Hollywood has never been great about technological verisimilitude. Technobabble and logical shortcuts are often used to move the plot along, which is why horrible depictions of hacking and the like are so commonplace.
To be clear, I’m not talking about suspension of disbelief. Teleportation, cloning, faster-than-light travel — these are all acceptable given the right context. I’m talking about technologies that are misrepresented simply because writers and directors couldn’t be bothered.
So sit back, grab a drink, and get ready to roll your eyes in ways you’ve never rolled them before. Maybe you spotted these errors when they originally aired on TV. In which case, you should let us know all about your eagle-eyed tendencies to notice mistakes.
Visual Basic GUI
There’s a rule: any discussion about “tech bloopers” on the Web will always include this particular clip from CSI (Crime Scene Investigation). The offending line is like nails on a chalkboard for anyone who is even half tech-literate:
“This is in real-time.”
“I’ll create a GUI interface using Visual Basic, see if I can track an IP address.”
Who knew that a single line could have so many technical errors in it? For starters, GUI already stands for “graphical user interface”, so “GUI interface” is as redundant as “ATM machine” or “PIN number”. And while this specific issue could be overlooked, it’s far from the worst.
Why was it necessary to mention Visual Basic? Nobody talks like that. But more importantly, how would a graphical interface help to track somebody’s IP address? Not to mention it would be impossible to whip up a brand new program fast enough to capture someone in “real-time”.
One possible bit of good news is that these terrible scenes are apparently written this way on purpose, at least according to this unofficial AMA on Reddit.
Smartphone Photo Goof
As a television show, Revenge actually isn’t that bad, and as far as tech-related goofs are concerned, this specific one isn’t all that bad either.
In case the image wasn’t clear enough, the blooper here is that the incoming phone call from Aiden is a fake. (Shocker!) It’s actually an image of a screenshot taken on an Android device, and that icon in the top left is the Back button that takes the user back to the gallery.
The image itself is pretty good, too — way better than some of the half-hearted attempts on other shows. Only a keen eye would have caught this one while the show was airing live.
Viral as a Verb
Tech lingo evolves at a rapid pace, and one linguistic trend is to use nouns as verbs. “Just Google it!”, for example. (Or more recently, “Just Bing it!“) And then there are terms like “viral”, a colloquial descriptor for the quick dissemination of media across the Web.
But one of the worst offenses in film or television is a character who misuses a colloquialism to such an absurd degree that it becomes nothing short of cringeworthy:
“…And judging by the amount of hate mail Kim got, I’d say someone probably viraled those pics to her whole school.”
Ugh. It gives me the shivers every time I see it.
What Is IRC?
Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, was an integral step in the evolution of online communication. Multiple IRC networks still exist and each network is comprised of hundreds or thousands of different channels, where each channel is basically a separate chatroom.
Now watch as Numb3rs veers way off the mark:
“Internet Relay Chat! It’s how hackers talk when they don’t want to be overheard.”
Not only is the above statement nonsensical, the extended explanation (as seen in the video) is even more so. Sure, hackers can use IRC to communicate in real-time, but it’s about as secure as using AIM or Skype. IRC networks also keep logs of connections, so the “no evidence of a meeting” is simply wrong.
Live Chat Is a Video
Here’s a tech goof from the classic movie, Jurassic Park. Fast-forward to the 2:38 mark and watch until 2:58 to see the goof, which involves Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) supposedly live-chatting with someone on the island docks.
See the seek bar at the bottom of the live-chat? Yup. That’s a video! The goof is understandable because filming is much easier with a video than an actual live-chat, but it’s a funny goof nonetheless.
Hacking With Windows Media Player
Speaking of video being played off as something that isn’t video, here’s a Bollywood example that depicts an angry individual who’s apparently hacking into a database for information, all while menacing lightning flashes all around…
However, if you look closely — actually, it’s painfully obvious — you’ll see that the whole thing is just a video being played on Windows Media Player. What’s even more hilarious is that this could have been avoided by something as simple as hitting the Full Screen key. Oh well.
Here’s another classic, one that ranks up there with the “Visual Basic GUI” video mentioned earlier. What’s great about this one is that it’s a two-fer. First, you’ve got the ridiculous display of what it looks like to be hacked (random windows and images flashing about), and second… well, just watch. You’ll see.
The CSI Enhance
Lastly, we’ve got the trademark CSI image enhancement. The reason why security footage is so blurry to begin with is because security cameras have low resolutions. They have to run 24/7, so they purposely capture less image data to preserve storage space.
So enhancing such an image makes absolutely no sense. You can’t sharpen an image if the image data was never there to begin with! At best you could extrapolate and guess what it might have looked like, but obviously that’s not what’s happening here.
Do You Know of Any Other Tech Fails?
Hollywood is rarely true to life, as evidenced by things like its depiction of artificial intelligence over the years, so we’re certain that there are dozens of other examples out there. These were bad, but we want to see more. Which is where you come in.
Please share your favorite tech fails with us in the comments, whether they’re in a film or on a television show. Hell, even adverts would be good.