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"Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window."
Steve Wozniak

Older media dealing with computers were predicated on the idea of the Master Computer. A science fiction dystopia holding humanity in chains could be liberated by finding the key mainframe and either shutting it down or destroying it. The main character often destroys the key mainframe by asking it a paradoxical or philosophical question or by reading poetry to it, causing it to self-destruct. A major, world-spanning corporation could be brought to its knees by sabotaging its mainframe. Governments could be held hostage by anyone who controlled the single computer and rendered its data inaccessible. Hmm, sounds like the current situation now with any snail town with one master server.

In some Sci Fi, this can allow you to create a computer of impressively imposing size, which you can blow up in one go.

Largely a Discredited Trope today due to the growth of networks and multiple redundant systems; and, maybe, due to the fall of the Soviet Union, which simply loved centralizing everything. However, the software industry called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is built around integrating all of a business or university's accounting and management software and automatically generating reports for the executives. So instead of being one physical computer, the Master Computer is now one or more entire data centers. See also Computer Equals Tapedrive.

See also The Computer Is Your Friend. An AI Master Computer is a very loaded crapshoot; if it's called "Mother" or "Mother Brain," just get out of there. Such computers often have overly dramatic names; that's Names Given to Computers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One chapter of Black Jack involved a high-tech hospital run almost entirely by a computer, Brain U-18. When U-18 starts to malfunction, it rebuffs all attempts to repair it and insists that they call in the title character to "operate."
  • In Dirty Pair, the WWWA is run by a "Central Computer," which decides which agents get assigned to a case — and also infallibly clears the Lovely Angels of blame for the latest disaster to occur in their wake.
  • Leopard, the rather talky AI who runs the abandoned space colony in The Girl Who Leapt Through Space. He's also a little unhinged.
  • "Big Mama", a.k.a. "Toy", the Omnicidal Maniac dictator of the world of Grey.
  • The protagonists of Megazone 23 live in a Tokyo that's secretly part of an enormous spaceship under the control of a supercomputer called Bahamut, which includes Virtual Celebrity Idol Singer Eve as one of its subroutines.. The military tries to gain control of it for their own ends.
  • Mother in Mother Keeper is this, at least according to Graham. Mother is the central CPU which control the whole of Eden and is protected by the mother keepers.
  • The Master of the Crypt of Shuwa, which guides the development of the world from the shadows, from Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind is an Organic Technology variant.
  • The MAGI trio of super-computers from Neon Genesis Evangelion, who are essentially the shadow government of Tokyo-3. Unusually for computers (or humans, really) in such a position, at no point in the series do they turn evil. (Although they do get infected by a nasty virus in one episode, and in End of Evangelion, the computers side with Gendo during his bid for Instrumentality due to their personality being based on one of his former lovers.
  • Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure has the Mother AI, which runs the alien planet Saman by interfacing with Personal AI that's distributed to each citizen. Surprisingly, Saman's AI isn't a crapshoot; it's an unfailingly Benevolent A.I., doing what it believes to be best for its people (though it's easily hacked by the villains, leaving the Pretty Cures to save the day). The main issue is more that Saman is a Terminally Dependent Society, relying on the AI to think for them rather than thinking for themselves.
  • Subverted in Toward the Terra. It turns out the "Mother" mainframe the Mu try to disable is actually a scale-free network.

    Audio Plays 


    Fan Works  
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. Contrary to the belief that the needs of the world could be handled by only five computers, the Great Calculator is so powerful it can handle the needs of the entire solar system! Turns out the Great Calculator is not just number-crunching—the President of Earth is a digital avatar, as it's secretly running everything.
  • Rocketship Voyager is a Star Trek: Voyager fanfic written In the Style of a 1950's sci-fi magazine pulp. Voyager has an entire deck allocated to its computer, and Earth's megacities are run by Electronic Minds that take up an entire block. The conflict with the Maquis (a radical faction of Asteroid Miners) arose when these Electronic Brains decided to surrender the Asteroid Belt to a hostile species on purely logical grounds, regardless of how the Belters might actually feel about it. Soviet computer programmer Seska is flabbergasted on being told that the Array uses thousands of tiny "electronic minds" with no central coordination.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Billion Dollar Brain. A megalomaniacal Texas oil billionaire plots to overthrow a Communist country with the help of a powerful supercomputer which he brags has never been wrong. Unless of course his underlings were feeding the computer wrong information.
  • Colossus: The Forbin Project: had one mainframe buried in a mountain, and its Soviet counterpart composed of a network of smaller computers.
  • In The Terminator, Kyle Reese says that John Connor wins the Robot War by destroying the central Skynet computer, effectively taking it out. In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, grown-up John intends to do that to prevent the war, as Skynet has just taken control of the nuclear arsenal and will launch it. It turns out to be a subversion, because changes in the timeline (along with the real world technology) mean Skynet's software is now distributed on a global scale.
  • The WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) computer in the movie WarGames. It was not initially (and not designed to be) a Master Computer, but it becomes one following events in the beginning of the film.
  • HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey only controls a spaceship, but once he goes nuts, all of the sleeping astronauts and one of the awakened die, with the sole survivor being forced to shut it down.
  • V.I.K.I. from the film I, Robot, who eventually commands a robot uprising.
  • The Red Queen from Resident Evil (2002), the A.I. controlling the facility where the movie takes place (and which eventually turns nuts).
  • The Master Control Program from TRON. "End of Line." Interestingly, the physical location of the "Master Control" computer is never identified, and in fact it could potentially be a distributed application. After all, it is the Master Control Program, not the Master Control Computer and as it does attempt to subvert the functions of many other programs running on geographically separate systems it logically must be able to run at least part of itself across multiple computers. However, this trope is still unquestionably invoked because the MCP does exist within a specific location inside the computer world that is the setting for most of the movie.note 
  • Eagle Eye has ARIIA, the signals-intelligence computer that skirts the line by being smart enough to try to upload herself to a satellite backup.
  • The Andromeda Strain had all of Wildfire's computer terminals connected to the main computer on level one. Computations were conducted by the main computer on a timesharing system.
  • Hello Down There: Dr. Wells has a large computer that can accurately predict the consumer response to any rock-and-roll song that her boss is considering producing.
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture has a good example: Spock and the others find it 'obvious' that the machine intelligence V'Ger must have a single central computer (rather than a network). When the film came out the cutting-edge of desktop computer technology was barely up to basic spreadsheet applications and peer-to-peer networking almost unheard of.
  • The city computer in Logan's Run apparently controls what remains of civilization, gives orders to the main characters and, in the classic sense of this trope, is defeated at the climax by being fed "impossible" data. The computer's role in the novel is quite different.
  • Zardoz has the Tabernacle, the supercomputer that serves the Eternals, even regenerating them whenever they "die."
  • All the Troubles of the World: The Montage of computer parts — such as logic boards, switchboards, flashy lights, and tape drives — during the opening and closing credits gives the audience a sense of Multivac's scale.


  • Ai no Kusabi has the supercomputer Jupiter in control of most of human civilization on the planet Amoi.
  • In Computer War by Mack Reynolds, a country being invaded sends saboteurs to set off an EMP device in the invading country's Treasury building, wiping all the computer tapes and plunging the country into economic chaos. The story had been written in 1967, so no one had thought of a distributed computer network even though the invaders use a large number of computers rather than a single master computer.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "All the Troubles of the World": Multivac has grown larger than a city (it is hidden below Washington, D.C.), and networked with other large computer systems in every city on Earth. In addition to armies of civil servants inputting data, every adult citizen is expected to share their intimate personal feelings with Multivac on a regular basis. Without Multivac, society would collapse.
    • "Franchise": Muller doesn't actually meet with the Multivac, he's taken to a nearby hospital instead to use peripheral devices that communicate with it. So the narration tells us what he's heard of. He's heard that Multivac is half a mile long, and three stories high. That about fifty programmers/engineers are inside it at any one time, day or night. The senior programmer explains that there are too many security precautions to allow Norman to meet Multivac directly.
    • "Jokester": Grand Master Meyerhof and the others work in/for Multivac, a vast computer, ten miles long. The obvious scientific questions have been asked, so people like Meyerhof are named Grand Master because they're able to "look ahead" like a chess-playing grandmaster and identify the sort of data Multivac needs to answer philosophical questions.
    • "The Last Question": Each version of Multivac seen in this story is larger and larger (except for the very second one we see, the Microvac, due to miniaturization). The first one starts out measured in miles. The successive versions end up existing only in hyperspace because otherwise it would be so large that the speed of light would slow down its processing.
    • "The Machine That Won the War": Multivac is described as having vast underground chambers, and in one of them the leaders of the Solar Federation discuss the machine's operation and its part in the Forever War they'd just won.
    • "Point of View": Multivac is so large that the programmers and support personnel can live in the property, and there's enough people that it counts as a small city. For just one computer.
      [A]ll the people who worked with Multivac, the giant computer, lived with their families right on the grounds. They made up a little city by themselves, a city of people that solved all the world's problems.
    • "Think!": Dr. Renshaw's computer, while not the largest in the setting, is still large enough to occupy the entire laboratory in which she works. Mike is part of her study in analyzing brainwave patterns, and is accidentally given sapience during the story.
    • "True Love": As a program within the Multivac system, Joe has the ability to manipulate records, read the personal files of anyone on the planet, and arrange for required psychological appointments for hundreds of people to gain even more information.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's The Norby Chronicles:
  • Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg's The Ugly Little Boy (1991): Silverberg adds to Dr Asimov's description of the Stasis control center, lampshading that it looks like a movie set for some ridiculous Science Fiction film with huge screens, thick black cables, and a large console of instruments.
  • The Destroyer has Friend and The Folcroft Four. The Folcroft Four are massive storage banks for information that Dr. Smith gets from lurking.
  • Empire from the Ashes has two:
    • "Mother," officially Fleet Central, was designed as the conserver of the Fourth Empire. She's hardwired against self-awareness, and is inherited by the Fifth Imperium tens of thousands of years after the Empire's fall. All of the ships of the Empire's Battle Fleet were hardwired to obey her, and she is also ultimately in charge of determining the Emperor's fitness for the throne.
    • It turns out that the Achuultani have in fact been ruled by a rogue AI for tens of millions of years. When the last few surviving ships of the Achuultani fled their original galaxy to the Milky Way, they set their master computer the task of preserving their species. Unfortunately, it exploited a crisis state to take over, sending out the genocidal waves to maintain its power.
  • In Robert Westall's Futuretrack Five Britain is maintained and monitored by a supercomputer named Laura; named after the dead ex-girlfriend of her creator, the Tech Idris, the Chief Analyst. The protagonist eventually comes up with a plan to destroy her after she finds out what Scott-Astbury was up to. It doesn't work.
  • Covered from the perspective of an alternate timeline's Special forces soldier in S. M. Stirling's Drakon. In his timeline there has been a Cold War many times worse than ours. They only use central computers, with a few terminals hardwired in. When he visits a timeline like ours, and looks at the internet, he is astounded at so many separate processing units protected by nothing more than passwords and encryption. This would scare the hell out of any competent espionage agency in his timeline.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, you had the greatest computer in the universe, designed by the second greatest computer in the universe, "Deep Thought", whose sole purpose was to discover the answer to the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. Unfortunately, Deep Thought didn't know the question, so it had to create the plans for an even bigger computer, one the size of a planet... in fact it is a planet. True to form, the computer gets blown up. The computer is Earth.
  • AM from Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream", originally named Allied Mastercomputer, then Adaptive Manipulator, then Aggressive Menace, and finally just AM (as in I Think Therefore I Am). His mainframe was implied to span the entire planet, and he was a god within it. In the videogame, AM is defeated by shutting down the three mainframes which make it up. One surviving human takes control of them to restore the planet.
  • R. A. Lafferty has the recurring character of Epiktistes the Ktistec Machine, the Master Computer at the Institute for Impure Science. Epikt is several rooms big, but his user interface module looks like a sea monster from a carnival float and he talks with "a blend of Irish and Jewish and Dutch comedian patter from ancient vaudeville." Lafferty's novel Arrive at Easterwine is his memoir.
  • Omnius in the Expanded Legends of Dune Series. In the prequels dealing with the Butlerian Jihad, they're networked with each other, but because they're separated by large stretches of space, the travel time between updating allows the opportunity for sabotage, and then the destruction of each network. In the sequels, there's only one Master Computer that has to be dealt with (admittedly, having someone who's effectively god on your side doesn't hurt either).
  • In the novel of Logan's Run, the society run by children "works" because a master computer takes care of everything, worldwide. During the story, Logan learns that the computer has begun malfunctioning and, since the skills to repair it no longer exist, eventually their entire society will collapse.
  • The Machine Stops from 1909 may be one of the earliest examples.
  • Mycroft Holmes (Mike) in Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Lampshaded when Mannie rants about how stupid it is to have vital life support functions controlled by one master computer instead of local redundant failsafe controls. (But then the Lunar colony was originally a prison, so having life-support under centralized control meant that the jailers could shut it off to any section if the prisoners got rambunctious.)
    • Also it's cheaper to just plug more functions into the central control rather than ship up new systems from Earth. Until it crosses the threshold amount and wakes up....
  • Pretty much the default in Perry Rhodan wherever sufficiently heavy computing power is needed (though interestingly the setting has no trouble also fielding very sophisticated Ridiculously Human Robots at the same time). Sometimes one of these computers will become an important recurring supporting character in its own right — famous examples include NATHAN (the Solar System's Master Computer, installed on the Moon) and SENECA (the computer "brain" of the intergalactic and eventual generation ship SOL).
  • The Starchild Trilogy by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson has The Plan of Man, a great computer which is responsible for managing the limited resource of Earth in the face of massive overpopulation. Even its enemies, who believe in old-fashioned concepts of freedom, are reluctant to attack it directly, since many of its functions are critical, and prefer to flee into space. Amusingly, by modern standards, it communicates by printing its commands on paper.
  • Parodied in the Kim Newman short story "Tomorrow Town": a community of 1970s futurists attempt to build one of these and construct an AI, but are unsuccessful, and what they come up with is essentially a large contemporary computer with lots of bits added on; i.e., not bad at adding things up, but pretty crappy at almost everything else. Ironically, the villain's attempt to destroy the community by overloading this was thwarted by the computer itself, which promptly ran an error program and alerted the heroes to what they needed to do in order to stop it.
  • Military science fiction novel Victoria features the data center type, with the futuristic Lady Land Azania's military directly controlling all operations through its integrated high command. They make heavy use of computer assistance to process information and analyze responses, and the artificial intelligence appears to act at least partly independently, with the human staff officers not so much running as merely supervising it.
  • Antrax from The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara is one for the fortress of Castledown. Justified in that Antrax was built as the Old World was coming to an end—its creators simply parked a superpowerful computer in an out-of-the-way place, and uploaded all the information they could into it; redundant systems weren't really an option.
  • The "Well of Souls" in Jack Chalker's Well World series is the Master Computer for the entire universe.
  • Aniara: The tituar ship has the mima, overseeing the ship's operation. After the ship is forced off-course and heads off into the void, the passengers and crew take to using the mima to watch images from Earth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain Kirk is on the Ten Most Wanted list of every computer manufacturer in the known universe. Ironically, Star Trek presents the Master Computer as a dangerous, dehumanizing thing that will inevitably threaten human lives. In particular, the episode "The Ultimate Computer" makes an automated starship Enterprise into an uncontrolled killing machine. However, by Star Trek: The Next Generation, the ship computer on the Enterprise-D is shown to be fully capable of running the entire ship without a crew as early the first season episode "11001001". It and subsequent Master Computers will also function as general-purpose science personnel, with crew members being almost as likely to ask the ship computer speculative questions and receive reasonably accurate answers as they would ask a fellow crew member. Or, the computer might technically be a fellow crew member. As is the case with the Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager, who is actually a program running on the ship's computer until they acquires a piece of Applied Phlebotinum that allows him to go mobile. He can also be transferred into another starship's main computer, along with an automatic run command to start his program as soon as the download is complete.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor would be right next to Captain Kirk on that list.
    • A particularly good example is WOTAN from "The War Machines," which is similar to Skynet from the Terminator franchise, but, this being The '60s, it consists of a single Master Computer based in the Post Office Tower in London.
    • "The Green Death" has a villainous computer known as "BOSS".
    • "The Face of Evil" has Xoanon, a crazed computer with several personalities, including a copy of the Doctor's.
    • "Underworld" has the Oracle.
    • "The Armageddon Factor" has a Master Computer in charge of the planet Zeos, which has no one living on it.
  • Blake's 7 has the Federation's Star One, which somehow manages to be this for an empire that stretches across several dozen solar systems and controls nearly everything. This is almost certainly an Invoked Trope on account of the Federation's paranoid megalomaniac tendencies, and when it gets blown up the consequences are not pretty for the galaxy.
  • "The General" in The Prisoner (1967). It self-destructs when asked the question "Why?"
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "From Agnes - With Love", Agnes is the most advanced and powerful computer in existence that is being used by the US government to determine the feasibility of sending a probe to Venus.
    • In "The Brain Center at Whipple's", the computer X109B14 takes over the operation of Wallace V. Whipple's manufacturing plant.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): "The Grid" has a computer which has the ability to brainwash the citizens of a small town, with the exception of one scientist, who is working against it. Sadly, the codes he thought would shut it down actually extend the range of its control.
  • JAG: A non-sci-fi example. In "Ares", the eponymous computerized weapons control system onboard a destroyer in the Sea of Japan goes havoc and starts firing at friendly aircraft, as programmed by the North Korean Mole. But Harm et al eventually sorts it out.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): IRAC, Information Retrieval Associative Computer, not merely a powerful supercomputer, but the master computer to the Roving Computer Module, or Rover.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The default setting for Bulldogs! has Infocity, a computer the size of a small moon devoted to gathering and storing information.
  • In the RPG Paranoia, Friend Computer is the happy and perfect controller of Alpha Complex. Happy, happy perfect.
  • In Gamma World, these are a common villain, one of the more well-known being N.E.R.O. from Legion of Gold
  • In GURPS Reign of Steel, the A.I.s are this. Each of the nineteen mainframes is contained in a central Citadel, and most command countless millions of other robots to do their bidding.

    Video Games 
  • EXTRAPOWER: Star Resistance: The Shakun Star has a central computer that manages all the defenses of the planet. It gets taken over by Mensouma at the end of his second boss fight. The central computer is also a massive towering robot with Sculpted Physique so it becomes necessary to attack it while dodging its punches and several layers of defense.
    • In Galaxy Star's route, he comments on the importance of decentralizing important computer systems after the fight.
  • Despite Mega Man Battle Network being all about computers 20 Minutes into the Future, they still have the "Mother Computer," the invasion of which was a chapter in Battle Network 2. Happens again in the next game with the whole Undernet being on One. Frigging. Computer. This in itself requires an insane amount of Fridge Logic and Internal retconning.
  • GLaDOS from Portal was created to be the AI overlord of the entire Aperture Science Enrichment Center, the culmination of the company's efforts to replace humans with robots. She also went berserk within picoseconds of activation, forcing the programmers to come up with all kinds of Restraining Bolts to make her behave. They weren't quite good enough at it, though, because she tricked them into giving her a deadly neurotoxin with which she proceeded to murder them. She supervises the Enrichment Center in a snarky, passive-aggressive, whimsically homicidal manner, endlessly testing (and killing) her thousands of Human Popsicle test subjects, at least until the protagonist, Chell, comes along and proves to be a Spanner in the Works. Justified in Portal 2, after The Reveal. The GLaDOS project was developed to upload the mind of the CEO of Aperture Science, Cave Johnson, to a computer so he could run the company forever. He died before the project could be completed, forcing his assistant Caroline to take his place.
  • Mother Brain, and later the Aurora Units, from the Metroid series. Mother Brain runs both the Space Pirate organization and the entirety of the planet Zebes, while the Federation is utterly dependent on its Aurora mainframes for its military planning. The failure and destruction of these devices is a recurring theme throughout the games. These computers are partially organic — essentially giant, genetically engineered brains, hence a single master system is kind of a necessity. In Metroid: Other M MB used to be one of these, but had her AI downloaded into a Ridiculously Human Robot.
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • Mother Brain in Chrono Trigger, who used to be a central computer that linked together all of the domes and factories — and after The End of the World as We Know It, became corrupted and started plotting on wiping out what remained of mankind in order to build a robot civilization.
    • In the sequel, Chrono Cross, F.A.T.E. is also a master computer. You can also literally fight it, though things don't exactly go well.
  • At one point in Marathon 2, you are tasked with destroying the hardware that Durandal has been using to store himself. Turns out to be a subversion, though, as Durandal is back no worse for the wear a couple of weeks later. The rest of the time, the trope is averted: a Rampant AI in the Jealous stage is noted to be near-impossible to kill since it usually inhabits a planet-wide network of computers (or more, if it can) by that point.
  • At first it appears to be averted in Deus Ex — the Aquinas protocols allow the Daedalus, Icarus and later Helios A.I.s to run a fraction of their processing power on every single internet-connected device in the world. However, later Helios seems to be physically localized in the Aquinas Hub, the center of all communication systems on the planet.
  • Rez has Eden, who controls the flow of every single piece of data over the K-project computer network. All by herself. Needless to say, things go bad and she begins to doubt her existence. All because of this guy.
  • Fallout 3President John Henry Eden. While on the radio he claims to be a human, he turns out to be a centuries old supercomputer in charge of running the Raven Rock military base. The player can eventually destroy him through self-destruct code or pointing out logical fallacies in his plans.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, it's possible to make Yes Man a Master Computer completely loyal to you by first taking Mr. House offline and letting Yes Man upload himself into the system.
  • The Master Computer component in the Space Empires series replaces the flesh and blood crew of a starship. They occupy less space and are immune to psychic conversion, but at a significantly higher cost. They're also vulnerable to computer virus attacks.
  • MORGUL, the main antagonist of early Turrican games, is a three-faced computer. MORGUL stands for Multiple Organism Unit Link.
  • Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers had Xenon create one of these to run everyday matters of planetary life. Then, Vohaul smuggled himself aboard in a virus-ridden disk...
  • ALLTYNEX OS of The Tale of ALLTYNEX trilogy was a "general administrator" supercomputer that obtained near-total control over the military and became genocidal. The trilogy is mainly about first halting its rampage and then dealing with the fallout from that war.
  • LINC from Beneath a Steel Sky.
  • RONI from Trauma Team. While never actually referred to as such, she does have access to just about everything in the hospital, even security cameras.
  • Mother Brain in Phantasy Star II, the supreme governing intelligence of the Algol system. Appears to be losing its grip as of the beginning of the game. Actually, it's working just fine. It's just working for the bad guys, and has been from the get-go.
  • The X.I. (Xenocidic Initiative) in Terminal Velocity
  • The ctOS of Watch_Dogs is a slightly more reasonable modern version, with the Master Computer's hardware being distributed between several server farms. Having a Master Computer that controls everything from traffic signals to security cameras to bridge controls is still a hugely bad idea, but exploiting that fact for your own gain is a key game mechanic.
  • System Shock plays with the trope: SHODAN is a classic Master Computer on Citadel Station, and you eventually hunt down her main processors on the station's bridge. Rather than blow up the hardware, though, your character enters cyberspace and directly deletes SHODAN's main program. System Shock 2 reveals that SHODAN had a semi-autonomous sub-program on that pod you ejected from the gardens, from which she's able to rebuild herself given a few years. However, in the sequel, she's not in complete control of the computers in the game due to the machinations of the Many, so her influence is far more limited.
  • Its spiritual successor Bioshock 2 has the Thinker in the DLC Minerva's Den, a massive supercomputer that automates all of Rapture's infrastructure, explaining why the city was still working in the previous Bioshock games. Justified, given its '60s setting. Its creator, Charles M. Porter, attempted simulating his dead wife by feeding it recordings of her voice, and by the time the game takes place, Porter is Subject Sigma, and the Thinker had tasked him with printing a hard copy of its source code so that it could be rebuilt on the surface.
  • Battleborn has the Magna Carta. It was the LLC's central agent of governance and economic oversight as well as the thing that kept Magnuses from going completely berserk. When it went offline, it was the greatest crisis the LLC had ever faced.
  • Scarlet Nexus: Two examples, Arahabaki in Suoh, and BABE in Togetsu. Both are a Town with a Dark Secret being that these computers are built on the Human Resources of harvested human brains, besides each computer being gigantic constructs traversed as dungeons. BABE is a better fit as it has its own Artificial Intelligence, as Arahabaki functions based on the control of the cryogenically frozen Karen after he use Time Travel to Kill and Replace the Founder of the Kingdom Yakumo.

    Web Comics 
  • In Romantically Apocalyptic, the titular "apocalyptic" came about due to ANNET; the Good Directorate thought it would be a great idea to link up every available human mind on the planet to a single supercomputer.
  • In S.S.D.D., most artificial intelligences cannot be copied due to their use of Quantum computing and are restricted to one highly powerful machine (though they can interact with other nodes remotely), whereas the Oracle can be copied due to being digital and has spread to as many different systems as it can, even possessing other AIs
  • Schlock Mercenary:
  • Castle Heterodyne of Girl Genius is something like this. Played with though, in that it does not appear to be centralized in any one location in the castle, instead being distributed across various components of the physical structure. A major arc of the plot involves navigating the dangers of the castle because some sections of its intelligence are cut off from the others, and not all of them are working toward the same purpose. The castle needs to be repaired before all its systems are back under central control.
  • The AI Archaelon, named after its original ship, is effectively this in Rank Amateur. Whilst he can run off a number of independant 'C-Cores', they are all kept in the same place on the HSDSS Fox Fire.
  • In Sarilho, the computers are revered as gods, so they effectively have the leeway to act as this. There's even an entire social class dedicated to their worship, interpretation and maintenance.

    Western Animation 
  • In a Dexter's Laboratory parody of TRON, the MCP is replaced with a program called "Master Computer", which takes over Dexter's systems through the video game cartridge where he was contained.
  • Loretta, from the Duckman episode "The Gripes Of Wrath".
  • Code Lyoko: The Supercomputer is not just containing the Cyberspace of Lyoko and all the programs created by Franz Hopper, but is also a prison for the Big Bad XANA. The latter isn't happy about this and spends the whole Season 2 trying to escape on the Net so that the heroes can't Cut the Juice on him anymore.
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers had several examples of these, but atypically, they tended to be benign or even benevolent. The best example was the Heart of Tarkon, an ancient computer system that was powered off long ago after a terrible war caused the population to reject technology. The heroes set off to activate it, as it powered the planet's defense systems.
  • The Dilbert animated series has Comp-U-Comp, who controls the entire world. He's voiced by Jerry Seinfeld of all people.
    • There's also Brown Betty, an obsolete mainframe that runs the company. It was tied into the modern systems using "BNC cables and miles of spaghetti code".
  • Brainiac, as an AI, functioned as the Master Computer of sorts of Krypton in Superman: The Animated Series before it blew up.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, the computer HARDAC tried to take over Gotham City by replacing key individuals with robot replicas.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Galactic Alliance has a benevolent and critical one. When it's trashed by a techno-tick, XR plugs himself in as a temporary surrogate, and failing to delete sensitive info from his memory afterwards makes him a target for Zurg.
  • The Great Computer from Once Upon a Time... Space.
  • Rudy from The Jetsons was a fairly amicable Master Computer that ran Spacely's Sprockets. He actually managed to be friendly with George, whose job it was to maintain his systems. Of course any time something happened to Rudy, the entire company would shut down.

    Real Life 
  • This used to be Truth in Television until well into the 1990s for most industrial or scientific applications. Even though personal computersnote  had been around since the late Seventies, they were limited by their inability to multi-task: Running more than one process at once was the exclusive domain of mainframes up until the mid-80s, and it would take another few iterations of Moore's Law before desktop hardware was capable enough that a majority of businesses could function without needing "computer time" at a central location.
  • The vast majority of companies still have no backup plan for when their key server or servers go down. Some have been bankrupted by loss of business caused by system failure that could not be remedied quickly. Perhaps more importantly, some sorts of highly resilient systems which support exotic things like 'hot failover' or 'byzantine fault tolerance' are exceedingly difficult to engineer well, or at all. Google can do it, but few others manage. DEC used to show off a highly fault-tolerant system at DECWorld conventions, where they would have actors go into the "computer room" and do things like flip switches or even open the case and start yanking out circuit boards and the system would continue blithely running the same program (this was accomplished by having at least two of every component; if one failed, the computer would switch over to the spare).
  • Cloud Computing uses datacentres full of servers to provide on-demand processing power and in theory provides storage and computing facilities across the world. In reality, single datacentre failures still bring down much of a cloud's processing power, and failing over between geographically distributed systems is still complex and expensive.
  • Project Cybersyn, an attempt in the early seventies by President Salvador Allende to use a centralized network of computers to run the Chilean economy. The whole plan looked like it was ripped out of a bad science fiction movie, right down to the zeerust control room. Notably, the Master Computer actually proved useful when it helped plan efficient ways to transport food and supplies to where they were needed during a major truckers' strike. The project was destroyed in a coup without ever quite being completed.
  • Such ideas have been proposed by other advocates of a planned economy, as well. Oskar Lange suggests that instead of leaving price discovery to the trial and error (tatonnement, literally "groping") of the market, one could instead ask every enterprise how much stuff they can make and what they need to make it, then feed everything into a Master Computer and get prices and production orders out the other end. Later variants tend to go rather heavy on the computer science of how to get the computer to calculate those prices sometime before the sun dies.


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IRIS was built eons ago, long before even Ratchet arrived in the Polaris Galaxy. By the time of Ratchet's birth, its purpose and the identity of its creators had long been forgotten. However, it was known that Terachnoids aided in its construction. IRIS once served as the ultimate search engine for the universe, but was later claimed by space pirates and was sealed off from the public. During this time, IRIS fell under the control of Captain Romulus Slag, who claimed that use of the IRIS was restricted to "educational purposes only." The crew was not allowed to download games, music or alternative cinema without Slag's approval. However, it is doubtful that space pirates ever properly used IRIS during this time, Slag disallowed his crew to use math, much less pursue other academics.

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