Following the egregious use question, other than Antitrust (to some extent), and The Matrix episode where Trinity uses nmap in a legit fashion, what movie/tv/book references use computers correctly?

Clarification - I don't merely mean someone sending mail like in You've Got Mail - I'm thinking a geeky film/show/book that should use it right, and does.

+1  A: 


To provide some actual discussion here, it kinda depends on how much computer usage and what kind of genre's you want to consider. Since the 70's an increasing amount of movies/literature have been using computers in a background fashion. Countless movies have people walking up to a computer, doing something legit, like browsing the web, or checking email and then quitting.

I might also throw Star Trek, out there. While being a futuristic Sci Fi, they used a thin client/main frame computing model to provide computer access everywhere on the ship. It did have it's technologies that didn't exist, but they weren't ridiculous or dumb as is seen in many other sci-fi media of the day.

Wes P
I guess they do get used in both extremes there, don't they.

I kinda liked the 'code' in the Jurassic Park novel.

Firas Assaad
Now I have to read that again (last time was circa 1992) just to see what you're talking about.
Bill the Lizard
+24  A: 

I'd have to say "Office Space", particulary the part where they beat the @#$%@#$% out of the printer.

Bob Dizzle
Office Space = very real.
Thomas Owens
PC Load Letter, WTF DOES THAT MEAN? That movie is briliant
Damn it feels good to be a gangsta!
It's not all good -- don't forget the OS on his PC that used a Mac desktop but shutdown to a DOS shell.
Adam Lassek
The uploading-the-virus scene is just beautiful.
Robert Rossney
@ALassek: That was intentional; they were trying to be generic by including a variety of then-current OS conventions. (You'll notice, if you watch carefully, Windows widgets in some of the UI sequences on the same machine.)
John Rudy
+12  A: 

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson uses legit Perl and technology references. Certainly some of the premise of the story is over the top, but it's based in reality.

However, it's not a movie. Guaranteed if a movie were made from it, Randy would be using SQL commands to corrupt the TCP/IP stack and cat to stderr a coredump across /dev/null to remove the log files.
Didn't the Perl code for "Solitaire" in the book have a typo?
Mark Biek
Yes, I think that was corrected in a later edition.
Adam Lassek
That book was great up until the last chapter. The "villan" left quite a bit to be desired.
Well now I definitely have to read it.
Brad Gilbert
The book is a must read.
Pascal Paradis
That was my vote... +1
Yes you do Brad, everyone has to read it IMHO.
Michael Stum
+2  A: 

In Little Brother (Cory Doctorow), there's quite a few real uses of computer technology. A couple things have been embellished to move the story along (free xbox), but most of the technology references in the book are quite accurate.

Too bad it's a book and not a movie.
Robert S.
The title says movie, but the question clearly states "what movie/tv/book references use computers correctly?"
True, and I didn't mod you down. My comment doesn't say it right, but I was trying to convey that I wish Little Brother were a movie as well.
Robert S.
Actually the XBox thing isn't that far fetched. It just takes the normal trend (which has been reversing somewhat, of late) of taking a loss on the hardware so that the games, which have great margins, sell to more customers, to its logical conclusion.
It's far fetched for the exact same reason that it's reversing. No matter how hard they try. Any box they have will be hackable, so you can run whatever you want on it. They don't make any money off a box if you don't buy any games for it. If you can run whatever you like on it, you are probably less likely to buy games. Also, you are probably more likely to just take 3 or 4 of them, without any intention of buying 3 or 4 times the number of games.
+20  A: 

Sneakers is usually the movie I think of.

John Fiala
good one - Mythbusters even attacked the concept of heating-up the room and walkign slowly to get past the security system and found *some* merit to it.
Sneakers is always my "good use of computers" movie when people ask.
Except for the "deep zoom in on license plate" ... But it is absolutely one of my favorite movies of all time.
John Rudy
Isn't that the movie with the Braille monitor/keyboard?
Michael Meadows
@MM - yes it is
And isn't the one with the universal hacking CPU?
Marco Mustapic
I have always wondered if this movie is only popular among programmers and if non-programmers enjoy it as much as we do
Otto Allmendinger
Sneakers??? Unreliable like "Hackers".
+14  A: 

Obviously, the use of NMAP and a real, existing remote exploit in Matrix in a real existing bash was a highlight.

Even if there was a patch available well before the movie was filmed, so she was essentially using a 200 year old vulnerability.
Joel Coehoorn
Well, wasn't it essentially a government network?
and the world is supposed to be the same as it was at the end of the 20th century
Yes, the Matrix in the films is meant to be set around 1999.
Jonathan Prior
+3  A: 

Wargames had quite a bit of realism for the era - except for the fact that a NORAD wargame simulator wouldn't be hooked up to a modem and set to auto-answer (and the fact that I suspect NORAD isn't as exciting as it is in the movie), it's a pretty fun insight into things that actual people did.

Daniel Papasian
Wargames is an interesting example -- basically the first half is totally real and the second half is complete fiction.
Adam Lassek
The graphics over that 300 bps Hayes was pretty impressive
Michael McCarty
The scene where WOPR is cracking a passcode one digit at a time makes my teeth clench. Otherwise I love that movie. :)
Bill the Lizard
Bill, maybe they were exploiting that hypothetical timing attack where a prefix match on a simple string comparison took longer than a complete mismatch? ;)
I always found Wargames realistic, except, of course, the whole thing about the nerd having a girlfriend...
Pontus Gagge
@Michael: I've seen graphics sent over a serial line (to a BBC B microcomputer) which worked because certain character sequences were interpreted not a glyphs but rather as escape codes that would draw on the screen. I've also seen emulation software for that which worked on X11, and which was pretty nasty. (This was some CAD software back in the early '90s…)
Donal Fellows
I agree re. the WOPR being hooked up to a public phone line. One of the techs at NORAD did say that "there was an open line on an unlisted number at their science division in California" Although if you were going to do that, wouldn't you setup a callback with a white list of numbers? Also all the random accounts they had configured on a government computer......oh wait...very realistic :P
+2  A: 

Wasn't AOL well represented in Tom Hank's "You've Got Mail"?'

(though that probably shouldn't count) ;)

Matias Nino
+59  A: 

One of the most realistic computer scenes I've witnessed is from the Family Guy's "Blue Harvest" Star Wars spoof:

  • Princess Leia: [recording her message on R2-D2] Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. you're my only hope. All right, now what do I click?

  • R2-D2: Click "Preferences". [she does so]

  • Princess Leia: Okay, I clicked "Preferences".

  • R2-D2: Now go to "Default Media Browser". [she does]

  • Princess Leia: Okay. There's a little hourglass and it's-it's not letting me do anything. It-it says "Buffering", what is that?

  • R2-D2: Just give it a minute.

  • Princess Leia: All I'm trying to do is make an MPEG.

  • R2-D2: All I'm trying to do is tell you to wait a minute.

  • Princess Leia: Okay, relax.

  • R2-D2: Now click, "Import Video File".

  • Princess Leia: All right. [she does] It's telling me I have to download RealPlayer 7.

  • R2-D2: You know what? I'll just bring it to him myself.

Michael Burr
Christopher Galpin
+4  A: 

If I remember right, the movie Firewall with Harrison Ford was actually fairly accurate in terms of networking.

Another one that comes to mind is Untraceable, again dealing with networking and the internet.

Yeah, "Untraceable" comes rather close. The only part that I'm having big problems with is streaming a HDTV feed through a botnet of infected computes like each of them sits on dedicated T1 line and usual "I will get his ip and home location" stuff.

I always thought The Negotiator had a pretty decent portrayal of computer use compared to most movies.

Mike Akers
+18  A: 

I realize it's TV, but ...

In Heroes (season 1) Ando shows up at Ali Larter/Nicki/Jessica's house. When questioned by the cops he's like "I got your address from a WhoIs. You should consider private listing."

That made me laugh.

Cory Dee
I didn't notice that was technical, I thought it was normal and just laughed. :)
+1  A: 

In the movie No Way Out with Kevin Costner, the Navy has a computer that does some realistic stuff (crunch data for hours on end) and the server room is pretty accurate, although it is run by the stereotypical fat guy.

The Navy uses its computer to reconstruct an image from a Polaroid transfer. I don't know if that technology is particularly accurate, but it was suspenseful.

Robert S.
I believe the image reconstruction as portrayed is fairly close to the way it actually works.
James Curran
They mumble briefly about using a fourier-transform, which doesn't seem so far off.
+2  A: 

Here's a weird one: The Holiday. In every way a chick flick in which two "..women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other's countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love." -IMDb. They find the person to swap homes with using the web, without errors, magic techo-babble (ala CSI), or ghosts coming out of their monitors.

If by correctly you mean "awsomely", then Jurassic Park hands down.

"This is a UNIX system... I know this!" "THE DOORS!"

I love The Holiday.
Robert S.
Re: Jurassic Park - I still have yet to find the man page for the "Close and Lock Raptor Cage" command in Unix.
John Biazo
@JBiazo: have you tried 'lck -t cage -l raptor'? (lck=TLA for lock, flags -t=type, -l=label)
+3  A: 

Blade Runner. The computers stay in the background, they are referenced throughout the movie without the actual portrayal of goofed up tech.

Yes and no... the image manipulation was pretty far fetched. I love that movie.
Yes, but how far in the future was it? I think we can give them a little leeway for tech advances. Best hard sci-fi movie ever.
Blade Runner is supposed to take place in 2019. I believe it works out so that Decker would have been born just as the book was being published.
James Curran
Thanks James, its been a while since I watched the movie. Never read the book, which is odd in that I read more than i watch.
I think Ridley Scott learned from Alien, which is the opposite. Mother is the only part of Alien that doesn't hold up well. In Blade Runner, the only "miss" in computer portrayal is how unusable the image software is compared to modern software. The 3D high-res pictures is cool though.
Michael Meadows
I never much had a problem with the way the image manipulation in this movie worked. For one thing, regular 2d photographs capture a slight amount of 3d information, because the emulsion has depth. the amount of 3d skewing in the movie was only slight, and probably within line of technological advances in emulsion chemistry for that distance in the future. Too bad Ridley Scott had no idea we'd stop using emulsion film entirely by about 2008 (A damn shame).
+5  A: 

In "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", Scotty first attempts to talk to the computer and when that doesn't work, tries talking into the mouse, reverting to the keyboard in the end. In this scene, what's more correct is not the computer itself but the post-twentieth-century user's expectations from the computer.



Ates Goral
One small problem I have with that scene is how fast the computer seems, computers at that time could not have kept up with Scotty.
Brad Gilbert
+10  A: 

I vote for 2001, A Space Odyssey

Hands down the most detailed, fully fleshed-out vision of a future computer system. Not only is HAL a key character in the story, but all the interfaces and the physical implementation are credible. Keep in mind that the movie was made in the late 1960's, when most depictions of computers (even future computers) featured spinning tape drives and rows of blinkenlights


In Star Trek.

No ... sorry ... Star Wars!
David Robbins
+9  A: 
Technology as a whole was wonderfully depicted. But the bureaucracy in Brazil...all too nightmarishly real.
Michael Burr
That magnifier in front of the screen reminds me of those old TI calculators that had a magnifier in front of every digit.
Brad Gilbert
And the whole Buttle / Tuttle confusion caused by a "bug".
Stephen C
+6  A: 

I guess that should be awarded to the movie where the protagonist zooms in the digital only to find out that everything is pixelated and he can do NOTHING about it.

Is there a move like this? I have yet to see one.

To do that sort of thing requires multiple images, that are sort-of averaged out. I noticed that CSI:NY did this with a single image, which is impossible.
Brad Gilbert
While not a movie I believe that in Bones, Angela laughed at someone's request to enhance a photo in that way
+2  A: 

Jurassic Park loses points because the supposed live video feed from the docks has a clearly visible progress bar at the bottom of the quicktime window. Its hilarious.

+7  A: 

The German film 23 deals with a hacker group in Germany during the 1980s. The film is based on a is based on the true story. Hacking activities in the movie were represented by writing trojan horses, grabbing passwords, breaking into mailboxes - not "realtime hacking" as it is depicted in other movies.

23 is one of the best films about hackers and also one of the best German films that I have ever seen (I have to admit, the internet in the 80s was not as widespread as today, however, the film stays quite accurate).

Any idea where I can get it?

Quite surprisingly the movie Sydney White (don't watch it, it's horrible!) depicts hacking into someones computer quite accurately. At least if you accept that even Macs can be hacked.

You can see the hack on YouTube.

+4  A: 

Die Hard 4 had a good portrayal of computers advantages and disadvantages

Isn't that the one with the EXPLODING computers?