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COMPUTERS ... IN ... SPACE ... (and in films, and on TV. Oh, and in other works of fiction, too)
February 24, 2012 10:54 AM   Subscribe

Starring the Computer is a website dedicated to the use of computers in film and television. Each appearance is catalogued and rated on its importance (ie. how important it is to the plot), realism (how close its appearance and capabilities are to the real thing) and visibility (how good a look does one get of it). Fictional computers don't count (unless they are built out of bits of real computer), so no HAL9000 - sorry. (See also: computers in fiction)
posted by filthy light thief (22 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Via this AskMe question, specifically Brandon Blatcher's answer.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is what the internet is for.
posted by empath at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2012


Kate owns a Messagepad, but doesn't seem to use it.
Realism: 5/5
posted by helicomatic at 10:58 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eat up Martha.
posted by obscurator at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2012


I love this. Not because it's interesting (although it is) but because it illustrates so well how culturally focused we are on humans. When future robot archaeologists make a syllabus, this website is what it will look like.
posted by DU at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2012


This is exactly the correct way for this website to be. Wonderful.

The old Mac lies, apparently discarded, in Angela's house.

My one wish is that the site would have a "sort by" function for the importance, realism, and visibility fields so that we could quickly view best-of and worst-of matrices.
posted by cortex at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2012


Like, I should not have to poke around manually to establish that Zoolander's is a very realistic movie.
posted by cortex at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2012


From Jurassic Park

Thinking Machines CM-5: Realism 4/5: "The lights flash just like they do normally, although it's hard to understand why a theme park needs a supercomputer.."

Apparently the author didn't read the book or pay attention to the Mr. DNA short film in the movie. The supercomputers had some role in the DNA sequencing. In the book they were Cray X-MPs.
posted by jedicus at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2012


That AN/FSQ-7 shows up absolutely every time they need a big, complicated-looking machine in the background. I wonder if it's always the same one.
posted by theodolite at 11:25 AM on February 24, 2012


If you find an error or omission, you can send corrections. You could also submit additional info to Computers in Fiction, which lists works in a timeline according to original publications. No mention of Jurassic Park, though.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:27 AM on February 24, 2012


From The Lawnmower Man

SGI IRIS Power Series: Realism 3/5: "The SGI is capable [of] rendering the graphics shown, just not in real time."

That's kind of a cop-out, since the same could be said of lots of other computers.

I must sound like I'm nitpicking. This is actually a really great reference site; I'm just not sure if the ratings mean much.
posted by jedicus at 11:27 AM on February 24, 2012


There should be an honorable mention for the tape drives in Star Trek TOS.
posted by philipy at 11:28 AM on February 24, 2012


Zoolander was the first to go to. They should have also rated reverence and awe that is displayed towards the computer. Zoolander would be one of the rare ones where both the reverence and realism are high. Usually they correlate negatively.
posted by Free word order! at 11:28 AM on February 24, 2012


Buncha whippersnappers. There's no listing for "Desk Set," where Kate Hepburn and her crew of librarians put the whoopass on Spencer Tracy and his infernal machine.
posted by tommyD at 12:06 PM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's no listing for "Desk Set," where Kate Hepburn and her crew of librarians put the whoopass on Spencer Tracy and his infernal machine.

The computer in that movie, EMERAC, was specially built for the movie by IBM. Computers were rare enough then that I'm not sure (and can't determine) if EMERAC was "built out of bits of real computers" or if it was just a prop with a printer and lots of blinkenlights.
posted by jedicus at 12:15 PM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's a wasted opportunity that they ignore the most interesting part, which is the user interfaces shown in movies and tv. who can forget in arrested development when sr. did a search on 'jet pants' and the first line returned by the search engine is 'do you mean jet packs?'. or how portlandia accurately depicts streaming lags in online video? but then there are all the hilarious fake search engines and websites and crazy interfaces (the characters in 'disclosure' spending like forever in virtual reality mode to find a document in a virtual file cabinet).
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:56 PM on February 24, 2012


Most cool. Cheers.
posted by Samizdata at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2012


fallacy of the beard: I think it's a wasted opportunity that they ignore the most interesting part, which is the user interfaces shown in movies and tv.

Related: Access Main Computer File, a collection of (often preposterous) graphical user interfaces culled from dozens and dozens of films.

And before that: This man makes the user interfaces you see in films. Bonus: Top 10 Worst Portrayals of Technology in Film (the main link in there is dead, and can be replaced with this link; his demo reel is now on Vimeo)
posted by filthy light thief at 1:52 PM on February 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Zoolander's is a very realistic movie.

"I got two words for you, sugar: Zip disk!"
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2012


thanks, filthy light thief! that's where the magic is...
posted by fallacy of the beard at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2012


How does he not have the single most realistic & pivotal use of a computer in film history, the SCADA hacking scene in Matrix Reloaded? Actual computer hacking performed completely accurately using a real hacker tool (nmap) & a real vulnerability exploit (ssh integer overflow). I am severely disappoint.
posted by scalefree at 3:02 PM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


scalefree: How does he not have the single most realistic & pivotal use of a computer in film history, the SCADA hacking scene in Matrix Reloaded?

The site focuses on the computers themselves, and the use of them is secondary. As helicomatic quoted upthread, Hackers features a highly realistic, unused computer, the Apple Newton MessagePad 100.

Perhaps it's so real because it isn't displayed running imaginary programs, like the rest of the real computers in the movie.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:16 PM on February 24, 2012


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