"You were expecting a book. An ancient tome filled with the secrets that you seek. But instead, you have found me."
When The Library of Babel
is just too large and a Great Big Book of Everything
is too impersonal, these characters are trained or modified (by science or magic)
to retain (nigh-)superhuman quantities of knowledge, and then wait around until their memories are called on.
Whether the Human Hard Drive is capable of doing anything with the knowledge (except recite it when queried) will vary. Whether they're left capable of
doing anything else
will also vary. A Human Hard Drive isn't necessarily human, but they are considered a person
, so some androids and AI programs still count.
Very often overlaps with MacGuffin Girl
, since a character like this will often become a point of conflict due to the knowledge they have. If they are instead (or also) part of the Five-Man Band
, they will be The Smart Guy
. If the Human Hard Drive bears the burden of exposition, this trope may overlap with both Mr. Exposition
and Expositron 9000
- Encyclopaedic Knowledge, where the knower isn't necessarily intended to store information (nor have they surpassed human capacity), but they know something about everything.
- Gibbering Genius, if the modification has left them a little worse for wear, or at least prone to trip over their own words.
- Neuro-Vault, where the knower doesn't know that they know. Err, that is, the character is unaware of the information stored in them.
- Wetware CPU, one possible method of modifying a human to be (part of) a Human Hard Drive.
Anime and Manga
- Index from To Aru Majutsu no Index.
- Disk from NEEDLESS.
- Dantallian from Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian is technically a gateway to an actual library, but the net result is still this trope.
- Yuki Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya, a "data entity" who remembers every irrelevant detail of 595 years of summer vacation, and presumably everything else.
- In Seirei no Moribito, one of the Mikado's elite memorizes a book of delivery tickets by flipping through it.
- All the Persocoms in Chobits, although it's implied that the Chobits series of androids can do much more.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, after the central library burns down, we learn that a former librarian names Sheska has memorized the entire contents of all of the books in the library. She is then paid by the Elric brothers to recreate books from the library.
- Layla Miller in X-Factor. She knows stuff. At first it seems that "knowing stuff" is her mutant power, but in fact Future!Layla downloaded all the knowledge into Past!Layla's brain.
- X-Men: in the "Age of X" alternate timeline, Rogue's code name was Reaper and it was her job to save all the memories of fallen mutants.
- In Doom Patrol, a doomsday cult is looking for something called the Book of the Fifth Window. It turns out to be a young man with writing all over his skin.
- The titular Johnny Mnemonic is a cyborg (or perhaps a very slightly altered human) created for this purpose.
- Mr Memory, in the Alfred Hitchcock film The 39 Steps, is a man with perfect memory who travels around the world answering trivia questions from the audience. He is also the "39 Steps" organization's human database and file cabinet. He knows every last detail reported to him and is able to recite it instantly at will. He's used to smuggle stolen governmental and military information between international borders, as no amount of searching by security can find the stolen documents.
- In Flight of the Navigator, the boy was abducted by an alien spacecraft and had a bunch of star charts stuffed into the other 90% of Your Brain . When he was returned, he was taken in by government scientists first to figure out why he hadn't aged in several years, and they discovered all the maps/charts stored inside his brain.
- In the 2002 film of The Time Machine, a holographic AI librarian/computer called Vox works at the New York Public Library. Vox looks like a human and can answer any question you ask it.
- In Fahrenheit 451, all of the rebels become these, each committing one entire book to memory so they can recite it if all copies of it are destroyed.
- Archive from the Dresden Files.
- Captain Phantastic in One of Our Thursdays Is Missing. Granted, he's an elephant and not a human being, but he's a Civilized Animal working as the filing system for Jurisfiction and JAID in the BookWorld.
- Appears (in Unbuilt Trope form) in the Jorge Luis Borges story "Funes The Memorious". The title character's absolute, perfect memory -- the result of a head injury -- is useless, since every sensation or miniscule change in an object registers as a separate memory, requiring a specific name, to the point of near-sensory overload.
- Savants/Sages serve as these to inquisitors in the Warhammer40K universe. They're cybernetically enhanced to allow them to better store data and live long enough to gather it.
- In the Ciaphas Cain novels, Amberley's savant, Caractacus Mott, is portrayed as a Gibbering Genius and has a habit of giving more exposition than Amberley would like Cain to recieve.
- Some servitors (crude, single-purpose cyborgs) are made for this. Some people also have databanks attached to their brains for this purpose.
- Simon Illyan in Vorkosigan Saga has an implanted organic chip that records everything he sees and hears, and which he can recall later. Most people who got the implant went crazy. Subverted in that only he has access to the memories, and that most of the memories stored are near useless.
- In the Cordwainer Smith story "Golden the Ship Was - Oh, Oh, Oh!", one member of a four-man crew recorded the actions of the ship's Captain.
- The plot of the novel Hammerjack begins when a courier of this type dies and the message he was carrying preserves itself by turning the next closest human -- who happens to be the main character -- into its new carrier.
- There's the Karma Catechist from the Eddie Drood books by Simon R. Green. He's a human storehouse of magical knowledge -- ALL the magical knowledge.
- In Small Gods, Brutha has a Photographic Memory, so when a library is burning down, people make him read the books so they can still have the information. Unfortunately, he's also illiterate. But it works out okay.
- Brian Henrickson of Time Scout has a Photographic Memory and works as a librarian. He might not have read every book important to the work of scouting and guiding, but you'll never prove it.
- The Mnemonic Service in Isaac Asimov's Sucker Bait.
- H.G. Wells' "The First Men on the Moon" has some moon-aliens with ridiculously large heads, whose sole purpose is to remember things. They are brought in so they can learn English vocabulary from the humans.
- In Michael Kurland's novel The Unicorn Girl, the protagonists encounter a travelling band of hippies, which include a young woman who read an entire encyclopedia while under the influence of powerful drugs. She is able to answer an astounding array of technical or historical questions, but nothing about herself or her own feelings.
- Babylon 5 featured a "Vicker", as in "VCR", in one episode. This is someone whose brain has been re-purposed as a recording device, which can preserve information without contaminating it with personal opinions. If scanned by a telepath, they have no detectable thoughts of their own.
- The early 80s TV series Zorro And Son featured Corporal Cassette, who could recite back any conversation that took place in his presence -- a Namesake Gag on cassette tapes. (Played by John Moschitta, the fast-talk guy.)
- The title character of Chuck (a.k.a. "The Intersect"). He gets CIA and NSA information embedded in his head, necessitating one agent from each to protect him. Of course, he can use the combined intelligence to figure out scenarios that each agency wouldn't on its own.
- In an episode of Stargate SG-1, SG-1 encounters a world where specialist children called "Urrone" learn a subject for ten years, and then "graduate", sharing their knowledge with the rest of their people. That's pretty much their whole purpose in society because they have nanites in their brains that are removed and distributed upon "graduation", leaving the children in an infant-like state for the rest of their lives. (At the end, we discover that the Urrone can, in fact, learn the old-fashioned way, maybe even have a normal life but for those ten years lost.)
- Played with in another episode. The library computer in Atlantis has a holographic person as an interface. When SG-1 visits looking for information, they find that the "hologram" is actually an Ancient (or perhaps was replaced by one just on that occasion) who was trying to get the information to them.
- In Eureka, an Instant A.I., Just Add Water creates a human body nearly from scratch and backups all information into the person's cells.
- The New Avengers episode "The Three-Handed Game" featured three agents with perfect memory. Each of them was shown one-third of a secret message and was sent to deliver it via a different route, so that in theory nobody could intercept the entire message. (Come to think of it, kinda like the way data packets work on the internet.) Of course the bad guy figured out a way.
- Angel The Series: "I'm Files and Records".
- As an Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH), the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager was made specifically to contain all the knowledge of Starfleet medical officers. The EMH also appears in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: First Contact, but on Voyager he becomes a necessary part of the crew and comes to be treated as a person. An interesting reversal of the usual process: "hard drive" first, "human" later.
- Oral historians may serve this purpose for unwritten cultural legacies, with lifelong practice replacing magical or technological modification.
- In ancient Greece, musicians and storytellers, and sometimes the educated elite, were supposed to be able to recite the most famous epics (usually the Iliad or the Odyssey) by heart. As reported by his disciple Plato, Socrates was against writing itself: "It destroys memory and weakens the mind, relieving it of work that makes it strong. It is an inhuman thing."