years later. Each time it was stunning. It's probably the only film in the entire history of cinema that would have seemed equally good to me at all three ages.

I have also seen it 3 times on the big screen: once in the mid-70s (I was a teenager, and a new theater opened in our small one-theater town, and for a few months they screened classics to build up business); once in college as a midnight movie; and once last year as part of our local luxoplex's "classic movies" series. Was wonderful to see it on the big screen again after all these years.
Several years ago when I got a Blu-Ray player and a plasma screen TV, the Blu-ray of 2001 was the first disc I bought.

I beat Tyler to a rewatch by a few weeks. No big screen, but I had my 15” 4K laptop on my chest and a nice pair of headphones, so the effect was identical, no?

My dad rented it on Betamax in the 1980s and I was mystified. This time I was also mystified but enjoy that feeling more than I did. I thought of it as a very long music video with a skit in the middle.

It is no Die Hard, that is for sure, and Mr Nakamura would agree.

The last century's vision of life in the early 21st Century assumed that the people alive now would be slender, well groomed, well appointed and healthy. No one that I know of anticipated our real world of obese, slovenly dressed people with tattoos, piercings and hair dyed unnatural colors.

Hey, people in the early 21st century do look like those from the 1960s. But instead of 1964, it is more 1969, with better food security.

Thats a good point. They are fatter however. I was 5 years old when I saw my first "hippies" and I remember them being skinny. Interestingly enough, it was in 1964 that Kubrick first contacted Clarke about making "2001" and they thought they could get it out by 1966. So, the movie really was rooted in 1964's society.

"No one that I know of anticipated our real world of obese, slovenly dressed people with tattoos, piercings and hair dyed unnatural colors."

It is really remarkable--and scary, if one thinks about long-term healthcare system costs--how many obese people there are today.

" Skype-like service for phone calls"

The Bell PicturePhone, the first commercial video phone, was introduced in 1964 and finally withdrawn in 1978. It was expensive, but its failure is tied to Bell's monopoly restrictions which prohibited cross-subsidization to build a user base.

The movie did not offer speculative sci-fi technology, just expensive current tech part of a long-term Phone Company business growth plan, the latter costing the nearly a half billion dollars before removed from the market.

introduced in 1964

and pushed and pushed by AT&T for 14 years

and nobody wanted it.

People wanted it, just not for a huge premium over their current phone. Using your smart phone as a video phone is fairly trivial today, and yet people only use it that way occasionally.

Yes. As hard as technology is to predict, it's even harder to predict consumer demand. In the 1960s A&T, as well as a lot of futurists, thought that people wanted mobile phones (correct), and wanted to use their phones to have video conversations (incorrect; think Dick Tracy's 2-way wrist phones or whatever they were called). Instead it turns out that people wanted to use their phone to take photographs.

Nekkid photographs. When they don't have any clothes on and they are up to something.

It plays in Chicago every summer at the Music Box Theater in 70mm, often to packed houses.

How can someone write a piece on technology in 2001: A Space Odyssey and not mention the zero gravity toilet. Now THAT's impressive technology. Plus the scene where Floyd is vexed by the lengthy instructions is the only humour in the whole film - and actually pretty funny.

"I can’t think of any film that is so much worse (or simply different) on TV as this one. "

There is one such movie: Lawrence of Arabia. When seen on a properly huge screen, you can't merely watch it, you have to swivel your head to take in everything in the picture, such as huge rock cliffs filling the screen and tiny little people on camels way down in the corner. On a small screen those people would be irrelevant specks.

"On 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, the theatre had no more than twenty people in attendance."

It regularly sells out at the local non-profit theater in Portland, OR. OTOH they have a 70mm film projector, which is even rarer these days than films shot on 70mm.

As for technology, as others have noted there could be (and are) entire books that are about the making of the movie, as well as talks and lectures in Hollywood. One such talk focused on just the simulated computer screens that we see in the movie. At one point the audience sees what nowadays we would call a 3D wireframe model. But this was before computers and monitors had that capability, so Kubrick's special effects team built a literal wireframe model -- out of wire -- and photographed it from different angles so they could display video that looked like a computer-generated 3D model!

I have the DVD. One thing that stands out in my mind is when Floyd first shows up at the space station. Instructions for stuff are written in various European languages, but no East Asian languages. Obviously neither Clarke nor Kubrick anticipated the economic rise of the East Asian countries when they made the movie.

Happy to report that at a recent screening in Chicago the Music Box theater, a relatively large venue, was almost completely full on a Saturday night.

4. "And the portrait of voice recognition technology is quite realistic." But how about the lip reading technology, when Dave and his colleague try escaping in a pod?

In related news I saw Star Wars The Last Jedi, this weekend. 2001 A Space Odyssey was a much better movie.

Beautiful movie, but really not very good. Read the book.

Book and movie were completely different in objective. According to Kubrick (as explained in an old Playboy interview, and elsewhere), if you understand the book, you don't understand the film. Clarke was telling story. Kubrick wasn't telling story, hence people expecting story didn't get it.

Also: No matter how crazy awesome it seems now, it will seem yawn ho hum to those born into it and less interesting then what some youtube star said or whoever's tits were flashed on whatever website yesterday (according to the director in same interview above and others).
Yes he was a chess player, no he wasn't spectrum.

Hal was not huge in size? While the interface for Hal wasn't big, what about his memory core from the "Daisy" scene? It was room-sized!

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