Ridiculous Portrayals of Programming and Hacking in TV and Film

By Mohamed Hamad February, 20 2012

It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it. Well, when you are trying to portray something as precise as coding, you better pay A LOT of attention to what you say. Passing off techno-babble as legit doesn''t slide for very long.


Here are 6 scenes from TV and film that have put the programming community up in arms over Hollywood''s ridiculous portrayals of coding and hacking:


1. Hackers



Hackers came out in 1995 and the director, Iain Softley, took a lot of liberties with what computers were capable of doing. Playing on the fact that the mainstream audience was pretty technologically clueless at the time, they were susceptible to believe that these 1337 candy ravers had the power to control entire networks with their bitchin’ fast 28.6Kbps modems using unbelievable video game-like interfaces. The movie glorifies coding and hacking with a beautiful lead actress (Jolie) and fast-pace scenes inside computers that look like Rainbow City. Not that the movie would be half as fun to watch if we had to look at a non-supermodel hacker write boring lines of code. The movie reaches the pinnacle of ridonculous when the hacker clan rollerblades to Grand Central Station to “hack the Gibson” using a dial-up connection and of course, goggles.


2. CSI


This is what you get when you put a series of computery-sounding words together into a sentence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkDD03yeLnU


Many hilarious comments sprung on YouTube from this absurd techno-babble.



Some favourites:

“I''ll create a txt using notepad to see if I can destroy pentagon” “I''ll compile a RAM with the interface, and the USB will lead us to the killer” “I''ll create a MS Word .docx using Comic Sans. I''ll see if I can track the IP address” “This would be like being locked out of your house, and instead of using your key, you''d build an elaborate robot from parts that used the key for you when you pressed a button on it. That''s fine if you want to build a robot, but if you need to get in the house urgently, it''s silly.”


The "GUI interface" line has achieved meme status among programmers and developers and even inspired one Redditor to show us what creating a GUI interface using Visual Basic to track an IP address would look like:


Hilarity ensues…


3. Jurassic Park




The fact that Lex figured out how to control the Unix-based security system in less than 10 seconds isn’t what’s unbelievable here. It’s that the system that’s supposed to be controlling the entire park is not even password protected, allowing kids to have free reign over a dinosaur park!


At least the interface really was running on a Unix system!


4. Swordfish



If Swordfish can teach us anything about hacking, it’s that the faster you type, the better your chances of hacking ANY system. Remember how Hugh Jackman was able to crack the DoDbase 128-bit encryption while being held at gunpoint AND receiving a happy ending from a stripper. It’s all in the zippy fingers.


5. The Net



This scene is riddled with computational wonders! The monitor fireplace … the lonely, hot, computer geek that manages to fix a computer virus that can crash an entire network by pressing ESC with a simple batch file! It’s Hollywood Magic!


6. Independence Day


(Note that this is a user-generated video so it''s not exactly what happened in the movie... but it should have!)




Last but not least, we have the tense alien battle scene from Independence Day where the fate of humanity lies in Jeff Goldblum’s ability to create a virus from his PowerBook 5300 that the aliens will upload. Lucky for Earth, the fleet of evil Martian ships were Mac-compatible.


What other Hollywood films have successfully botched what programming and hacking are really like?

By Mohamed Hamad| February, 20 2012
Keywords:  programming

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