Does Not Compute: 10 PC Myths from Movies and Television

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sra97

Here's one. Scenarios containing any character with extended computer skills that are central to the plot (just off the top of my head, Green Arrow, Person of Interest) monitors abound displaying countless command prompt screens, up which march columns of useless, indecipherable data.

A glimpse at any place necessitating access to computers, like power stations or stock exchanges will show a total absence of these.

However, realism would mean the scenes would be somewhat less visually arresting.

As for the password thing. Second Iron Man movie. Russian baddie places his hands on a military grade computer system, mutters 'Your software is shiiit' and hey presto, he's in. Didn't let that spoil an otherwise fine movie though.

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John F

My favorite scene in War Games was when the computer was trying to guess the 10-digit password. The system would tell it "you got the 1st and 3rd characters correct". Then, "you got the 1st, 3rd and 6th characters correct."   Even in the 1980s (I worked for IBM gthen) we saved the password in encrypted format. You had to get the whole thing right in one shot.

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icepick

I found myself having to sign up just so I could bring up one piece of trivia, and point something out.

 

First, the trivia. On the subject of hacking government systems, is everyone here aware of how many agencies defend their domain? They want you to get in. Or think you're in. The only people doing anything fast might be the cops racing to your door. While you're marveling at how easily (not!) you got in. I would think people would realize they are trapped in a box. But it's too late. They have your number already. And probably everything else.

Now for my thoughts about Hollywood. Hasn't anybody noticed how the current technology reigns supreme in the future. 1950s science fiction had flying saucers that must have ran on ......... vaccum tubes. Computers are always huge and impressive. In Star Trek's Next Generation, everybody writes code using subroutines. But wait a minute, isn't BASIC nearly dead already? If the research DARPA has been doing for a couple of decades is any guide, computing power in the (not so) distant future will be embedded in the human brain. My sister learned to program on a macine that covered half an acre, using punchcards for input. By the time I became a programmer, the mini I first worked on was the size of a console TV and a thousand times more powerful. Now I'm typing on a cheap laptop that has power we didn't even dream of. Come on guys, you're rich science fiction writers. Is this all the imagination you've got?

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siramic

Great article Seamus, a fun read.  :-)

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Cartaphilus

The technical term for all of this to a film/video/writing student is "the willing suspension of disbelief".  Basically, what it means is that most people realize this stuff isn't real but go along with it because it makes for a better story.  I used to get all jacked up about ridiculous, impossible, and implausable (to a techhie) technology in movies and on TV until someone reminded me to go shopping for a life.  Now it just amuses me, although I admit I still try to explain it to my non-technical friends.

 

My personal fovorite of all times, BTW, is when the young girl looked at the screen spewing endless lines of garbage in the first Jurassic Park movie and exclaimed loudly "Irecognize this.  It's UNIX!!!"

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handyman315

Great article generating many equally interesting comments from readers.

I read with one eye closed knowing any minute the writer would take dead aim on my favorite TV geek, Tim McGee, and everyone's far out gal, Abby Sciuto, on NCIS. 

Nary an FBI nor CIA computer or file can't be cracked & retrieved in mere seconds . . . while I often knock endlessly at the online door of my own bank account, then once it opens I'm so nervous I forget the name of my first favorite pet while in high school!

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Hamlam

During the movie Terminator Salvation, I distinctly remember saying way too loud for my wife's comfort, "Oh come on!" when Christian Bale plugged in his laptop to a terminator motorcycle with his trusty USB 2.0 B-type cable. Moments like that ruin entire movies. And, no, theaters do not refund your money even after you explain to them ad nauseum the technical errors in a movie...

 

Also, I think a similar article could be written about the mystic magnet: "Reversing polarity", EMPs, etc.

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florajohnson

I felt very happy while reading this site. This was really very informative site for me. I really liked it. This was really a cordial post. Thanks a lot!

Cell Phone Spy

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p0dogg

Here's another one.  In the last Die Hard movie, the hacker make it so that the platters of the hard drive is able to spin at such a high rate that it spontaneously explodes and destroys half of the floor in the building.  

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jbwhite99

Sorry for the duplicate post...

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jbwhite99

The questions were fed to Watson via a text file when Alex read the question.  This really surprises me since IBM did develop voice recognition software (ViaVoice, which they discontinued years ago).

All the Apple PC stuff you saw?  Apple paid the studio for the placement - plus they put their LOGO IN THE EQUIVALENT OF 360 POINT TYPE on the back of their machines.  Keep in mind that James Bond now uses Sony equipment - guess who helps produce the movies?  (Sony).

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Starkiller007

 I always wonder why when one computer blows up it takes out the entire Electronic Package, like radios and video equipment. A fifty cent fuse would prevent all of those great sparks from flying.

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Pablo54

Forgot the original “Flying UNIX GUI” in Jurassic Park.

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Pablo54

Another myth would be you can successfully log into your system remotely from anywhere at anytime 100% of the time and the critical HD photos and video you need can be viewed instantly.    

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waleedd

Hackers is such an iconic movie. Its in the "so bad its good" category!

So many good quotes too.

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keyzs

there's one more.... in Robocop 3, the little girl always seen with a motorised keyboard, brief-case styled laptop, who could hack her way so far as to re-programme the ED-209 and she always seem to have a cable that plugs into every socket imaginable.

In the final battle scene, she could even re-programme Japanese made androids to turn on each other.... this time wirelessly!!!

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AvidElite

The one I hate is when they show a computer waiting for input with a blinking cursor, and there's a subtle (or not so subtle) beeping in time with the cursor.  Cursors don't beep!  You'd rip your sound card from your rig in five seconds if that was the case.

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FRAGaLOT

my favorate tech myth they ALWAYS show in TV and movies is when someone is "stuck" in a virtual reality that some how the "safty measures" are off and they can DIE! (Matrix) And, OH NO, if you pull off the VR glasses will KILL them! The only time this was even plauseable was on Star Trek TNG when the Holodeck went crazy since they were physically in a room, not wearing glowing and blinking glasses and nintendo power gloves sitting in a chair.

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cadius

I love how crime caper movies always seem to include the hacker who splices into a co-ax line and has instant high-speed access to not just the cable tv network, but the data network, the security camera system, elevator controls, climate controls, etc., all without logging into separate accounts or doing any real effort. Oh, and how every network includes a 3d wire-frame floor plan that shows where everything is (accurately!), including people.

 

I mean, damn. Our building management folks don't even have PAPER plans that are accurate and complete, much less digital video-game style floor plans.

And why is it that film password boxes aren't hidden? How many websites or apps have you ever logged into where the password was plaintext? Or, in modern systems, didn't require complex passwords. Or that didn't lock you out after 3 or 5 failed attempts.

 

And hacking is a super high speed activity? Since when could a hacker take over a network in under 60 seconds from start to finish?

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comobu

No one mentioned one of my faves.  On Hawaii 5 0 Grace Park just flicks her wrist and the  image she was thinking of slides off of the tabletop and onto the 55 incher on the wall.

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Kargg

The one 'plausible' thing I can say from WarGames is that he researched the guy who created the WOPR. (Not even thinking for a moment that it's impossible to hack into a military computer--so don't complain to me about that--I already know) I'm just giving credit where credit is due.

The kid did a ton of research on the guy and through his research, found the story of the guy's kid. Not possible? I think it might be, since most people will create passwords based on something or someone they know.

Once again, please don't hit me with the "can't get onto a military computer" thing. I already know that. I'm only commenting on how the kid found out the password. It's better than in 90% of the movies and shows, where they just guess the correct word. At least the kid studied for it!

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Barnbaby

One of my all time pet peeves is when you hear the sound of a typewriter typing while seeing letters or numbers appearing on a monitor.    "Alien" is a prime example of this.

The superfulous sounds of a shutter clicking in Bladerunner as Decker examines a photograph accompanyed by extreme magnifications of same with no loss of fidelity, all done with voice commands. Wow !

In ID4, why is it that the alien fighter ships have not progressed in development in the time from the capture of one in the 40's to the preset day?  Did the aliens decide, "well, that's good enough, let's just stop here..." ?

Also, same movie, why didn't Goldblum program his OWN fighter to KEEP it's shield, while letting his "virus" deactivate all the other shields?  Seems like a no brainer to me, but it would have spoiled the frenzied escape from the mother ship before it exploded....  I still enjoy watching that movie.....Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith had some good chemistry working there.... guess I got a bit off topic, eh ?

 

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tedpjr

Let us not forget the unsanely fast data parsing and super-fast custom Unix systems glorified on "Criminal Minds". I mean, Google is incredibly useful, but a system that pops up custom search screens and allows the tech to find: white male, recently divorced, with a criminal or mental health history, with 2.3 kids, wears size 10.5EEE shoes, and limps? C'mon - that kind of searching would take months if it were even possible!

Honorable mention: Abby and McGee on NCIS - hacking the Pentagon? Or creating immediate firewalls to protect a ghost of a hard drive they cloned off a dead sailor's laptop on the fly? My fingers would catch on fire if I could type that fast!

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publicimage

Thoroughly enjoyable article! I even got hooked reading all the comments. My number one pet peeve is definitely all the "bleeps and blips" made by every. single. computer. function! Surely there'd be a system preference to turn that off! (Well there would be if they were running Windows anyway.)

About the Mac thing, that's called product placement. It is definitely NOT generosity on Hollywood's part. For every Mac you see in prime time TV and at the movies, Apple has either paid for it to be there or traded goods and services for it. Meaning, like, free laptops for everyone on the production team. That's what the "Promotional Consideration provided by..." usually means during the credits. Same goes for the HPs (or is it Dell?) on The Office, and those "Windows logo" computers  more recently, for example in the last season of Smallville (paid for by HP and MS, respectively).

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brentrad

Or how the Stargate Atlantis team exclusively uses Dell laptops with the Dell logo very prominent in scene after scene.

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wheelnut53

How about there is enough electricity in keyboard to send a shower of sparks over the users head . and how about when hacking someone's system you never run into porn I pity the church lady that hacks my system . Oh and you forgot to mention how fast those computers boot up and shut down and the destruct button always in red with the word destruct plianly visible  . In an age where a decent defrag session might last a half hour you can erase a whole hard drive in 3 minutes

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bardman6

Every time some one moves from one screen to the next or types something or a query result is returned, it beeps. Ugh, I sometimes turn the channel or leave the theater when that happens.

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Deviate

Skynet IS real!

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Deviate

Regarding the computer "hacking" stuff in movies though, any time I hear some nonsense computer lingo being thrown around in a movie, I get disgusted and have to walk away for a few minutes.

I'm also a car guy, and it's the same way with cars in movies/TV series. Especially the horrifically terrible Fast and Furious franchise.

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Rexxrally

How about whenever the hacker gets the password wrong, a big flashing red box with "ACCESS DENIED" appears with the accompanying angry buzzing sound?

Then, after thinking about it for 30 seconds, he figures out the password, types it in, and a green box with "ACCESS GRANTED" appears, with either an accompanying DING! sound or a soothing female voice restating the green box text.

 

 

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BrainiacV

For computers taking over the world, you forgot the granddaddy of them all, COLOSUS: The Forbin Project.

 

The COLOSUS/GUARDIAN pair of super computers achieved sentience and had control of the nuclear weapons of USA and the USSR long before SkyNet was a glimmer in James Cameron's eye.

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Quantum-Z

Here's my favorite: Monitors are so bright that they project the text on the screen onto the user's face, in bright green letters. Nobody seems to use black-on-white color schemes while hacking.

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Coleen

 

The writer has a great sense of humor - thanks for the laughs. You forgot to include the "Stargate" series in your list. How many times in Stargate (SG-1 or Atlantis) do they interface directly with Alien technology? Daily? How about Carter or McKay constantly cracking/hacking into systems or passwords in a matter of second? Although I love that series, it IS just TV (and movies) and it's not realistic. Maybe someday computer OS will speak to each other (Mac's and PC's) but until then...lets just keep watching our favorite Sci-Fi films and TV shows and fantasize...

 

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leif

This is movies, not real.

 

Just like the bad guys can shoot at the good guys with machineguns and mortars and whatever, and allways misses, while the good guys can take the bad guys out at 300 feet with a single shot.

Revolvers have at least 10 bullets.

The bad guys stand in line to attack the good guy one at a time, with karate, sword or fist, instead of attacking him all at the same time.

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hstr

The IP address you see in the end of "The Net" is not a valid IP address, it contains an octet > 255. I guess it's like all telephone numbers in movies always have 555 in them.

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zwartewreker

Anyone noticed the possibility in movies and series to backup a complete system to a flashdrive or via remote connection to another system in under 20 seconds?

Why do i have to wait for hours?

 

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yadoumaru

How about Terminator II?  

When young John Connor manages to "hack" his way into ATM machines with a device that doesn't appear to be a laptop but some sort of glorified organiser.

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FRAGaLOT

it was acctually an ATARI branded calculator!!

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Zytrex

Here's a myth.... Tablets are useful.

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fiXXer

yes people, not only is it incredibly easy for anyone to hack anything that uses electricity or is connected to ANY kind of network, anyone who hacks does so with a nifty custom//3d/animated GUI (that they can, in some cases, transfer to their victims' machines).  The fact is, most secure networks such as the ones used by the military or utility companies are run completely separate from the internet.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen actor/actress <insertname> access one of these networks from a remote location.  Not possible.  thx.

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MeanSquare

I might argue with "Passwords are easy to crack" being a myth only because most people are far too trusting and a bit lazy.  Most security breaches (after inside jobs) are done by "social engineering."  You ask people the right questions in a way that seems reasonable and you can get a lot.  It doesn't work all the time, obviously.

The one thing they don't show very often on TV or movies is the vast number of times that the password is written on a sticky note stuck to the underside of the keyboard :)

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ejkolkman

I've seen them in drawers, roledex's, taped to the side of the tower, and, wait for it... sticky note to the front of the monitor.

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BrandNewJesus

OK, so I was bored. 

 

I put the movie in slow-mow, ENHANCE, ENHANCE, ENHANCE!

 

And yes that twat Justin long's hacker buddy "Warlock" was using a fucking mac.

He had apps like garage band and twatdiddle cluttering up his desktop.

I saw his desktop, and was like wtf, who the f has that much shit on there desktop, and this guy is supposed to be superduper anon. gtfo! 

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espaghetti

What about that wild gui that they use in the office in NCIS?

When can I get that?

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Xessive

Lately I've noticed laptops in TV shows with the Windows logo on the back (just like the Apple logo). I don't think Microsoft has been manufacturing PC's.

Anyway, another computer myth I keep seeing repeated over and over is that computers must make beeps and boops at all times. Why do they have the noisiest computers on the planet?!

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szore

The fanboys cometh...

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Asterixx

...And then there are the cameras. How is it that in any movie or TV show there is always a bird's eye view of everything going on, whether it be from security cameras that just happen to be focused on the action, or the cameras that always just happen to be directly in front of the faces of people engaged in wireless video chatting (IE detectives talking to the chief on their video wristwatch). And scenes of people recalling things are always shown in the third person, meaning there's either a camera or a third person present (The Simpsons has actually made fun of this, during a clip show when the family was supposedly remembering an event, watching a home movie that happened to be a clip from a previuos show, and somebody would say "Who was filming this")...

...and then there's that whole videophone thing. Back in the 80's this was something you'd see a lot on TV and in movies, people talking to their friends via video phones or using video chat software that provided crystal clear images and TV-like frame rates. This back in the days when data was transfered on 9600 baud modems. Here we are into the second decade of the 21st century and video chatting is still not ubiqitous, and video phones are still not prime time (Apple's Facetime notwithstanding; it's only an infant and is not mainstream). Back in the 80's I'd have thought that by 2011 I'd be able to chat with mom on a videophone by now. Meaning that the technology would have had to have been common enough that she'd both have it and know how to use it.

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Asterixx

Being an auto mechanic by trade I've got similar gripes with the mechanical problems cars often experience in TV shows/movies. Dukes of Hazzard was particularly notorious for this. The General Lee would be down on horsepower because of a "Blown oil gasket". There are hundreds of gaskets in a car, not one of which is called an "oil gasket", and if any gasket related to oil did blow, the General would not be down on power, it would simply lose oil until it stopped running. Seinfeld was another show really bad for this, made worse by the fact that Jerry Seinfeld himself is a car guy. Every time a car broke down or had problems it would make the same vague knocking sounds, and when it finally did grind to a halt there would ALWAYS be smoke coming out from under the hood, regardless the cause of the breakdown. There was a rerun on a few nights ago in which Seinfeld's Saab 900 convertible was stolen and the police thought they recovered it. The police describing what they had found was pathetically riddled with innacuracies: "We can tell it was a Saab because the engine angle was 92 degrees (Saab V6's have a 54 degree angle, and to my knowledge no manufacturer ever used a 92 degree angle), "They separated the turbo from the housing and shoved it clean up the tail pipe" (what "housing" was the turbo separated from? Turbos essentially ARE housings, and how could they shove it up a steel tail pipe? Steel car parts are not like arse holes, they generally don't stretch), and then when Jerry realized his car was not a turbo (which is good, because no V6 Saab of the time was) a woman came in inquiring whether it was her car they'd found (Jerry's was a convertible 900 (nine hundred), hers was a 9000 (nine thousand) sedan, two completely different cars - they couldn't figure this out earlier?)

 

But I digress. Computers: What about Penny's computerbook in the old Inspector Gadget cartoons? She could interface with ANYTHING (computers, cars, airplanes, toasters, bicycles, etc) with that book in a matter of seconds, take over control of it, and save her uncle. All wirelessly, to boot...

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andresau

What about the actual movie: "Hackers"? My favorite part was hearing dial up modem sound effects when they were supposedly already in the system. Priceless.

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JohnP

How about back in the NUMBERS days, a math genius can conceive, develop, write, debug, and run a computer program that will cross reference 6 separate municipal databases for common occurences during a coffee break... 

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