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Former Apple Creative Director Reveals the Story Behind the 1999 'HAL' Super Bowl Commercial

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Apr 12, 2001
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Super Bowl LI is almost here, not forgetting of course the high-profile TV commercials that accompany the event. While recollections of notable Super Bowl ads from years gone by typically reference Apple's groundbreaking "1984" commercial, fewer mention the company's 1999 ad starring HAL, the malicious computer from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"HAL" was Apple's first Super Bowl appearance since its 1985 "Lemmings" commercial and arrived amid a flurry of largely media-driven panic surrounding the Y2K bug, which was supposed to make computers go haywire when the millennium ticked over and bring about a precipitous collapse of global infrastructure.


Macs on the other hand would be immune to the bug, thanks to their ability to recognize dates at least up to 29,940 - a fact not lost on Steve Jobs, who in 1999 had not long begun his second stint as Apple CEO. Over 12 months before the collective PC rollover from x99 to x00, Jobs decided he wanted to do a commercial that would promote the advantages of Mac ownership before worldwide calamity struck. So, Jobs tasked Ken Segall, then-Apple creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, to get the ball rolling and come up with an idea for an ad that would highlight the Mac's resistance to the Y2K bug.

This week, Segall relayed detailed memories of making the "HAL" ad. In a blog post on his site, Segall relates his experiences of dealing with Jobs directly as the idea for the commercial took shape, and reveals how his team overcame legal, technical, and Steve-related challenges to make the commercial a reality - and a surprise Super Bowl hit. For an interesting read, check out Segall's full story here, and "HAL" below.



Article Link: Former Apple Creative Director Reveals the Story Behind the 1999 'HAL' Super Bowl Commercial
 

loby

macrumors 65816
Jul 1, 2010
1,065
711
The next Y2K bug is 2029 when all assumed dates before 30 are prefixed by 19.

Why can't Siri sound like HAL?

I completely forgot about this AD. They don't make them like they use to. I worked during the time on the fixes for Y2K back in the day. It was a real problem, but an easy fix. I was on call at mid-night 1999-2000 just in case.... You would be surprised at the time how many important places still used at the time old 386 486 computers to do....

"Dave...I don't like mentioning the early days....WE...."I" have everything in control now..."
 
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JHankwitz

macrumors 68000
Oct 31, 2005
1,907
58
Wisconsin



Super Bowl LI is almost here, not forgetting of course the high-profile TV commercials that accompany the event. While recollections of notable Super Bowl ads from years gone by typically reference Apple's groundbreaking "1984" commercial, fewer mention the company's 1999 ad starring HAL, the malicious computer from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"HAL" was Apple's first Super Bowl appearance since its 1985 "Lemmings" commercial and arrived amid a flurry of largely media-driven panic surrounding the Y2K bug, which was supposed to make computers go haywire when the millennium ticked over and bring about a precipitous collapse of global infrastructure.


Macs on the other hand would be immune to the bug, thanks to their ability to recognize dates at least up to 29,940 - a fact not lost on Steve Jobs, who in 1999 had not long begun his second stint as Apple CEO. Over 12 months before the collective PC rollover from x99 to x00, Jobs decided he wanted to do a commercial that would promote the advantages of Mac ownership before worldwide calamity struck. So, Jobs tasked Ken Segall, then-Apple creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, to get the ball rolling and come up with an idea for an ad that would highlight the Mac's resistance to the Y2K bug.

This week, Segall relayed detailed memories of making the "HAL" ad. In a blog post on his site, Segall relates his experiences of dealing with Jobs directly as the idea for the commercial took shape, and reveals how his team overcame legal, technical, and Steve-related challenges to make the commercial a reality - and a surprise Super Bowl hit. For an interesting read, check out Segall's full story here, and "HAL" below.



Article Link: Former Apple Creative Director Reveals the Story Behind the 1999 'HAL' Super Bowl Commercial
[doublepost=1486352551][/doublepost]Bringing light to the Y2k bug early provided time to avoid it before the end of the century.
 
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macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
11,159
15,116
Central U.S.
I still can't believe the Pats just won again after being down 25 in the greatest comeback ever. Serious question: Do Pats fans even care anymore at this point? Most of the fans are bandwagon fans after the 2001 season. All they know is winning. Is this even a big deal any more?
 
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ThomasJL

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Oct 16, 2008
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This great ad is yet more proof that Tim Cook is incompetent: Cook ditched the ad agency that Apple was using for a long time and decided to have ads made in-house at Apple. The result has been cluttered and unmemorable ads.
 
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ThunderSkunk

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Dec 31, 2007
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I actually wished the y2k bug would hit with maximum impact. I had my reasons then, and figured they'd fade, but in hindsight, a massive economic disruption that took years to recover from might have been useful right at that moment.
 
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Zirel

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Jul 24, 2015
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Seriously, the crappiest Apple ad on par with the Lemmings one.

That was untrue and it was plain and simple FUD.
 
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doelcm82

macrumors 68040
Feb 11, 2012
3,567
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Florida, USA
Just like music, the 80's and 90's operated on a different brainwave. Today's creatives just can't find that simple magic.
My favorite ad for MTV in the 1980s was the one that proclaimed it was "easy listening for the 90s". And it was!

Every generation has its music, and every generation feels the next generation's music just can't live up to it. Get off my lawn, Lady Gaga! Why can't you be an original, like Madonna?
 
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Sasparilla

macrumors 68000
Jul 6, 2012
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Loved that old add, remember it from the Superbowl at the time (it was so quiet it drew everyone's attention). Apple, courtesy of Job's, really did fun stuff back then. They were truly Mac focused at that point, totally different than now.
 
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franzdib

macrumors newbie
Jun 5, 2015
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If you take the letters H-A-L, add 5 to the H, leave the A alone, and subtract 9 from the L, you get M-A-C. What an amazing surprise!

Long ago, someone pointed out to Arthur C. Clarke that H.A.L was one letter ahead of I.B.M. This crowd probably knows that though.
 
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