After revisiting the commercial flop that was 1995's The Net, I was sadly reminded of the fact that Hollywood has yet to deliver an accurate portrayal of computers in film. The "masses may be asses," but trying to convince any audience that Sandra Bullock is capable of debugging a software program with a few keystrokes borders on insult. While films may generally require one to suspend their disbelief, the often consistent and flagrant misuse of cyber-clichés is enough to make even the most persuaded moviegoer weary. That being said, I'm not sure if Hollywood understands the difference between uploading and downloading, much less what an algorithm is or what it does.
Perhaps one of the biggest annoyances in film may be the issue of product placement. While production companies are more than happy to accept some green in exchange for a little brand name-brainwashing (ex. Mac's have been ubiquitous in Hollywood films since the early 80's), it seems that only the hardware ever makes it to the silver screen. In place of a true operating system, you get some crude representation of a user interface that is often animated to show a series of commands and/or mouse clicks while the actor or actress pounds away vigorously at the keyboard. This usually results in saving of the world or any other number of blockbuster feats. I thought people liked Macs because of the OS... How is anyone supposed to infiltrate the Pentagon much less send an email with an interface that looks like an old DOS copy of Math Blaster? That's not how you sell computers. That's how you sell door-stops.
"It just works" ...is more than just an overused argument for switching to Macs; it's a rule that Hollywood lives by. How else would you explain a Powerbook 1400c being able to interface with an alien aircraft in order to infect it with a virus that would bring down the entire fleet through satellite communication. Perhaps the aliens were using Windows..? But seriously, Independence Day made me want to go out and buy a Powerbook. (Ironically, the 1400c shown in the film would not even be available to the public for another year and a half.) So, maybe aliens had usb before we did..? What a lucky coincidence. Either way, in the movies computers just work, unless you consider one of those melodramatic scenes where it takes close to five minutes just to copy a 1.4MB floppy disk... Hurry! They're coming!