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A Short History of Computers In the Movies

Unknown Lamer posted about 4 months ago | from the smalltalk-in-the-movies dept.

Movies 165

Esther Schindler writes "The big screen has always tried to keep step with technology usually unsuccessfully. Peter Salus looks at how the film industry has treated computing. For a long time, the 'product placement' of big iron was limited to a few brands, primarily Burroughs. For instance: 'Batman: The Movie and Fantastic Voyage (both 1966) revert to the archaic Burroughs B205, though Fantastic Voyage also shows an IBM AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central. At 250 tons for each installation (there were about two dozen) the AN/FSQ-7 was the largest computer ever built, with 60,000 vacuum tubes and a requirement of 3 megawatts of power to perform 75,000 ips for regional radar centers. The last IBM AN/FSQ-7, at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, was demolished in February 1984.' Fun reading, I think."

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165 comments

Reel-to-real (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 4 months ago | (#45772901)

> with 60,000 vacuum tubes

If an average vacuum tube lasted 6 months, the whole thing broke down every 5 minutes. Prior to transistors this was the terror of engineers.

Also, I always wanted a computer like they had in certain scenes of Lost in Space. Later I learned that was just a reel-to-reel tape device peripheral.

Preventative Maintenance (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#45772969)

First, vacuum tubes lasted much longer than 6 months, Second, that's what PM is for. Preventative Maintenance would have you replacing the tubes before they're reaching EOL, increasing system reliability.

You just have to accept a few hours of downtime every few months while they swap out thousands of tubes.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (4, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#45773065)

I've seen old radios and televisions with vacuum tubes at least 35 or 30 years. I remember the television repair man coming into the house to replace a couple when they broke down. It was strange when we got our first solid state TV as they just replaced boards and there was no tubes we could run down to the drug store and get. You used to just look for a glow in the tube when something wasn't working right, if there was no glow, you took it with you and there was a testing machine made by rayovac right in the drugstore that you could test them on and it would cross reference any models to the ones they had in stock.

I don't know how that compares to the tubes in the computers, but they were surprisingly resilient considering the age of the tech behind them.

TV Repair (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#45773169)

There's a bit of difference between the dozen or so tubes in the old TVs, and I remember using the Rayovac machine to test tubes myself as a kid with my dad. I'm sure he could have done it faster himself, but I loved doing it.

As for the tubes in the computers, I think they were about the same reliability - smaller and more complex, but also built to a higher standard. It's just that going from ~12 tubes to 60k ones means that you're going to have them fail more often. In addition, many of them could still operate even if tubes were blown, and you could hot-swap many of them.

Re:TV Repair (4, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#45773215)

going from ~12 tubes to 60k

They used tricks, like reducing the filament voltage, to improve tube life. Nevertheless it was a problem, and I think these new solid state models show promise.

Transfer Resistors (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773199)

What replaced thermionic devices (tubes) in computers? Transfer Resisters (But most people refer to them as transistors). Yes, it could transfer all the current from the low impedance side of the circuit to the high impedance side of the circuit (giving a gain in power). Instead of using physics to accelerate particles provided by high current and made to jump by a small source input (in a tube via physics), they take a semiconducting material, dope it with material found on either side of it on the periodic table. Its really still semiconductor physics although it feels like chemistry. In a computer, the transistors are very small, are connected to one another with aluminum, have extremely narrow frequency response (this isn't an audio amplifier), have very low capacitance (fast switching--you don't have to pretend your are charging or discharging a battery every time you want to turn it on or off), and use very little power. All they do is act like light switches (1 means on, 0 means off).

Re:Transfer Resistors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773327)

"What replaced thermionic devices (tubes) in computers?"

Diodes, magnetic core logic, parametrons, fluidic gates, etc? All kinds of whacky stuff.

"Transfer Resisters (But most people refer to them as transistors)"

It's "resistor" and they were never resistors, that was just the name of the effect.

"it could transfer all the current from the low impedance side of the circuit to the high impedance side of the circuit"

What does that even mean?? It does no such thing.

"Instead of using physics to accelerate particles provided by high current"

instead? What? The particles in tubes came from high temperatures and low work fuction materials, not high currents. If anything, most tubes worked at low current and high voltages.

"and made to jump by a small source input"

Most certainly not. Where do you get this crap from?

"are connected to one another with aluminum, "

Or copper.

"have extremely narrow frequency response"

What?

" All they do is act like light switches (1 means on, 0 means off)."

Well, maybe. But not really. You seem to have accumulated an impressive amount of dubious knowledge there.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (3, Funny)

radiumsoup (741987) | about 4 months ago | (#45773353)

Vacuum tubes! You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down to the mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt in front of a window so our brothers and sisters would have something to watch.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773833)

Luxury.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 4 months ago | (#45775141)

> go to work down to the mill

In the snow and rain. Uphill BOTH ways. And we LIKED IT.

GET OFF MY LAWN!

Re:Preventative Maintenance (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773585)

if there was no glow, you took it with you and there was a testing machine made by rayovac right in the drugstore

I also remember that from my early childhood in the 70s. In the mid-90s, there was an old tube radio left in our house and I was sort of interested in fixing it up. We found a store in Charlottesville, VA that stocked tubes and yep, they had a tester. That brought back some memories. I never got around to fixing the radio or even acquiring it from the landlord. Right around the time I left, the store with the tubes burned down. The stupid TV news people even mentioned the tubes, so it must have been a well known thing. I mean, that place had virgin tubes in antique-looking cardboard boxes... I bet most of that stuff would have lit just fine. I bet every old gear fanatic in town shed a tear that night.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45775357)

I was working my way through college as a TV repairman in the early-mid 70s. I remember well the customer that insisted the tube that I replaced couldn't possibly be bad (even though the TV was now working) because she had "looked in the back and all of those little light bulbs were lit"! Working with customers, particularly those with no technical knowledge at all, is interesting.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45773389)

Tube computers seldom had tubes fail in operation. Part of daily maintenance was to run the machine on "high margins", with voltages raised about 10%. Half an hour on in that mode would blow out all the tubes near failure. Those were then replaced, and the machine would then operate for the rest of the day without problems. A tech who had worked on UNIVAC I computers once told me they'd never had a tube failure during regular operation.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (2, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 4 months ago | (#45773541)

The other trick was that they always left the filaments burning. The filaments are most likely to fail during warm-up. The failures due to reduced emission were preventable by replacing tubes after x thousand hours.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773567)

Some tubes could be made to last very long indeed, it was all about getting the cathode pure enough and the inner structure of the tube rugged enough. I give you the Bendix 6900.

http://frank.pocnet.net/sheets/131/6/6900.pdf [pocnet.net]

Enjoy, took me a while to fish up that one...

Then you add a tube cooler to keep the envelope cool....

http://www.audiohum.es/WebRoot/acens/Shops/audiohum_es/4CDA/8C25/B57E/99A6/67E7/0A01/006A/BCCA/2060100002.jpg [audiohum.es]

They put tubes under the ocean on trans-Atlantic cable repeaters, they had to be reliable.

Although I can't prove it, I'm pretty sure the Voyager probes use ceramic planar triodes (GE Y-1171) as their output tubes, the things that generate the radio waves beamed back to us.

And last but not least, in WWII they invented electronic proximity fuzes... You guessed it, vacuum tubes. They didn't last too long (boom), but they managed to survive the 100000G acceleration out of a cannon and the 20000RPM that goes with it.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773729)

Woops, got that wrong, the Y-1171 wasn't nearly powerful enough for that. You need something called a traveling wave tube to get so many watts at that frequency.

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19880010181_1988010181.pdf [nasa.gov]

*There* we go, had to check that before I could go to bed...

I probably shouldn't buy one though...

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Watkins-Johnson-TWT-Amplifier-7-to-12-4GHz-Unused-Condition-/190858149076 [ebay.com]

Re:Preventative Maintenance (1)

platypussrex (594064) | about 4 months ago | (#45774885)

the AN/FSQ-7 had two parallel systems, so that one could be working while the other was down for tube replacement. One site I read stated that it had around 99% up time. Each system would also cycle the voltage slightly as it was ready for it's shift, to force premature failure in tubes that were on the borderline.

Re:Preventative Maintenance (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 4 months ago | (#45775837)

The trick was not turning them off if you could at all avoid it and using specialized valves (tubes)

Re:Reel-to-real (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 4 months ago | (#45774889)

They lasted longer than that, but there's always the old story of people walking through such computers, watching for the signs of a tube about to fail, waiting until the system was in a state where said tube was switched off and hot-swapping a replacement.

Re:Reel-to-real (2)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 4 months ago | (#45775211)

> If an average vacuum tube lasted 6 months

This is a common misunderstanding about reliability, whether talking about solid-state or tubes. In fact, any manufacturer worth his/her salt can predict, with surprisingly accuracy, the number of failures over time -- say, 1% in the first month, 10% by the end of the first year, and so on. How they do this is fascinating to those who are interested.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_assurance [wikipedia.org]

Thus, you can buy electronics, made in the same factory, by the same people, but one branded "Sharp" and the other with an off-brand name -- identical units -- but one has a 90-day warranty, while the other is 1 year. The latter will probably cost more because ('ere's the secret) the cost of the warranty is factored into the price of the unit. (Moral: a longer warranty does NOT necessarily mean a better-built device. Another secret that "They" won't tell you.) :)

In this case:

1. You test each tube thoroughly before it's even approved for use in the computer. (This testing is one reason why "mil-spec" components cost so much.)

2. Since each tube is about the same age when the computer is first built, there will be a *window* when you expect to begin having cascade failures. You schedule PM (i.e., tube replacement) to occur *before* that window. For each of those 60,000 tubes, there's a replacement log.

This is a great example of how statistics can mislead. When the first really big computers were proposed, there were indeed some who argued that they'd never work, because with 10,000's of tubes, they'd be constantly breaking down. But real-life proved them wrong, thankfully.

Macs, not just for product placement (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 4 months ago | (#45772903)

The article mentions how macs are often used for product placement, though it doesn't seem to cite any sources showing that Apple actually paid for such product placement. Not saying that they don't, a source would have been nice. But anyway, Apple computers often appear in TV/movies/commercials when there clearly isn't any product placement, because the iconic glowing apple logo is edited out.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen computers that were clearly macs have just a generic grey back because they weren't trying to focus on the PC. This is especially true in photo ads, but I have seen it on TV and movies as well. My guess is that the producers liked the design of the mac laptops, but didn't want to risk being sued by Apple or just didn't want their product associated with Apple etc.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (0)

jones_supa (887896) | about 4 months ago | (#45772973)

Interestingly The Simpsons has started to suck Apple's cock quite a bit in the last couple of years. They constantly show a MacBook or iPod, and every now and then go into places like Apple Store. I guess this is just a sponsored deal though.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (0)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#45773453)

they do it to shit on hipsters..

rarely anything good comes out of the mac-a-likes. and jobs lives in a base at the bottom of the ocean like an evil villain. if they want to do some commentary on macs and hipsters how the fuck do you do it without showing an apple-alike product?

but then again, petty criminals often idolize scarface without having apparently seen it to the end, so I guess it works as apple advertisement as well as scarface works as an advertisement how well it works out for you(and people around you) to be a psycho drug dealer...

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 4 months ago | (#45773083)

It could also be that Apple's computers tend to be very distinctive and thus, easily recognizable. It's something that's a part of Apple's designs - they don't tend to fade and become just another generic widget in the background.

This is especially because Apple's made computers out of aluminum, which gives it a distinctive look all to itself. Having oddly-shaped PCs (think the iLamp and such) add to the distinctiveness.

Heck, Thinkpads were fairly common as well - given the red nipple pointer. Of course, PCs these days generally Dells which don't usually have many distinctive elements and thus end up blending into the background.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 4 months ago | (#45773119)

I've read to the effect they provide Macs for free as production props/units. Given macs are in favor for Video/Design/Production work im sure many a compnay jumps at the chance to save up to a couple grand on laptops and desktops. Im sure another influence is they are much more photogenic than most PC laptops.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 4 months ago | (#45773253)

My guess is that the producers liked the design of the mac laptops, but didn't want to risk being sued by Apple or just didn't want their product associated with Apple etc.

More like Apple wasn't ponying up any money for advertising. Anytime you see a product in a movie or TV show, with its label intact, the producers are getting paid for the product placement.

One place I worked we made satcom terminals, back when they were $30k monstrosities (we had the lightest on the market and it was still 30-40 pounds). There was a product placement in the movie "Under Siege", and they got two free satcom terminals for it. I think one was for Steven Seagal personally.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

sosume (680416) | about 4 months ago | (#45773831)

Or maybe the CEO of Apple sits on the board of Disney. You know.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

moschner (3003611) | about 4 months ago | (#45773257)

Computers get greeked either because you do not have permission to feature the product, are using a differnt brand elsewhere in the project (or as a sponcer), or there was going to be product placement, but then it fell through.

The computers chosen (as well as other props) are either carefully picked by the art director and props to fit the character and scene, or are simply just whatever they happen to have on hand and used because it was cheeper than buying something just for the project.

Another reason is that sometimes software is ran on the prop computer that makes it look like the actor is doing something. Sometimes the software used will only run on a pc or mac, often it is mac only, so a mac is used but left generic looking.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | about 4 months ago | (#45773291)

If you see a brand name or logo in a movie or TV you can be damn well certain they are paying for it. Product placement is not given away for free and the editors will take special care to edit out names and brands of items that haven't paid for product placement.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (2)

anubi (640541) | about 4 months ago | (#45773421)

I wonder if IMSAI 8080 paid for placement in WarGames?

They were not a big name by all means. I still have the IMSAI I put together from a kit sold out of San Leandro, California. I thought it was such a cool little machine.

Re:Macs, not just for product placement (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 4 months ago | (#45774439)

I wonder if IMSAI 8080 paid for placement in WarGames?

They were not a big name by all means. I still have the IMSAI I put together from a kit sold out of San Leandro, California. I thought it was such a cool little machine.

"Cool little machine".

I worked for a small engineering company once developing firmware for process controllers. The development machine was that exact same hardware, right down to the disks. Except it had no speech synthesizer.

No, the reading was boring. (0)

EzInKy (115248) | about 4 months ago | (#45772905)

It wasn't until the Planet Of the Apes series that computers had any significence in movies. Up until then, they were always presented as malefescent evil beings.

Re:No, the reading was boring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45772921)

Learn to spell, please. Our 2013 computers have spell check, you know.

Re:No, the reading was boring. (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about 4 months ago | (#45772967)

Due to copyright concerns, my Linux based spellchecker seems to be stuck in the early twentieth century.

Re:No, the reading was boring. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773221)

It wasn't until the Planet Of the Apes series that computers had any significence in movies. Up until then, they were always presented as malefescent evil beings.

Yes. Fortunately after 1968 we got more variety :

Demon seed and Colossus say hi.
Of the two, demon seed was the creepier one though.

As for "good" computers, well

WOPR (he's good in that he realizes the futility of nuclear annihilation)
The computer in Electric Dreams (how hippy he was) and having a crush on Virginia Madsen ?
V'yger (ok, the female counterpart to V'yger and ends un boning the second in command of the Enterprise) and not destroying the earth.

Re:No, the reading was boring. (1)

Jiro (131519) | about 4 months ago | (#45773305)

Technically Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet counts as a non-malevolent computer, although in practice, media often doesn't take the same attitude towards robots and towards computers in general.

The Q-7 (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45772915)

Am I the only one here who's programmed that beast? Assembly language; Fortran had just been invented. Might fit one into a current Walmart, might not. I recall during our training (LA) we heard of another computer in the city! Had to go talk to those guys across town.

Still cranking out code, at 84.

Re:The Q-7 (4, Interesting)

suso (153703) | about 4 months ago | (#45773003)

Am I the only one here who's programmed that beast? Assembly language; Fortran had just been invented. Might fit one into a current Walmart, might not. I recall during our training (LA) we heard of another computer in the city! Had to go talk to those guys across town.

Still cranking out code, at 84.

Whoever you are, Slashdot should interview you about your experiences.

Seconded (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | about 4 months ago | (#45774139)

A lot of people in programming think its purely a young mans game. That may have been true in the 60s and 70s but its not any longer. That old guy (or gal) you see shuffling down the street may have once coded up some pretty neat algorithm that helped fly your plane or did your banking or controlled the fuel injection on your car in the 80s. It would be nice to have an article about retired coders, what they did and their opinions of the dev world now. And whether vi is better than emacs ;o) No, scrap that last idea...

Re:Seconded (1)

satuon (1822492) | about 4 months ago | (#45774769)

It has to do with the fact that only young people have had computers since childhood. In 40-50 years we'll live in a society where everyone regardless of age has had a computer all their life. Then an old man is going to be statistically as likely to be a programmer as a young man.

Re:Seconded (2)

Minwee (522556) | about 4 months ago | (#45775873)

Older people also know that the correct response to "It's crunch time so I'm gonna need you to go ahead and stay until eleven PM, and then go ahead and come in on Saturday and Sunday too, kay" is "Go stick your head in a pig"

That's why you don't see as many of them working for the more, um, "notable" employers.

Re:The Q-7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45775757)

You might want to do an AMA on reddit. I bet people would be interested to talk to you!

Re:The Q-7 (3, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#45773819)

I recall during our training (LA) we heard of another computer in the city!

Colossus: "There is another!"

Re:The Q-7 (5, Interesting)

NetAlien (2855345) | about 4 months ago | (#45773825)

At 18 in 1964, I was just a young guy who programmed the IBM 407 Accounting machine [columbia.edu] that was also installed with the AN/FSQ-7 in the Canadian underground NORAD headquarters in North Bay, Ontario. The program complexity on those machines was measured by how much the boards weighed. Lots of wires terminated with pins containing tiny metal balls (like hitch pins) to keep the pins from being pushed out when the board was inserted into the 407 to run whatever program its wiring instructed. Diodes were sometimes needed to prevent back-flow (that machine's source of bugs). Spent over 7 years in the "hole" with the huge Q-7. Nostalgia!

Unix command line in Tron Legacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45772955)

Near the beginning of the film, when the sysadmin was desperately trying to stop an attack (I can't remember what).

That was a nice shout-out by the filmmakers.

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | about 4 months ago | (#45773047)

I prefer the "Unix system" in Jurassic Park :P

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (4, Informative)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 4 months ago | (#45773147)

That was an Unix system. More precisely, it was Silicon Graphics' IRIX with the fsn file viewer [wikipedia.org].

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45775247)

Just noticed in Die Hard the other day that when the thieves try to for Takagi to login with his code that Chairmans workstation is BSD.

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#45773159)

It actually was a Unix system, SGI's FSN, you can check it out [youtube.com].

Compare with the movie here [youtube.com].

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773251)

You know this??

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773457)

It was provided as a demonstration of IRIX capability...

I've used it briefly - doing an ls was faster... Even in the movie it was slow.

It was part of a rather wide experiment in different ways to show a filesystem characteristics...

Not shown very well in the movie, it used blocks of different sizes to illustrate the number of files in the directory. Opening a "building"/directory drew a new scene with the contents of the directory and file size characteristics to select new blocks. Links in the diretory shown as lines. As I recall, only two levels were ever shown at a time The current directory as the central square, lines connecting building on the square would connect to the next level square. Browsing was done by rotating the scene/moving in/out and selecting a block to enter.

It worked, but was inherently slow.

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#45773495)

Yeah, I considered it more of a pretty toy, at least, I couldn't find any way to use it practically.

Re:Unix command line in Tron Legacy (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 4 months ago | (#45775533)

Technically, Linux. It even says "ENCOM LINUX CONSOLE" in the top left corner, and there's random Python and C++ on the left side.

Starring the Computer (5, Interesting)

LaughingRadish (2694765) | about 4 months ago | (#45772975)

Here's something nice: http://starringthecomputer.com/ [starringthecomputer.com]. Various sightings of various computers in movies along with ratings of importance, realism, and visibility.

Re:Starring the Computer (1)

Bomarc (306716) | about 4 months ago | (#45773023)

You posted it before I did. Though the article cited above was okay, good for a commentary. The website "Starring the computer" has a much better lay-out, and more comprehensive information, including better images (screen caps) for many of the computers displayed.

Re:Starring the Computer (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about 4 months ago | (#45773835)

You posted it before I did. Though the article cited above was okay, good for a commentary. The website "Starring the computer" has a much better lay-out, and more comprehensive information, including better images (screen caps) for many of the computers displayed.

Ah you both beat me :}

Reading the summery I jumped the gun and Googled the IBM AN/FSQ-7 there's a site, that I quote:
"Starring the Computer is a website dedicated to the use of computers in film and television"

And the IBM AN/FSQ-7 http://starringthecomputer.com/computer.html?c=73 [starringthecomputer.com] it's been around.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (4, Interesting)

FairAndUnbalanced (959108) | about 4 months ago | (#45773007)

I think there's a ton of CDC [wikipedia.org] equipment in Collosus: The Forbin Project. It has a fairly standard "computer takes over the world" plot line but is a bit of fun as well.

Note the movie trivia entry at this IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064177/trivia [imdb.com]

"When the executives at Control Data Corporation found out that Universal was planning a major movie featuring a computer, they saw their chance for some public exposure, and they agreed to supply, free of charge, $4.8 million worth of computer equipment and the technicians to oversee its use. Each piece of equipment carried the CDC name in a prominent location. Since they were using real computers - not just big boxes with a lot of flashing lights - the sound stage underwent extensive modifications: seven gas heaters and five specially-constructed dehumidifiers kept any dampness away from the computers, a climate control system maintained the air around the computers at an even temperature, and the equipment was covered up at all times except when actually on camera. Brink's guards were always present on the set, even at night. The studio technicians were not allowed to smoke or drink coffee anywhere near the computers."

Over the years (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 4 months ago | (#45773031)

The 1985 UK TV series https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edge_of_Darkness [wikipedia.org] showed an interesting use of networked computers in the "Breakthrough" episode.
The usual modem expert at home plot to connect, break codes and download sequence often used in movies/tv was replaced by a more interesting terminal sequence.
A building with newly installed rows of networked computers was used to search files in a short time during a break in.
Another good use was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telefon_(film) [wikipedia.org] made in 1977 showing database work.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Soldiers_(film) [wikipedia.org] from ~2001 was fun too with its base personal computer files.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground:_The_Julian_Assange_Story [wikipedia.org] showed some innovative moments in police level computer forensics with the saving of entire modem connection session for later examination. The German movie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/23_(film) [wikipedia.org] had some a sequence with buying the wrong new fast computer vs the domestic power supply :)
The US 1975 movie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Days_of_the_Condor [wikipedia.org] showed what could be done with limited space in an older building.

Re:Over the years (1)

shirro (17185) | about 4 months ago | (#45774077)

Doctor Who: The Invasion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Invasion_(Doctor_Who) has companion Zoe Heriot http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/Zoe_Heriot from the 21st century disable a computer by giving it a program she claims is in ALGOL. I am guessing in the Doctor Who universe ALGOL makes a resurgence later this century when someone builds a web framework for it and it becomes the next fad.

Totally missed memorable computers of the 80s (2)

Mr Z (6791) | about 4 months ago | (#45773051)

Where was WarGames, Weird Science, TRON, Electric Dreams, etc.? Who gives a crap about a Vaio showing up in The Pink Panther 2. (Oh, and that's Steve Martin. Who's Steve Allen?)

Re:Totally missed memorable computers of the 80s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773213)

I know, right? Not to mention the Cray Y-MP [wikipedia.org] in Sneakers from the early '90's.

That wasn't a Cray Y... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773471)

Cray said they would NEVER EVER sell a computer to the mob...

So the set designers made their own version. There are no logos on that computer, though it was supposed to suggest a Cray Y.

(funny part... the scientist in the movie actually had a real life counterpart. My wife and I both used to work with him on occasion).

Re:Totally missed memorable computers of the 80s (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 4 months ago | (#45773281)

I think you missed the point of the article. The point of the article is that software quality matters on the SmartBear blog, where you can find resources for Mobile, Agile, and Cloud. While you're there, check out their line of development and web monitoring products. They also have webinars!

Re:Totally missed memorable computers of the 80s (2)

dwillden (521345) | about 4 months ago | (#45773347)

In fact the article simply jumps from 1980 to mention OS/2 in 1995 and then again to 1999 with no explanation, skipping generations of computers in the movies.

Re:Totally missed memorable computers of the 80s (2)

Mr Z (6791) | about 4 months ago | (#45773429)

I did see a mention of a Commodore 64 and an Amiga in there... but still, yeah, the 80s "didn't happen" for computers. It was mostly Burroughs and other big iron, a quick nod to the 80s, and suddenly it's all Vaios and Macs. WTF?

AN/FSQ-7 forever! (2)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45773139)

Some of the the AN/FSQ-7 consoles keep showing up in movies because they're available for rental at Woody's Props [woodysprops.com] in LA.

Those aren't even the control panels for the computer. Those are just the modems and serial ports. Here are the much larger AN/FSQ-7 maintenance control panels. [williamson-labs.com]

Those are just the control panels. Here's the CPU [old-computers.com], with all the racks of tubes. Full-sized 12AX7 tubes (still used in some guitar amps), not even minature tubes.

Re:AN/FSQ-7 forever! (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 4 months ago | (#45773317)

Seeing those pictures reminds me of the Moonbase Alpha Command Center in Space 1999. I don't know if all those blinky lights were an actual computer, or just light boxes, but I do remember that they looked very modular and serviceable.

Re:AN/FSQ-7 forever! (1)

BlackHawk-666 (560896) | about 4 months ago | (#45773413)

Computer says, no!

My favourite part is how they type a question into a terminal and get the answer on a printed piece of paper the size of a shopping docket :D

Re:AN/FSQ-7 forever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45774277)

Computer says, no!

My favourite part is how they type a question into a terminal and get the answer on a printed piece of paper the size of a shopping docket :D

Ah but the computer operator in the first season could interface a la matrix with the computer.
If I'm not mistaken it was used only in one episode.

Blatant Product Placement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773163)

For ridiculous product placement, I recall in Twister every computer was an SGI - including a laptop with the words "Silicon Graphics" hand written on a piece of paper and sticky-taped onto the chassis. Also every soft drink can was a Pepsi product.

(said under correction - it was half a lifetime ago)

Re:Blatant Product Placement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773881)

Wow, Twister. I had intentionally erased that movie from my memory. I think it's the only time I've ever walked out of a cinema mid-showing. Terrible, terrible, irredeemably bad film.

I now remember thinking the "evil meteorologists" in their black van reminded me of Gary Larson's evil butterfly collectors...

Atari ST (1)

Ozeroc (1146595) | about 4 months ago | (#45773195)

Reservoir Dogs had an Atari ST and Terminator2 had a Atari Lynx... LOL Big fan of the old Atari hardware here...

Misses The Italian Job! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773241)

Everyone remembers the Minis, but the true geeks remember Benny Hill playing one of the cinema's first computer hackers.

Movie of the AN/USQ-7 in action (2)

ebob (220513) | about 4 months ago | (#45773323)

The SAGE computer (AN/USQ-7) was truly mind blowing in scope. IBM produced a very cool movie of the system in operation in 1956 (along with some great cold war propaganda) that is a wonderful time capsule to boot. It shows a scale model of the building that housed the system to allow pointing out where all the pieces were located. My father spent some time as an operator of the huge display scopes at the McChord AFB installation.

Movie here: https://archive.org/details/0772_On_Guard_The_Story_of_SAGE_18_48_05_00 [archive.org]

Re:Movie of the AN/USQ-7 in action (1)

systemeng (998953) | about 4 months ago | (#45773445)

The computer history museum in Mountain View, California has panels from the AN/USQ7 as well as the large lucite scale model of the building.

center of our universe spotted again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773361)

there she is in the kitchen, now the laundry. the kids are laughing so that's where she is now changing their 'climate'.... sadie hawkins has nothing on grandmother moon? it can be felt. free the innocent stem cells

Prime Computers - The Choice of The Doctor! (4, Interesting)

BlackHawk-666 (560896) | about 4 months ago | (#45773423)

Check out these old buggers, and the ads featuring Tom Baker, the legendary 4th Doctor Who.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSRC0S7pls8 [youtube.com]

Re:Prime Computers - The Choice of The Doctor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45773949)

Awesome! But where is the exterior filmed? That's some pretty brutal architecture!

Re:Prime Computers - The Choice of The Doctor! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45774925)

Ah, it's the Hayward Gallery, on London's Southbank. Been there many times but didn't recognise it from that angle.

Re:Prime Computers - The Choice of The Doctor! (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about 4 months ago | (#45775891)

Primes are descend from the ITS system and have serious hacker credentials

I recall working on Pr1mes back in the 80's at one point at BT we had 17 750's (the largest non black installation in the country) and i had level 6 (root) on all of them plus level 7 (bendy root ) on the billing systems (13 and 02) which used map reduce back then!

What!? No mention of War Games! (2, Insightful)

blahbooboo (839709) | about 4 months ago | (#45773481)

For kids of the 1980s this movie was first exposure towards the medium. Additionally it heralded the dawn of the hacker and government misunderstanding of the hacker capabilities -- specifically some of the problems Kevin Mitnick faced. Really surprised it wasn't mentioned.

Re:What!? No mention of War Games! (2)

James M. Johnson III (3473627) | about 4 months ago | (#45774251)

Exactly. It looked so exotic at the time, but these days watching Matthew Broderick cradle that phone receiver in the IMSAI "acoustic coupler" while Ally Sheedy looks cute over his shoulder seems so...sweet...

Re:What!? No mention of War Games! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45775417)

Don't forget the WOPR

Peter Salus needs fact checking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45774097)

Groklaw used to publish all his stuff unchecked and my what a mess. Make sure before relying on it, you check the facts. He likes to recall lots of stuff he didn't know.
      He has a degree in liguistics but not computers from before computers had brains (1960s). Anything he says about computers is pure fantasy mixed with fiction mixed with fact mixed with stuff you can't google mixed with stuff he was never exposed to...

P

Code siting (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45774143)

I was always amused that the code that scrolls by Terminator's internal display in the first movie was 6502 assembly language.

Arnold Swarznegger is an Apple II or Commodore 64 or Atari 800!

More Typing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45775507)

I'm always amused when a movie or TV show has someone who "knows computers" or is supposed to be a gifted "hacker" rapidly typing to display web pages. From the amount of key tapping, one would be lead to believe that the individual was going far beyond entering a mere URL and was actually entering the raw HTML to create the page in the first place. Oh how those scary Praetorians could type and make anything happen.
I imagine the director shouting "more typing! There has to be more typing! You're a hacker, TYPE!", and "Move that mouse thingie around too, you can't hack with an immobile mouse!".

ANSYS finite element anal software in a movie!! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#45775557)

Scene 1: A mechanic working in an auto plant listens to the chief engineer describing the new model car that is going to be manufactured. Stands up and says the engine design is not suitable for the market it was intended. Chief engineer sneers at him, "You lowly mechanic, you have the temerity to challenge me? Grease monkey! Go find a CV boot to clean or something!". All the assembled people laugh and the mechanic walks out head hanging in shame.

Scene 2: Walks to his work spot, his side kick (always the comedian, by the rules of that film industry) walks up to him and tries to console him. Our hero mechanic snaps, "Load Ansys in this computer!" and movie cuts to a image of a wire frame finite element mesh of a piston and a connecting rod rotating in 3D. [Screen resolution was too poor for me to find the actual product, despite freezing and stepping through it frame by frame].

Which Hollywood movie? brrrrrrrrrrrrrp. wrong country!

Japanese? Korean? Or may be Taiwanese?. No, No and No.

May be a Bollywood movie? right country. Wrong language.

Where then?

A Tamil movie, made in South India! About six years old. Eat our dust America, Tamils are making heroes out of finite element analyzing auto mechanics!

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