The Infamous HAL 9000 Was Built Around a Nikkor 8mm f/8 Fisheye Lens


Here’s an interesting bit of photography/movie trivia that surfaced recently. Remember the infamous HAL 9000? HAL 9000 was the AI villain from Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series, and the main bad guy in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Instantly recognizable by his eerily calm voice and red, all-seeing eye (not to mention his penchant for killing crew members when they became troublesome), HAL 9000 is listed as the 13th greatest film villain in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains. But did you know that HAL 9000’s all-seeing eye was actually a Nikkor 8mm f/8 fisheye lens?

Here’s a look at HAL 9000 appearing in Apple’s well-known Y2K Ad:

That last tidbit arose from the depths of random movie knowledge recently when ThinkGeek decided to put together a $500, movie-accurate version of HAL 9000. They got ahold of the original blueprints and began a 100-percent accurate recreation, with one exception: that Nikkor lens.

In the film, the lens was a very rare and expensive Nikkor fish-eye lens. The HAL 9000 Life-Size Replica features a custom-ground replica, with a sticker of the writing on the Nikkor lens (in case you want your HAL to be accurate down to the close-ups).

Here’s a look at ThinkGeek’s creation:

Interestingly enough, the lens used for HAL 9000’s all-seeing point of view shots was different. Kubrick needed a wide-angle fisheye lens that would fit onto his shooting camera, and at the time the Fairchild-Curtis 160-degree wide-angle lens was the only one that would work.

But from the crew members’ perspective, one of the most infamous artificial intelligences in movie history was nothing more than a Nikkor fisheye lens and a metal faceplate. We can almost hear the “See, Nikon is evil” jokes from the Canon-faithful already.

(via CNN)

Thanks for sending in the tip, Keith!

  • Ivan

    A “computer villain”? As my good friend (with a Ph.D. in math) used to say: HAL did not hate Dave, he just calculated x=n^k.

  • Per Bay Simonsen

    See, Nikon IS evil :)

  • peter davis

    Also of interest, HAL was named by Clarke by taking the letters that follow those in IBM.

  • Igor Ken

    you mean like JCN? ^_^

  • Burnin Biomass

    “You are going to take a picture of that? What are you doing, Dave.”

  • Hugo Cuellar Rodriguez

    Dave, what yu doing dave? dave? Staahp

  • brandon

    why couldn’t they even get the lens in the correct position? the gap on the left/right is clearly less than the gap at the bottom.

  • Work4IBM/Shoot wNikon

    You mean “precede” the letters IBM. Note that the color blue in HAL’s name plate is very close to “IBM Blue” and the letters are close to those used on the name plate on IBM System/360 systems which were the model of mainframe in the late ’60’s / early ’70’s. Didn’t leave all that much to the imagination.

  • Tom Briggs

    No matter how many times Clarke tried to debunk that meme, it remains to this day. In the treatment/novel HAL stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

  • John R

    and it isn’t mounted square on the wall, tilting to the right.

  • Duke Shin

    “Nikon, I want a spinny wheel like Canon.”
    “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

  • David Portass

    I used to think HAL was a villain until 2010 Space Odyssey where his erratic behaviour was explained by being unable to resolve the conflict between his general mission instructions and the secret instructions given to him which the crew didn’t know about.

  • Brian Roy

    This movie was the first to come up with the idea for iPad’s, and Holographic memory. Not to mention the most accurate portrayal of space travel. Not bad for 1968.

  • eNaRDe

    Motorola took the HAL 9000 fisheye lens design and incorporated in their Droid ads as their logo……

  • Perry Donham

    And of course software architect Dave Cutler, after leaving Digital Equipment Corp for Microsoft, named his new Windows OS ‘WNT’ (one off from his DEC creation VMS) in a nod to the HAL 9000…later, MS retrofitted the lame product name ‘Windows New Technology’.

  • Paul Sharrock

    In the movie there are quite a few scenes where the letters IBM turn up, for no real reason (Including reversed on Dave’s face, while he’s talking to Hal, in one scene). Not sure about Clarke, but Kubrick was not particularly trying to hide it on screen, though for his own reasons he did deny it for years if asked by the media.

  • Kyle Brady

    I guess he means “preceeded by”

  • WallStreet

    Dai-sy, Dai-sy…

  • SgtMaj

    My Mom was HAL9000’s babysitter

  • Igor Ken

    thanks Cap. :)

  • Patriot

    Uh I-pads appeared in Star Trek in 66, called the PADD.

  • Joel Anderson

    Where did Kubrick obtain “Hal”? He rented three (3) of these lenses from my friend Don Erkle (Industrial Photographic Supply, at that time located on VanNess in Hollywood). Don passed away a couple years ago. Don was a great down to earth guy, photographer friends with Gene Roddenberry (long before Star Trek fame) and others. Don always had great jokes! I recall him saying he only received one “Hal” back after 2001 was film (tho they were only rented, not purchased), Don also lamented….. “if I only still had those lenses……” the value would have been astronomical due to the use in the film alone… I expect those other two lenses are out there somewhere, at least one must be in the possession of Kubrick’s family. 2001, truly a masterpiece of construction. By the way, Don’s next door neighbor on Van Ness was Orson Welles, who would go through his warehouse, picking and choosing lenses and equipment, still experimenting as he reached his prime.