Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Elsewhere: WarGames Trailer

The next podcast isn't even a twinkle in my eye just yet, so from the amazing random idea resource that is YouTube, here's a vintage movie trailer for one of the first major studio pictures to cash in on the early 1980s' video and computer game craze -- WarGames.  The great thing about trailers is that, if you've seen the movie, you can refresh your memory about most of it in just a few minutes:

The story makes use of all the classical Hollywood hacker techno-tropes, and at the time, especially, they weren't quite on target.  Today it's not unlikely that school grade records would be kept online, probably hosted at some Web-based service provider specializing in that sort of application, but public school budgets in the early 80s were still splurging on paper, pencil and photocopies. 

And game companies generally didn't store their works-in-progress on mainframes.  There were a few that did, like Infocom, but even then it's highly unlikely that terminals connected to those mainframes would be capable of running executables or displaying graphics intended for completely different target platforms.

And, as always, artificial intelligence is still some distance from a digital personality with the motive and initiative required to invite someone to play a game.  That concept plays well in the movie, but it requires a whole bunch of data and ideas and hard-to-simulate things like the fundamental curiosity and intelligence implied in the seeking of amusement.  Many living creatures don't have that level of complexity.

But I'm kind of relieved to be able to say, almost three decades later, that WarGames was not prophetic.  A DEC VT52 mainframe terminal is still not an Apple II, AI still doesn't want to dance, and human beings are still much more dangerous than computers.

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