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December 3, 2009 8:36 AM   Subscribe

This man makes the user interfaces you see in films. (Video)
Bonus: Top 10 Worst Portrayals of Technology in Film
posted by seanyboy (184 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can he create a GUI interface in Visual Basic to track an IP address?

(And my favorite unintentionally funny tech line in a movie is still "This is Unix! I know this!")
posted by kmz at 8:42 AM on December 3, 2009 [12 favorites]


kmz, you beat me to it. I still cringe every time I hear that line.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:43 AM on December 3, 2009


One obvious failure of technology here is the ridiculous flying through sequences of the supercomputer. Not only is all the data stored in what looks like skyscrapers, it's also technicolored like a crazy rainbow.

Again, like Wargames, we're going to keep this low on the list mainly because of the early years of the internet. With references to 'Pentiums' and 'Hacking the Gibson', this has ended up a cult classic.


I have never seen "Hackers" (it's the one with Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller right?), but from this description the interface was obviously meant to be extremely faithful to the one in William Gibson's "Burning Chrome." "Hacking the Gibson" indeed.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:46 AM on December 3, 2009


To clarify: Aside from the "LOL programming words" aspect, the "GUI interface" part grates on my nerves.

"Hey guys, I'm gonna create a GUI interface with CSS stylesheets to put my PIN number into the ATM machine!" Raaaaaage.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:46 AM on December 3, 2009 [23 favorites]


meant to add, so couldn't they cut them some slack for honoring the fail in the prior art?

(or was the movie really that bad?)
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2009


*plugs laptop into rollerblades*
posted by Sys Rq at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


One of the worst portrayals includes this:

One scene that jumps right out is the ability for the security team to lift code off a computer screen via a security camera.

OCR doesn't exist? Sure security cameras are crappy, but this isn't completely out to lunch.
posted by DU at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2009


wow that 'firewall' example sound abysmal. was it really that atrocious?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2009


Oh yeah.
posted by ODiV at 8:51 AM on December 3, 2009


I actually really still like Wargames despite lots of obvious wrongness. I guess it's a combination of nostalgia and leeway considering its age. Same with Tron really. And they're just good cheesy fun. BTW, the article is wrong about one bit of the Wargames scenario... he didn't tell the computer to launch nukes at the USSR. He played the USSR side and launched at the US. Which is why NORAD thought the Soviets were really nuking the US and start preparing to launch retaliatory strikes.
posted by kmz at 8:51 AM on December 3, 2009


"Hackers" is one of the best movies of all time, and only the most churlish of articles would mock it for being an inaccurate portrayal of tech. That's like mocking "Wallace and Gromit" for being an inaccurate portrayal of dogs.
posted by ErikaB at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2009 [30 favorites]


was the movie really that bad?)
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:49 AM on December 3


Hackers isnt terrible as fiction but in relation to anything approaching even the technology current in the early 90s it is hilarious bad. its speculatively bad though, so it could be worse...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:52 AM on December 3, 2009


Are there any mainstream movies that do portray technology realistically? Even the best I've seen still show a giant cursor in the middle of the screen, a 72pt font, and the user reciting everything as he types it. I understand they're doing this so the audience can see what's going on, but it still bugs me.
posted by bondcliff at 8:53 AM on December 3, 2009


OCR doesn't exist? Sure security cameras are crappy, but this isn't completely out to lunch.

is the problem maybe that the camera and screen refresh rates would never sync so you'd always get blank or blinky garbage on every frame from the security cam?
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2009


OCR doesn't exist? Sure security cameras are crappy, but this isn't completely out to lunch.

I don't think you'd need OCR for the security team to read the code. I mean, OCR isn't going to do any better than human eyes. The key part is the security camera crappiness, I would assume. "Enhance! Enhance more!"
posted by kmz at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


VB Gui to Find Killer via IP Address
posted by seanyboy at 8:55 AM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


its speculatively bad though, so it could be worse...

yeah but tell me you didn't read that passage in Burning Chrome and not want to run right out and hack something...
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:55 AM on December 3, 2009


It's a shame Independence Day didn't make that list. You know, where Jeff Goldblum can cobble together a virus on his laptop and infect a huge alien spaceship and make it explode.
posted by bjrn at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2009 [11 favorites]


Obligatory reference to use of nmap in "The Matrix Reloaded."
posted by ErikaB at 8:57 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this. As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field. My top worst representation of computers and technology currently resides with "The Net"

God that movie was awful...
posted by samsara at 8:57 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I loved the nod to IRIX in The Bourne Supremacy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:57 AM on December 3, 2009


s/supremacy/identity/
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2009


"This is UNIX!" is on the list. But they say the problem is a 10 year old girl knowing UNIX. OK, at the time that was probably a problem but I'm not so sure now (assuming she's a geek, which the girl in the movie is, IIRC).

I'd say a much bigger problem is that knowing the underlying OS has nothing to do with being able to hack the security or the application software running on it. It's like a bank robber saying "the vault is made of metal! I took shop in high school, I can open this!"
posted by DU at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2009 [18 favorites]


I can't believe Enemy of the State didn't make the list.

"Yeah, this store security camera footage should help us catch the guy we're looking for. Let's just adjust the angle by 30% to see around the obstacles. Okay, now let's move some spy satellites so we can get a good pictures of the guy."
posted by ODiV at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, you mean those fake screens where the password input area takes up 1/4 of the screen and the computer goes "bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep-bleep" as stuff prints out?
posted by Drasher at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


iPods can be used as portable hard drives, especially first-gen Firewire ones. Friends in college did it all the time when transporting large video data to film editing classes.

I'm not saying the way it was expressed was totally accurate, but I find it weird the number one item on the list was the one thing out of all of them that is slightly related to something I've actually seen happen in real life- transferring files to an iPod. Also, contrary to the other unbelievable stuff here, if anything the scene was just a little before its time, given that scanning systems for the iPod are now available as downloads from the iTunes store.

And #2 is lame for its delivery, but if their sole nitpick is a young kid wouldn't know an older programming system, that hardly seems as farfetched as fake pseudo-"computer system graphics," etc. Also, to be a total nerd here, Lex is older than 10 in the movie. Tim is 10 in the book, and they decided to switch the roles and make Lex the older sibling, ergo older than 10, because the actress they cast was already 14 at the time.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, the reason "This is Unix! I know this!" is funny isn't because it's a ten year old girl. (Unless you're a sexist pig.) It's laughable because an obscure Irix GUI is not going to be the way anybody recognizes Unix.
posted by kmz at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

I get a headache watching movies about reporters and columnists, like "I Love Trouble" and "Runaway Bride." most of the shit they do is not just fireable, it's legally actionable, and it makes me queasy to think that's what other people think of me. or that I might come to work with a high fever some day and actually try it.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you turn on captioning on TV, the caption says, "Computer Trilling"...

How do I get my computer to "trill"?
posted by Drasher at 9:00 AM on December 3, 2009


The most unbelievable thing about Wargames was the ~$100,000 of gear in Matthew Broderick's bedroom. (Ditto for Ferris Bueller.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2009


My favorite groaner in M:I is the scene where they lower Tom Cruise through the ceiling of the computer vault so he doesn't trip the very sensitive sensors in the floor.

So, basically someone built this complex, highly-secure system with exotic physical intrusion detection, but no keystroke detection or lock-out.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


okay okay, bad tech in movies yadda yadda yadda.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW THIS GUY HAS THE COOLEST JOB OF ALL TIME.

director: fucking hell, what does a government computer do?!
mark coleran: shit, whatever I MAKE it do. you want it to hunt for vin diesel's name? BAM! nuke tom cruise? BLADOW! fuckin' hack the shit out of some shit? FLABLAMMO!
posted by shmegegge at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2009 [36 favorites]


And yeah, I would place any movie that uses the suspense inducing "verifying password" shot that requires the computer to somehow take 60 seconds to process whatever you just typed over any of these movies.

A much more interesting and educational site for stuff like this is Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics. It goes over a lot of the stupidity of sci-fi and action movies, and debunked a lot of classic tropes even before Mythbusters did (though not as graphically, of course)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:02 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


FTA: While trapped in the control room, Alexis, the grand-daughter of the park's owner, sits down at a computer terminal. Like magic, she exclaims "This is UNIX, I know this!". Where on this planet is there a 10 year old girl who knows and can understand UNIX?!?

No, that's not the problem, try again
posted by dosterm at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


For those of you wondering what the "create a GUI interface using visual basic and see if I can track an IP address" is about.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:10 AM on December 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


samsara: "Thank you for this. As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field. My top worst representation of computers and technology currently resides with "The Net"

God that movie was awful...
"

A nice recap of the tech in that movie.
posted by octothorpe at 9:12 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

A friend in med school once told me that shows like House, ER, that awful one with Jada Pinkett Smith, etc. actually don't induce cringes in the medical science, which has technical advisers and is generally accurate because of that, but rather the unbelievable actions presented in the plot drama. One glaring example was a show where the doctors suspected a mother was abusing her child based on their diagnosis and so they detained the mother until they realized their mistake. In real life, there was nothing wrong with the medical science, but had any doctor really done that the lawsuit that would have ensued would have likely renamed the hospital after the mother.

Oh, and obviously no hospital in the country would have a violent drug addict on its staff. I guess what I saying is, the most common factual error in medical dramas are the numerous thinking that would get doctors sued and/or imprisoned in real life.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a tech misstep in Eyes Wide Shut. Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) has a Mac Performa 5200 in his office, a notoriously crappy, underpowered and unreliable machine. As this machine was mostly foisted upon educational channels in the 1990s (or sold at Sears, for crying out loud!), it seems as if a wealthy doctor would be using something a bit nicer. This Mac never gets powered on in the movie, but I'd expect to see the System 7.5 Teddy Bear background.

Surely he should have been rocking a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh or a Power Mac 7500.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:18 AM on December 3, 2009


It's a shame Independence Day didn't make that list. You know, where Jeff Goldblum can cobble together a virus on his laptop and infect a huge alien spaceship and make it explode.

Plus, he was using a PowerBook 5300, the worst, most unreliable piece of Apple hardware ever. It's nice that the aliens were Mac-compatible, though. To have made this scene more realistic, he should have pulled the laptop's prone-to-exploding battery and thrown it at the spaceship.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:23 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I actually really still like Wargames despite lots of obvious wrongness.

I think WarGames was pretty accurate as far as the tech and hacking was concerned. The method that was used to find the system with the games on it (war dialing) worked and gave the practice its name. And the trick shown in the film that was used to make free payphone calls was also pretty close to an actual method that worked on payphones back then. The fact that the computer was intelligent and could converse with people in English was obviously inaccurate, but that was key to the plot of the movie rather than just a mistake in representing technology.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:25 AM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


I get a headache watching movies about reporters and columnists, like "I Love Trouble" and "Runaway Bride."...

Are you sure it's just not because of Julia Roberts?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:26 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: FLABLAMMO!
posted by Rangeboy at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

My mom's an RN. Watching shows like ER or Gray's Anatomy with her can be a trip. Something crazy will be happening in the emergency room, and someone will say "Her O2 level has dropped to 2%!" and my mom will say "They better push 2mg of Bloxidin, stat" and then the doc on TV will say "Push 2mg of Bloxidin, stat!". It's simultaneously amazing and annoying.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:35 AM on December 3, 2009 [15 favorites]


Hacking internet...
posted by benzenedream at 9:37 AM on December 3, 2009 [27 favorites]


I think WarGames was pretty accurate as far as the tech and hacking was concerned.

WarGames has, by far, the most accurate depiction of actual hackers than any movie or TV show I've ever seen. The two dudes in the basement, bickering with each other, surrounded by a cluttered desk and some books, not being super-social but still knowing what they're talking about with that little sense of pride in telling you about it? Those are real. I've met them.

The look-how-cute-he's-so-young hacker with the twelve screens, three of which are running Quake, blasting Marilyn Manson in the background, while condescendingly acting as though he's getting a Nobel Prize and a blowjob at the same time? Not so much.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2009 [13 favorites]


I always thought Sneakers was one of the more tech-appropriate movies made.
posted by xmutex at 9:41 AM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


WarGames has, by far, the most accurate depiction of actual hackers than any movie or TV show I've ever seen.

Plus it gave us the immortal line "Goddammit, I'd piss on a spark plug if I thought it'd do any good!" which I've been known to throw out in tech-related conversations.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2009


Two movies that raced to my mind were Explorers (1985) and Lawnmower Man (1992)...but, then again, I don't know much about computers either.

ps - I actually liked Explorers...the only Ethan Hawke movie I can say that about.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Someone once told me that the reason you hardly ever see anyone using existing operating systems like Windows et al. in movies is that they'd have to pay Microsoft or whoever. Any truth in that?
posted by jonesor at 9:47 AM on December 3, 2009


The biggest tech issue in Wargames I remember is when they're racing the clock trying to convince Joshua not to launch. And we can tell how urgent it is as Joshua figures out the launch code number by number. It's a time honored movie device by now, but I wonder if that was one of the first uses. Hey, when you type in a wrong password, the computer always tells you which characters you got right, doesn't it?
posted by kmz at 9:48 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a shame Independence Day didn't make that list. You know, where Jeff Goldblum can cobble together a virus on his laptop and infect a huge alien spaceship and make it explode.

The real shame is that they didn't have a conversation between The Fly and LonghairData where The Fly laments that he can't upload a virus to an alien machine and LonghairData points out that the whole 680x0 line is, technically, also alien hardware since it was copied straight from the crashed ship. (which wouldn't mean that a virus written for System Whatever would work on AlienOS, but still, it would have been a step in the right direction)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

My favorite movie genre, maybe even more favorite then "Witty Murder Mystery" or "Southern Town Invaded By Monsters" are movies about Art or Artists or the Artistic Process. They're all the same movie and they are always , always, awful, leaving the true connoisseur to enjoy the same elements rearranged and tarted up, like a chef using the same basic seasonings in different ways.

Oh how my heart soars when we get to The Early Sign Of Genius, but of course No One Believes In you! You have have to have an Inspiration Montage! Or even a Creation montage before we get to see The Famous Work! Maybe you'll pass by a Historical Cameo or engage in Bad Sex Decisions before we reach my favorite element .....YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!

Taken by this metric, Frida is basically porn.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2009 [26 favorites]


Someone once told me that the reason you hardly ever see anyone using existing operating systems like Windows et al. in movies is that they'd have to pay Microsoft or whoever. Any truth in that?

Don't know about that, but they're still using Windows in the 26th century!
posted by kmz at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

I've heard Scrubs is actually one of the more accurate shows about working in a hospital.
posted by kmz at 9:52 AM on December 3, 2009


In real life, there was nothing wrong with the medical science, but had any doctor really done that the lawsuit that would have ensued would have likely renamed the hospital after the mother.

My father is an HR guy in a completely unrelated field. He can't watch House for exactly that reason. He keeps saying "Just fire him! I don't care how good he is!" It makes him cringe.
posted by generichuman at 9:53 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Last login: Thu Dec  3 09:21:41 in browser
You have favorites.
~ davejay$ 𤭢

posted by davejay at 9:53 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Zoom in. Enhance. Zoom in. Enhance.
posted by Drastic at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


Glaring omission.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is MeFi! I know this!
posted by ODiV at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


Last login: Mon Nov 30 16:36:55 2009 from your.moms.basement
[davejay ~]$ |

posted by davejay at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2009


'ssh' is not recognized as an internal or external command, 
operable program or batch file.

C:\Documents and Settings\Metafilter>

posted by davejay at 10:03 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


/Carefully reads manual for railgun/rotary cannon.
posted by Artw at 10:09 AM on December 3, 2009


Glaring omission.

Whoa whoa whoa. Using a computer while wearing a bra on your head is scientifically proven to result in taking a shower with a supermodel.
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wargames received an unfair criticism for the "computer that talks." That is not what happened at all, IIRC. It wasn't that the computer "talked" to Matthew Broderick when he "broke in." It's that he decided to stream the incoming text to his own speech synthesizer. No, a normal person wouldn't do that (maybe he didn't like reading), but it was not like he was doing anything magic.
posted by deanc at 10:17 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hate tech interfaces in movies. Apparently, every computer in every movie ever was designed by people who think it is logical to devote 85% of the screen real estate to flashy icons and banners telling you what is on the screen. You don't just get a schematic of the floor plan. You get a half-screen wireframe schematic, that is rotatable and zoomable, updated live, with the remaining half of the screen devoted to buttons for other functions that can't possibly be related to floor plans and a large FLOOR PLAN SCHEMATIC label and of course a company logo that is at least 4 inches square and probably animated, and every damn thing present beeps or boops when moused over.

In real life, clicking the FLOOR PLAN SCHEMATIC icon would open a PDF file of the floor blueprints, and three seconds after it opened there would be a popup informing you that an Adobe update is available and did you want to install that now?

Also, anything remotely resembling a plain text terminal is usually shit as well, because we all know that plain text terminals include large color icons for every user, and any program you write is immediately accessible on any computer anywhere, including your stupid user icon (Goldeneye is the worst example here, but I've seen it repeated elsewhere).

But hey, at least this guy is making up new (awful) interfaces, and not having the characters in the movie use AOL for email. For that, I can forgive his ridiculous movie computer interfaces, at least partly.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:19 AM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


How do I get my computer to "trill"?

Ship it to some A.T.Aliens and get it grilled out.

Alternately: this, looped. Fire it off in your server room. Sounds great.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:22 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


He did a lengthy Ask Me Anything on reddit:
I know they look fake and the reason is not because I'm a bad designer. It's because the boss man and producers want a 60 yr old to understand the on-screen information quickly and effortlessly.

In the beginning, I used to suggest cooler, slicker, more modern graphics but he would always push for the simple.
posted by smackfu at 10:24 AM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Using a computer while wearing a bra on your head is scientifically proven to result in taking a shower with a supermodel.

It's actually the case that using a computer while wearing a bra on your head only results in taking a shower with someone who's swapped gravy with Stephen Seagal. Them boys in WS just lucked out.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:25 AM on December 3, 2009


Weird Science is, in many ways, the best film ever.
posted by Artw at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I concur, Artw. But still...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:31 AM on December 3, 2009


It's that he decided to stream the incoming text to his own speech synthesizer. No, a normal person wouldn't do that

If I had a sweet voice synthesizer like that in 1983, you bet your ass I'd be streaming everything through it.
posted by skintension at 10:32 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


...someone who's swapped gravy with Stephen Seagal.

something something taters
posted by DU at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've heard Scrubs is actually one of the more accurate shows about working in a hospital.

It's no House of God, but it is pretty much the only medical show I can watch. And if The Mentalist does another scene like that ridiculous one where Bosco dies (he's awake and talking yet is about to die because he lost to much blood? Come on-get that man a transfusion!) I will stop watching it too.
posted by TedW at 10:40 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weird Science is, in many ways, the best film ever.

Especially if you're a misogynist.
posted by kmz at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Medical reviews of House. My general impression is that clearly they have doctors on staff providing somewhat plausible diseases, but if something doesn't quite match up right, no one loses any sleep. Also that real doctors are more specialized: the same person doesn't work in the ER, do every kind of surgery, and do pathology.
posted by smackfu at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2009


Being a misogynist is AWESOME, because you get to like Weird Science.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


What, no Disclosure on the list? With the virtual reality and computer angel and all that?
posted by notmydesk at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2009


Any list which includes Hackers but does not include The Net is sorely lacking in credibility. Not to mention that the female russian hacker easily makes up for all of Golden Eye's weaknesses and then some.

Would agree with the #1 choice though; but it was also just a plain, awful movie and in some ways that should disqualify it.

And I want that job.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:50 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah.....nerds. How amusing.

Speaking as an attorney, I have never even heard attorneys discuss the worst representation of legal procedure or the Rules of Evidence in a movie. It's a movie. It's not a legal seminar. I understand that they zip through the legal stuff to keep the movie well-paced and easy to understand for the non-legal-professional viewer.

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that computer-related things in movies are also there to keep the movie well-paced and easy to understand for the non-computer-professional viewer.
posted by flarbuse at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Disclosure, where the virtual reality system they invent for office work IS A VIRTUAL REALITY OFFICE, and to get to the Sekret files in the VIRTUAL REALITY LOCKED ROOM Michael Douglas has to go out of the VR window, edge along the VR wall (all the while looking down at the VR street below) come in through the other window and open the VIRTUAL REALITY FILING CABINET.

It's like they went out of their way to prove VR a stupid idea with all those impractical direct metaphors.
posted by Artw at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this. As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

Movies portray everything unrealistically. The funny part is that for depicted stuff we don't have any experience with, we kind of figure, well, that's probably more or less how it goes ...

Computer guys think the computer scenes in movies are laughable. That is not how Hugh Grant really gets chicks. Somehow Van Helsing somehow has an automatic crossbow. Bruce Banner, deep in the favelas of Brazil, has to rig up a centrifuge out of bicycle parts ... but he has a $10,000 inverted microscope (and experiments are being run by the mad professor himself, not his giant army of graduate students). Martial arts movies are not what fighting looks like.

The subtitles aren't even right for foreign languages a lot of the time; in one of the latest Batman movies, there's a scene in Hong Kong (where for some reason the Chinese people are speaking Mandarin), and it'll be like:

CHINESE GUY (in Mandarin): "There's somebody over there!"
SUBTITLE: "HOLY M*THERF---ING *#@* THERE'S SOMEBODY THE F--- OVER THERE."

(I exaggerate, but not much.) Wouldn't it be much much more exciting if that Chinese guy were cursing? Then why not!

Even the people in movies are much, much better looking than the average person.

What really gets me is that we expect movies to be a reflection of reality so badly that people will pay other people gigantic amounts of money for pictures of celebrities who have gained weight, because we think that's how those celebrities look all the time. Like, HA HA! That's not how the guy from the 300 really looks like at all!

If someone comes up to me and is like, "Hey, dude, we're going to take a film of you and show it around the entire world", I am going to spend the next three months working out and dieting. And then after the movie is done, I am making up all the lost cheesecake eating time.

But yeah, it's all about the story, not realism.
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:00 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think WarGames was pretty accurate as far as the tech and hacking was concerned.

The main plot with WOPR and the doomsday scenario was pure fantasy, of course, and it's been a long time since I've seen the movie, but you're absolutely correct about the wardialing and the phreaking.

I wrote (and successfully used) wardialers in BASIC on my Commodore 64 when I was a young whelp; it takes maybe a dozen lines of code. I also built a red box (a simple gadget that allowed free calls from a pay phone), though I think he uses a hair pin or something in the movie. (I don't know anything about that, but I wouldn't be surprised if it really worked—old pay phones, and older telephone tech in general, was crap for security. With a few modest tools and some text files downloaded from a BBS, you could wield a surprising amount of power over the phone system. Heck, if you had good pitch, you could hack the telcos by whistling. Not kidding.)

as Joshua figures out the launch code number by number

This was just a dramatic device, of course, but it's not completely ridiculous. If Joshua was trying every possible password one by one, then yes, it's ridiculous. But if it was decrypting an encrypted password file, something like this is feasible (though still unlikely)—it might succeed at cracking one block of the cipher first, then another block, etc. I can't imagine a system that would work this way, but, well, oh God, I'm attempting to account for questionable plot elements in War Games instead of working.
posted by ixohoxi at 11:00 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Weird Science is, in many ways, the best film ever.

Especially if you're a misogynist.


I haven't watched it in many years, but I always thought it was relatively feminist, actually. Lisa is intelligent and not really played as a sex object at all. The sexist parts are from the characters, not the plot (if you see what I mean).
posted by DU at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2009


Hacking internet...

When I was briefly using AOL back in the late 90s, one of the stupid tricks someone found out was that you could choke AOL's email reader for a fraction of a second by using a certain combination of HTML tags in an email. Until they fixed it, people mainly used it to send someone a huge block of those tags in an email so that their email reader would lock up when they tried to read it and they would have to restart AOL. But the somewhat cool thing about it was that you could also use smaller pauses to make the email text show up letter by letter, or make the background of the email change colors. You couldn't really do animation or anything useful with it, but it was fun to play around with.

So, as a joke, I wrote an email with text like "Downloading virus .......", "Installing virus .......", "Deleting contents of C:\ .......", using pauses to make it look like it was actually doing those things in sequence, and sent it to some of the people I knew on AOL. Not only did nearly all of them think it was real, but more than one person actually accused me of sending them a real virus that made their computer not work properly, even after I said that it was just a joke and explained how it worked.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:04 AM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field

I'm a molecular biologist. I watched approximately 1/3rd of an episode of CSI before the shouting and anguish got too much and I had to turn it off. My SO says I'm not allowed to try watching it again.

On the other hand, in Blade 3, Blade genetically modifies, prepares and purifies a virus in a matter of hours then, when it's released, you see (and hear!) the virus particles swarming around the building. And I loved that film.

I can happily swallow big lies about science and labwork, thanks to my healthy intake of science fiction when I was growing up. But constant, niggling impossibilities and carelessness (aargh, lab workers' sterile technique and hazardous materials handling is awful in TV and films) just build up to the point where they completely drag me out of the story.
posted by metaBugs at 11:28 AM on December 3, 2009


Is the problem maybe that the camera and screen refresh rates would never sync so you'd always get blank or blinky garbage on every frame from the security cam?

I have a webcam I leave running as a sort of half-assed security camera when traveling. It's pointed more or less in the direction of my desk, with about half of one monitor visible. When I ftp or ssh into my desktop from somewhere on the road, I can actually look at the webcam and see my monitor wake from sleep.

And yeah, I can often read the text on the screen. It's a strange loop.
posted by rokusan at 11:28 AM on December 3, 2009


Especially if you're a misogynist.

A total derail, I understand, but how is Weird Science ultimately a misogynist movie? The story is about two guys who are socially and sexually inept "meeting" a woman insanely out of their league, and instead of her dropping down and fucking them like a typical porn scene she becomes their friend and teaches them that the way to get girls is to not be stupid, horny pussies. The boys' biggest failing in the movie is when they try to repeat the woman-making process in a purely misogynist vein, realizing the hard way what a fuckup that was, and their biggest victory comes when they stop whining about how they're just Nice Guys™.

I'm not saying it's a feminist movie, and it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test by any measure, but I don't really see how it ultimately ends with the message that women are inferior sex objects.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:31 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think, XQUZYPHYR, the person who made that comment did so on reputation alone. I doubt they've actually seen the film.
posted by grubi at 11:33 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


And we can tell how urgent it is as Joshua figures out the launch code number by number.

The ironic thing is that those old mainframes often had way more paranoid security than nowadays. When I first started working, the IBM mainframes required monthly password changes and if you failed entry three times your account was disabled until you convinced an operator to reset it. And you actually had to call the operator on the phone! No brute forcing that system.
posted by smackfu at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2009


I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

I live with a lawyer who once pointed out to me that pretty much every single courtroom drama ever filmed leverages the same deliberate mistake: the 'loser' attorney will object two or three times early in the scene, often over ridiculous points. But once The Big Star Lawyer launches into their ten minute, witness-crucifying soliloquy, all objections end... even when they're clearly called for (witness badgering, not-an-expert, no chain of custody, hearsay, etc.). In other words, The Big Star Lawyer is allowed to walk all over the rules in their speech of ultimate triumph, but not before or after.

It's such a carbon-copy trope that ever since being shown this, I can't stop laughing at it.
posted by rokusan at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know they look fake and the reason is not because I'm a bad designer. It's because the boss man and producers want a 60 yr old to understand the on-screen information quickly and effortlessly. In the beginning, I used to suggest cooler, slicker, more modern graphics but he would always push for the simple.

Wait, what? So that means "I suggested cool and slick. The producer wanted simple. Since cool and simple are obviously opposites, of course these things come out badly."

Based on that shoddy logic alone, I think you're a bad designer, and I don't think I even need to see your rejected ideas for "cooler, slicker, more modern" to be confident about it.
posted by rokusan at 11:41 AM on December 3, 2009


My favorite unintentionally funny tech line in a movie is still "This is Unix! I know this!"

Heh. I mutter that to myself whenever I open a terminal connection.
posted by rokusan at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


) It's laughable because an obscure Irix GUI is not going to be the way anybody recognizes Unix.
posted by kmz at 11:59 AM on December 3


In the early 90's, SGI was anything but obscure. It was the ne plus ultra of cutting edge "workstation" computing, a category which no longer exists. SGI's made possible the morphing effects in Terminator 2. They were the machines that fueled the brilliance at Industrial Light and Magic. SGI invented OpenGL. They had hardware accelerated graphics at a time when computers didn't have graphics at all. Sure, Sun was more popular, but that's like saying a Toyota is more popular than a Ferrari.

When I saw Jurassic Park as a kid, not only did I recognize immediately that the machines were SGI, but that the 3d interface she was using was fsn, a very real and very cool-for-the-time 3d file system interface that shipped with IRIX.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


I love that for 80s SF the way to show "futuristic" used to be green-screen displays, and now the way to show "futuristic" is what are essentially green screen displays that float in mid-air.
posted by Artw at 11:53 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


SGI made the N64 possible.
posted by Artw at 11:54 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's laughable because an obscure Irix GUI is not going to be the way anybody recognizes Unix.

Those 3d boxes she's looking at are pretty clearly labeled /home, /var, and /usr.
posted by rokusan at 11:57 AM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


When I saw Jurassic Park as a kid, not only did I recognize immediately that the machines were SGI, but that the 3d interface she was using was fsn, a very real and very cool-for-the-time 3d file system interface that shipped with IRIX.
Oh, I wasn't saying Irix itself was obscure. The fall of SGI is probably one of the most spectacular in computing history. (The other that comes to mind is 3dfx.)

I was talking about the particular GUI. I didn't really think it was that well known. But I guess I was wrong.

I'm not saying it's a feminist movie, and it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test by any measure, but I don't really see how it ultimately ends with the message that women are inferior sex objects.

Damnit, I'm going to have to reset my "kmz hasn't been wrong about anything for _ minutes" sign to 0 twice in one thread.
posted by kmz at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Artw, please do not attempt to deny how hard you want your own green screen display that floats in mid-air.

I can smell your geek lust from way over here.
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2009


As far as Hackers goes, I like Ebert's take on it: that he took the comp sci in Hackers as seriously as he took the archaeology in Indiana Jones.

As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

IANAD and I enjoy House quite a lot. But one episode they had the hospital's lawyer taking a call, and when she was done with her one-sentence explanation of what should be done with Fictional File X, I sat up and had to rewind and watch it again because it made no possible sense. So the deal with such shows may be that they have good technical advice in the field primarily portrayed (and no or bad advice on all else).

And I can't believe no one has linked to this Penny Arcade yet. (apologies if that's not the correct link; I can't check at the moment)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field

IANAPCP (I am not a professional chess player) but I can hold my own. I think every almost chess game I have seen in the movies or on teevee (except maybe Poole playing vs HAL in 2001) ends with a chess master being blindsided by an amateur who plays "intuitively" or some horseshit and who triumphantly croons "Checkmate!". And somehow the putatively great players never see this mate coming when it is one move away.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:06 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


What, no hate for Live Free or Die Hard (which, in the immortal words of Cracked.com, was "basically about a wizard who casts spells in computer jibberish")?

"OK, I want you to hack into that traffic light and make it red. Good. Now, I want you to hack into Kevin Smith' basement and physically move his webcam around the room. Now, hack into the brain of that fighter pilot and get him to shoot missiles into the middle of a busy freeway."

Hacking is to this movie what magic is in the Harry Potter stories: plot-hole spackle. All the gaping cracks in logic between scene A to scene C can be neatly smoothed over with the mystical power of hack. The improbability reaches critical mass, though, when the bad guys hack into the natural-gas lines near a power plant and make them spontaneously explode under the streets."

posted by The Card Cheat at 12:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


A total derail, I understand, but how is Weird Science ultimately a misogynist movie?

It's Metafilter. If you mentioned being attracted to someone, or mention liking something where some small hint of physical attraction is involved, and any of said attraction involves a male and a female, then you are of course a hateful offensive sexist misogynistic boyzone brute rapist-in-waiting-if-not-rapist-in-now.
posted by xmutex at 12:11 PM on December 3, 2009 [12 favorites]


Queen to Bishop 6, checkmate I think...
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artw, please do not attempt to deny how hard you want your own green screen display that floats in mid-air.

Dammit!
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on December 3, 2009


It's Metafilter. If you mentioned being attracted to someone, or mention liking something where some small hint of physical attraction is involved, and any of said attraction involves a male and a female, then you are of course a hateful offensive sexist misogynistic boyzone brute rapist-in-waiting-if-not-rapist-in-now.

Wow, how many fields did you have to harvest to build a straw man that big?
posted by kmz at 12:17 PM on December 3, 2009 [11 favorites]



I'm a molecular biologist. I watched approximately 1/3rd of an episode of CSI before the shouting and anguish got too much and I had to turn it off. My SO says I'm not allowed to try watching it again.


As a lawyer, I can't stand to watch most law-related TV shows. I still watch Mentalist because I think it's funny, but my SO hates how I point out the many and varied violations of everything from the California Penal Code to the Constitution, and many times, common sense. I am pretty sure that (a), none of the guilty villains would ever be convicted after all the evidence is tossed out, and (b) Simon Baker's character would be fired, then sued into oblivion.

CSI is another target, except it isn't even entertaining; it just makes me angry.
posted by Hylas at 12:18 PM on December 3, 2009


Wow, how many fields did you have to harvest to build a straw man that big?

It's Metafilter. If you make a point so ass-dumb that it barely merits a rebuke but someone makes a rebuke anyway and in doing so employs sarcasm, because of the ass-dumb nature of your original point you'd like to quickly distance yourself and so you claim the rebuke to be a straw man when you know in reality you should just not have made ass-dumb points to begin with.
posted by xmutex at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's not technically a tech issue, but I don't think I've ever seen a movie wherein someone's computer password protecting their MacGuffin was not somehow related to a conversation they'd had with the protagonist earlier in the film. I know a lot of people set stupid shit as their passwords, but those are usually like anniversary dates or 12345 or the names of childhood pets or something. I've never heard of an actual person setting their password to the theme of their character arc.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:25 PM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Hylas: CSI is another target, except it isn't even entertaining; it just makes me angry.

This.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


> ...in reality you should just not have made ass-dumb points to begin with.

A strange website. The only winning move is not to post.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2009 [41 favorites]


One thing I've noticed in more recent movies is that people finally seem to know how to use their keyboards. Whenever you watch a tech-movie from ten or fifteen years ago, and you watch a character type something, you can often see them just randomly hitting the keys. Nowadays, more often than not it looks like they actually are typing with a purpose. Or, at the very least, not hitting multiple keys at the same time and using more than the SDF JKL to create their words.
posted by quin at 12:28 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


RAMESES
posted by Artw at 12:28 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


My favorite stupid tech thing lately is this one time on NCIS where Abby and McGee are urgently working on something, and to speed things up, they both start typing on the same keyboard.
posted by not that girl at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think WarGames was pretty accurate as far as the tech and hacking was concerned.

You're absolutely right. These kids today with their OSXes and their Aero glass interfaces, they think they know everything. You think you're a hacker because you're Gentoo LiveCD came with nmap? Pffft.. Talk to me when you're banging away on a 3270 dialed in over a 400 baud modem with foam cups to cradle the telephone receiver, praying to god that the 370 has enough DASD to temporarily store that additional dataset with the 254,000 active Bank One credit card numbers your JCL script was supposed to retrieve without screwing up the standard overnight reconciliation and paging half the sysadmins east of the rockies. And until you've felt that blind impotent panic at 3:30 am waiting for that greenbar printer you "borrowed" to finish printing out that same dataset so you could give it to the guy and get your dad's car back, don't presume to tell me what hacking really looks like. Oh, you replaced your girlfriend's facebook picture with tubgirl? Wow, you really are 3133t.

Would I like a game of chess? As long as it doesn't end with a 3-mile walk at dawn to the alley behind the Pizza Hut, I'll play pretty much anything.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


Also that real doctors are more specialized: the same person doesn't work in the ER, do every kind of surgery, and do pathology.

Kind of like how in real life a "professor" is not an authority on archaeology/electrical engineering/biology/physics.
posted by deanc at 12:33 PM on December 3, 2009


Heh. I just now watched my one and only episode of NCIS, mainly because of this hilariously outraged post about how they get Steampunk wrong, and it appears to be about a group of hipsters who investigate crimes involving sailors under the tutelage of Edna Mode and use the CNN election touchscreen as their primary mode of investigation - is that right?

(It's nothing on the Quincy Punk episode, obviously)
posted by Artw at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2009


In Jurassic Park, when Wayne Knight was watching security camera footage via computer terminal, you could see the video clip progress bar increment as the supposedly live footage was playing. I was totally distracted by that.
posted by maxwelton at 12:35 PM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


shakespherian: I don't know if that scene actually happened or not (I doubt it based on it beginning with the NY guy and ending with Miami guy. However, I watched an episode of CSI:NY one time. I was a big fan of CSI:Plain for a while so gave NY a shot. In this episode they took blurry security cam footage, zoomed in a guy's eye, saw someone playing basketball in the reflection, and then arrested the suspect who played basketball.

And then I never watched again.

The TV show Bones used to do some terrible computer things. I would, to my wife's anger, refer to the computer as the magic computer. But they seemed to have toned it down a bit (it's still crazy stuff).
posted by bDiddy at 12:39 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, if anyone here happens to be working on any sort of Dworkinish or Pagliaic book on angry feminism, The Rapist in Now is one hell of a title.
posted by rokusan at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2009


I don't think I've ever seen a movie wherein someone's computer password protecting their MacGuffin was not somehow related to a conversation they'd had with the protagonist earlier in the film.

Or an object conveniently sitting on their desk or on the shelf in their office. I usually forgive this, though. A bad password in three guesses makes for a more watchable film than a bad password guessed from a few hundred attempts.

On the well-done side, though, the keypad password to Hugo Drax's factory in Moonraker made me chuckle, as intended. So clever.
posted by rokusan at 12:51 PM on December 3, 2009


The TV show Bones used to do some terrible computer things. I would, to my wife's anger, refer to the computer as the magic computer. But they seemed to have toned it down a bit (it's still crazy stuff).

Oh, you mean Angela's magic computer program? The one designed by an artist that can take a few data points and extrapolate exactly what happened during a murder? It was awesome. In a cheesetastic way. They did stop using it after a while, though I think they pulled it out for an ep or two last season. It was like seeing an old friend.
posted by kmz at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan: "I don't think I've ever seen a movie wherein someone's computer password protecting their MacGuffin was not somehow related to a conversation they'd had with the protagonist earlier in the film."

oh man, this is actually another moment where I think War Games was better than people give him credit for. finding out the password is the whole point behind what amounts to a technical chase setup for the first half of the film, and he actually has to go do research and shit. it's not exactly the depiction of hacking ever or anything, but it's so much better than having some silly epiphany of seeing a stuffed owl on his desk or something.
posted by shmegegge at 12:56 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


the best depiction of hacking, etc...
posted by shmegegge at 12:57 PM on December 3, 2009


I've never heard of an actual person setting their password to the theme of their character arc.

(blush)
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:59 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


luke skywalker sits at his desk, preparing to type.

luke: ach, gotta input the password.

closeup on his the computer monitor as we see his password being entered one letter at a time: w, then a, m, p, r, a, t.

luke: there.
posted by shmegegge at 1:02 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, Spaceballs had a pretty realistic depiction of the sort of passwords people tend to use.
posted by deanc at 1:04 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


It wasn't that the computer "talked" to Matthew Broderick when he "broke in." It's that he decided to stream the incoming text to his own speech synthesizer. No, a normal person wouldn't do that (maybe he didn't like reading)

I thought he turned text-to-speech on to impress Ally Sheedy.
posted by Spatch at 1:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


As a techie I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field.

I'm a molecular biologist. I watched approximately 1/3rd of an episode of CSI before the shouting and anguish got too much and I had to turn it off.


You and me both. I'm a forensic chemist (those big GC/MSD's you see in CSI are what I use every day), and that show has done more damage to perceptions of what's possible, to the expectations of juries we have to go in front of, than I could have imagined even a couple of years ago. Even people who should know better, investigators (police and peace officers), management and clients sometimes base their expectations not on reality but CSI.

Apparently, Agilent supplies CSI for free. Sales of the new 7890s have been quite good according to my sources.

The biggest problems CSI has introduced are unrealistic expectations on speed (it takes 6 days, not 6 hours to produce a result, and I've got at least a month's worth of work ahead of your samples) and accuracy. Rarely does one get a perfect match, and sampling is a tricky art. I realize that it's hard to explain 3σ 95% confidence limits on TV (and deadly boring), but still, it would be nice if the lab results weren't always perfect. They certainly aren't in the real world.

Also, no one at CSI seems to know what an autosampler is, but that's ok. They all seem to have perfect manual injection technique and great peak shapes.
posted by bonehead at 1:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Spatch: "I thought he turned text-to-speech on to impress Ally Sheedy."

I thought he did it so we wouldn't have to read all that shit on his computer screen during the movie.
posted by shmegegge at 1:11 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


bonehead - just amplify the DNA!
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on December 3, 2009


I thought he did it so we wouldn't have to read all that shit on his computer screen during the movie.

Also it sounds kind of cool.
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I liked Minority Report and Paycheck.

I laughed at Terminator 3 when she was able to whistle the modem tones.
posted by Wild_Eep at 1:17 PM on December 3, 2009


Or an object conveniently sitting on their desk or on the shelf in their office. I usually forgive this, though. A bad password in three guesses makes for a more watchable film than a bad password guessed from a few hundred attempts.

"It's useless." *Gandalf tosses staff down in frustration*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:26 PM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


[CSI] has done more damage to perceptions of what's possible, to the expectations of juries we have to go in front of, than I could have imagined.

The CSI Effect.
posted by rokusan at 1:28 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The CSI Effect.

Would that have as its opposite the Life on Mars effect?

SAM: Her body should have been dusted for prints on site.

RAY: How the hell are you gonna get dabs off skin, Boss?

SAM: You are so right. How can you?
What’s the matter with me?

CHRIS: We did take some prints off her shoe I think it was. They’ve been
sent down to Scotland Yard so we should hear back in a fortnight or
so, if there’s a match.

SAM: A fortnight?!!

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:32 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Absolutely no mention of the over the top graphic viruses on hackers? Come on their was a cookie monster one, that to the best of my recollection made your keyboard type like you just got crumbs in their, or something. I don't know, it helped them somehow. I would put hackers at the top. Shit even Wayne Knights little "ah ah ah" finger waving lock out graphic thing earlier in jurrasic park seemed less plausible and more annoying then the idea of a girl knowing linux (and being 12 when this movie came out Ariana Richards not only knew linux, but had managed to figure out the encrpyted password to hack the Gibson that is (was?)my heart. She could do no wrong).

Are Ipods really that unruly? I hooked one up to my PS3 and it just sees it as a USB hard drive, complete with access to oddly named files that when requested play songs that i know and love. For some reason I don't see it far fetched that someone could use one as a hard drive in a pinch and/or if they knew what they were doing. Worse case he could have just used a non-ipod MP3 player (the Archos comes to mind) and it would probably be a lot more accesible as a data storage device.

Didn't apple just give away computers to any and all movies in the nineties, so everything was run on macs? Is this not the case anymore? It seems like their movie penetration has gone down.
posted by djduckie at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2009


The CSI Effect.

That's it in a nutshell. It's hard enough to explain statistical matching to a judge alone, I'd hate to have to explain an error-bar to a jury. In fact, I've been told explicitly by a Crown Prosecutor to never mention the word uncertainty in court or expert witness statements.
posted by bonehead at 1:45 PM on December 3, 2009


"When I first saw Jurrassic Park as a kid..."
posted by Pastabagel at 1:50 PM

"Talk to me when you're banging away on a 3270 dialed in over a 400 baud modem with foam cups to cradle the telephone receiver..."
Posted by Pastabagel at 2:32 PM

I'm just sayin...
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 1:50 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


lab workers' sterile technique and hazardous materials handling is awful in TV and films

Hah, I was watching the most recent ep of Sons of Anarchy last night, and during a scene taking place in a tattoo shop my roommate emitted this strangled disgusted noise. I looked over quizzically, and she explained: "The tattoo artist got up from working on a piece and answered the phone with his GLOVES ON! That's disgusting! They should lose their license." Needless to say, the station she uses at her tat shop is rather immaculate.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:51 PM on December 3, 2009


lab workers' sterile technique and hazardous materials handling is awful in TV and films

Let's agree not to talk about Dexter, shall we? He is a psychopath, after all.
posted by bonehead at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2009


That sad part, Durn Bronzefist, is that a fortnight is crazy fast for the police forensic labs I know about. Now, six months, that's more realistic. Maybe a year. Call in March to be sure.
posted by bonehead at 1:57 PM on December 3, 2009


I know they said no Sci-fi, but the hardware in this Battlestar Galactica (1978) pic always makes me smile. Not that Star Trek's "wall of cardboard with flashing lights" was better, or anything.
posted by ServSci at 2:05 PM on December 3, 2009


Many people use computers every day. Many people drive cars every day. Cars are understood to be mechanical things, and they have limits. Computers are seen as magical things, and they can do anything. They have no limits at all.

Here is my preferred analogy - If this movie had a car that could fly, use no gas, and travel through time, you would probably have a hard time suspending your disbelief.

Back to the Future doesn't count, because that movie was awesome.
posted by bh at 2:07 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Number One problem with reviewing the probabilities of fiction: Truth is weird, and doesn't follow simple logical paths.

Take this quote from XQUZYPHYR, for instance:

Oh, and obviously no hospital in the country would have a violent drug addict on its staff. I guess what I saying is, the most common factual error in medical dramas are the numerous thinking that would get doctors sued and/or imprisoned in real life.

Sounds reasonable, right? Problem: according to this logic, there are exactly NO NADA ZIP hospitals in the US employing drug addicts with violent tendencies.

Anyone wanna bet on the likelihood of there being at least one? Approaches unity...
posted by IAmBroom at 2:15 PM on December 3, 2009


As a biochemist, the most unrealistic movie ever was Family Business. In the movie they are stealing some materials out of a refrigerator in a lab somewhere. They get to the refrigerator, and in it is one lone test tube rack.

In real life, finding an incredibly precious sample you put on what is allegedly YOUR shelf, just yesterday is at least painful.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:23 PM on December 3, 2009


I had the same Votrax speech synthesizer as WarGames, in high school, in the early 80s and I only sent output through it for a couple of hours until it got boring.
(Pastabagel, I hear ya.)
posted by bashos_frog at 2:30 PM on December 3, 2009


Battle Royale has a wonderfully over-the-top scene where teenage haX0rs write a program to take down the military servers running the game. Said program includes an animated cartoon basketball player who does a slam dunk as the military computers crash.
posted by benzenedream at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2009


Kind of like how in real life a "professor" is not an authority on archaeology/electrical engineering/biology/physics.

Maybe the weak-ass professors you know aren't, but I'm not just an authority on political science, I'm also an authority on archaeology and physics and astrochemistry and bioengineering and medieval literature and all kinds of shit you ain't never heard of.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, the reason "This is Unix! I know this!" is funny isn't because it's a ten year old girl. (Unless you're a sexist pig.) It's laughable because an obscure Irix GUI is not going to be the way anybody recognizes Unix.

Yes, thank you. If someone didn't say it I'd have to mention this ...
posted by krinklyfig at 2:49 PM on December 3, 2009


Hah, I was watching the most recent ep of Sons of Anarchy last night, and during a scene taking place in a tattoo shop my roommate emitted this strangled disgusted noise. I looked over quizzically, and she explained: "The tattoo artist got up from working on a piece and answered the phone with his GLOVES ON! That's disgusting! They should lose their license.

Similarly, every tattoo ever done onscreen instantly, magically looks like it is already three months old* when the artist has not even put the machinery away. No blood, no swelling, no redness, just a nice neat bit of ink. Yeah, not really.

*Newborn babies usually look this way, too.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


krinklyfig knows more about political science and archaeology and physics and astrochemistry and bioengineering and medieval literature than you can possibly imagine.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:55 PM on December 3, 2009


Battle Royale has a wonderfully over-the-top scene where teenage haX0rs write a program to take down the military servers running the game. Said program includes an animated cartoon basketball player who does a slam dunk as the military computers crash.

I know a few of the people involved in massive Apple II pirating back in the day (to the point where they were visited by the FBI numerous times and some eventually convicted and imprisoned), and their brag screens were all pretty silly. I can totally see them writing a program like that.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:05 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


bad interpretations of their field.

I love depictions of government offices and buildings, particularly intelligence agencies and military facilities, where it's all Star Trek panelled walls and automatic doors that go swoosh and eerie blue lights in the floor and multiple floating holographic computer monitors the size of an entire wall, and great big windows in the open-plan control room with panoramic views outside. Rather than, you know, squat white-washed-cinderblock windowless 1960s-era boxes with peeling rubber baseboards and cheap office-grey cubicle dividers and 4-year-old Dells struggling to chew through the new upgrade (to Vista! Oh no!). I mean, we joke about the million-dollar toilet seat or the billion-pound failed NHS computer system and then reallly believe that tax dollars are buying a Batman-esque master control center with real time blinking lights and stylish ultra-modern molded sectional furniture consoles?
posted by Hal Mumkin at 3:07 PM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


My favorite groaner in M:I is the scene where they lower Tom Cruise through the ceiling of the computer vault so he doesn't trip the very sensitive sensors in the floor.
So, basically someone built this complex, highly-secure system with exotic physical intrusion detection, but no keystroke detection or lock-out.


And no $10 motion detector, or $25 surveillance camera. Hell, even a movie-standard laser fence would have been cheaper and more effective than floor sensors (although easily defeated with carefully placed small mirrors).
posted by coolguymichael at 3:11 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe the weak-ass professors you know aren't, but I'm not just an authority on political science, I'm also an authority on archaeology and physics and astrochemistry and bioengineering and medieval literature and all kinds of shit you ain't never heard of.

Feynman?!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:39 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Are there any mainstream movies that do portray technology realistically?

There's a pretty decent research sequence in The Ring (American) which combines some web searching with microfiche. It's the best example I can come up with with someone using the internet in a somewhat realistic way (searching something, finding a site, changing the search, refining it).
posted by nathancaswell at 3:39 PM on December 3, 2009


Has anyone attempted Wargames: The Dead Code yet? Because I'll watch any old tosh if it's got hacking in it, but this too bad even for me.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:42 PM on December 3, 2009


Is this where I get to chime in that working on a cruise ship bears absolutely, positively no relation to the antics on LOVE BOAT which persists to this day in the collective consciousness of the cruise ship demographic?

Yes, there's a bed in your cabin. Did you notice that handle on the wall? It's a pull-down berth. No ma'am, we don't have king-sized beds, sorry.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:43 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or an object conveniently sitting on their desk or on the shelf in their office.

I was an office temp for a lot of years, and sat in front of a lot of workstations to which I had not been given the password. I wouldn't say often, but more often than you'd think, the passwords were guessable from the objects on the desk. One woman had tons of Dallas Cowboys stuff, and several pictures of Troy Aikman. Her password was "troyaikman". A lot of times learning the names of the kids from drawings or greeting cards, or the names of spouses or pets from picture frames, or just by looking through the person's desk, I could suss out clues to their passwords. I'm sure this has mostly changed as passwords are assigned by IT, but people still write them down and leave them in their desks, under their keyboards, or in their Rolodex pretty regularly.
posted by notmydesk at 3:47 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always laugh when I see the good guy's computer monitor displaying the percentage of data (counting up to 100%) the bad guys are stealing from him, and there's nothing he can do about it.

I guess the fear of being hacked paralyzes you so much you forget that you could simply pull the power plug from the box.
posted by bwg at 3:48 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always laugh when I see the good guy's computer monitor displaying the percentage of data (counting up to 100%) the bad guys are stealing from him, and there's nothing he can do about it.

This is related (though not directly) to a pet peeve of mine which is when faced with danger, the heroes always know exactly how much time they have. I mean, sure, "time to impact" has meaning if it can be calculated, but even then, that's on the basis of nothing changing. More often, you have no fricking idea how much time you have. How much? Very little.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:56 PM on December 3, 2009


SAM: Her body should have been dusted for prints on site.

RAY: How the hell are you gonna get dabs off skin, Boss?


Ha! *just* started watching that last night.I've got my Mancunian friend on my side sniffing that it's not like the Manchester HE remembers (although I'm only two episodes in, and he was like 8 at the time).

I, who know almost nothing about forensic pathology, can be sent into fits of rage at shows like CSI and Bones. if I, a dude who writes comic books, know more about lab procedure, then You Are Doing It Wrong. My Mom, who works in the Criminal Courts, can't stand the various LawNOrders for the same reason.

Also: Subtle Generational Shift

"Weird Science? That was a cool movie."

"Weird Science? That was a cool show."
posted by The Whelk at 3:57 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fun Fact: Veronica Mars was criticized for having Veronica use her computer skills too much to solve crimes. When asked, the creator said if they where being totally realistic, she'd be on the computer at least twice as much.
posted by The Whelk at 3:59 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is Unix! I know this!" is now what the terminal windows on my MacBook say when I open them.
posted by davejay at 4:19 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


*just* started watching that last night.

Awesome -- enjoy! I keep running into people who scowl at me on mention of it, and turns out they've either seen the sequel or the American version, which are apparently both terrible. But love the original. Love it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:23 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


...For the past twenty years, I've also been a cop, and along with some of the finest deputies on the force, I serve the Parish of Jefferson, Louisiana County of Mayberry. (As depicted by the apparent lack of skill on the shooting range.)

This one projects the distinct odor of bullshit.

"Elite cops" who happen to be assigned to their department's PR branch? Check. "Regularly patrols" a couple times a year, but only when it's convenient for the real cops in the PR division? Check. Manufactured photographic "evidence" of being sworn in as a cop? Check. Apparently false, and possibly illegal, representations that he is POST certified? Check. Possible reliance on "clairvoyance" and mad godlike Tibetan lama skillz as probable cause for warrantless liberty infringements and state-sponsored brigandage? Check.
posted by Hylas at 4:48 PM on December 3, 2009


House is generally OK for me, not being a medic of any description, but as a psychology graduate some bits make me cringe. The episode with someone who had bipolar disorder, with the cycles lasting twelve hours rather than several months, was possibly the low point.

Can't remember where I read it, but I'm sure I saw someone once argue that Jeff Goldblum's alien-compatible Mac was actually one of the more reasonable parts of Independence Day. After all, the scientists have had this little flying saucer around for literally decades, and have been taking bits off and studying it all that time. Even though they claim it only lit up properly once the mothership turned up overhead, that doesn't mean they couldn't have found any way of powering it at all in the meantime.

So if they have any kind of access to its onboard computer (not an unreasonable assertion, given that Jeff had access to the system well before he wrote the virus), then it's almost certain that they would have found all the accessible interfaces and written libraries for all major programming languages. Once Jeff gets the idea for a virus, you can bet one of the bright sparks there is going to say "oh yeah, this interface here really isn't very secure, we can get it to do anything really".

Actually, it's more of a surprise that they didn't just decide to go for joyrides in the mothership, or make the city destroyers go jousting with each other while the aliens cursed and searched for the latest antivirus patch.
posted by ZsigE at 4:59 PM on December 3, 2009


Has no one mentioned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?? When they hook up the mind-reader/memory-deletion machine in his apartment? Somehow there is basically a live MRI image on their monitors during this process. Not too mention so many other ridiculous impossibilities and dumbing down of basic neuroscientific facts that are implicit in the operating of that fictional device. maybe I'm being too picky, but as neuroscience is my field I found it very frustrating.
posted by captain cosine at 6:16 PM on December 3, 2009


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?


keep repeating "it's only a metaphor, it's only a metaphor .."
posted by The Whelk at 6:19 PM on December 3, 2009


I love stuff like this. His attention to detail is just phenomenal. See, for instance, this mockup of a computer screen from Children of Men. You only see it among many others for a few seconds in the background of one scene, and yet the "D.O.C. DigiVue" media player not only has a name, but displays the minuscule warning "Subject to National Media Act 2015 Section 6" below the title bar.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:03 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


burnmp3s, that is hilarious.

Also, I thought Fringe was pretty bad too. I definitely facepalmed when the recovered the last image a guy saw by reactivating his retina. I mean, that's like saying you can tell what the previous current that went through a resistor was - the last time it wasn't zero that is - by running some more current through it. It just doesn't make sense.
posted by scrutiny at 7:03 PM on December 3, 2009


Projects:No One Believes In you!
Music: The Famous Work!
Ask: Bad Sex Decisions
Metatalk: YOU'VE GONE TOO FAR!
MeFi: Southern Town Invaded By Monsters
posted by speedo at 8:32 PM on December 3, 2009 [8 favorites]


fuck you speedo stop being funnier than me.
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this where I get to chime in that working on a cruise ship bears absolutely, positively no relation to the antics on LOVE BOAT [...] No ma'am, we don't have king-sized beds, sorry.

While not disagreeing with the out-of-touch Love Boat hilarity, longingly air-shopping for cruises is one of my more pathetic pastimes, and king- and queen-sized beds are almost exclusively the norm. We had a king-size bed on both of our cruises. (Okay, it was really two smaller beds with a connecting panel in the middle, but I couldn't tell the difference.)

(Now, if you wanted to talk about LB creating unrealistic expectations about cabin size...)
posted by Liffey at 10:05 PM on December 3, 2009


(And then my husband says, "Honey, he's talking about the crew cabins." Oh. And me with "Cruise Confidential" on my Kindle and everything. Sorry. *squirm*)
posted by Liffey at 10:32 PM on December 3, 2009


The biggest tech issue in Wargames I remember is when they're racing the clock trying to convince Joshua not to launch. And we can tell how urgent it is as Joshua figures out the launch code number by number. It's a time honored movie device by now, but I wonder if that was one of the first uses. Hey, when you type in a wrong password, the computer always tells you which characters you got right, doesn't it?

Oh! The almighty Hollywood Password bug class. Yes, I say bug class, because it actually shows up in the field every once in a while. Windows 95's remote file server, at one point, had share passwords crackable one letter at a time. In other words, you literally did iterate across each character until you hit on the right one, whereby you'd get a different reaction *for that character*.

One of my friends, Travis Goodspeed, does terribly amusing things to hardware. One chip he was playing had a password to control reconfiguration -- however, it took a different amount of time to evaluate a password, depending on how many characters at the beginning were correct. (Think of code that says, for each character, if it matches the password, check the next character, otherwise quit now). Travis has said this is not at all uncommon.
posted by effugas at 2:02 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I work for NASA, and every movie you've ever seen about space travel is exactly correct.

Armageddon most of all.
posted by zap rowsdower at 9:10 AM on December 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I work for NASA, and every movie you've ever seen about space travel is exactly correct.

I KNEW IT!

*continues making 'pew-pew' and 'whoosh!' sounds with space-fighter miniature*
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:38 AM on December 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Weird Science is, in many ways, the best film ever.

Especially if you're a misogynist.


Hear, hear! Finally someone willing to call out John Hughes for the leering cromagnon woman hater he is! Like in Pretty in Pink, how the Molly Ringwald character totally sells out her dignity to one rich prick after another? And how in Breakfast Club the female characters are just caricatures drawn in there to give Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez someone to nail at the end of their battle of egos? And especially in Weird Science, how the geeks' nemeses, those two hip dudes (one of them a very young Robert Downey Jr.) who are dating the pretty girls and making lewd come-ons to Kelly LeBrock, how they totally win in the end and the girls all go with them and Kelly LeBrock does a pole dance for them?

Fucking misogynist.

Someone should forcefeed that guy a nice, greasy pork sandwich in a dirty ashtray.
posted by gompa at 10:25 AM on December 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I often wonder if doctors and other professionals squirm in their seats when they see bad interpretations of their field"

My wife won't watch Rudolph with me because she is tired of me pointing out that they're caribou, not reindeer (unless they're filming in Europe) and that the females should also have antlers. Being a zoologist who watches movies and TV is often troubling.

(Also, Outbreak... forget the horrible ebola plot, I want to know WTF a South American monkey was doing in Africa?)
posted by caution live frogs at 12:24 PM on December 4, 2009


Fucking misogynist.

Someone should forcefeed that guy a nice, greasy pork sandwich in a dirty ashtray.


From my heart and from my hand - why don't people understand, my intentions?
posted by benzenedream at 12:52 PM on December 4, 2009


I want to know WTF a South American monkey was doing in Africa?

Spreading ebola. Duh.
posted by ODiV at 1:35 PM on December 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I'm sure most of you have seen this, but it has to be linked to for everyone else's enjoyment.

http://i.imgur.com/WyoOL.jpg

"Zoom in, enhance" ftw!
posted by wet-raspberry at 6:37 PM on December 4, 2009


Battle Royale haX0r slam dunk
posted by benzenedream at 10:07 PM on December 5, 2009


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