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.