I saw it at the movies

So you can’t upload a mothership-killing virus from a MacBook. So what?

Recently CNN posted a list of what its writers consider the 9 worst tech movies of all time. This list concentrates on movies centered on digital technology that take place in a close approximation to our real world.

Now, I’m not going to go into a rant over why everyone seems to think that compiling a list is a good substitute for content. Neither will I complain about why every time someone does put forth a list it always has to be qualified with “of all time,” as if that were possible to know given that a lot of time hasn’t happened yet. No, I will not do these things.

Instead, I’m going to tell you why the technology in the movies is always better than what we have in real life. Simply put: Real technology is boring, at least from the dramatist's point of view. Real technology is supposed to be safe and reliable, even the “pushing the envelope” stuff. Although most new developments that come out are worth attention, and may even get us excited for a while, I’m pretty sure that excitement would dwindle if we had to watch a plot built around a new gadget for 90 minutes or more.

And the activity of working with computer technology is never as exciting in the movies. Yes, Hugh Jackman in “Swordfish” and Angelina Jolie in “Hackers” sure made it look awesome. But as GCN Lab Director John Breeden tells me about the wireless hacking course he took for a story once, it is dull, dull work. Besides, they use bots for practically everything these days, and who wants to see that on the big screen?

My point is, if you are going to go to a movie, just watch it and try to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter that the technology doesn’t actually work that way — just let it slide. You’ll live longer. For instance, in "Independence Day," Jeff Goldblum is able to send a virus from his MacBook to the alien mothership, something you couldn't do today, let alone in 1996, when that film was made. Still, I refuse to unsuspend my disbelief over it. Believe me, there are enough other obstacles to enjoying that movie already — adding one more won’t do anyone any good.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Dec 23, 2009 Tim Putprush

I would not say technology (of any type) is boring, it actually is mundane, and designed to be so. Stop and think about it, the goal is to develop and deploy technology to support the business (goals and objectives of the organization) to be really good it should be intuitive, user friendly and transparent. In other words you don’t think about it when you use it. When electric light (some called it “snap on lights”) first came on the scene it was a huge deal, in the present time, the big deal is if the lights do not work. So technology becomes an important part of our lives.

As far as the movies portraying technology, well let’s see. In the 1960s computes had some sort of display for the contents of registers; it was an aid to programmers for tracking execution of instructions, the flow of data and the results of operations on that data (for maintenance guys, it was a big help tracking and finding ‘stuck’ bits). The movies (and TV shows) morphed that into some kind of huge wall of lighted squares that more closely resembled the lights on the marquee out side the theater than any type of logical operation within the computer. Just keep in mind the frame of reference, big flashing effects sell movies, special effects still do.

Nice article, keep up the good work. Merry Christmas.

Fri, Dec 18, 2009 Bill

So, you are saying that your boss is a hacker in real life? I bet he is lying to you. I bet its really, really interesting reading everyone's mail and and buying big screen TVs with secret government black ops money. He's just telling you its dull while keeping you out of the back room. :-)

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