The sources of all that code you see in TV and movies

A new blog explains where the code you saw in that TV show or movie really came from

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Programming code is, seemingly, everywhere these days, what with the Internet of Everything and just about everybody learning how to code. Two places where code is definitely popping up more and more is on TV shows and in movies. When you see your favorite fictional character looking at a screen full of code, have you ever wondered what they're actually looking at? If so then we have good news, because there's a new blog on Tumblr devoted to the source code you see on screen called Source Code in TV and Films.

Created by British programmer John Graham-Cumming, the site is devoted to identifying the source of the code that you see on the big and little screens. Launched just last week, Graham-Cumming has already gathered a good list of screenshots and associated explanations of where the code in the question originally came from. It's well worth cruising through on your own. Here are a couple of my favorites.


BASIC code seen in Superman III

Image credit: Source Code in TV and Films

In Superman III (1983), Richard Pryor, of all people, plays computer hacker Gus Gorman. At one point he's shown looking at a screen of code, which, upon further analysis, was some BASIC code, seemingly written for the movie, to take the input you see in the scene and produce some predetermined output. 


MySQL code was used in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Image credit: Source Code in TV and Films

Most of the code you see in TV or movies is just random code and doesn't actually jibe with what is supposedly going on in the scene. Sometimes, though, the writers and producers include code that, in theory, makes sense. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), we see computer hacker Lisbeth Salander trying to help solve a murder case by running some SQL queries. It's MySQL code that we see and, while the search results we see don't match what the query is asking for, I'd say it's still a much better effort at being realistic than most on-screen code.


Source code for DOOM appeared in the video for Fingerhold

Image credit: Source Code in TV and Films

In the music video for Fingerhold by indie band Ramona Falls, from 2012, we see a young hacker-type woman doing hacker-like things in her basement. At one point she's looking at code which, as it turns out, is the source code for DOOM.

Anyway, it's a fun site and Graham-Cumming writes that he has several more weeks worth of posts queued up. If you know of any other on-screen code examples you'd like to suggest, send them his way using the contact form on the site.

I'll be coming back to it for more movie source code goodness!

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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