Tuesday, April 15, 2008

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.