Supercomputers Week: GRTA (September 20 Night Thread)

“I’m a smart computer.”

The supercomputer at the heart of 2018’s Maniac is a whole bundle of visual tropes plucked from both history and fiction. Created by Cary Fukunaga and Patrick Somerville, it’s fitting that the name of the show should harken back to one of the earliest computers ever built.

The Netflix show starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill followed their troubled characters in an alternate universe of sorts, allowing for a wide range of quirky design choices during their mind-bending pharmaceutical trial involving a doctor with mother issues and an emotionally complex computer.

HAL and Mother are acknowledged by the production designer as inspirations for the most sophisticated mega-computer ever developed – GRTA, (Georgia Regional Transportation Authority … or not. Sci-Fi computers sometimes have acronym names, and sometimes they’re just styled that way!), voiced by Sally Fields.

GRTA brings us right back around to the designs from the birth of computing, of real-life inspirations like COLOSSUS and MANIAC. But unlike those machines, this one can think, and feel, and get horribly depressed. And thanks to that wall of blinking lights, it can make faces at us.

Will I wake up?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of supercomputers and their designs. I will publish a slightly more detailed, collected version later this week to discuss this area of science-fiction.

Take care and enjoy your night, Avocado!