is the name of a fictional supercomputer
appearing in several science fiction stories by American writer Isaac Asimov
. According to his autobiography In Memory Yet Green
, Asimov coined the name in imitation of UNIVAC
, an early mainframe computer
. Asimov had assumed the name "Univac" denoted a computer with a single vacuum tube
(it actually is an acronym for "Universal Automatic Computer"), and on the basis that a computer with many such tubes would be more powerful, called his fictional computer "Multivac". His later short story "The Last Question
", however, expands the AC
suffix to be "analog computer".
Like most of the technologies Asimov describes in his fiction, Multivac's exact specifications vary among appearances. In all cases, it is a government-run computer that answers questions, and is usually buried deep underground for security purposes. However, Asimov never settles on a particular size for the computer (except for mentioning it is very large) or the supporting facilities around it. In the short story "Franchise
" it is described as half a mile long (c. 800 meters) and three stories high, at least as far as the general public knows, while "All the Troubles of the World
" states it fills all of Washington D.C.. There are frequent mentions of corridors and people inside Multivac. Unlike the artificial intelligences
portrayed in his Robot series
, Multivac's interface is mechanized and impersonal, consisting of complex command consoles few humans can operate (with the exception of "Key Item"). Read more...