2001 Addenda: Optical Illusion

One of the reasons I watch some of these films over and over is that there are always certain details that bother me on a subconscious level, but need to be gone over repeatedly to bring into the daylight. One thing that has always struck me about 2001: A Space Odyssey, particularly as the years progress, is how plausible all the technology looks and how it doesn't ever seem to age ( for instance, the seatback video screens are identical to today's models). Aside from little design details here and there it still looks functional. Ridiculously so in relation to other sci-fi films of the era. But there was something else bothering me, something that I wouldn't even have the capacity to wonder about until the 1990s.

HAL’s memory boards seem to use clear plastic media, very much like today’s forms of optical memory storage, such as CD’s and DVDs. So what, you may ask. Well, consider that 2001 began pre-production in 1964 and that optical storage media wasn’t even invented until the early 1980’s, and wasn’t widely used in computers until the mid-1990’s. At the time 2001 was made, even the most powerful mainframe computers used magnetic tape drives for memory storage, and magnetic media was the dominant form of memory storage until very recently in most home and commercial computers. Until around, oh, 2001 or so...

So, what was all of this technology? A lucky guess? Clear plastic optical storage media is a hell of a lucky guess. If anyone has background on this, let me know.


  1. I wouldn't know where to start commenting on this film. There's so much, and a lot of what aspects this has had a very personal impact upon my life - in a very disturbing and annoying manner.
    It's difficult to explain, but the gist of it being that people I've known all my life seemed involved in some kind of conspiracy, a bit like what is shown in Mulholland Drive when they go to see the play, and it involved 'killing' Kubrick, like they were staging something very evil (meddling with the universe) and it all went wrong, and they thought they could use me in it.
    And other people I know, not through them but just off my own lifepath, also knew about it & tried to get involved through me - of course without actually saying anything outright that might incriminate them. Because they know what I'd do and say if I had evidence like that.

    Of course, I can't prove any of it & haven't tried to, I just mention things relating to it from time to time. I can't prove this either, but it also happened exactly this way:

    I have 2001 on DVD, and me and some others (whom I don't know) had joked online about things about it; one of the things that was amusing was when the astronauts are tricked by HAL to go repair the satellite that isn't broken, and during that sequence HAL says "don't forget your space helmet" - which is just funny as a line.
    I even watched the film again after and that part was in it.

    Then the next time I saw it - using the same DVD - that bit isn't in it anymore. The whole sequence is different.
    I'd go as far as saying each time I see this film it gets shorter and shorter, like less happens each time.

    This universe is totally f***ed up. It's a bad joke. The only good thing about that kind of stuff is it gives you a bit of hope that things like, the trees that got chopped down might just reappear and be back again someday as though they weren't ever destroyed.
    All the evil concreted-over tarmac world disappears and is replaced by a world that uses silent non-polluting airborne personal transport.

  2. Or how about superman using crystals to store data:


  3. Optical storage media wasn't commercialized until the early 80s, but it was invented earlier and was speculated about even earlier than that.

    But I agree-- the extent to which 2001 doesn't age is eerie and quite amazing. This film is, IMHO, perhaps the most meaningful film of the 20th century. I think it inspired me as a child to become interested in science, computers, and artificial intelligence (the field where I currently work).

    You can see similar things in other movies. Take Minority Report... the computer tech visualized in that movie was a very accurate portrayal of the future, even down to multi-touch displays which are now present on the iPhone.

    But still I agree that this doesn't hold a candle to 2001. Did you know that many people in the IC industry are now talking about *diamond* as being an ideal material substrate for quantum computers?

    Maybe HAL's brain really will look like that.

  4. Hey Anony- do you have a timeline on opticals? I know there was a laser disc for video developed earlier but I can't find anything about data. Let us know if you have any interesting tidbits for us- that goes for the rest of ya, too!

  5. Lots of black and white striping going on.

  6. I noticed the same thing about that movie myself. Try watching Star Trek Next gen episodes from the 90s, even, and a lot of the tech looks dated.

    HAL's memory seems to a bit more advanced than an optical disk. It seems to be more akin to something like this:

    A team of scientists at UCLA has developed and built a plastic, non-volatile memory device using solution processing. In a paper appearing Nov. 28 [2004] online in the journal Nature Materials, the researchers outline how they designed a new type of polymer, or plastic, memory device.


  7. Awesome, Terry! That's truly freaky.

    And yes, Michael- 2001 is Masonic to the core. I mean, a mono-lith?

  8. I hadn't noticed the image you were refering to til justnow (too much for my connection to load, on large pages for the most part) - now, I'm not sure when hot-swap hard drives were envisaged or invented, but they are now fairly common.

    The still from the movie there always reminds me of hot-swap drives, because they just push-button out of the computer.
    Maybe not in every case do they eject with a swish hydraulic-like motion, but the principal is the same (the point being you can change the hard drive without turning off the computer).

  9. Cheers, Zupie. I changed the archiving format to make the page a bit less heavy.

    I'll look into the hot swap thing.

  10. Striping as-in RAID storages?

    The latest optical storage I was aware of was this here,


    (computers and Atlantis lore has long interested me - there's always a theme about Atlantis having crystal technology; that's what computers are! The CPUs and chips are chemical etched onto wafers, and the wafers are cut from lab grown crystals (usually Silicon, ie - dielectric quartz).)

  11. It's not your blog, anything with images is slow for this connection & old machine I'm using...I'm always looking into getting a faster link, and they all sound like rip-offs so I don't bother; then I get confirmations from various sources (eg - the ISPs / services customers) that they are indeed all rip-offs.

    I don't think I'd be happy with less than a T3 line anyway...I'd feel like I was paying for nothing.

  12. Dear Christopher -
    I can only chime in and give a hearty "here-here!"
    to what you've said. I'm in my forties- I've watched and drawn and painted sci-fi images all my life. I build space ship models as a hobby. I have a pretty good eye for detail, and I must emphatically agree with you- there is something VERY prescient about 2001's industrial design. Hal's 'chips' are one very clear example. Another of my favorites is the Orion shuttle, the ship that ferries Dr. Floyd from Earth to the space station. The Orion is a beautiful, plausible-looking spaceplane, built and depicted nearly a decade before the current shuttles ( ugly scows! ) went into service. And yet it's completely realistic, even now. I could go on, from the beautiful space suits to the ship interiors and more. I think the underlying, lurking question is: did Kubrick and friends have access to advanced tech before the public did? Were their ideas based on existing, but 'secret' technology, that was cleverly shown to us in the film? I've long suspected this, and so... I'll vote YES. I wish I could prove it. Glad to know someone else shares the same admiration, and suspicion for this film as I do.

    Tracy Haynes

  13. This is a fairly obscure Russian movie from 1936 that has also been noted to have presentient views on what actual space travel would be like, The Space Voyage:


  14. Remember that documentary / mockumentary (whatever was indeed the case) that aired on a French-German satellite TV channel, 'Kubrick, Nixon, and the Man in the Moon'?

    I haven't seen it, but the articles at the time said it was about the idea that the Moon landings were faked and filmed on the same sort of basis as 2001 was; there's also that part in the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever where there's clearly a movie set shown that does appear to be set up to film a Moon landing, in some villians secret desert base.

  15. In Red Ice's interview with John Lash talking about the Gnostic texts and the Archons, he mentions that the Coptic word 'hal' means simulation or artifice, which the Archons use to infiltrate and take over our minds to ultimately cause us to be confused and divided against our own better interests, especially our gift of humanity and the welfare of the Earth. The more we become infatuated with simulations, the more they will work against us, as in the case of HAL 9000.

  16. Wow- really great information in these comments, guys. It's amazing how one little detail like that can trigger a whole host of connections and quandaries. The more I think about that film the more it seems to me like an incredibly competent and maddeningly complex work of sorcery. And yet it seems so quiet and sedate on the surface.

    2001 is my evidence that whoever is sitting on top of the pyramid was actually using Kubrick as their mouthpiece- Clarke's extensive connections with British Intelligence bear this out.

  17. The top of the pyramid is always The Fool and The Magus to me, cause the Major Arcana lain out in a pyramid shape puts The Magus in the capstone position (and The Fool atop, if he's given number 0, which I agree fits best, cause The Fool is like Parsifal and just goes with the Tao).

    It's an oldie but worth a mention, that HAL is one letter away each time from being IBM (in most European-based alphabets).

    The Archons must be having a field day with virtualisation, going by that description.

  18. That Archon description also sounds the same as Nibiru worship.

    That all ritual and ceremony, and environmental alteration all comes out of focusing on Nibiru rather than the Earth.

  19. If MI5/6 was using Kubrick as a mouthpiece, why kill him? Did Eyes Wide Shut ruffle too many feathers? I'm sure you know all about the suspicious death of this great filmmaker, i just can't fathom why the men at the top would use his visions and then discard him. Perhaps he died naturally, perhaps not, nevertheless 2001 is genius and i'm still combing through Kubrick's work and figuring out things through multiple viewings of his works. Great blog btw, cheers and keep it up Christopher.
    Also Stargate the tv series did an homage to Clarke in an episode called "2001" from season 5. I could go on about all the stargate references in the comics of late,
    one being in the Marvel Comics Universe, the alien Shi'ar have a network of "Stargates" to aid in interstellar travel. Also in the videogames Starcraft, EVE Online among others.

  20. Cheers, Rion- thanks for the kind words.

    I'd say a lifetime of chain-smoking killed Kubrick. Apparently he was on the way out before EWS was even finished.

  21. Who else is still waiting on the Australian movie, Colour Me Kubrick, to get a TV showing or a rental release. Yeah.

    John Malkovich plays the guy who - in real life! - tricked loads of people into believing he was actually Kubrick.

    =Just off at the NJ turnpike, you fall through a hole as Tony Soprano drives past when the Twin Towers are still there=

  22. Probably he really got poisoned & died by living in the UK and therefore having his home water supply pumped full of toxins like chlorine.

  23. There's a 2008 documentary called "Stanley Kubricks' boxes", recently uploaded on CC.

    Kubrick had an obsession with detail, as the hundreds of boxes of photographs and notes show.

    He even marked each fan-letter with Positive, Negative, or Crank.

    He let people photograph every GATE they could find, basically for inpiration I guess.

    This incredible attention to detail is one of the things that made him wat he was, a master, a shy one I might add.

    The boxes are now in the hands of the university of arts in London.

  24. "Did Eyes Wide Shut ruffle too many feathers?"

    It's a possibility but it's impossible to imagine that Kubrick produced EWS in absolute secrecy. There's a reason why we call the thing "All Seeing Eye."

    If "Eyes Wide Shut ruffled too many feathers" It must be intentional.

    My nephew was asking yesterday, "Can we say that they have a sickness of giving clues constantly?" :)

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