Friday, December 16, 2005

Flashback Friday: Electric Dreams

This week, we pay tribute to the classic love triangle between a man, a woman, and a sentient computer - Electric Dreams. It was actually a clever idea well-executed, but the real reason to look back at this movie is how dated its portrayal of computers are. This was back in the early days when computers were mysterious boxes of awe-inspiring power.

The computer in Electric Dreams is made super-intelligent when its owner spills soda on the keyboard. I'm sure the millions of programmers struggling to create artificial intelligence would be glad to know it's that easy. Right now, Bill Gates is emptying a Mountain Dew onto a Cray hoping to duplicate the effect. Unfortunately, the soda-on-keyboard experiment has been done thousands of times over the last two decades, and the only result has been sticky keyboards that no longer work. Then there's the obvious fact that the keyboard is not attached to the processing part of the computer in any way. That part is about as realistic as lightning making a robot sentient. Or lightning making a stealth fighter superintelligent. And who would ever make a silly movie like that?

Fun Facts:
* Electric Dreams came out in 1984. The IBM PC was introduced in 1981. Windows was released in 1985.
* The computer was named Edgar.
* Electric Dreams is a cult classic, most famous for its theme song by Culture Club.
* Much of the movie is made up of musical montages, which leaves about thirty minutes of actual plot.
* The plot, about the computer composing love songs to the girlfriend and its owner passing them off as his own, is at least partly based on the story of Cyrano DeBergerac.
* The computer did not have a big nose. In fact, it had no nose at all.
* The creepiest part was when the computer's owner plugged out the computer, and the computer just chuckled and said, "You think I need that?"
* At no point in this movie was it suggested the computer wanted to plug itself into the hero's girlfriend. That was only implied.


Mauricem said...

Man that brings back memories. Your right. It's amazing how silly people were about computers back then. I spill soda all the time and if anything, it makes it less efficient than before.
The only thing I really remember are the theme song and the first poem (" to bits\ I just want to squeeze your...").
Although I do remember the end where the computer gets downloaded to the radio all over the world. Sad but poignant. Thanks for the memories.

Monkey Migraine said...

I remember that bit! That was hysterical. But I forgot about the ending. How was that downloading thing possible?

Mauricem said...

I think they assumed since it had a modem that meant it could call everyone in the world. His long-distance bill must have been insane.