Stock and Trade: Cyberdyne Systems

Posted by CB Droege

In Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring Cyberdyne Systems.

Often when the protagonist of a speculative narrative must struggle against an unfeeling world, that world is represented by a faceless conglomerate, a near-governmental corporation which seems to control facets of society wherever the character looks.

In Stock and Trade, our latest genre fiction feature series, we’re looking at fictional corporations. Today, we’re featuring Cyberdyne Systems.

Cyberdyne Systems is the corporation which is responsible for the developments which led to  the robot uprising in the Terminator story-world. The canon is a bit tough to nail down because tampering with the time-line means that each iteration of the story presents a different version of events, but this is how it seems to stand now:

Cyberdyne was founded during the 80’s tech boom as an electronics manufacturer. Having very few products of their own, they mostly crafted components for other electronics companies.

In the early 90’s, however, they expanded into a few other related industries, including robotics, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence development. The idea seemed to be that these three areas could combine effort to create advanced weapon systems for the military. 

The Artificial Intelligence division got a major boost in research when the Lead researcher reverse engineered a mysterious chip that the company had found inside of a destroyed robot years earlier. Cyberdyne was contracted by the United States Military to design and produce an advanced AI system, based on that research. This new AI, which they called SkyNet, would serve as an automated defense network which would control the nation’s missiles and air force to respond to threats much more quickly than any human could.

However, in ’95, the project was sabotaged, and the Cyberdyne HQ was destroyed, permanently derailing the artificial intelligence division, the copyrights and projects of which were then purchased by the United States Government, and put under the direction of the Air Force.

The plan to create robotic soldiers, however, was merely delayed. The remaining two divisions of the corporation work together to finish the project, locating a new source for robotic intelligence: human corpses.

The company finds a way to use the brains and bodies of the recently dead to create their robotic soldiers. They are successful with at least one attempt at this before the company, and almost everything else in the country, is destroyed in the nuclear war with Russia on 21 April 2011. The next entry in the franchise, however, will likely change that date.

Cyberdyne is more faceless than most fictional corporations. A real history and personality is never revealed for the company as a whole. This is necessary due to the nature of the Terminator plot, and it gives the writers the freedom to do a lot more with the particular plot elements. As research firms in speculative stories often do, however, it serves as a cautionary tale against playing god. More than that though, it’s a representation of the immutability of fate, which is a theme throughout all of the Terminator tales.

Come back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at Sirius Cybernetics. If you have an idea for a corporation we could feature in this series, let us know in the comments.