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Ask Slashdot: Worst Computer Scene In TV or Movies? 1200

Cuban Devil writes "Yesterday I rented a copy of The Social Network. I won't comment on the story, but the Zuckerberg character's narrated performance on hacking Harvard servers made me wonder: what's the worst computer-related acting performance ever? I leave here my vote: Independence Day, when I had to see Mr. Goldblum upload a virus, using a Mac, when it did not connect even to an ethernet network, compromising the entire alien fleet. What other major technological gaffes have you seen?"
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Ask Slashdot: Worst Computer Scene In TV or Movies?

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  • Agree (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ramirozz ( 758009 )
    Independence Day... light years away
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aarggh ( 806617 )
      Was Independence Day a film? I thought it was a really long PR ad for the U.S.? Kind of like the recent AD "Australia" with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.
  • by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:17PM (#35458276)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • Re:All of them. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:52PM (#35458788)

      I think "War Games" had a measure of accuracy, where the cracker spent weeks researching the private life of a system developer to try to work out what he might have used as a back-door password. Compared, say, to one of the Superman films -- was it Superman IV? -- in which all the cracker had to do was type "Override all security".

      And don't forget the back-handed accuracy of Airplane II:
      "Have you worked out what all those flashing lights mean yet?"
      "No, sir. We're working on it"

    • by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @09:28PM (#35459808)

      No kidding. I can't believe that in this day and age when computers are ubiquitous that Hollywood is still treating them like semi-magic boxes.How many people are left in the US that still think that programmers do all their coding on multiple screes with nothing but spinning 3D graphics. This is especially prevalent when someone is "hacking" into a "secure" system. Half the time they show someone manipulating a strand of DNA and are just mashing together what a four year old kid would say that heard a parent talking about computers. Something like:

      [Picture the monitor showing a fractal spinning on the screen with shiny spheres flying around and attaching to it randomly with techno music in the background]

      Hacker guy: The firewall has 7337 -bit encryption. That's more options than there are atoms in a car
      Hot chick: Really! So it's going to take you like two days to hack the NSA Excel 4-train database. Are you using the Bernoulli quadratic equation?
      Hacker guy: No, I'm already past the firewall. I dropped in a logic bomb and spammed the secure email SQL server with a hydra worm.
      Bad guy: Wow, it took Linus 14 hours on a Cray XMP Beowulf cluster linked to a direct fiber-channel modulator to do what you did in 17 seconds.
      Hacker guy: Yeah, I know. Just think how much faster I could have done it if you hadn't shot my best friend five minutes ago, didn't have a knife in my back, and I didn't have to power the mainframe with this hamster wheel.
      Bad guy: It'll all be over soon. Once you get the launch codes for the neutron bomb from the ZX81 RAM pack.

  • by 6031769 ( 829845 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:17PM (#35458278) Homepage Journal

    The usenet grep scene. *shudder*

  • by NitzJaaron ( 733621 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:17PM (#35458282)
    Every time they showed a screen in Hackers I cringed. Also, that "RISC is good" comment from the lead actor made my skin crawl.
    • by mikaelwbergene ( 1944966 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:20PM (#35458316)

      Every time they showed a screen in Hackers I giggled and enjoyed the movie without taking it too seriously.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:27PM (#35458446)

        Same reason Independence Day isn't the worst offender. Their computer scenes were as unrealistic as their physics which was as unrealistic as their politics. None of it was meant to be serious.

        I find something like CSI much more annoying.

      • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:38PM (#35458604) Journal

        yes, this is exactly the right way to do it. it was a light-hearted romp which featured corporate malfeasance and corruption; liberated and powerful computer enthusiasts; an interestingly-clad Angelina Jolie; and a great period soundtrack. what exactly is wrong with any of this?

        when i was in high school, it inspired a few otherwise-uninterested people to learn a little bit about computers, and was kind of a "cult classic" among those of us who already were. the people who were offended by it were (mostly) posers. i mean, come on, the tagline on the posters was "just when you thought it was safe to turn on your hard drive" or something ridiculous like that. it's pure cheese and that's just fun, no matter how serious it was meant to be (i suspect not at all).

        also, "risc is good" was poetry compared to "it's got a 28.8 bee-pee-ess modem!" and "i bet it looks crispy in the dark."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seumas ( 6865 )

      You are missing the point. Hackers was a FANTASTIC movie and it should be taken in a fairly tongue-in-cheek sort of way. If you're nit-picking Hackers, you're "doing it wrong".

      I can't remember the movie, but a very long time ago, there was a movie I saw on TV. It might have even been made-for-TV. In it, an airplane everyone was on was somehow compromised and it couldn't be piloted. Thankfully, a teenage girl on the plane had an Apple laptop (this would have been around 1997, maybe?). She plugged her laptop

      • She plugged her laptop into the cockpit and was able to pilot the plane again, saving all on board.

        Sorta like the bad guys in one of the Die Hard movies that used their computer to hack into the air traffic control system and "move the ILS down" so the incoming airliner would crash.

      • by Kosi ( 589267 )

        Wasn't that an episode of the latest version of Human Target?

    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:13PM (#35459084) Homepage Journal
      I rather enjoyed hackers.

      I think there is a difference between computer as plot device and computer as character and computer as magic. As a plot device, as it was used in Hackers it was quite inoffensive. I like the way they coupled the phones rather than using magic routing to hide the location. It was a valid plot device, like the Enterprise in ST:TOS.

      Computer as magic, I really have no opinion one way or another. It is lazy writing, and has nothing to do with the computer. This is Independence day.

      The computer as an integral part of the story is War Games and Jumpin Jack Flash are good examples of the form. A not so good one is Leverage. It is my opinion that they misused Data in ST:NG

    • by Homburg ( 213427 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @09:20PM (#35459732) Homepage

      The screens in Hackers are obviously a visual metaphor, and a good one at that. The technological nit that did annoy me is that the film doesn't seem to understand the difference between a username and a password.

  • it turns out... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:18PM (#35458286)

    hacking/coding/computing in real life is incredibly boring - reality doesn't make for a good movie.

  • by supremebob ( 574732 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:18PM (#35458290) Journal

    Seriously... there are several scenes in that movie that are unbelievably bad. Pick your favorite!

    • true story (Score:5, Funny)

      by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:19PM (#35459148) Homepage Journal

      i am a film buff. so i knew about the movie swordfish a few months before it came out (from fan sites like, etc.), and i knew sketchy plot points about the movie, namely that it would be about illicit transfers of illicit funds

      i also used to work for a large multinational bank as a programmer. and a few months before swordfish came out, i was developing a system used by the bank for monitoring internal transfers. on a lark, i code named the system in development as "swordfish" as my own personal inside joke. it was never intended to be a more widely known nickname

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

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

      he stopped raving about the program, and my boss got in the habit of shaking his head and smirking every time he saw me

      so the plot guys get the technical details wrong sometimes

      i am living proof that sometimes the technical guys get the plot points wrong

  • Easily CSI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:18PM (#35458296)

    I'll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic, see if I can track an IP address!

    • Yeah, but CSI Miami has completely divorced itself from reality, which make it fun. It doesn't even pretend to be sensible.

      Whenever they show an IP address, all octets are > 255. And whenever there is a match, it is ALWAYS 99.32%. Or something like that. But it's ALWAYS the same.

      But that's OK because Horatio has awesome lines and excellent sunglasses.

  • Lawnmower Man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebaz ( 453974 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:18PM (#35458298)

    Basically the whole movie.

  • Hackers... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Xyverz ( 144945 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:19PM (#35458302)

    "It's a P6 chip ... RISC architecture is gonna change everything".

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      Heh... Or...the Gibson... >:-D

      Basically like LawnmowerMan and Swordfish, the whole movie was one giant computer gaffe.

      • by jeek ( 37349 )

        The Gibson name was used because Clay or SGI wouldn't lend them their name, iirc.

    • Re:Hackers... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:37PM (#35458594)

      You do realize Hackers isn't a film that you're supposed to take seriously, right? It's a great movie. Feel free to criticize technology in the majority of films out there, but complaining about it in Hackers is like complaining about how much Monty Python sucks, because "there isn't really any such thing as a ministry of funny walks!".

      • Monty Python doesn't suck because "there isn't really any such thing as a ministry of funny walks!" Quite the contrary, this is the reason every government on the planet sucks. If I was ever elected to a position of power, the first thing I would do is to invest in the future of silly walks. Walking has been so terribly not silly these days. In fact if you're caught walking silly in some places, they'll tell you to strip naked, bend over and give you a reason to walk silly.
    • Given that the Intel P6 chips (let alone the Pentium II, III, etc.) hadn't been released when Hackers was written, filmed, or in theatres, don't you think it's not entirely out of the question that they could have been making assumptions about the direction Intel would go in, rather than making a mistake? Intel *did* try to switch to RISC, after all.

      Every time I see an x86 disassembly, it makes me wish I were living in the alternate universe where they succeeded.

    • Re:Hackers... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2011 @09:16PM (#35459696) Homepage Journal

      Hey now, at the time it looked like the RISC architecture was going to change everything.

      And if this site has proved 1 thing, it's the geeks always use hyerbole about new technology.

      I call that scene: Accurate.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This. []

    Spew forth as many technical-sounding terms as possible to confuse the average person and make them think you know what you're talking about!

  • Hackers and Blowfish (err, Swordfish) stand out the most as appallingly bad. Though I have to admit it's the rare TV or movie that gets computer science in even the ballpark of plausibility.

    I'd go through a lot of TVs and monitors if I acted on my impulse to throw bottles at the screen every time a 3D UI or infinite-zoom-and-enhance camera or other horrible Hollywood trope involving computers is used.

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:21PM (#35458334) Journal

    Macs running Unix? Yeah, like that will ever happen

  • It's a Unix system, I know this!

  • It's BS there is no way that he would have lasted 60 seconds.
  • The Net (Score:5, Insightful)

    by willith ( 218835 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:22PM (#35458354) Homepage

    I have to nominate the Sandra Bullock abortion The Net []--the entire film. Compared to that movie, Goldblum's antics are totally plausible.

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      I thought "The Net" was the one where the main character hacked into a computer using an actual unix privilege escalation command-line from the time. I thought that movie was fairly accurate. No hacking passwords by magically typing keys, no remotely controlling things that had no internet connection. The most implausible thing was hackers hiding secret links in web pages, which I've known people to do. Or the hackers putting unnecessary animations onto web pages... oh wait, people did that too... espec

  • by bakuun ( 976228 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:23PM (#35458370)
    Tom Cruise breaks into a vault at CIA with their most important computer, and when presented with a login screen clicks the "override" button on the computer (right next to the "ok" button), which simply logs in without having to enter a password.
  • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:28PM (#35458450) Homepage

    Why the hell do they do that? What self-respecting geek would use something so annoying that it bleeps every time it displays a character?

  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:28PM (#35458462)

    Yes, this movie exists. [] And yes, it's godawful beyond belief.

    Here's a review [] I wrote about the movie when it came out. But, really, every detail is awful-- not just the computer scenes, but every scene is brimming from top to bottom with WTF. It also doesn't help that they couldn't get any characters from the original, except WOPR (if you count that.)

    • WarGames is much like The Matrix... or Fletch... or Caddy Shack... or The Karate Kid...

      One of the best things to say is, "That was such an awesome movie. It's too bad they never made a sequel".

      The fact that there was, indeed, a movie made to cash in on the original's success which is not worthy to be its sequel does not make the statement incorrect. It is, in fact, the very point. Making a movie with the same name and even some of the same characters that purports to take place some time farther along the t

  • by Coeurderoy ( 717228 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:29PM (#35458482)

    When ever I see a scene qui a computer, or a sculptor, or somebody speaking a "foreign language" that I know, I'm wondering ...

    Are all the scene about things I do not know anythng about just as bad ???
    Are all the docter cringing when they see Dr House ? (probably) and what do the lawers make of the "good wife" ? and new york women of "sex and the city" ?

    Or are we singled out to be really interpreted badly ...

    BTW I do actually laught but really hate the big bang theory ... is it really necessary for the US general public to believe that inteligent scientist are social looser to enjoy a movie ?
    It's geeksplotation.. if you would stereotype any other human category as much you'd probably be sued to bankrupcy...

                I guess we do have too much of a sense of humor...

    • by Deep Esophagus ( 686515 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @09:31PM (#35459844)

      Are all the docter cringing when they see Dr House ? (probably)

      Yes. Polite Dissent [] is written by a doctor who reviews medical issues as portrayed in House as well as other media (comics, other tv shows, etc -- today's page has him tearing into classic "train to be a nurse at home" ads from a bygone era). He rates the medicinal errors from "major" to "minor" to "nitpicking", and he explains it all in layman's terms so medically illiterate people like me can understand.

  • Unthinkable (Score:5, Funny)

    by hjf ( 703092 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:33PM (#35458538) Homepage

    Unthinkable (with Samuel L Jackson and Carrie-Ann Moss).

    The bomb guy disarms the bomb with a Mac running EXCEL, randomly pressing keys in different cells. []

  • by pgn674 ( 995941 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:35PM (#35458566) Homepage
    All the time, over and over again, the TV series NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service is the worst. I understand the goal is to express mood and plot and not to be technically accurate, but still, it's painful.
    • Re:NCIS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:49PM (#35458748) Journal

      Frankly I find all CSI and all its knockoffs/ripoffs to be just atrocious on all technical levels. It's not just computers, its chemistry, DNA analysis, optics... I mean, this isn't forensic sciences going on in these shows like you would find on a reasonably decent show like, say, Quincy (which generally stayed well within the technical capabilities of forensics labs in its day and age). These guys have want amount of magic faerie machines.

      Probably the worst aspect is this idea that all these forensics guys are cops with fancy machines. When is the last time you ever heard of an actual lab tech getting into a chase with a perp, or, in most cases, even being in the same fucking building as the perp?

      • Re:NCIS (Score:4, Informative)

        by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:20PM (#35459164)

        Frankly I find all CSI and all its knockoffs/ripoffs to be just atrocious on all technical levels.

        Furthermore, I read that doing all the tests they do for even one case, would take weeks even *if* they could afford it. One tech mentioned that to even rent some of the equipment required for a few of the tests would exceed their annual budget.

  • Star Wars (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:40PM (#35458630) Homepage Journal
    R2D2 could understand speech but not speak.
  • by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @07:58PM (#35458868) Homepage Journal

    After they escape the game grid (which I'll admit was fairly realistically done), the programs get all excited about finding power. WTF? Hardware uses power; what programs want is memory. They should have been, all, "There must be forty-eight kilobytes here!! Gobble gobble, I'm gonna build another hash table!"

    Or how about Ram, who I guess you're supposed to think "drank the koolaide" since he was going on about how insurance was a good investment. No insurance program would actually be able to really function, if it actually believed that. Maybe this wasn't a script error, though. Maybe Ram really believed that, and that is why he derezzed after fairly minor injuries. Or maybe he knew insurance-as-an-investment is a scam, and was trying to con Flynn into buying some insurance, so he died as a moral lesson on the importance of honesty.

    Then there's Sark, getting all snippy with an underling, telling him to stop thinking because he does the thinking. That was stupid and made be guffaw at the idea that Sark was supposed to be some kind of bad-ass antagonist. Part of solving problems is break the up and get another process doing something, feeding you the answers through a pipe. Even if you don't have SMP (which was admitted pretty rare in 1982) multiprocess solutions still let you get work done while something is blocked on I/O, without all that bug-prone mucking around with threading.

    Speaking of I/O.. the I/O towers! For all the praise Tron got for its graphics, you'd think they'd be able to get the color of I/O towers right.

    • the sense i got from Ram was that he was a regular joe, who understands his job is bullshit but can't get out of it, so he engages in self-deprecating humor to make it through. most of america talks like that at the bar after work.

      sark: the whole point was that the MCP was an unsustainable over-centralized model that was removing the flexibility of the system; stet.

      also the i/o towers were blue because they were the last vestige of open communication, in opposition to the MCP. it's not until the events of t

  • by coryking ( 104614 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:06PM (#35458988) Homepage Journal

    How are most of these cheesy CSI-type programs created? I would assume they are done in flash. Are they usually interactive, in other words if the actor presses a button it does some predefined animation, or is the whole thing one long animation that the actor needs to time against?

    Somebody here has to have created one of these...

  • by hazydave ( 96747 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:33PM (#35459306)

    Ok.. I probably deserve this for watching "Date Night" ... horrible film. Why does Tina Fey act in any film she didn't write?

    But anyway... not terribly unique "regular people drawn into a caper" comedy. There's a fundamental plot point that requires a USB stick being plugged into a Kindle (a little too obvious on the product placement). That can't happen.. no USB host port on a Kindle. Sorry, I'm a hardware guy, that was the final straw that made me hate the film (it had progress toward that hate by then already, even though I usually like just about anything with Fey or Steve Carell).

  • ID4 was fine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:38PM (#35459344) Homepage Journal

    A) They studied the tech for years.
    B) The raise is a hive mind. As such crime wouldn't be an issue.
    C) minimal to no software virus protection
    D) He can write an emulator.

    That movie complaint is unwarranted.

  • by formfeed ( 703859 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @08:59PM (#35459548)

    Hackers getting "in" to a computer by navigating "around" the firewall. - Both of course displayed on the screen with some 3d blocks.

    Close second: Searching a database. - Pictures or texts (depending whether you look for a person or a document) flash on the screen in rapid succession, till the computer than "finds" the right one. For the computer to "look" at it, it must apparently appear on the screen.

  • Spaceballs (Score:5, Funny)

    by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @09:13PM (#35459662) Journal

    There's no way anyone could ever use a hair dryer that big.

  • by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Friday March 11, 2011 @11:22PM (#35460536)
    Sure no cyborgs, and we're still working on ED209, but back in 1987 Robocop had:

    - computer interfaces that resembled web sites
    - a device for tracking Robocop that looks suspiciously like a smartphone
    - digital video recording, as well as DVDs (didn't exist until '93)


    - stupidly oversized cars that wasted gas (6000 SUX)
    - ultraviolent games for the whole family (Nukem!)
    - Ford Taurus police cars (back when Crown Victorias were standard issue, they looked very "futuristic")
    - ads for medical services (unheard of in '87)
    - privatized police, military, prisons, and spacecraft
    - and autoflush urinals!


Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein