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Magical Computers


Disciplines > Storytelling > Storytelling articles > Magical Computers

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Computers on TV and in movies are not like computes in real life. Here are some of their magical properties:


Movie computers beep, boop and make all kinds of . Whenever something has happened or even when they are 'thinking', they make all kinds of squeaks and rattles, just to show you that they are doing something useful.

Big names

You may have also noticed the the computer manufacture's logo on TV is bigger than on the ones in the shops. This is a part of the 'product placement' deal where the manufacturers give the computers free to the movie-makers (or even pay them to take them) in order to get some 'free' advertising. 

Big text

The text on real computers can be rather small, which would be rather troublesome on TV where viewers would not be able to read that important email or other messages. So nice, big friendly letters are used in the middle of an otherwise-blank screen.

Flashy searches

When searching for documents or photographs, rather than sit there and hum, the computer will flash up a lot of pictures, just to show you that it is doing something. If it was searching through lots of pictures, to flash ten per second would get you through 36000 per hour. Rather slow when you are scanning millions. 

Stating the obvious

Video computers tell you what is going on. In detail. Not only will they say 'Access denied' when the wrong password is entered, they will also say 'Access granted' when you succeed.

Speech commands

Although it is possible now to give speech commands to computers, a fiction with advanced ones is that you are able to have a conversation with somebody nearby and then throw in a casual command to the computer which automatically knows that you are talking to it.

Total interconnection

Computers in real life do talk with one another, but in kludgy ways and with many failures along the way. In the movies, people are easily able to tap into distant databases, cobble together complex systems in minutes and so on. In other words, it just works.

Transparent to geeks

A movie computer geek can sit down in front of any computer in the world and start using it with little trouble. Passworded system, firewalls and the like take only a matter of minutes or even seconds to crack. Applications never seen before are easily picked up in moments.


Computers are visually and aurally rather boring, which is why movie-makers feel compelled to make them more animated. Watching a computer process information is like watching paint dry, so to show something is happening, it is made to flash and beep.

Real-life computers, as many of us know, are a long-running battle of not connecting, going slow and generally not doing what they should. Unless the movie-maker wants to highlight this problem, non-functioning is not an option for them. The all-knowing geek is a stereotype that is often pressed into service.

Computers are also very useful for magical answer-providing. If something amazing needs to be turned up, just ask the computer. For most people, computers are often akin to magic, doing wonderful things in unfathomable ways.

It is entertaining to watch the history of computers according to the movies. In some ways it echoes reality, for example there was a long period in which computers filled rooms and were comprised mostly of whirring tape machines, where the physical movement of the tapes showed that something was happening. Then it got to the desktop and then the all-powerful phone.

See also

Story devices, Magical Realism


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