Apple VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Philip Schiller
Apple VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Philip Schiller Reuters

Apple's new voice recognition software has an unusual pedigree, at least from the consumer electronics maker's standpoint. Apple builds its own software and hardware, and many companies have tried to use voice integration technology for years, but Siri, the digital assistant found on the new iPhone 4S actually has a U.S. military background.

Much like the internet, Siri first started off as project by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Siri was part of a program called the Personal Assistant that Learns (PAL). It was an artificial intelligence program that could speed up finding information and using it. Just tell PAL what you want and it would then see what you do with that info and try to make it easier to do the same thing next time, Spencer Ackerman wrote in a Wired blog post.

The company that created the software then started a new company for the private sector when it became apparent PAL didn't do what the military wanted it to. Apple then bought that company for an undisclosed amount and has since turned it into the signature piece of software for the new iPhone 4S.

Additionally, Apple itself had an idea for something like Siri way back in the 1980's, the Telegraph (UK) reported. They even made a promotional video about what was called Knowledge Navigator, and it's even displayed on something resembling a retro-futuristic iPad. Below is the Apple video and below that is a DARPA video about PAL. Let us know in the comments if you think PAL is way to close to the idea of the HAL computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.