Hollywood has only recently embraced the world of technology. It was not always like this. In the past computers in movies have been portrayed as the machinery of apparatus for dystopian regimes. In particular films like 1984 (based Orwell's book) and Blade Runner seemed to portend a future where technoligy and computers ruled us.
Equally insidious, though somewhat less worrying is the tendency for the movie industry to portray the instability of computing. This is the subject of this enquiry and, in particular, the tendency for computers to blow up.
So what are the films where computers tend to blow up? Which films portray computers in movies, in this way?
In the 1975 film Rollerball, Jonanthan E (James Caan) travels to Geneva in order to seek out 'the truth' from the last surviving library. He is guided to 'Computer Zero', which for some reason, is made out of a bubbling liquid. It's a bit like a giant shisha pipe, only it continues most of the world's knowledge in it. Jonathan E promptly asks the computer a question it can't answer and it proceeds to malfunction and bubble over. IBM are unlikely to be developing a shisha based computer in future.
- Logan's Run
In Logan's Run, Michael York is captured upon his return to the futuristic city (it is actually filmed in a shopping mall) from whence he had escaped. He is led in front of a computer, to which, he informs the computer that there is 'no sanctuary'. The computer can't handle this and promptly blows up.
- The Thing
In The Thing, Kurt Russell loses a game of chess against a computer. He then accuses the computer of being a 'cheating bitch' and tips a glass of whisky and ice into the mainframe. The computer fizzles then blows up.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
In this film the crew comes upon an old Voyager probe that gathered so much information that it became conscious. Now since-according to Sartre-existence precedes essence, it was only inevitable that this computer should acquire feelings. Indeed, the computer does live out an existence riddled with existentialist angst. The film ends with one of the crew merging with it, under the threat of retribution, if the computer's quest to understand and meet its 'creator' isn't satiated
In all these films, the computer either blows up or threatens to malfunction unnecessarily. Clearly, Hollywood did not trust computing at the time. It thought that technology was either threatening or stupid. Otherwise why devote so much effort into making films where computers blow up?