14 Things You’ll Never See Computers Do… Except In The Movies

by Tori Johnson on December 20, 2010

TRON:LegacyAfter years of hushed-up production, months of speculation and joygasm-inducing sneak-peeks, TRON Legacy – the sequel to the 1982 Disney nerdsterpiece – is here. Unfortunately, so are the reviews. And while most agree the sequel is as visually-ground-breaking as the original, the plot is ludicrous, even by its own ground rules.

In honor of such blatant casting-aside of things like accuracy, science fact, and plain-old common-sense, we thought it would be worth a giggle to take a look at some of the movies that came out between the two TRONs that took more than a liberty or two with their portrayal of computers:

Movie: War Games (1983)
Implausible scenario: Computers doing WAY more than they were capable of at the time…with world-threatening consequences.
The money shot: Matthew Broderick hacks in to the U.S. nuclear arsenal with what appears to be a Commodore P.E.T.

Movie: Weird Science (1985), Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)
Implausible scenario: Creating life practically from a Texas Instruments ‘Speak & Spell’
The money shot[s]: Lots of modern movies do this but by far the worst are Weird Science (1985) http://www.informationtechnologyschools.org/blog/2010/10-unrealistic-uses-of-the-internet-in-movies/ and Superman IV (1987), which wins by a long shot if you include this early version of Nuclear Man http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tud-fHSFbz0 (if you haven’t seen this deleted scene, you owe it to yourself to watch…It is honestly second only to the Star Wars Christmas Special)

Movie: Lawnmower Man (1992)
Implausible scenario: Gaining strength, smarts, etc… by entering a virtual world
The money shot: More than just gaining strength or other ability in that world, such as in TRON or The Matrix, such was the ludicrous attempt that was Lawnmower Man – An adaptation that author Stephen King successfully sued to have his name taken off of.

Movie: Jurassic Park (1992)
Implausible scenario: Kids understanding computers most grown-up IT nerds totally don’t get.
The money shot: A 12-year-old who is smart but NOT a child prodigy or crisis negotiator saves the day in seconds on a foreign computer with certain death as just one of several distractions.

Movie: Jurassic Park (1992)
Implausible scenario: Systems that are actually quite boring and of limited use to the public looking like a frickin Nintendo game
The money shot: It bears repeating…”It’s a Unix system. I know this” where a pre-teen character quickly takes over a password-protected system (which all-of-a-sudden doesn’t have a password protecting it) flying through a file system that looks more like a game for your Wii rather than UNIX.

Movie: Mission Impossible (1996)…and pretty much every movie that follows Metropolis (or at least Superman III)
Implausible scenario: Internet interfaces looking totally different than their real-world counterparts
The money shot: Every time someone types a letter, the keyboard beeps dramatically.

Movie: Mission Impossible (1996)
Implausible scenario: Email addresses inputted without an ending (i.e. no .com .org, etc.) and other absurd uses of the web: http://www.gideontech.com/content/articles/326/3
Proper use: Interestingly enough, in 2010 The Social Network more or less finally gets computers right in a movie…albeit because it’s a movie about the computer business that’s had the benefit of being based on a non-fiction bestseller about the computer business.

Movie: Independence Day (1996)
Implausible scenario: Hacking into any computer and uploading a virus that works…even on a computer from an alien planet.
The money shot: The clip above shows brief glimpses of the Circa-1995-laptop used to plant the virus in what seems to be a vastly superior computer system and the resulting nuclear firebomb in space. The link below is the full trailer:

Movie: The Net (1995), Enemy of the State (1998)
Implausible scenario: Trumped-up charges to discredit an Internet guru
The money shot: Unless you’re fighting extradition to Sweden right now, this probably still isn’t plausible. Also, as is typical of big-screen stories of the Internet, none of the screens or software remotely resembles anything that real people use. It was funny in its day and is “adorably out of date now” one analyst notes.

Movie: Enemy of the State (1998)
Implausible scenario: Ability of every security camera on Earth to Matrix-cam around you at will, even with recorded video.
The money shot: Apparently every lingerie shop Will Smith enters has state-of-the-art government-monitored security-cams http://www.gideontech.com/content/articles/326/1

Movie: Swordfish (2001)
Implausible scenario:Computer hardware set-ups looking a thousand time sexier than they actually are.
The money shot: If this movie has an ounce of accuracy, we would rather spend an hour with Hugh Jackman’s computer room than Hugh Jackman.

Movie: Armageddon (2001)
Implausible scenario: NASA hardware and software doing WAY more than it really does (or will do anytime soon.)
The money shot: Two space shuttles launching at the same time…?? Like they could do that…You’d need, like, two launch pads or something. If they only had two, the whole scenario with the asteroids and nuclear warheads would totally happen…

Movie: The Italian Job (2003)
Implausible scenario: Wire frame schematics of every building on Earth available instantly, to everyone. Lots more unnecessary beeps too.
The money shot: Any number of movies (and any episode of any CSI series) seem to feature this as well.

Movie: Firewall (2006)
Implausible scenario: Unrealistic use of Apple products to save the day.
The money shot: An iPod tapping in to and manipulating complex computers…At least we’re giving equal time to trash non-PCs as well…

Interestingly-enough, most of these movies came out in the mid-to-late 90s, when you could pretty much depict anything you wanted about computers and have people buy it…Computers (and the Information Superhighway) back then were just far along and consumers just befuzzled enough for it all to be gobbled-up: Scenarios that would have been swallowed by all but the most tech-headed in 1992 wouldn’t pass muster with most soccer moms nowadays.

And yet, movies are still taking ridiculous liberties with computer technology.

Seeing as we probably missed about a thousand movies you’d like to cite now, proceed…Tell us what other movies you think should be on this list of ridiculous showcasings of improbable computer situations. (We promise we won’t send the government to nuke your secret stash of alien robots firewalled behind your primary mainframe…glaven…)

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

what December 23, 2010 at 9:04 pm

There are actually two shuttle systems. One for TV the other for Military.

Lee February 14, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Eagle Eye. Controlling everything(?) Traffic lights; commuter trains; aircraft; with the capability to see everything and everywhere??

An to make everything more sinister, give it a female voice…Egads, she sounds like my ex-wife!!!!!!!!!!

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