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Human Hard Drive

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"You were expecting a book. An ancient tome filled with the secrets that you seek. But instead, you have found me."
Dyus, Shivering Isles

When the Great Big Library of Everything 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. See also Photographic Memory.

Very often overlaps with Living MacGuffin, 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, simultaneously.


  • 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.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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 named 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Rewind is a Transformer who literally turns into a hard drive (well, "data stick"), and is constantly recording more information to himself through his camera. The huge amount of data he's carrying only rarely becomes relevant. The most notable instance is when Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory gets inverted, and he becomes aware something is altering the timeline because his internal database contains information on events that he has no memory of witnessing.
  • X-Men:
    • In the Age of X alternate timeline, Rogue's code name is Reaper, and it's her job to save all the memories of fallen mutants.
    • Layla Miller in X-Factor (2006). She knows stuff. At first, it seems that "knowing stuff" is her mutant power, but in fact, her future self downloaded all the knowledge into the present Layla's brain.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mr. Memory from The 39 Steps (1935) 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.
  • College student Dexter Riley becomes one of these accidentally in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes when a bolt of lightning strikes the building he's in, super-charging the circuitry of the computer he was working on and transferring all of the computer's data unto him.
  • 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.
  • The lead character in Johnny Mnemonic has an 80 Gb hard drive implanted in his brain for the purposes of carrying sensitive infodata.
  • In The Time Machine (2002), 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.

  • Index Librorum Prohibitorum from A Certain Magical Index, who has memorized the complete contents of 103,000 magical grimoires, giving her a near-complete knowledge of all magic.
  • 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 receive.
  • The Archive from The Dresden Files has perfect recall of anything any human has ever written, whether on paper or digitally.
  • 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.
  • The First Men in 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.
  • 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 minuscule change in an object registers as a separate memory, requiring a specific name, to the point of near-sensory overload.
  • 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 Greenwich Trilogy: In The Unicorn Girl, the protagonists encounter a traveling 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.
  • 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.
  • Yuki Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya, a "data entity" who remembers every irrelevant detail of 595 years of summer vacation, and presumably everything else.
  • InCryptid: The Aeslin mice have a Photographic Memory and remember anything one of them has witnessed (and told the rest), incorporating it into their liturgy. The Price-Healy family, whom they revere as gods, use the mice are a perfect record of their family history, and when going on long, dangerous trips, they always carry a mouse or two with them in case they don't come back.
  • The organization of Keepers in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy have learned to store memories in copper, which they can use to store centuries of history, so that when the Lord Ruler is killed, they can share what was lost.
  • In Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, one of the Mikado's elite memorizes a book of delivery tickets by flipping through it.
  • Dantallian from The Mystic Archives of Dantalian is technically a gateway to an actual library, but the net result is still this trope.
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture: In the termite hive, whose technology is based almost completely on (mostly genetically engineered) living termites, libraries are simply assemblies of termites whose purpose in life is to remember specific texts and recite them verbatim when requested.
  • The Karma Catechist from Secret Histories is a human storehouse of magical knowledge — all the magical knowledge.
  • In The Ship Who...'s original stories from the 1960s, which barely feature computers at all, shellpeople are trained to intensive recall. The 90s books give them brain-computer interfaces, so they can access and archive great stores of memory with great ease. Computer memories can be wiped or destroyed, but they still remember the fuzzier information stored in their human brains.
  • 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, his memory is so accurate that he can still copy it all down.
  • Thursday Next: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: Wolfram and Hart have a worker in "Files and Records" who appears to have memorized the entirety of their resources. How does she know about the demon hunter who appeared and is fulfilling the ancient prophecy? "I'm Files and Records. It's my job."
  • The Babylon 5 episode "Deathwalker" features a "Vicker", as in "VCR". 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 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 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: The episode "The Three-Handed Game" features 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 figures out a way.
  • 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.
  • 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 reason he is a hologram instead of just keeping the knowledge on a databank is in the name — the EMH is intended to act as a doctor in emergency situations where a real Starfleet medical officer is not available). 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.
  • The early 1980s TV series Zorro And Son features Corporal Cassette, who can recite back any conversation that took place in his presence — a Namesake Gag on cassette tapes. (Played by John Moschitta, the fast-talk guy.)

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Savants/Sages serve as these to inquisitors. They're cybernetically enhanced to allow them to better store data and live long enough to gather it.
    • Some servitors (crude, single-purpose cyborgs) are made for this. Some people also have databanks attached to their brains for this purpose.

    Video Games 
  • Hieda no Akyuu from Touhou Project holds memories of the human village from before she was born.

    Real Life 
  • 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."
  • Many Jewish religious texts were written down reluctantly when oral transmission could no longer be assured, and to this day the Orthodox Jewish community considers it praiseworthy to memorize this literature.