22 March, 2012

Computer people: Movies vs Real Life

There is this thing that has been bugging me for the past years.
We all like watching movies about hackers, forensic science movies and TV series. But the thing is: every single one of them portrays us, "computer people", differently from what we are and what we do.
Let's take one of the most popular TV series, CSI, and see how much they are wrong.

So to get this straight, they are creating a GUI interface using Visual Basic to track an IP.
Now let's explain the terms for people that are less compute-literate:
- GUI = Graphical User Interface, which is pretty much whatever you see in an application: the design, the windows, etc.
- Visual Basic = a widely used programming language, from Microsoft.
- IP = Internet Protocol address, which is a numerical label attached to all computers in a network that is pretty much used for addressing and identifying a computer.

Sure, you can make an application in Visual Basic, that uses a GUI, and can track an IP. but you can do the same thing from the console using the PING command, which is pretty much what every "computer person" that knows what an IP is, will do.\

Now, analyzing the sentence, we firstly see evidence of RAS Syndrome ( Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome :P) when they use "GUI interface" because the acronym GUI actually contains Interface.
The whole sentence is also a malapropism and it made every single person that knows a bit more about computers, laugh their ass off when they saw the scene.
A very good metaphor for it would be: "I will write a letter using a crayon so I can order a pizza". Sure you can do it, but does it make any sense to you? No? Exactly. The original sentence makes the same amount of sense to us as well.

Other movies doing the same kind of errors would be:
- Independence Day:   using an old Mac to hack into an alien mothership and infect it with a virus is so out of the ballpark I won't even discuss it. Although, it was a really cool story for how aberrant in was. You can read a very good article about it, here.
- Die Hard: with a very good 3-panel comic from Penny Arcade

Also, two more funny comics about hacking in movies:
First one from XKCD:
 and the second one from SMBC:
And one last question I have: if we see problems like these in all computer related scenes, I wonder how doctors look at House M.D, Royal Pains or even E.R., how lawyers look at Boston Legal, Suits and Law & Order. Any doctor or lawyer care to enlighten us?

1 comment:

  1. Dacă cauți bine era un site unde doctori adevărați explicau fiecare episod în parte din House și ce e greșit și ce e adevărat din el și ce era absolut absurd.