It took Hollywood a while, but they finally got it. I’m talking about putting technology, and in particular, computers, on the screen. Remember War Games? Nice little movie, but the computer stuff sucked. Or even farther back, Colossus: The Forbin Project. Computers were never like that, and never will be like that.
Later on they attempted to tackle home computers and the results were disastrous. There was Jumpin’ Jack Flash starring Whoopi Goldberg and everything that came up on the screen was bullshit … but most people didn’t know it, because they’d never used a computer. There was one called Sneakers with Robert Redford, and again, I didn’t believe it. As late as Terminator 2 we have the kid “hacker” sticking something into an ATM that then pays off like a slot machine. Bullshit!
That state of affairs lasted much longer than it should have. It’s only fairly recently that computers have begun to look real, to show things like Windows and programs and password spaces and desktops and email and instant messages as they actually look … because they had to. Everybody’s got a computer now, and everybody knows how they look and what they can do. Nobody’s going to put up with a screen that says “DOES NOT COMPUTE!”
But they finally have it down, and now there is a tidy little sub-genre that you might call the techno-thriller, or the cyber-thriller. Maybe the digital thriller. These stories utilize computers as they are used in the real world. They also rely for important plot points on things like cell phones with cameras, pagers, fax machines, GPS devices, IM, iPods … the whole digital megillah that, believe it or not, was still in its infancy as little as ten years ago. Cellular was a good example. This one is another. There is nothing obviously stupid about it, and much that is ingenious. Could someone really cobble together the reader bar from a fax, an MP3 player, and bit of bubblegum and make something that would use an OCR program to … well, never mind, I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m willing to believe it’s possible. And I know that implanting a chip into your pet is a routine procedure now … and I’ll say no more about that, either. Nothing here stretched my credulity, and though the ending fistfight was a trifle overdone (as usual), all in all I had a great time.