Top 10 Things I’ve Learned About Computers From The Movies and Any Episode of “24”

  1. Megapixels aren’t important: What determines the resolution of a photograph or audio recording is the “enhancement” algorithm run on it. Any image, when run through the proper enhancement, will reveal sufficient detail to recognize a face, read a license plate, etc.
  2. Computer screens output text at 4800 baud and make chirping sounds while doing so: Sometimes, computers can be revved up to 9600 baud, and sometimes, for instance when printing the names of conspirators, slow to 300 baud. There is a great deal of variety in the sound computers make when outputting text, though. It used to be a sound reminiscent of a lineprinter, but modern computers seem to implement a more “boop boop boop” approach. Oh, and most computers output in a 16 x 9 font.
  3. All computer systems have backdoors: Hackers can get into any system by way of “backdoors” that are left by the people who originally designed the system. The password of the backdoor is generally the name of the programmer’s daughter.
  4. There are wireframe schematics of every building on Earth: These schematics interface with a wide variety of sensor and alarm systems. They can be manipulated in realtime and are infinitely zoomable (see #1 above).
  5. Decryption works one character at a time, while the other characters cycle quickly through all possibilities: Face detection algorithms work the same way, as do most search algorithms. Oh, and every time a detail is revealed, the computer makes a beep. You know, really, most times a computer makes a partial computation, it makes a beep.
  6. It takes 10 minutes to break into a system: A computer expert will first play coy, saying that they don’t know how long it will take. Then, in a few minutes, they’ll reveal that they can get in, but they’ll need a few minutes more (damn it).
  7. The US government surveils the entire planet, in realtime, and keeps the tapes: At first, this seemed implausible to me, but then I realized that they probably have a couple dozen Webcams in orbit amd use enhancement.
  8. People generally keep incriminating evidence in folders organized by codename: However, they often encrypt them (see #5). Oh, and computers erase data at 300 baud, in reverse (see #2).
  9. Powerful people have Webcams that record from the middle of their displays: You and I dart our eyes back and forth between the Webcam and our own screen. Powerful people have intense video conversations while staring straight into the camera and, therefore, the Webcams must be recording from the middle of their screen.
  10. Powerful people have access to very powerful PDAs: The mobile computers used by powerful people not only support full video, they have acces to the realtime wireframe schematics, decryption and enhancement algorithms, and so forth. Oh, and they can read any data in any device. Oh, and as phones? They have awesome coverage.