How well do we know Mother?

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The computers of ALIEN have each had a distinctive look and sound. We have come a long way from the Mother of the Nostromo to the Mother of Covenant.

 

A casual browse through Alien (the movie novelization) reveals some interesting personality traits of the ship’s computer:

  1. She did not warm the ship before breaking crew out of storage.
  2. She flashed a yellow light when interaction with the Captain was required.
  3. She was not a practical joker, awakening crew from hypersleep for mere malfunctions.
  4. Her central computer room gave the impression of a wild party inhabited by a dozen drunken Christmas trees.
  5. She expected primary requests to be typed in standard, recognizable words.
  6. She was not programmed for verbosity.
  7. She was a Mind Bank computer.
  8. Her nickname (“Mother”) was accurate, given she was the machinery responsible for keeping crew alive.
  9. She accepted her nickname with no emotional overtones.
  10. She was programmed to interrupt the journey and bring the ship out of hyperdrive and crew out of sleep if certain specified conditions arose.
  11. She could puzzle out garbled messages, if they were standard transmissions, and if given enough time.
  12. She could distinguish between human and non-human messages.
  13. She appeared to show confusion, not ignorance, when deciphering the transmission.
  14. She took control of the drop when the Nostromo reached its last meters of descent.
  15. She was unable to elicit additional details about the distress signal, despite the crew trying free association and a strictly mechanalog code approach.
  16. She could determine the characteristic electromagnetic discharge of a local star, as well as local sunrise.
  17. She did not recognize the derelict ship.
  18. Her store of information was described as “Brobdingnagian“.
  19. She had no intuitive senses, like most computers of the time.
  20. She could be unintentionally evasive to the user who did not know how to weed out confusing subtleties.
  21. She could identify specific areas requiring engineering crew attention for repairs.
  22. Her mechanical memory could lose track of information.
  23. She was capable of formulating a nullifying reagent if provided a sample of acid residue.
  24. She monitored the medical equipment tending to Kane.
  25. She was capable of analyzing medical data to make conclusions about the condition of a patient.
  26. She could not hide information.
  27. She was normally accessed via thumb-print identification and a five-digit code. A tertiary code combination could achieve partial access.  A secondary keyboard could be used for queries that were not confidential or that did not contain command information.
  28. She kept record of crew activities, including the operation of airlock warning systems.
  29. She could draw conclusions from such records.
  30. She was programmed to bring the crew out of hypersleep, and to report the transmission as a distress signal, even though the Company knew it was a warning.
  31. In dire situations, crew could interact with her verbally, although her voice was devoid of anthropomorphisms.

 

(List compiled from Alien, by Alan Dean Foster. Warner Books Edition. First printing. 1979.)

Join the ranks of bona fide ALIEN (1979) fans and buy a copy of the official novelization at Titan Books!

 

 

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