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FTN FEATURE: Technology and Films, how close to our reality are they?

June 30th, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

Technology in motion pictures has been around since the dawn of the silent film era, with the earliest motion pictures featuring trains pulling into stations, or the earliest of mechanical flying machines that, to this day, still amaze. And who could forget the classic Metropolis with ITS robots? 

New movie The Intership, which stars Vice Vaughn and Owen Wilson as two salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital age and who find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment, got me thinking a lot about how certain movies can be almost prophetic in how they portray technology.

In the past number of years there have been some incredible and, quite frankly, extremely accurate films which have had themes of future technology, and the most impressive point being is that most of them aren’t even science fiction.

When 2001: A Space Odyssey first graced the silver screen in 1969, cinema-goers were astounded by the state-of-the-art visuals on display. The fact that they were seamlessly blended with music by J. Strauss is now legendary, but if you look closely you may notice a number of technological suggestions that have now become modern day necessities.

Included in the film were video diaries, microwave food, mobile telephones, talking computers and men on the moon. Whilst I’ll admit the last two may seem more fanciful than the others mentioned, videos on computers have really only taken off in the past ten years. As for mobile phones, can you really say that you could cope for a day without one?

2001 A Space Odyssey is a science fiction film, but what about codes and computer hacking? This was the main theme in the 1992 film Sneakers; a mixed bag of minor misfits who stumble upon the ultimate code breaker. This piece of technology at the time seemed fairly fanciful but we now know that this is among most governments’ top concerns.

All too frequently in the recent news reports we have heard that certain government agencies or departments have been hacked into, with all of their juiciest secrets posted online for all to see, that’s before the sites are taken down.

Speaking of security, the box office in 1998 was literally at breaking point when a film about a lawyer (who became a target by a corrupt politician and his NSA goons when he accidentally received key evidence to a serious politically motivated crime), had fans cheering at the screens. The film was Enemy of the State and some of the film’s themes, whilst perhaps a little over exaggerated then, are now matter of fact.

The screenwriters had the foresight to work into the plot remotely operated and accessed traffic cameras; tracing the signals used by mobile phones (any episode of 24 will show you the value of this particular piece of technology) and pinpoint accuracy courtesy of GPS, now no longer an optional extra but a necessity on most new vehicles.

Staying on the topic of vehicles, in 1979 a low budget Australian road movie called Mad Max blazed a trail through films and whilst its star Mel Gibson became box office gold in the decades to come, a small piece of technology might have slipped your notice.

In the MFP police vehicles, they use what is possibly the first “hands free” kit for communication in cars. The vehicles don’t use the usual “box and cord” type car radios, but a built in switch system that allows the driver to talk whilst keeping both hands on the wheel!

Sadly though, some technological advances still remain firmly only in cinema and haven’t become available to the general public. These include flying cars, hover-boards, independently thinking toys armed with munition chips and of course, robot butlers.

Well, whilst flying cars are still pure imagination, the world of robotics has made some incredible advances in the past 20years. Whilst the robotic Terminator types thankfully do not yet exist, there are indeed some robots that have been created to seek out potential enemies and fire weapons.

Whilst this is potentially frightening, it is also extremely encouraging to know that there have been advancements for robotics in the fields of medicine. There is even a robot that can remove the skin of a grape so carefully and precisely that it leaves the fruit of the grape completely untouched (this is currently being investigated in the world of optometry).

So the next time you are watching aliens attacking with humans fighting back using simple computers, or a plane being operated by thought, it may not be that far fetched, or even that far off from our future.

The Internship is in cinemas now


I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.