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10 Terrible Portrayals of Technology in Film 745

Posted by Zonk
from the omg-ipod dept.
Luke Hachmeister writes to mention a light piece at GideonTech on some of the truly terrible portrayals of technology in film. From Hackers to AntiTrust, Hollywoood just can't stick to reality. From the article: "Harrison Ford plays a security expert at a bank. He falls prey to a scheme to steal money for a gang that has taken hostage of his family. The film tried very hard to keep it a rollercoaster ride of thrills. From the beginning, you have Harrison Ford typing furiously to stop a hacker by writing new firewall rules. At least this time, these rules didn't float around in a rainbow of colors ala Hackers. What really puts Firewall at the top of the list, is the dumbest and non-believable use of an iPod to date. This is 2006, not 1995, you can't just make stuff up like this anymore. In the middle of the film, Harrison Ford happens to not only be a security expert, but an Apple hardware developer too."
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10 Terrible Portrayals of Technology in Film

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  • Bah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by B3ryllium (571199) on Monday September 25, 2006 @01:57AM (#16181489) Homepage
    Our jobs are BORING. Admit it. If the true essence of our profession was placed on film, people would walk out of the theatre.

    Unless, that is, it was encapsulated in a vehicle like "Office Space" ... ;-)
    • Re:Bah (Score:5, Funny)

      by edunbar93 (141167) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:36AM (#16181769)
      You know the scene in Hackers where Joey logs into that one computer, and rainbows of stars and other shit come streaming across the screen?

      Somehow, I think the audience would have gotten the point if we just got a zoom-in of "Login successful. Welcome to Cyberdyne systems model 101." Especially if he started doing the victory dance.

      I don't know about you, but if the "Login successful" screen did the stars shit every time *I* logged into a computer, I would drag the developer into a dark alley and beat him with a crowbar for a couple of hours.

      Of course, that wouldn't excuse the other egregious hackery that comprised much of the dialog. You gotta love a line like "Run Antivirus!"
      • Re:Bah (Score:5, Funny)

        by B3ryllium (571199) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:40AM (#16181785) Homepage
        Yesterday, my dental hygenist attempted to create an analogy of "not brushing my teeth" as being the same as "not updating my antivirus on the machines at work".

        She didn't get my point when I said they run "Linux".

        Too bad my mouth doesn't, though. Heheh :)
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Hackers was a great movie. It wasn't a tech documentary. They tried to convey a lifestyle, the emotions of script kiddies, the feeling of being immersed into technology, and a cheesy love story. On top of that the movie is full of references to actual hacker lore. No reference goes deeper than a dropped name, but I found that entertaining. When they dive into a problem, the data surrounds them. That is a fitting visual representation of "the zone". It is not meant to be an accurate reproduction of hacking.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by walt-sjc (145127)
          The other problem of showing tech in a belivable way is resolution. I run my terminal windows on a widescreen (2560x1600) monitor, with a fairly small font (big monitor.) In order to capture anything meaningful and show it on someone's television, they would need to use a 120 point font. They also don't want the screen cluttered with icons, other applications, etc. otherwise the viewer would be distracted from what they want you to focus on (the story.)

          I think the thing that bugs tech people the most in mov
      • Re:Bah (Score:4, Funny)

        by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday September 25, 2006 @10:59AM (#16185399)
        You know the scene in Hackers where Joey logs into that one computer, and rainbows of stars and other shit come streaming across the screen?

        I know that scene, and I found it to be very realistic.

        It reminded me of my days dialing into local BBS'es run by 16-year-olds, where every successful login was accompanied by a three-page-long piece of blinking eight-color ANSI art.

        Later I would log into more mature systems, where the login message was instead a single-page long fortune, usually an excerpt from a Monty Python script.
    • Re:Bah (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RedSteve (690399) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:59AM (#16181917)

      Our jobs are BORING. Admit it. If the true essence of our profession was placed on film, people would walk out of the theatre.

      Absolutely.

      My wife is a pediatrician, and despite the fact that she deals with disease and injury every day, she cannot help but watch every medical show -- fiction or reality -- that comes on TV. One day I wondered aloud why she would want to subject herself to tv that is essentially work to her, and why no one makes TV shows about my chosen profession.

      She replied that
      a) the fictional TV shows generally get as much wrong with their medicine as movies with tech themes get technology wrong and
      b) no one wants to watch a show consisting of a bunch of web geeks sitting in front of their computers all day.

      I had to concede that she was right, but that didn't make me feel any better....

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by B3ryllium (571199)
        If they did something like "The Office", except with an office of tech geeks, it could work. The occasional crash ("SHIT! SHIT! THE RAID IS GOING DOWN! SHIT! Oh, wait, here's the hot spare. Crisis averted."), accident ("WHY DID YOU HAVE A GLASS OF WATER SO CLOSE TO THE ROUTER!?!?"), or interpersonal conflict ("Hey - did you hear that Jim got fired for blogging about Office Ninjas [theonion.com]?") ... it could work.

        (Oh, and as a sidenote, that last one ... it's not an impossible scenario. You might hear about it some time
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KDR_11k (778916)
      I found 23 [wikipedia.org] to be a decent portrayal of hacking (though people who know the person portrayed in the movie say it's a bad portrayal of the actual events). No idea how they got their trojan in place but I guess they didn't want to bore the viewer with technical details, the book The Cuckoo's Egg [wikipedia.org] does say the hacker used trojans in that manner.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by maxwell demon (590494)
        I guess they didn't want to bore the viewer with technical details, the book The Cuckoo's Egg does say the hacker used trojans in that manner.

        The hacker used trojans to bore the viewer with technical details? I guess that's a new sort of DoS attack: Instead of attacking the computer, attack the people in front of it by giving technical details ... :-)
  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Monday September 25, 2006 @01:58AM (#16181501)
    Independance Day.

    Upload Virus.......

    Enough said!
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:02AM (#16181525)
      Agreed. There's no way in hell an advanced intelligence would be Windows compatible.
    • by sterno (16320) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:13AM (#16181599) Homepage
      This is really a bad list. Basically they seemed to have made a point of picking movies that naturally involve a lot of technology. They totally ignore things like Independence Day where their little virus takes out an entire alien attack fleet because, persumably, they didn't even try.

      Wargames does not deserve to be on this list. He uses an acoustic coupled modem to dial in. He hacks using realistic approaches to it, trying to guess the password. He doesn't magically use a cracking program or have little 3D graphics fly all over his screen trying to crack it. Instead he studies the biography of Professor Falken and after much trial and error actually gets it.

      Their biggest nitpick is that computer voice. The "voice" from the computer is clearly just a text to voice synthesizer which, may be a little high end but remember TI had voice synthesizers for their computers around 1980. They didn't want the audience to have to read what the computer was saying the whole damn movie. The computer AI for Joshua is seemingly quite primitive even though it's supposed to be a big defense department computer.

      As for Firewall, I think they did a pretty good job of being realistic. The scanner IPod thing was a stretch, but when they do computer security in the movie it looks like an actual computer. We see actual firewall rules and such that look like what I'd see on my actual computer. Given that it was a hollywood movie built around a very technical subject, I was pretty impressed with the realism level.

      If you really want to get picky, how about the fact that every time a computer shows up in a movie it has an Apple logo on it :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by B3ryllium (571199)
        That's not true. V for Vendetta had Dell logos ... ;-)
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:25AM (#16182055)
        Wargames: *I* was a cracker, hacker, and Phreak at that time. The acoustic coupler was part of the art at the time. Acoustic couplers at 110/300 baud were common. Hayes modems w/direct jacks were just on the scene for a year, maybe two at that point.

        You also have to remember that about the early 80's was the time that RJ-12 jacks and the ability to wire your own home for phone service started. Yep youngin's, time was when you got charged by Ma Bell for EACH phone in your house, and those phones came from Ma Bell. Phones were hardwired to the jack. (nb: If you disconnected the ringer bell inside the phone, and left just one on there, then you only got charged for one phone... no matter how many you had).

        The voice wasn't that far off from that which I had on my Apple ][ at the time - a "SuperTalker". Did a pretty damn good job too - quite understandable, even if it was a bit 'cyberish'.

        And how he hacked in was also 'state of the art' at the time. Anyone remember a Demon Dialer program? Nothing too tremendous - I wrote tons of them in BASIC. Essentially:

        Open modem port
        Begin for loop with all local prefixes step 1
        Begin for loop from 0000 to 9999 step 1
        If police station - skip number
        dial number
        wait for response string
        If modem - open printer port, print number out
        next
        next

        You'd fire it off at night before going to bed, wake up in the morning and review the list of numbers. Then you'd call back and see what you could hack into... Sometimes the idiot thing didn't even ask for a un/pw. Sometimes it did, but in the MOTD there was enough info to get you started...

        Sometimes you'd stumble on an entire network to explore (Telenet anyone?). VAXen, VMS, CP/M, and SCADA systems connected to phone lines....

        The only problem with the sequential dialers was the phone co got lots of complaints from everyone who you woke up, and they'd go digging for records of sequential calls every min or so... Then you'd get a nastygram from Bell Security or a call from the cops...

        The next gen Demon Dialers spiced things up a bit... Create a multi-dimensional array loaded with the prefixes and numbers. Have a bit to know if you dialed it or not, and a bit to know if it was a modem or not. Randomly pick a prefix and number to dial and check... Wait a random amount of time between 1 sec and 30 sec between dialing the next number...

        But as for the rest of the movie technology usage *yawn* it's not even close... The thing that really gets me are the schmucks who pick a lock with just a pick... WHERE'S THE DAMN TENSION WRENCH?>!?!?!?!!?!?! (oh yeah, I'm also a locksmith and a tunnel rat)...
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The lockpicking sucked, but the phreaking was amazing. If you watch carefully in the scene where he calls from a phone box, you'll notice that he does a little something with the coin return while sendinding tones from a little box. That's called red-boxing - his little box create the tones for "coin inserted" - and the thing he does with the coin return is a short circuit. The short is to indicate that coin is inserted, and the tones indicate the type of coin.
        • by CharlieG (34950) on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:09AM (#16183467) Homepage
          Heh - I had a hayes direct connect - darn, remember what those things COST!! A 1200baud Hayes cost more than a computer costs now. I had a 300 baud at home, and a 1200 at the lab. Remember having to order data grade lines?

          I remember when modens came DOWN to the 200 dollar or so price mark - what a breakthrough - and remember - if you were GOOD, you could actually speedread a 300 baud text data stream - without X-on X-off

          Yeah folks - there are some OLD geeks here - I actually worked with punch cards (still have a couple of boxes of them - use them as note paper when feeling geeky) Gettting a terminal was COOL - even a 75 baud teletype. If you had a DEC Flexwriter, you were BIG time..

          Sigh

          I'll bet that I've offically been a programmer (aka getting paid for it) longer than MOST people on /. are alive (anyway by the last poll I saw)

          Gahhh - can't believe I said that - man I'm feeling like an old fart today. Ran into a YL yesterday who recognized me - and she said "hi" and offerered me her cheek - took me a few seconds to realize it was a friend's daughter who I have not seen in 2 years. I remember holding her while she was in diapers.
        • by fuzzybunny (112938) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:52AM (#16184427) Homepage Journal
          You had modems?

          Young'un. Spoiled brats with their newfangled tech. IN MY DAY, WE SPEEDREAD ACOUSTIC PHONE SIGNALS DIRECTLY INTO THE DAMN RECEIVER. KZZZCHHHHZKKKKZHHHTTTTKKKCHZZZZZZZZBLEEEEEEP. Hoarse for days, I tell you. And all that clicking on connect? That's an obscure Bantu dialect of Swahili. I tell you. When you said you learned a new language, it was a real language, not that that object-oriented fiddlesticks you have today. Internet? We'd just SHOUT PACKET CONTENTS at each other REAL LOUD.

          That is, when we weren't busy touching live wires together to program in binary. There's a reason why a lot of 1970s hackers had huge frizzy hair. I tell you. Computing got a lot more interesting after electricity was invented.

          Man, I'm an old fart too, but I so hate old-school technology downmanship :-)
      • by Haeleth (414428) on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:14AM (#16182637) Journal
        This is really a bad list. . . . They totally ignore things like Independence Day

        Yeah, that could be something to do with the bit at the top of the article where they said they were deliberately excluding all science fiction movies.
    • by drolli (522659) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:03AM (#16181949) Journal
      Yes, ideed. This was still the time when the idea of malware did not pentrate society to a deep level. I only asked myself: WTF the extraterrestrians build starships as big as cities but they do not protect theyr system at all (they did not even talk about skipping an protection).

      Maybe they send a mail like this:

      Dear Extraterresrtian friend,

      you have not heard of me up to now but i am sure i can trust you. I am the son of the late ruler of this planet and twenty others. However, rihgt now i can not access my power, since enemies of my family have grounded our operations. I now come with a offer to you which i make to you only because i heard of your good morale. If offer you a significant share of my imperium if you can help me to regain power on earth....
    • Dunno if he mentioned it as the site is Slashdotted straight to server hell, but Simone was fucking horrid. Okay, so the guy has software and a wicked computer that can render photorealistic CGI in realtime. Okay. Then it has a goddamned 5.25" floppy drive in it. The fuck it would! Then he puts in a 5.25" disk called "Plague" which wipes it. Okay, that's plausible. Then he pulls all the drives, discs, basically everything with a record of this software and destroys it. Then his daughter somehow brings it al
  • Jurassic Park (Score:5, Interesting)

    by innocent_white_lamb (151825) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:05AM (#16181535)
    "This is UNIX. I know this."
     
    The file viewer in Jurassic Park really does exist.
     
    http://fsv.sourceforge.net/
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bladesjester (774793)
      Not to mention the fact that their complaint was that a 10 year old kid couldn't know unix. I can't say that I had access to a unix system at 10 (that had to wait until I was about 15), but at 10 I was quite used to using DOS considering that it was about the only thing around.

      I really don't see how unix is such a stretch.
  • Um.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:05AM (#16181537)
    Today, we're going to list the Top 10 worst violators. Here is the criteria:

    1. Has to be a movie that you can rent on DVD.
    2. Wide release, no limited release obscure films.
    3. The movie can not be science fiction based.


    Yet the number 2 movie:

    2) Jurassic Park - 1993
  • by sentientbrendan (316150) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:08AM (#16181557)
    If you can't appreciate the pure joy that was hackers, you fail as a human being.

    Hackers is great *because* it is nonsense. It is great *because* it is a total departure from reality. It expresses not how things are, but how we *want* them to be. It's called fiction.
  • Funny as hell (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cold_Lestat (880518) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:11AM (#16181579)
    The best one is in Days of our lives (yes, i was young and yes i was staying with my grandmother and no I didn't have access to a car: nuff said) when it took 3 episodes to delete one text file.. Man that progress bar took for ever to get accross. ;)

    My favourite (not stupid) take off of computer security is in Demolition Man where W/Snipes uses the guys plucked eyeball to get access out of the building. ;) very choice. (NP: This wouldn't work in real life (well shouldn't ;) ))

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rilister (316428)
      Oh! Oh! You're gonna love this one:

      In gawd-awful NBC show "Surface" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0452718/ [imdb.com], there was a scene when the heroine had to release the hero/nut-job from a prison cell locked with a retinal scanner. The buildings gonna blow, so she's in a hurry. Tries pressing everything, no dice.

      There just happens to be CCTV displays in the same room! yay! She manages to find full-face security footage of a guard on one of these displays (lucky!), and zooms it (say 10,000X) so just the eye is showin
  • Uhh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:11AM (#16181583) Homepage
    This is more like "ten films I've seen containing computers, which I will describe in belittling terms". Okay, so some of these movies really did butcher the technology they included. But some of these complaints just show a lack of imagination on the part of the article writer.

    In particular, this guy basically loses for complaining about the "This is UNIX, I know this!" scene in Jurassic Park, complaining that a ten year old girl couldn't have "magically" known that the computer was running UNIX. Okay, except that at that exact moment the computer in front of her-- hell, he even has screenshots-- was in fact showing a real world file manager / demo program that came with SGI's IRIX operating system-- which is, as it happens, a System V UNIX. You don't think it's possible that a computer geek from a rich family might have at some point in her life used IRIX, or at least used it enough to recognize a very distinctive tech demo that came with IRIX at the time and could be used as a file manager? Is it really that improbable that a ten year old might know at least enough about UNIX to know what /usr is? Or is the idea that girls don't use computers?
  • by MrFlannel (762587) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:13AM (#16181597)
    Since when are half of those films NOT science fiction?

    Jurrasic Park? War Games? Independance day?

    Could they please give me tickets to their dinosaur park? And, while they're at it, give the ID4 aliens my number, I'd like to have lunch sometime.
  • by Entropy (6967) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:15AM (#16181615)
    Hollywood can be reliablely counted on to screw _everything_ up.

    Fire 20 bullets from a six shooter. 100 bullets from a semi auto and one magazine.

    One bullet instantly kills any bad guy. (But good guys can get shot in the face and still go on to kick the bad guys ass.)

    Have a round chambered, but work the action and one doesn't pop out, but hey, "working the action is cool and scary ..".

    Lasers being visible. Lasers being audible. Audible shit in space. And no one has ever heard of Newton's laws.

    So given that we know Hollywood has such a rotten track record with the things we geeks know, I guess one thing we can rejoice about is this - all that sex the male leads are getting is just as fictional and unrealistic as the above ..
    • Realistic Guns (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sterno (16320) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:19AM (#16181639) Homepage
      Best movie ever for accurate portrayal of shooting and ammo: Heat. That gun scene as they come out of the bank is really spot on. They are reloading constantly as you would if you were tossing off 30 round clips in that kind of situation. For the most part they fire in short bursts as well instead of just holding down the trigger and emptying a clip. The only iffy bit is how the hell they'd carry that much ammo on them, but give or take that issue, pretty solid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NitsujTPU (19263)
      I think that the best one on this was Scarface, not only because of the inaccuracy, but because of how well it highlighted the disparity between how hard it was to kill the main characters, vs killing the other folks.

      Granted, Scarface is still a masterpiece, and a lot of this was done for artistic license.

      Still, the main characters go around shooting people in the heart, who instantly fall unconscious and dead. In the end scene, however, Pacino is being gunned down by a group of people firing automatic wea
    • by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkebNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:58AM (#16182249)
      The worse part is how much of that people believe.

      It's not uncoommon to find people who's signifigant other has died leaving behind a handgun. The surviving member knows nothing about them, "unloads" it be removing the clip, and then forgets it. I know my cousing was going around with one pointing it at people saying "bang bang". My father (I was barely old enough to recollect it at all, let alone know much of what was going on) had a fit, he was then told "I unloaded it, it's safe". After explaining you *never* treat a gun as a toy, always loaded, he took the gun away and immediatly made it safe (lock open the slide), it had a bullet in the chamber. They assumed that hollywood removal of the clip was actually unloaded. I can irritate people when I fuss at the cops in the movie having criminals take clips out to "unload" thier guns.

      It's gotten bad enough that too many real videos are considered fake because it "doesn't look real" and people make real decisions that can impact many people based on it. In nearly 100% of the cases you can eventually track it down to "It doesn't look like in the movies". Just in firearms alone it is amazing what people think a gun can do and want to legislate against it (sometimes proposed legislation is *detrimental* to safety), and then not know it is horridly dangerous in others and just not care.

      Even those of us that are jaded about the whole thing find from time to time where hollywood has colored our ideas (for example, I know something of how several cultures fought with swords, yet I still imagine the classic hollywood edge on edge fighting). It is such a large part of our lives that it can be hard to seperate when you have no references to compare too - even if you do not like to watch too much you still see it everywhere and so much of our society believes it.
  • Armageddon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PapayaSF (721268) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:21AM (#16181651) Journal
    How could they forget Armageddon [imdb.com]? It's a movie premised on the idea that it's easier to teach oil drillers to be astronauts than teach astronauts how to drill a hole. It's got a shuttle docking on the outside ring of a rotating space station. It's got a single Russian cosmonaut refueling the shuttle through a single hose he wrestles around. It's got a nuclear bomb that must be planted exactly 800 feet below the surface of an asteroid, giving an excuse for dramatic dialog of the "Oh no! We're only at 790 feet!" sort. It's got inappropriate machine guns. It's the perfect example of a film about science and technology written and directed by Hollywood types who never took a word of advice from any pesky technical advisors.
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:26AM (#16181695) Homepage Journal
    Pick any police/detective/thriller series I've seen (American, British, Swedish...) where the officers are "searching the database". Remember to always include the following:
    1) A single huge textbox for entering search criteria. Preferably filling the whole screen.
    2) Text slowly appearing on screen, preferably one letter at a time with a blipping noise.
    3) As the search is being performed, all records must flash by the screen.
    4) If no match, the words NO MATCH must fill the screen, preferably on a multicolored flashing background.
    5) A records must fill exactly one screen. No scrolling or paging allowed.

    That crap was barely tolerable in the 80s, but these days? 75% of the population use computers daily for crying out loud.
  • Crap article... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isaac (2852) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:27AM (#16181703)
    Clearly written by a boy who wasn't tall enough to reach the ticket counter when Jurassic Park was in theaters, to say nothing of Wargames.

    Yeah, most of those movies are truly terrible (and how did they miss "The Net"?), but the 10-year-old girl in Jurassic Park (who's been of legal drinking age for almost 3 years!) was shown using a real app called FSN [sgi.com] that was indeed contemporary with the SGI gear of 1993 - a far cry from the Macromedia Director abominations of Mission: Impossible, for sure.

    And listing WarGames - blasphemy! OK, it's ridiculous that Matthew Broderick would leave the speech synthesizer on (unless he was blind), but we (er, some people) really did use wardialers back then (well, just called them dialers before WarGames...), and man that IMSAI rig was sweet, if a little dated by 1983. Considering that typewriters still vastly outnumbered PC's at the time, the Internet had just switched over to TCP/IP, and the notion of booking an airline reservation with a home computer (fraudulently or not) was gee-whiz stuff, I'm willing to cut this movie much slack.

    -Isaac
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't know definitively about the airline booking system but even back then, a lot of stuff was starting to happen. I had a friend who used to access his banking details, make transfers etc on an Atari 800 with a 1200/75 modem (who remembers those?) and PRESTEL graphic back around 1985. Equally, firms that did have online systems for their own staff's use often were somewhat lazy about protecting them from the outside world so I can well believe an airline booking system *aimed at travel agents* would be
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:34AM (#16181747)
    A bit unfair to my favorite movie, WarGames.
    The voice of the WOPR is a necessary cinematic element so that the audience can relate to the "character" of the computer. But consider how realistic the movie is:
    1. Wardialing is more-or-less plausibly portrayed (this is where the name comes from!)
    2. While the particular technique shown won't work the idea of phreaking a pay phone to make free calls (redboxing) is not far-fetched.
    3. The IMSAI computer was intentionally chosen as out-of-date junk that a young hacker might have found dumpster diving.
    4. My favorite: a realistic security hole created by an employee (in this case of NORAD) who attached a modem to his desk computer so that he could login from home without realizing the security implications.
    5. Hacking the school computer by reading the password taped to the desk.
    6. Back door password.

    There are some more unrealistic things such as the acoustic modem which is too fast and can dial and go on/off hook, that were added for cinematic reasons. The WOPR AI is of course totally unrealistic but necessary for the plot.

    I have never seen another movie that even attempted to portray the hacker mindset as accurately as WarGames.
  • by BenS350 (909701) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:42AM (#16181807)
    I think the worst movie about a computer guy would have to be swordfish. Creating a worm doesn't involve moving little 3-D blocks around on a computer screen.
  • by antdude (79039) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:52AM (#16181869) Homepage Journal
    MirrorDot [mirrordot.org].
  • by joeflies (529536) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:27AM (#16182065)
    As far as "science" in science fiction...

    How 'bout the way in the re-imaged Battlestar Galactica, Season 1, when Starbuck figures out how to launch, fly, and land a Cylon raider that's piloted by genetic material? There's no interface for any human-sized person to fly it, yet with a little tendon pulling, a leg jab here and there, and the raider is off and going? BTW, doesn't she need some viewscreen or two to see what's going on?

    Or does it not count once there's enough science fiction involved to override any "common sense" of what a human can do with the science available?

  • by tentac1e (62936) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:36AM (#16182119) Journal

    You've just had to rewrite five pages of dialogue because your A-list star thinks his character wouldn't say that. Meanwhile, the director wants you to cut the scene at the oil refinery because they don't get the location permit in Vancouver. You have until tomorrow. Just make sure the exposition sounds-- Holy shit! You said bit instead of byte!

    Movies are wrong because nobody cares. The filmmakers don't care. The audience doesn't care. There are much more important things to worry about on a production.

    I used to do martial arts. I heard guys complain about kung fu movies. Well, Jet Li flipping through the air is more entertaining to watch than two juijitsu fighters roll on the ground for 40 minutes. Film is about images.

    But forget the medium. In drama, you use shorthand. If you've got a scene where the police visit a widow, you don't film the cops ringing a doorbell, the widow asking, "Who is it," they say, "The police," and the door opens. You don't start with the door opening. You start with the widow weeping over her husband's photos, looking up to the officers, and saying "It was Dracula."

    Plus every second of footage costs money. Refilming a shot because the actor said "bps" instead of "kbps" could cost thousands of dollars. Maybe it took 10 takes to get that line in just the right tone, and it isn't worth it to fix something less than 1% of the population will notice.

    Firewall's story meeting probably went:

    "Why doesn't he just copy it to a disk?"
    "How do we show that?"
    "A screen saying 'copying'?"
    "That's been done to death."
    "Oh, he could scan it. They sell pocket scanners."
    "What, we show him walking into CompUSA and buying one? No, he makes it, that keeps him involved."
    "So, he has a pocket computer..."
    "Too james bond."
    "Well, an iPod has a hard drive. Everyone knows an iPod."
    Et al.

    I get enough computer facts in my day job. I go to the movies to watch Harrison Ford beat a bad guy with a coffee pot.
  • true story (Score:5, Funny)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:03AM (#16182587) Homepage Journal
    i am a film buff. so i knew about the movie swordfish a few months before it came out (from fan sites like aintitcoolnews.com, etc.), and i knew sketchy plot points about the movie, namely that it would be about illicit transfers of illicit funds

    i also used to work for a large multinational bank as a programmer. and a few months before swordfish came out, i was developing a system used by the bank for monitoring internal transfers. on a lark, i code named the system in development as "swordfish" for my own personal use as a joke

    but in email conversations with my boss, i, um, kept calling it swordfish. oops. my boss wound up raving about the system, to his bosses, to other middle management, to everyone. he started telling everyone who would listen about it because the basic idea behind the project was a sound one and it was important for the bank. unfortunately, he kept calling it "swordfish," and the name stuck and went into general use

    awareness of the swordfish project just happened to peak when the movie came out. to widespread media coverage and exposure and advertising. and the basic details about a hacker breaking into a financial computer system to transfer funds became common knowledge, even to people who didn't see the movie. and at the same time, here was my boss making an internal push to distribute this program to wider use for testing, and trying to drum up support for it amongst the higher ranking middle management... and it was called swordfish

    he stopped raving about the program, and my boss got in the habit of shaking his head and smirking every time he saw me. but we never spoke about the "coincidence". he must have gotten laughed at pretty hard on my behalf

    so the plot guys get the technical details wrong sometimes

    i am living proof that sometimes the technical guys get the plot points wrong
  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:30AM (#16182697) Homepage
    So, being a computer geek isn't interesting enough on film; they have to dramatise it.

    But this applies to pretty much every job. Do you think an average spy's day is like a James Bond film? Or do you think they spend most of their day sitting in a car drinking cold coffee whilst listening through hours and hours of dull domestic telephone calls?

    What do most eco-warriors actually do? Fight running battles on oil rigs, or spend weeks in squalid apartments searching through scientific and legal journals?

    The fact that Hollywood focusses on life's edge cases and dramatisations shouldn't come as any surprise.

    And I'm quite happy with that - I want explosions on the big screen, not on my doorstep.
  • If you enjoy this... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kria (126207) <roleplayer,carrie&gmail,com> on Monday September 25, 2006 @08:58AM (#16183877) Journal
    If you enjoy this kind of thing, I also recommend the Insultingly Bad Movie Physics page [intuitor.com]. Includes information about the bad physics that crop up all the time, and reviews of particular movies. Most recent article piece on the site? "Bioinformatics and Hollywood".

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