Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"It's a Unix system!"

One game I'm playing now (more about it to come in a future post) features a puzzle where you clean up a fuzzy digital photo with a fake image enhancer. You fiddle with various sliders until the picture comes into focus.

Sound familiar? Yep, it's that hoary ol' technology chestnut of mysteries and procedurals, where the lead comes into the lab of the day player geek with a digital picture of the crime scene. The resulting convo goes like this:

Can you enhance this image?

Sure thing, boss.

Aaaaargh! Not possible. You can't
derive a high-resolution, sharp image
from a lower-res mass of blurred pixels.
The data simply isn't there!

(into radio)

Blowing up a blurry pixel gets you a bigger blurry pixel, not the killer's face or a license plate or an incriminating spangled pink thong. Someone decided once that this is something computers can do, and a slew of identically wrong scenes using this tired device were spawned.

Dramatic license is dandy, but works best when grounded in the plausible. Technical advisors with hard-science cred were brought on board MINORITY REPORT to consult on everything from the form factor of the cars to the amazing orchestra conductor physical interface of the Pre-Crime Unit's computer (and those same advisors went back to MIT and created a working version of that interface).

Research is fun! You learn nifty stuff, and it's procrastinating from writing that still feels productive. Did you know that you can make a battery from nickels, pennies, and paper towels soaked in salt water? How cool is that? I can't wait to use that somewhere.

JURASSIC PARK's classic computer moment, the "Unix" flythrough past 3D models marked "/var" and "/usr," is my fave mainstream culture technogaffe. What's yours?


Natalia said...

That was hilarious...thanks :)


Marcion said...

My favorite is still the way all Hollywood computers use The One True Operating System, and are thus compatible with one another. Independence Day features the most egregious example - 2.45% of all computers are made by Apple, but happily when the genocidal aliens show up, the operating software for their fleet command vessel is compatible with Jeff Goldblum's Powerbook.

Typical - my Mac can run a city-smashing flying saucer, but try getting a port of Half-Life.

Kira said...

Welcome to the blog, Marcion! My boyfriend's with you -- The Computer That Can Do Anything, he calls it.

I always believed that Mac will save the world (I'm writing this on my Powerbook), but I agree, extraterrestrial compatibility is probably beyond the capabilities of OSX.

Maybe not Linux, though.