Blogger Reveals Cracks In Codes Onscreen

Jan 14, 2014
Originally published on January 14, 2014 6:33 pm
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Filmmakers beware. The nerds are watching. If your movie includes a computer with what appears to be code on its screen, you'd better make sure it's the right code.


There's now a Tumblr called Source Code in TV and Films, where the computer savvy watch for misused or nonsensical digital language. The idea came from a British programmer, John Graham-Cumming, when he was watching the big sci-fi movie "Elysium."

JOHN GRAHAM-CUMMING: One of the characters is writing some code to reboot a space station, and I immediately wanted to find out what it was he was writing. And it turned out it came from an Intel manual, which just amazed me, really.

CORNISH: Graham-Cumming and his team post screenshots of suspicious Hollywood code on the Tumblr, crowdsourcing the effort to figure out what it really says.


BLOCK: That's actor Tim Robbins in the high-tech thriller "Antitrust." In one scene, actors posing as computer experts stare in awe at computer code. According to Graham-Cumming, they're looking at the basic JavaScript.

CORNISH: In "The Terminator," when we see the world through the killer machine's eyes, menacing code scrolls down the screen. It turns out it's the assembly code for an Apple II computer.

BLOCK: And the "Iron Man" movies use a similar effect. The code that scrolls down his visor display in at least one sequence is for a Lego toy robot.

CORNISH: John Graham-Cumming has mixed feelings about all this misuse of programming code.

GRAHAM-CUMMING: Some ways when it's really right, like it was in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," then it shows real depth of producing of the film. It's kind of both ways. And sometimes it's just amusing that they use something that's so wrong.

CORNISH: One final note. Graham-Cumming mentioned "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." The other big film the site praises for its code is "The Social Network." So can you crack that code? Both were directed by David Fincher.

BLOCK: So, Mr. Fincher, kudos to you. The Internet approves. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.