Scott Hanselman

Technology fails in film are the new Wilhelm Scream

March 12, 2013 Comment on this post [103] Posted in Musings
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Internal IP address PLUS Google Earth equals National SecurityThere's no other explanation. It must be a tradition like the Wilhelm scream.

What, haven't heard of the Wilhelm scream? Well, once you do it's impossible to not hear it in every film. It's in freaking Lord of the Rings, and it grates. It's THE go-to person screaming sound effect and has been for over 50 years. Here's a compilation of dozens of movies - including every George Lucas movie - that uses the Wilhelm scream.

Hollywood and TV seems determined to make the technology-aware jump up from their seats and scream NO!!! at the screen.

I can only imagine what a doctor or nurse must feel like when watching ER or a dramatic surgery.

A technical error pulls me out of the story like a slap in the face. It almost physically hurts. I'm not just nitpicking here, either. These aren't hard things to fix. One just needs to care.

Now, often they'll use internal IP addresses to represent external addresses and a lot of folks argue that using these addresses is the "555 Phone Number" equivalent. I can see that a little, but even if they used the IP Address of the studio it wouldn't be so jarring.

It's debatable who is worse between TV and Movies, but it's clear that CSI has the #1 spot locked down with this classic.

GUI interface in Visual Basic

This is so cringe-worthy, it's legendary.

Jurassic Park It's a Unix System

I wish all my file systems were in 3D. This was actually a real UI that you could use. Bummer that ls -alogF isn't as photogenic.

Bing it? Hawaii Five-0

Bad product placement (IMHO) is becoming a problem on TV as well. While this isn't inaccurate, the cheese-factor here is high.

Red Dwarf UNCROP

I personally love this video and while it's techno-nonsense today, I'm sure the next version of Photoshop will have this feature. Those guys are amazing.

The Net Hacking

What can I say about this other than I am nostalgic for 3.5" floppies.

Hackers Script

I have to admit that I love Hackers and it's amazing to watch a young Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller. You can read the script online. Nearly every technical detail is sketchy, though.



I found SkyFall to be very entertaining. The folks at io9 have a nice post on the hacking scenes. I love this;

" one point Q exclaims, "It's security through obscurity!" as if this is the most elite thing a hacker could ever do."

Sigh. Wouldn't it be great if a movie producer reached out to us to help?


NCIS - Hacking Gamers

Oh, CBS.

SwordFish - Giant Monitors

Most of my great hacking moments include 6 monitors on arms, dancing and a dynamic montage, don't yours?

Swordfish Giant Monitors

NCIS - Two Idiots and One Keyboard

NCIS keeps bringing the hits with a keyboard maneuver that needs to be seen to be believed. "I'll just ASDF and you can JKLsem, ok?"

Chloe, open a socket

Chloe from 24 is always asked by Jack to "open a socket." There's a lot of questions on the net wondering what this cryptic tech-speak means: Can someone tell me what a "socket" is? "24" NO Spoliers [sic]!

There's even a band called Chloe's Open Socket. Awesome.

Chloe Open a Socket


Want to know what it's like to hack like SwordFish? Visit ;)


Here's not one, but two classics from Antitrust.


The Matrix

Sometimes I need to just re-watch the nmap hack in The Matrix to cleanse myself. It was so refreshing to see real commands and a real hack in a movie that we already respected for it's attention to detail.

Sadly, this hack is now the go-to hack for movies that care enough to steal their hack but don't care enough to research their a new one.

The Matrix nmap hack

What's your favorite horrible technology FAIL in film or TV?

Do you think that all this is being done a purpose, like the Wilhelm Scream?

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March 12, 2013 13:12
March 12, 2013 13:17
To be fair, the red dwarf clip is 'having a go' at that sort of stuff. Besides it's future tech, why can't Kryten have an 'uncrop' ability :)
March 12, 2013 13:18
The thing that makes me cringe and yell at the TV is the blip-blip-blip-sound that you always hear as individual characters are displayed on the screen ... why-oh-why do the film and TV producers insist on those annoying sounds? WHO in the real world would allow that annoying sound all the time without kicking the screen into silence?
March 12, 2013 13:22

The GUI in VB scene (I'm assuming it's CSI) isn't actually that implausible in the policing world.

I've done exactly that a few times to help detectives go through some hideous task. Every detective has Access on their computer so it's far quicker to crank out something quick and dirty in access, and know it will run on their machine, rather than worry about what flavour of .NET they're running on.

Perhaps real time tracking of IP addresses using VB is a a bit daft though.....
March 12, 2013 13:31
Sneakers, they hack computers by touching a chip in a box.

Hackers Techno Babble as they read of hardware specs for laptop.
March 12, 2013 13:56
One of my favorites is the IP address 23.75.345.200 in The Net with Sandra Bullock.
March 12, 2013 14:06
How about Independence Day where humanity is saved by the fact that the Alien mothership runs Unix, onto which the heroes can inject a computer virus. :S
March 12, 2013 14:07
As mentioned above the blips when words type out on the screen (from the bad guy on IM usually) coupled with the letters coming through slowly.

Most TV series that mention games in any way. Like the NCIS above, they seem to think that MMORPGs are exactly the same as multiplayer DOOM and Unreal Tournament. They also seem to think that games are completely hackable by any uber-player.

My big gripe though is when the cops or FBI set up a huge amount of tech gear to trace the call from the kidnappers, and the trace taking at least 30 seconds to complete. Modern phone exchanges are a little different from the old days of rotary or switchboard connections, and know the number, address, and name of caller the nanosecond the call is made. All the police need to do is ask the phone company (may need a warrant first.)
March 12, 2013 14:27
You'll like this one, Scott. In Strike Back, the good guys had to enter a password to decrypt some info from the bad guys hard drive. Where else would you enter such a password but in a web.config file :-)

I loved it so much I took a screenshot -
March 12, 2013 14:29
This represents one of my favourite tech fails:

You see a guy furiously pounding a keyboard and then about 38s into it you see that they forgot to remove the Window Media Player sidebar :-)
March 12, 2013 14:52
Mine isn't a hack as much as an extremely lazy group of writers who don't want to have to write an IT character. In Bones, the flighty artist Angela also just happens to have written some amazing piece of software (and created the 3d rendering hardware) to analyze the physics surrounding how someone might have died (or something like that). Seriously, just create a friggin brilliant IT guy!
March 12, 2013 15:24
The red dwarf clip is in fact absolute genius with regard to the technical understanding that goes into conveying pretty much all impossibilities of image processing into one neat, humorous clip.

Hence, I formally protest to the inclusion of that clip alongside abominations like Swordfish and *gulp* Visual Basic GUIs.

If the clip should remain on this page then only as a prime example how inclusion of technology in movies or TV is done properly.
March 12, 2013 15:47
The painful part is that there is a large group technically sophisticated folks who would love nothing more than to fact-check these scripts.

It isn't an expensive endeavor either, most would be willing to do it for nothing more than credit on IMDB for goodness sake. After all, we're already well compensated so we don't need money. What we do need however is some "cool points" for our class reunions.
March 12, 2013 16:26
Jurassic Park doesn't belong in this list:
It might not be useful, but it _is_ real.

I feel if you're gonna complain about this stuff, at least get it right.
March 12, 2013 16:27
The "I'll create a GUI in Visual Basic", really made me cringe :)

Here are some more things I find very strange:

- Hardly anyone uses Windows, OSX, Ubuntu, or any of the other known OS's. They all have a custom OS.
- If a system is secured with a password, usually you can guess it in two or three tries. If not, you call someone or enter a couple of commands to make it go away.
- "Hackers" with 5,6,7 up to 10 screens. How do you look at ten screens?
- Some laptops have a big Windows logo on the back (product placement). Have you ever seen a laptop with a big windows logo on the back?
- USB sticks don't exist, Everyone has an obscure thingamabobby. Funilly enough, these obscure devices connect to all other devices without a problem.

Must of these don't really bother me, but some are just so over the top that it decreases the show's believability.

March 12, 2013 16:31
What's cool about all of this? Tools, like xaml/c#, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 are enabling developers to write apps with cool views. I talk about this in the class I teach. We are now enabled to build the dancing baloney we made fun of several years ago.
March 12, 2013 16:42
Oh, another thing that bothers me:

Independent on the size of the image you can zoom in to see every little detail and recognize everybody. If it's blurry, you can just "enhance" the image and it will become crystal clear.
March 12, 2013 16:57
My real gripe is that I think technology has made writers lazy. They give characters too many shortcuts and take away any ingenuity:

- Kenneth just said my favorite where any image can be "enhanced" to see amazing detail.
- The network of ATM, traffic, and security cameras that law enforcement can tap into and using awesome facial recognition software find people nearly anywhere in the world
- Also said by somebody else, any password is easily cracked

Actual detective work is no longer needed as the technology does everything.

Although, interestingly, as John as pointed out, the only technology writers make less sophisticated is that magic 30-second timer on tracing phone calls.
March 12, 2013 16:57
Around 5 years ago I asked my GP whether he watched House MD. I was surprised to discover that not only did he watch it, he loved it. He said he would always try and diagnose the problem before the diagnostics team did.

Of course, that was around season 3 or 4, so can't say whether later seasons jumped the shark.
March 12, 2013 16:58
I always enjoy when the computer can 'hypothesize' in Enemy of the State :
March 12, 2013 16:58
I would agree with the Red Dwarf comments... it was made to be funny by poking fun at all of the ridiculous shows like CSI that "zoom and clean" and such to read impossibly visible stuff from security camera videos.

The rest seem good, and entertained me. Just can't let anyone rag on my Red Dwarf.
March 12, 2013 17:16
the tv show life had an episode featuring the "new" prince of persia game on xbox.

the theory was this hacker had to store his secret accounts on one of his pc's. an xbox is like a pc. therefore he may have stored his secret files on his xbox console. (this makes sense)

therefore to read his excel spread sheet we must first finish the first 8 stages of prince of persia and then the spreadsheet magically appears on the tv.

what the hell.
so whenever this dude quickly needed to update his figures all he has to do is finish a game quick.
March 12, 2013 17:17
One annoyance not yet mentioned is the "database search". For some reason, this always involves displaying a picture of every single suspect/fingerprint/car/etc in the system. And it always takes hours to do the search. If they just skipped the screen update, it might be a little bit faster!
March 12, 2013 17:20
Oh, my favorite is the way hackers can hack and show you CCTV video of any place on earth. It's named "closed-circuit" dammit!
March 12, 2013 17:24
When in The Mainframe, do not Escape unless U R Elite!

(Mashup of my faves from The Net & Hackers...)


- Jack
March 12, 2013 17:25
Oh, how I love these scenes where a BIG cash transfer is in progress.. the more millions of $ are sent the longer it takes and the prettier the animation :)
March 12, 2013 18:09
In the vein of Red Dwarf there is a scene in Blade Runner (1982) where Deckard does image analysis on a photo and is essentially able to navigate around objects in the photo. I think this may be the mother of ridiculous image processing scenes, but I believe this incongruity was intentional.
March 12, 2013 18:16
You do all realize that the Red Dwarf was sending up this scene from Blade Runner and had nothing to do with CSI don't you?

The entire 'Back to Earth' was one massive Blade Runner homage ("I just do noses...")
March 12, 2013 18:18
I feel sorry for lawyers, doctors, detectives and cops because so many shows and movies are built around those professions and they can't turn on the TV without being slapped in the face with falsehood.

Hollywood is focused on A) telling a story to a mass market and B) repeating the process that worked last time. Inaccuracies only 'hurt' those who know the truth and if an inaccurate portrayal tells the story faster, in a way that's less confusing to Average Joe then that's what Hollywood will use.

But don't worry, technology is in no way singled out. Everyone and everything represented on the screen is modified or fabricated to serve the story.
March 12, 2013 18:19
I think that the movie Hackers does all of its misrepresentation on purpose, or at least it doesn't expect you to take it seriously.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Red Dwarf, I think all of the other clips you've shown are trying in earnest to represent computers and computer security in an exciting way, and just completely fail.

Yes they probably should ask "us" for a little bit of help. I mean, House M.D. consulted with real doctors for all of the medical diagnosis stuff. From what I understand, it's realistic/plausible (with the exception of the compressed timeline).
March 12, 2013 18:38
My only gripe with this post is that the "Wilhelm Scream" is used as an inside joke -- the only people who notice it are people who know about it. I think it's wrong to compare that to all these terrible and lazy movie and tv clips.

It'd be different if *every* movie or tv that was about to show some magic hackery would start with the character saying "It's a unix system, I know this!" Then we'd know it was an homage/joke, as opposed to just lazy production.
March 12, 2013 18:44
The Social Network has one of the best technology representations of any film I've seen. Sure it is based on the founding of Facebook and as such any techno-bloopers will be sorely visible to the target audience, but the attention to detail still blows my mind away. Even the PERL script Mark types to hack into all the Facebooks has actual, and probably working, code as well. David Fincher actually throws in a red-herring by showing a shot of "ping localhost" towards the end because he probably realized how secure from bloopers the rest of it was.

That apart, you guys are talking about Hollywood films, if you see some of the regional films we get in India, you will probably cry to death as I have many a time. A sample from a South-Indian film is provided for your perusal.
March 12, 2013 18:48
The new show Elementary paraphrase "Watson it is obvious this shooting happened with an mp5 semi automatic rifle with a rifled barrel not a smooth bore, Which leads us to the conclusion that this shooter has access to high quality weapons and is not an average citizen.."
March 12, 2013 19:03
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is set sometime between 1991 and 1997. John Connor hacks into a bank ATM & Cyberdyne Systems with an Atari Portfolio. This is accomplished despite its "severe lack of memory".
March 12, 2013 19:17
in one of the Indian movie (Ramana) , the hero types names in the Windows Media player and the media player intelligently filter's name as he types :-)
March 12, 2013 19:31
Everyone - Yes, I'm a Red Dwarf fan and I agree they are doing a brilliant satire and NOT a fail. I'll add a little text there to make it clear! :)

As for intentionality. That's the question. Is this incompetence or an inside joke? I think it varies.
March 12, 2013 19:34
There was a movie (I think it's The Net) where a "hacker" could access anything on the web by typing http://*.*
March 12, 2013 19:43
Why the hate on the Wilhelm scream? I feel a tiny jolt of happiness everytime I hear it. Obviously at this point, it's intentional (vs. lazy what with the computers).
March 12, 2013 20:13
Medical shows have medical consultants. Police shows have ex-law enforcement consultants, military, etc. Why can't these clowns just hire a technology consultant sometime? Perhaps we need to start shooting videos featuring producers who do everything wrong, and post those on youtube.
March 12, 2013 20:25
It's fun to note these things, but I'd caution anyone from getting overly worked up about it. For perspective, my wife is a doctor and all I ever hear about is how shows get it wrong.
March 12, 2013 20:34
The 6502 opcodes used by the machine in the first Terminator movie: Here
March 12, 2013 20:42
How hard would it be for the writers to troll Redit for 5 minutes and get some feedback on the tech? They'd get instant response and might actually find people who would help them on the spot.
March 12, 2013 20:49

No one does.

Interestingly, this applies to both IT stuff and hospital stuff.

In real hospitals, no machine is ever going bip all the time. Heart monitors going bip at every heart beat get very annoying very fast. In fact, even the alarms are sometimes off (but redirected to the nurses stations obviously).
March 12, 2013 21:01
I like this clip from CSI:NY as well. It's probably my top "technology fail" clip.
March 12, 2013 21:32
The worst one ever is probably No Way Out which reconstructed a highly detailed photograph from a blur.
March 12, 2013 21:52
Anybody care to weigh in on "The Big Bang Theory"? That's a show constantly full of scientific and technical jargon.

It would be pretty ironic if a comedy show got it more often right than anybody else.
March 12, 2013 22:05
Hey Scott, you might also enjoy this video about government employees trying to sound cool while using computers:
March 12, 2013 22:23
How has the clip in Antitrust where they show a sign board saying "This programmer is being beaten to death" not become a meme yet?
March 12, 2013 22:37
I love this post! These things always make me laugh and cringe at the same time. "GUI in Visual Basic"... OMG! :-D

I love watching Dexter. But his AFIS Mobile finger print app on his iPhone in S07E01 was a bit too much for me :-)


But at least he has a real iPhone now, not one of those fake phones they used in earlier seasons.

Also: when they use iPhones that say BEEP when they hang up a call, or when the display is clearly still on when they hold it to their ear to "call". :-S
March 12, 2013 22:42
I was just watching No Way Out the other day. There isn't much about this situation that isn't great. They are using a computer to find out what pixels "should have been there" for an underexposed Polaroid picture. Oh, and they use a Fourier Transform and have to adjust their eigenvalues to make it work better...

Great movie, by the way.
March 12, 2013 23:10
There was a really good link on about the guy who did the hacking scene graphics for Tron Legacy. Pretty neat stuff. and
March 13, 2013 0:06
My favourite example of this is Criminal Minds. Garcia, the uber-hacker, is given a profile and 'hacks' systems everywhere to find the 'unsub'. E.g. "He's a man in his mid 20s in the Detroit area. ", "Narrow it down to include people who's parents were killed by a drunk taxi driver", "Cross reference that with people currently taking medication for diabetes", "He also would have had a cat named 'charlie' as a child", "Oh my god, it's Ted Smith"
March 13, 2013 0:38
The "Bing it? Hawaii Five-0" clip is actually quite inaccurate:

- The auto-complete shows only the one result she is looking for, and no other results.

- The auto-complete shows "clifton bowles" after she has entered "cl" and nothing more.

- After glancing at a word-heavy page of search results, she instantly has her answer.

Not even Bing is that good.
March 13, 2013 1:57
@Marc LaFleur
"The painful part is that there is a large group technically sophisticated folks who would love nothing more than to fact-check these scripts.

It isn't an expensive endeavor either, most would be willing to do it for nothing more than credit on IMDB for goodness sake. After all, we're already well compensated so we don't need money. What we do need however is some "cool points" for our class reunions."

I have an acquaintance who's a screenwriter, and I've actually been invited to do such for some scripts. It's a lot harder than you'd think, simply because directors and producers aren't going for perfect accuracy...they're going for telling a story in 42 minutes (or 2 hours in film). Every time I've done it, it's turned into a negotiation of "Okay, X is inaccurate but you have to do it because it interrupts the pacing of the story and you can't film it. I can accept that. But for God's sake, Y is over-the-top stupid, find a better way."

Like the NCIS "Two Idiots, One Keyboard"...I'd have said "You can't. No. Don't do it. Put a second keyboard there. You still get to demonstrate the characters are close and work well together, and it's far less stupid."

And I'm likely to be paying WGA dues before I ever get an IMDB credit. Credit is jealously negotiated.
March 13, 2013 2:13
Leverage is one of my favorite shows of all time but my co-workers are constantly complaining about Hardison (the hacker on the show) because:

1. He has access to everything. (On the show, he claims to have spent the last decade getting backdoors into everything. Given what we saw with the British hacker complaining that the Chinese kept kicking him out of the Pentagon computers, it really doesn't sound that far-fetched.)

2. He does everything with a phone given to his associates. Given that phones have Wifi and Bluetooth, and given the number of devices that are insecure on any given corporate network (easily-guessable passwords, etc.) is it really that far-fetched that you could hack a lot of stuff with a phone?

Setting off all the car alarms in a parking lot was a bit much (fire that writer), but I feel like in general it was a pretty good portrayal.
March 13, 2013 2:50
My personal favourite(?) cringe is in pretty much every show where someone needs to access encrypted data, or a password-protected system, and the encryption key/password is cracked one chaaracter at a time.
March 13, 2013 3:25
Quick! Override the override!

That and any covert explosive device that beeps and has a massive bright LED on it!
March 13, 2013 4:09
He guys, so many comments and nobody has mentioned the ultimate sin of good guys after confiscating the bad guys' laptop (latest sinner is Q from Skyfall). You HAVE to connect it to your local network in order to "decrypt" it and get the master evil plans out of it. And when you do it and are about to get the master doc... wait for it... wait... IT INFECTS YOU WHOLE NETWORK!
March 13, 2013 7:25
I love you pulled all of these into a single post. My wife has given up watching anything with computers in it or the show Numb3rs with me in the room because I interrupt her viewing pleasure by complaining about what's on the computer screens or why the math isn't right or accurate enough to make sense. Strangely, a non-programming spouse doesn't want to hear how the Bayesian app you were playing with at work is probably more useful than the one they're trying to implement, especially if you go into details.
March 13, 2013 13:35
Anybody remember all the ridiculous-ness in Weird Science!?

The amazing, animated, bowling sound-effect CRYPTO-SMASHER V3.10.
March 13, 2013 19:33
another one ^_^

Numb3rs' description of IRC
March 13, 2013 19:55
Actually, that scene from Red Dwarf could be possible (the uncropping the image thing, not the rest).

Some image editors, when saving a modified image, leave the thumbnail from EXIF metadata unmodified; so technically you can recover that thumbnail later and take a peek at the original image.

Here's a demo:

Again, the rest is resolution nonsense
March 13, 2013 20:04
Every TV/movie (CSI, Bond, etc..) has a very interesting view of AFIS, where the user is shown a myriad of fingerprints at fast speed, while trying to get a match, showing dots and lines that connects parts of the fingerprints.... its just hilarious!
March 13, 2013 20:21
Awesome post and responses. (Also, painful...)

What digs at me the most is the relationship between everything in a network and the magical, mystical and misunderstood "Mainframe".

As in "Move fast people! We've only got about 30 seconds before it reaches the MAINFRAME!!!!"

March 13, 2013 21:05
u missed the most annoying one of all. Independence day. The whole plot was based on a technology 'Noooooo!!'
March 13, 2013 22:04
A socket is certainly a real thing. I'm not sure why Jack Bauer needs one... but still.

I assume you know this. You can open a "socket" in Java to obtain an input/output stream to an external IP.

I've never seen the show to what lunatic why they are using it.
March 13, 2013 22:37
Ben Burtt, the sound editor for the Star Wars and the Indiana Jones movies refuses to use the Wilhelm scream anymore.
March 14, 2013 1:17
Polish movie 'hacker' and a very effective way of craking server security using 'emacs thru sendmail bypassing tripple 'fire wall' ;)
March 14, 2013 2:04
In a series on yahoo screen called "Cybergeddon", a women looks at binary code flashing across the screen and says "Hey! I recognize that code!"
March 14, 2013 3:04
classic Numb3rs IP fail -.-
March 14, 2013 7:03
For Chloe in 24, there's an episode commentary (I think season 3) where Mary Lynn (Chloe) and Carlos Bernard (Tony Almedia) joke about sockets.

Also 24 loved to use IP addresses starting with 292
March 14, 2013 10:00
Not sure If anyone posted this Stargate JavaScript gem :)
March 14, 2013 18:27
Future movie fail: someone using Google Buzz, Google Wave or Google Reader.
March 14, 2013 19:47
I've been rewatching ALIAS on Netflix and that show is chock full of these. Every single computer screen is some 3-D monstrosity with Matrix-style alphanumeric rainfall in the background.
March 14, 2013 21:33
Why is it (apparently) all real scientists like to work on glass walls with wax crayons?

On the flip-side of this topic, I love it when someone goes the extra mile to be accurate. If anyone is a fan of David Cross (and who isn't?), watch The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. There's a scene where he pretends to be deaf and is faking sign language.

In reality, he hired someone to teach him some sign language and is actually signing some very obscene messages.

March 14, 2013 23:52
@Brad Rembielak

I've watched every episode of Big Bang and from what I can tell they have very good technical / geek consultants. I haven't face palmed once.
March 15, 2013 4:32
I'm so glad that I've started to convert from being and VB.NET programmer to being a c# programmer :-)
March 15, 2013 8:47
Don't forget Harrison Ford in Firewall:

Put in an IPS signature that black holes the pattern
That'd be resistant to false positives too
March 15, 2013 21:18
I'm surprised no one mentioned 'The Recruit', the whole thing was chock full of inaccuracies, such as being able to recognize a revolutionary worm from binary code that works on anything connected to an electrical outlet, even if it doesn't have a microprocessor.

I agree with the comment about connecting a machine to the local network, at which it infects everything, instead of actually making an image and using forensics tools.
March 15, 2013 23:51
Why do screens make noise as they display text? Honestly.
March 16, 2013 3:38
Found this today in my "recommended for you" youtube list:
Let's enhance
March 16, 2013 14:23
One of my favourites is when hundreds of GB are copied over USB 2.0 in minutes.
March 17, 2013 16:38
I have always found hilarious the way they hack passwords in movies, like in War Games. The computer can tell which characters it has already hack from a password and place an ? or * in the remaining (tailing) ones. In this way people can tell how close they are to finding the final complete password. Oh well.
March 18, 2013 2:49
My two favourites:

- At the end of War Games, when the WOPR is trying to guess the nuclear launch codes. It needs to figure out a 10-character alpha-numeric code and despite the fact that it can tell when it has the correct character in any one position, this takes more than the 36 iterations that the simplest brute force algorithm would need in the worst case.

- At the start of Disclosure, Michael Douglas opens an email. The on-screen process starts with an envelope sliding out of an in-tray, into the middle of the screen. It then opens and a piece of paper slides out and unfolds. The contents of the email are then typed one character at a time. Surely it would be quicker to go back to using paper!
March 18, 2013 4:56
There were a couple AMAs on Reddit from people who write for TV shows like CSI and NCIS. It's reportedly an inside joke to them - they know the tech material is ridiculously wrong and they do it anyway. Evidently, they try to top each other with the most absurd line or segment. Yes, they are having fun at our expense. This could explain why they do it with correct information so readily available.

A guy who makes the fake OS programs did an AMA too - all of the fictional app/OS stuff is built in Flash and there are just a handful of contracted shops that do all TV shows. It doesn't pay well and is usually last minute - another reason to not put a lot of care and correctness in.
March 18, 2013 16:10
Don't forget that in the movies SoureCode and 'Deja Vu' the actors could teleport themselves through time and space using the computer...

which essentially is the same as smashing a hole through your television to get to the movie / tv-show that is currently playing.
March 18, 2013 17:09
In the rather dire 1983 Lee Majors film 'Starflight', they plan to nurse a crippled space plane back to earth by flying a space shuttle in front of it, to act as a heat shield.

They test their plan in a highly graphical computer simulation which is shown to be controlled via a Commodore 64.

As if this isn't hard enough for us to believe - the camera pans around to reveal that it doesn't even have any power/monitor connected to it.
March 18, 2013 19:05
Regarding Independence Day. They had access to a crashed alien ship for like 30 years. It's possible that they could have reverse engineered the OS by then.
March 18, 2013 21:18
Expanding the nmap reference used in the Matrix: The nmap site proudly keeps a list of movies where nmap has been the go-to screen app for about 9 Hollywood-ish and 6 other films:
March 18, 2013 22:27
I don't know if this is a fail, but I'm reflecting back on the TV show Whiz Kids. Did anyone notice how much computer gear and electronics Richie was able to get his hands on? Could the amount of equipment available to kid hackers be another proverbial Wilhelm Scream?

I really crack up how the mouse doesn't play much, if any, of a role in on-screen computing. Although, Office Space did a good job of showing that. :)

When it gets down to it, today's movies still have a lot of similarities to the 50's Sci Fi movies. There are a lot of blinking lights and lots of noisy bleeps, blips, and bloops.
March 21, 2013 0:15
I always liked War Games. I see it's already been mentioned a couple times. There were certainly a few unrealistic aspects to the movie if you're looking for it. But for the most part it was a feasible story in a time when nobody was making movies with the computer as a central theme.
March 22, 2013 18:25
I always though that red dwarf scene was directly aimed at Enemy Of the State which I forgot all about when you asked this question originally...

The fact that I still manage to enjoy that film despite a few of these ridiculous techfails is a testament to how well dont the rest of it is.
March 24, 2013 18:55
Scott, this is a great roundup. The NCIS clip was brilliant! But, I can't believe you forgot this jewel, wherein Batman reveals to Morgan Freeman his hacking skills.

Never-mind the implausibility of it... BATMAN DEVELOPED IT! Freakin' BATMAN!
April 03, 2013 19:43
In Skyfall, there is one other thing that just killed me.

In that hacking scene (or just before, I don't really remember), to "prove" that they are at the top of their game in the IT department, the little genius plugs-in TWO network cables to its computer. Because one is never enough.

It made me laugh so hard ... Completely killed the scene for me. :)

Very entertaining blog post, thank you scott :)
April 12, 2013 0:42
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May 06, 2013 15:35
in transformers 2 or 3 they have (at least in the german sync) a 256 BYTE encryption which is hacked/broken within seconds. really got me this one :)
May 24, 2013 22:44
so, two major things.

in the red dwarf clip, i understand that its "future tech" ....
but how are you going to "uncrop" something that isnt there in the first place? .....before someone decides to think of a response, realize this, the guy picks up a printed physical copy of a picture that was cropped (that means the sides of the photo was cut out for those that dont understand) and magically poof's it into reality...where did they get it from again? and if people dont understand this and resolution, ofc its going to be fantastic (havnt seen nor am i talking bad about the rest of the series)

now picking apart a little of CSI. Seriously? she is going to "create a GUI interface to track what? an IP address? ok....not saying its impossible.....but that implies that she is a programer for one, and that she must of have some sort of grasp of how long this will take (which is anywhere from many hours to at least a week), illigal in a way that it means the ip address (you know, Internet protocol) which is infact something that usually a business takes care of, like comcast, knology or something of that nature, can be given with proper warrent by said company and since they arnt, means they are just taking it without regards to rights and other laws, and god forbid if the person is using a computer at an enormous building with 100's of computers or an internet cafe with free wifi. now having said that, if they really need to track IP addresses, there probably is already an application or program out there already....

just throwing that out there.....
May 27, 2013 23:34
And in more recent news...Iron Man 3. Apparently setting the ISDN lines to 11 gets you new, shiny IP possibilities!
June 04, 2013 0:25
In the pilot episode of the John Doe TV series, this guy who apparently knows everything recites the full binaries of MS-DOS. Yep, all the zeroes and ones of it (strangely he doesn't seem to know about the hexadecimal system). Even worst, a guy in the crowd who is listening to him closely confirms that John Doe has, indeed, recited it correctly.
September 06, 2013 4:14
If I could Wilhelm Scream when I die, I would.
October 17, 2013 6:40
If you are using the word Fail as a noun still, in 2013, then Hollywood doesn't care about you. People tend to go to movies on dates, and no one who still uses the word that way has ever, or will ever, get laid.
November 25, 2013 13:47
Critics inside media and blogosphere even so cited rumors Tallon and McDonough did not see eyetoeye on countless matters and also latter was merely looking for an excuse to oust the previous in favor of Bowman, son of senior advisor and training legend Scotty Bowman.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.