Monday, September 24, 2007

Hello, Dave

So, there I was. It was 5:30 am and I was in bed, staring at the ceiling, and wondering why computer are always female. No, really, I was.

Insomnia is a harsh mistress.

Im not referring to the computer I use to write my blogs (Testiculus the Destroyer), but to computers in sci-fi shows. Think about it. All the computers in Star Trek, at least for the Federation (dunno about the Klingons). Cortanna, from Halo. Shodan, from System Shock. Even the cars in James Bond. Computers just seem to have female voices (and oddly enough, British accents). Pretty much if a computer talks or has a holographic image, it is female.

Why is that?

Computers started out male. HAL9000, the granddaddy of talking computers, had a male persona. KITT was also male, but was also a car, which somehow makes sense (I have no idea why). But somehow along the way, computers became girls.

Experts in psychology and sociology could probably come up with some very interesting and fascinating reasons why this may be so. I would even be willing to bet that a couple of thesis (thesises? thesi?) have been written on this very subject.

However, I think the answer is far simpler. Sci-Fi geeks, myself included, just want to talk to a girl.



Anonymous said...

I asked someone this question once and they told me it was because people tend to find a womans voice more comforting, sort of a mom will take care of me thing. but I dunno personaly I find disembodied computer voices disturbing.

Andrew said...

I'm studying to become an aircraft mechanic and we had a short snippit on autopilots and the topic of female voices came up. Occording to the instructor and the material he cited (which I don't have myself) its both because a female voice is comforting, but mainly because men are more likely to pay attention to a female voice.

That said, I think AI's are female in SCI-FI (especially in holgraphic form) because its one more excuse to have a hot female character on the show.

Gillsing said...

They need excuses for that now? They should just have a sci-fi show with only hot female characters. Who all want a man, but never find one. Because the only one for them is the one who's watching the show. It'd be like one of those anime harem shows, except without the male main character to identify with.

Ok, back to computers. One of the exceptions to the rule I remember is "Father" from Aliens IV. Calling the computer "Father" was a really cool idea I think. Made it seem like a religious thing when they called out to 'him'.

Jason Janicki said...

A female voice being more comforting does make a certain amount of sense.

"Situation Critical: You're going to die." sounds much better when a woman says it :)

That is a terrific idea, Gillsing. I would totally watch that.

I don't remember the computer from Aliens IV (was that the one with Wynona Rider?). All I remember is that it was really bad. I recall being shocked that Joss Whedon wrote it.

Gillsing said...

It was the one with Winona, yes. And I liked it just fine! Although it took a dive after the baby was born. Didn't know that Joss Whedon wrote it - I think he's hilarious when he tries to be. Spike getting caught sniffing Buffy's underwear and pretending it's a predator thing stands out in particular, as does Jaynestown. But when he gets all serious he tends to bore me. And that happens way too much.

Jason Janicki said...

My biggest problem with Aliens IV was that it was just a standard action flik. You could, of course, argue that Aliens was also just a standard action flik, but it had a real energy to it. Aliens IV, meh.

Jerron said...

BTW, the ST computer's voice was Gene Rodenberry's wife... that might have something to do with it... :p

Jason Janicki said...

Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that. Majel Barret was actually the 1st officer of the orignal Star Trek pilot. Don't know if she was the voice of the computer in the pilot as well.

Mon said...

Though it's not a movie, the example of a female computer that stands out most to me is the one in Portal. But the choice to make that particular character female was what made the game: it was all great, except for the gun pod children. What can I say? I'm easily freaked out.

More than having a female computer, I want to know their reasons for making a female player character. Not that it would make any difference in who plays it - you can't see her most of the time, anywho.

Jason Janicki said...

Was Portal out when I wrote this? Yes . . . yes it was. I'm amazed I missed it (and how long ago that game was released).

I'm betting the choice of player character was based on the fact that they already had Gordon Freeman in Half-Life, so if they started a new series, they wanted a 'fresh' approach. As you pointed out, it doesn't really matter, but there you go.