Sometimes fiction is stranger than truth

What seems like bread and butter to federal IT workers can seem mysterious and at times sinister to everyone else'especially Hollywood.

Tinseltown has a big imagination and over the years has delighted in both fictionalizing and exaggerating the importance, intricacy and power of government computers.

Hollywood-bred government computers can talk, walk, joke'practically host dinner parties for 12.

In short, they have mojo'micro and macro mojo. They have all-knowing intelligence, secrets of their own, power, indifference to human concerns.

They know your personal data, spy in your bedroom and hold the fate of the world in their hard drives. Some can deploy weapons of mass destruction at will.

Here's a list of some of the more memorable portrayals of government computers on film and television'and even one game. Take it to your local video store and, fortified with a jumbo pack of microwave popcorn, have yourself a weekend marathon viewing government computing'Hollywood style.

'2001: A Space Odyssey,' starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. The granddaddy of them all, in this classic a group of astronauts sets off to explore a discovery near Jupiter, guided and then hampered by the HAL 9000, a smooth-talking, but not-so-nice computer (1968).

'War Games,' with Matthew Broderick and Dabney Coleman. A teen-ager accidentally cracks into a military computer, thinking he's found a new video game to play. But he's actually activating the countdown to World War III (1983).

'Dead at 21,' an MTV series featuring Jack Noseworthy as a teen-ager with computer chips implanted in his brain, courtesy of a government research program. Ordinarily that might be an interesting prospect, but in this case the chips decay, and he discovers on his 20th birthday he is to expire on his 21st (1994).

'The Net,' starring Sandra Bullock. A nerdy software analyst's life is in jeopardy when, following a series of encounters, her computer identity is erased and replaced by a criminal's (1995).

'Soviet Strike,' a video game about a computer hacker who can get into government computers that control missiles and other deadly weapons (1996).

'23' is a German film featuring August Diehl and Fabian Busch. A group of disaffected young German computer hackers steals military secrets via computer and sells them to the KGB (1998).

'The Matrix,' starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. A working stiff finds that cubicle life as we know it is merely a mirage orchestrated by the Matrix, a vast cyberintelligence. Don't let your cell phone batteries run down (1999).

'Universal Soldier: The Return,' starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. SETH'the human-looking Self-Evolving Thought Helix'is a government computer that controls the Universal Soldiers, but now it gets a glitch rendering it uncontrollable and out to get the last good guy. Van Damme's character must take on the Universal Soldiers (1999).

'Operation Swordfish,' starring John Travolta, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. A rogue CIA operative hires a former hacker to help him break into government computers in order to obtain $10 billion in illegal government funds (2001).

'The Lone Gunmen,' a TV spin-off of 'The X-Files,' with Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund and Bruce Harwood. A trio of computer geniuses investigates conspiracies and government activities (2001).

Tammy Ruggles is a writer in Tollesboro, Ky. She used to work on a Kentucky system for tracking child welfare cases.

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