Do The Movies Ever Get It Right? - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
8/16/2007
02:28 PM
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Do The Movies Ever Get It Right?

In a recent article, two professors from the University of Central Florida complained that movies tend to mislead audiences about how physics really works. They think they have it bad? They should try looking at how movies have portrayed computers.

In a recent article, two professors from the University of Central Florida complained that movies tend to mislead audiences about how physics really works. They think they have it bad? They should try looking at how movies have portrayed computers.It was actually a lot worse in the early days of desktop computing, when we all used DOS and other text-based systems. At the time, most movie makers had no clue whatsoever about what computers looked like, worked like, or could and couldn't do. So the characters would sit down and have access to the kind of graphics only mainframes could come up with; would breeze through password-protected accounts without breaking into a sweat (on the other hand, maybe the villains were simply not very savvy about their security); and would sit down, type a couple of search commands, and find the necessary information in a couple of minutes without ever worrying about which OS or programming language they were dealing with -- or whether the system had a search engine in the first place.

Even when desktop systems became more common, filmmakers continued to ignore the realities of computing. Need I even mention the classic "virus uploaded from a Mac to an alien spacecraft" scenario in Independence Day?

Nowadays, when every screenplay is tapped out on a Mac or a PC, there are less obvious errors -- but there is a mythos that has been built up that most movie makers follow. For example, sometimes it feels as though everyone in movies is still using AOL or a similar kindergarten-level e-mail program that pops up a cheery, large-type box announcing, "You've got mail!" Another is the guy with the long hair, glasses, and no sense of style, who will always out-geek any onscreen computer pros who look like they might actually pull in a salary. And when I see Our Hero madly typing on a keyboard for several minutes without once having to pause to see what the heck is actually happening on the computer screen -- like whether there may be an error or two in all that new code -- I tend to snicker a bit.

But hey! It's the movies, after all. And in the end, no hunt for computer-related bloopers is as much fun as catching which tech vendor's logo has been placed in careful view so that we know which system the good guys are using to save the day.

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