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10 Terrible Portrayals of Technology in Film 745

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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  • Fantastic (Score:2, Informative)

    by Achromatic1978 ( 916097 ) <robert.chromablue@net> on Monday September 25, 2006 @01:57AM (#16181491)
    Couldn't resist, just had to 'spoil' the ending by mentioning what made #1.
  • If memory serves, Goldblum used a Mac :P
  • by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:17AM (#16181627) Homepage
    That's not true. V for Vendetta had Dell logos ... ;-)
  • Re:Uhh... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:26AM (#16181691) Homepage
    The funny thing is, sometime around the time Jurassic Park came out (before or after, I don't remember) I clearly remember visiting DisneyWorld with my family, and in one of the buildings at Epcot, SGI had this big display set up with some huge mainframe where they were giving demos rendering a complicated Egyptian tomb in realtime, and then there were a bunch of Indigo 2s sitting out on the floor with people to mess with. I spent most of the day just and playing with the tech demos they'd stocked up the Indy 2s with, running what in retrospect I recognize as X windows. I don't remember seeing the 3d file browser thing-- I seem to remember spending most of the time messing with a program called "New Jello", but I was just kind of clicking around at random, and maybe I saw it but didn't remember it. I would have been older than ten at the time, but not by much. I could certainly imagine someone about my age doing the same thing, randomly clicking into the 3d file system visualizer, and playing with it until they basically worked out what was going on.

    So we could possibly explain that bit in Jurassic Park entirely if "this is UNIX!" girl had at some point in the year or so before the events of the film simply visited Disneyworld.
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:52AM (#16181869) Homepage Journal
    MirrorDot [].
  • Re:Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by Hello Kitty ( 62674 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @02:54AM (#16181887) Homepage
    Alas, they only grabbed the first page (so far, anyway). You'll get just the first few items on the list.
  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:02AM (#16181937) Homepage
    people fly in the air after catching a bullet, when in reality they wouldn't even fall over.

    That all depends on what they're hit with. Take a shot from a .38 police special, and you're right; you probably won't go down. Take one from a Colt .45 1911A and you will go down because that's what it was designed to do: knock people off their feet.

  • Re:Bah (Score:4, Informative)

    by BlueLightning ( 442320 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:11AM (#16181987) Homepage Journal
    Already been done [] (sort of).
  • by JavaIsGreat ( 977238 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @03:49AM (#16182185)
    Warning: mysql_connect() [function.mysql-connect]: Host '' is blocked because of many connection errors; unblock with 'mysqladmin flush-hosts' in /home/admin/domains/ tent/includedb.php on line 2
    Could not connect to the MySQL Server
  • Re:Bah (Score:3, Informative)

    by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:24AM (#16182391)
    I found 23 [] 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 [] does say the hacker used trojans in that manner.
  • 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 TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:35AM (#16182723) Journal
    Oh, and the laptop with PCI oh god... it is completely hilarious.

    Uh, around the early '90s I saw a few laptops on sale with a single PCI slot. It was on the base, parallel to the keyboard, with the back plate attached to the side of the case allowing extra ports at the back of the right hand side of the case. You could use it to add things like SCSI, or extra video out, that were not present in most laptops and needed more bandwidth than 16-bit PCMCIA.

    These days, miniPCI is more common, and newer machines use ExpressCard (which includes PCIe) for the same purpose.

  • Re:This was 1993 (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @05:45AM (#16182785) Journal
    My assumptions are that 10-year old girls back in 1993 would not likely have access to UNIX since it was almost entirely only available at universities, government offices and large businesses

    Minix was around for about $50 (with a book) and ran on an 8086. I recall that my father's (small) company had an old UNIX box of some description (with a 20MB hard disk!) even though they were a primarily Windows and embedded systems shop.

    386BSD was released in March 1992. GNU had been around for almost a decade and there were early versions of Linux floating around that could probably have been used by it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 25, 2006 @06:09AM (#16182877)
    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.
  • Re:Office Space (Score:2, Informative)

    by adevadeh ( 674305 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @06:36AM (#16182977) Journal
    The OS in Office space was carefully crafted to mix elements from both MacOS and Windows. If you looked closer, you would see that although the window title bar is from Mac OS, the hourglass icon is from Windows. I haven't seen the movie in a long time, but I remember being amused at the way they mashed interface elements from the two OSs to make a Grand Unified OS. In addition, some of the boxes in the movie are Macs.
  • If you enjoy this... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kria ( 126207 ) <roleplayer.carri ... m minus math_god> 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 []. 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".
  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:12AM (#16184019) Journal
    Good thing you posted as AC. Seeing how it isn't a MS webserver or DB Engine. Your handle could've been a laughing stock for years to come.
  • Re:Bah (Score:2, Informative)

    by ischorr ( 657205 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:20AM (#16184111)
    There was also Salmon Days ( []), which was originally based on the BoFH stuff that shows up on The Register.

    For those with short attention spans, the trailer is here []. Don't miss the killing of clippy, it's priceless.
  • Re:Bah (Score:3, Informative)

    by Single GNU Theory ( 8597 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @09:31AM (#16184235) Journal
    BOFH would make a better series. Dark humour and comedy violence for the win.

    They sort-of did. It was called Salmon Days: s_is_spawned/ []

    The site, however, seems to have been replaced with something not entirely (or at all) suitable for work, so I didn't stick around to see if the original trailer was still there.
  • Re:Funny as hell (Score:2, Informative)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @10:48AM (#16185247)
    Except that guard wasn't dead, just unconscious. Vulcan nerve pinch isn't a kill shot.
  • MCP was an actual OS (Score:3, Informative)

    by BitwizeGHC ( 145393 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @11:09AM (#16185557) Homepage
    The Master Control Program name came from the OS for a series of Burroughs mainframes starting with the B5000. The MCP itself was quite a revolutionary piece of software, being the first OS to be fully written in an HLL, the first OS to have virtual memory, and so forth.

    Alan Kay consulted for Tron, and he was quite a fan of the Burroughs; the tagged-data architecture the Burroughs used (a precursor to a similar idea used in Lisp Machines), and the code+data storage method on another Burroughs machine, the 220, both influenced the way Smalltalk and object-oriented programming developed.

    By the way, the MCP lives on today, in the Unisys ClearPath architecture. Remember that next time you go to the bank or make an ATM withdrawal (due to their legendary stability, MCP systems were widely used by financial institutions). :)
  • by the_weasel ( 323320 ) on Monday September 25, 2006 @04:11PM (#16190327) Homepage
    I work in visual effects for film and television, and have done some of this kind of work.

    Computer interfaces in movies and television are often nothing more than special effects. Often the performer interacting with the screen is observing a completely green screen, or a black one with white crosses in the corner. The interface is added in post production as part of the compositing pass. So it ends up being nothing more than graphics. Even the sounds of the keystrokes will be added in later.

    Having said that, in films where the interface is used frequently, or in television series where the interface persists over a season or entire series, you may well see custom interfaces created. Stargate, Earth Final Conflict, and CSI are all examples that spring to mind - the interface for a Companion Protectors wrist device needs to stay consistent, so custom software is often created to generate the basic look and feel of the screen. Mind you, I don't profess to know whether programmed interfaces actually were used for the shows I named, but if I were the VFX supervisor for these shows I likely would have had something made to at least generate the basic interfaces.

    I did do some work on a few shows in Vancouver where we employed a programmer to create custom interfaces. He had a toolkit of his own making he used to rapidly prototype UI's. This was at least 10 years ago, and flash was not up to the task at the time. I frequently used powerpoint on the same show, and all the performer had to do was press space to advance to the next screen. That technique was reserved for directors and or actors who were uncomfortable reacting to something that wasn't there. In many cases we would end up replacing the practical interface in post production anyways.

    The advantage to the powerpoint approach was that modifing the application to suit changes or rewrites was possible on set between takes, a fact which came in handy several times.

    Programmed interfaces are a lot more resistant to fast changes on the sort of deadlines series work often has. I should state though that it's been years since I last did interface work. Faced with the same tasks nowadays, I would likely consider flash much more closely, to obtain a more modern and dynamic interface. Whether it would be used would depend on how flexible and predictable the development and prototyping tools are.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham