Sometimes, despite our wildly varying tastes and often viciously differing opinions, I risk watching movies with my brother. He’s a computer programmer with a fondness for plotty dramas, grimdark action-adventure flicks, and, oddly enough, rom-coms. So we ended up watching Skyfall together back when it came out. I mean, it almost fits all those categories, right? Unfortunately, I forgot that he, well, actually knows things about computers, and after the movie I was subjected to a good ten minute tirade on how no computer programmer worth their salt would ever plug an enemy agent’s computer into the MI6 systems to check what it contained, which was exactly what supposed tech guru Q did in the movie. This obviously led to the MI6 systems being hacked, the enemy agent escaping, and basically everything going down in flames. Good job, Q, that’ll put an end to your promising career in espionage, all right.
Hollywood using computers for terrible plot-related drama isn’t exactly new, as these sort of ill-researched plot holes seem to have been around ever since the computer was first invented. So it may not come as a surprise to some of you to learn that Hollywood puts little to no thought into the coding and hacking that’s so prominent in today’s films. Fortunately, today’s web crush does.
Source Code in TV and Films is a Tumblr specifically set up to point out coding errors in popular media. No longer content with sitting back in his chair and laughing at the screen, British programmer John Graham-Cumming started taking screenshots of code that he saw in TV and movies and tracking down where they came from. Sometimes they’re just gibberish, like in the case of Doctor Who‘s “The Bells of Saint John”. Sometimes they’re hilarious—for example, the code that Tony Stark uses while in his cave with his box of scraps appears to be the code used in an old programmable LEGO brick. And sometimes, though rarely, they’re actually legit—The Social Network appears to have code written specifically for the movie.
Graham-Cumming currently queues up a post a day, although he seems to be on a break right now, and he accepts submissions both from people with coding knowledge and from people who just spot code and wonder if it’s anywhere near accurate or not. The Tumblr can get a little confusing if you have no base knowledge of code, but it’s always good for a laugh. (There’s even a game version of it which can be found here!) Now that I’ve written about it here, I’m off to link my brother to this article and probably laugh at his pain.
Oh, and that pretty code that Q was typing in Skyfall? It ends up loading a Java applet. Seriously, someone fire that kid before he does any more damage.