What Movies and TV Get Wrong about Computers

Any movie or TV show that has anything to do with computers, viruses, hacking, etc. is typically impressive since the average viewer might not have a clue what the hackers or users are talking about and will have the good grace to simply be entertained. But those that are even a little tech-savvy and those that know exactly what they’re doing and laugh when they hear this kind of stuff being spouted on-screen are bound to realize just how much the actors are pushing the dialogue since the writers often make it clear what they do and don’t know about computers and how they work. In this manner, it’s kind of easy to spot in a movie or on a TV show when the writers try to sneak in a bit of dialogue or create an action that just doesn’t make sense. Plus, hackers aren’t always the elite individuals that you see in the movies since while some of them are doing something highly illegal, there are others that are hackers by trade and expose others.

Here are a few things that TV shows and movies get wrong about computers.

5. Hacking into someone else’s computer isn’t something that’s done with blinding speed.

The best hackers can get what they want and get out, but it won’t be done with just a few keystrokes, and it won’t be nearly as easy as it looks on TV or in the movies. The things you see hackers doing in the movies are almost entirely fiction, especially now with the many different ways that exist to protect a person’s information and transactions. Plus, the penalties that a hacker can face are so severe that anyone that has a brain in their head won’t bother hacking a system unless they know it’s unprotected, and even then it’s bound to take a while since again, hacking is not the simple thing one sees in the movies. Plus, the planning takes days or months, so it’s not a get in and get out process.

4. Two people on one keyboard are more likely to cause a crash than to solve a problem.

Have you ever hit too many keys at the same time, particularly the wrong keys, and suddenly found that your computer is on the verge of going crazy or just stops for a moment? Okay, so maybe the last one could be a very serious problem, but mashing the keyboard with four hands instead of two isn’t a good idea and it won’t get the job done in half the time. It will give the computer a set of commands that it likely won’t be able to decipher since too many conflicting keystrokes are bound to give the system a serious headache when it comes to working properly since just imagine two or three people trying to tell you to mow the yard, feed the dog, or do your homework all at once. It just doesn’t work.

3. Computer displays that are seen on TV and in the movies aren’t even close to being that cool.

The displays you see in movies such as Hackers or even on NCIS are pretty cool and the graphics are pretty slick, but it’s not going to look that way in real life since that would mean that hackers and the programmers trying to keep them out took a lot of time to make everything look as awesome as possible for the experience. Instead, lines and lines of code are likely going to be what you get to see, not the cool, floating columns and other stuff that’s seen in the movies that makes the effect that much better. It’s a buzzkill to be certain, but it’s also more realistic to see a screen filled with code.

2. Reading lines of gibberish and calling it a code is IMPOSSIBLE if you don’t have the cipher

Have you ever watched a show when the good guys are looking at a screen filled with an indecipherable code that they CAN’T decipher because they don’t have any way of figuring out what means what? Then, all of a sudden, someone says “It’s a code!” and starts figuring each line to tell just what the code is saying. Yeah, it doesn’t work like that since unless even the autistic kid from Mercury Rising couldn’t accurately put together lines of code without having some frame of reference. And if one of your people could decipher the code then it’s time to think about how they knew what to look for.

1. Uploading a computer virus to an alien ship is beyond cringe-worthy. Alien technology is Mac-compatible?

Independence Day was a fun movie and it still stands out as one of those that a lot of us enjoyed back in the day, but at the same time, it didn’t make sense that David, played by Jeff Goldblum, was able to upload a virus to the mother ship using a Mac without encountering a few issues with translation between human technology and the aliens’ tech. Plus, if one wants to argue about how he did this to the smaller ship in the hangar, think about this, that ship had been there for decades, there was no way to tell if the mother ship was still using the same system, or that a ship that had gone missing so long ago would have been so easily accepted.

It’s impressive, but a lot of the tech jargon and scenes in the movies and TV kind of rely on the suspension of rational thought.


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