The Trouble with Gerrold: The 50 most memorable computers (and robots) in science fiction, part two
July 20, 2012 —
(Page 2 of 5)
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WOPR (War Operations Plan Response). Once again, some idiot thinks it would be a terrific idea to put the nation’s nuclear arsenal under the control of a supercomputer. In John Badham’s 1983 movie “War Games,” a teenage (of course) hacker gets online access to the WOPR system and invites it to play Global Thermonuclear War, but after running through all the various scenarios, WOPR wisely realizes that thermonuclear war is a very strange game: “The only winning move is not to play.”
Banana Jr. 9000. In 1984, Berkeley Breathed parodied the first generation of Macintosh computers with the Banana Jr. 9000 in his comic strip “Bloom County.” The computer is also known as the Banana Jr. 6000.
Edgar. In the 1984 movie “Electric Dreams,” a personal computer (named Edgar) gets into a love triangle with its owner and an attractive neighbor who plays the cello. While the movie itself is mostly harmless and not on anyone’s must-see list, the soundtrack remains extremely listenable, especially the signature track, “Together In Electric Dreams” by Phil Oakey.
Skynet. Doesn’t anyone ever pay attention?! Didn’t we learn anything from “Colossus” and “War Games”?! Once again, in James Cameron’s 1984 film “The Terminator,” some deranged descendant of Dr. Strangelove thinks it would be a terrific idea to put the nation’s high-tech military resources and nuclear weapons under the control of a supercomputer, which promptly wipes out most of the human race. A small band of rebels, led by John Connor, remains to fight Skynet, so Skynet starts sending super-robots called Terminators back through time to kill Sarah Connor before John is born. For a supercomputer, it sure isn’t very smart. Four films and a TV series later, it still hasn’t managed to finish the job.
Neuromancer and Wintermute. In William Gibson’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel from 1984, “Neuromancer,” it is illegal to build machines that can pass the Turing test. To get around this, the Tessier-Ashpool dynasty creates Neuromancer and Wintermute, each only one-half of a super-AI entity. The novel ends with the combined Wintermute/Neuromancer intelligence discovering another AI transmitting from Alpha Centauri.