Tuesday, June 4, 2013

WarGames 30th Anniversary

I had written this post yesterday but scheduled the publishing incorrectly, so here it is today instead.

Today is June 3rd 2013. 30 years ago on June 3rd 1983 a movie was released that would strike a chord with me that would never stop resonating.

WarGames is my favorite movie of all time. I watch it on average once a week and never get tired of it. Sure some of it is nostalgia since it's a movie about a teenage hacker in 1982 when I was also a teenage hacker. The whole movie just screams the 80's and lets face it everyone has a soft spot for the decade they grew up in.


The funny thing is while the tech was good, mostly accurate, and didn't look like PlaySkool wrote the operating systems it really wasn't right for the time. Yes, there were computers in homes , I had a couple myself. Yes, there were modems connecting computers together. Though by then we had already moved away from the acoustic couplers he was shown using and had modems connected directly to the phone cord. But at the time most schools did not have computers in them yet, and they certainly not one you could dial into and connect to. I am not sure but I wouldn't think that the military would have an open line coming into a modem connected to NORAD. This was before the internet as we know it today. Now almost everything is connected in some way and you might forget a patch or to firewall a port and allow someone in. Back then you had to specifically set up a connection to the outside world using hardware and phone lines. The writers famously guessed wrong about the order of the DEFCON numbers, and when W.O.P.R. starts brute forcing the launch codes it's painful to watch because that isn't how that kind of attack works, you don't get a "this digit is correct move on to the next" result. If you did it would only take seconds per digit to crack a code. Either the whole code is correct or not which forces you to try every possible combination. Really though it's hard to even see most of these niggly problems today because schools did get computers in them and you eventually could connect from outside and you have to allow some artistic license to build a greater sense of tension.

It's a well written and well acted story though some of the background humor and nods to counter culture wear a bit thin after so many years. For example the discussion about drugs by the Air Force officers in the beginning of the movie, the news story about the fire in the prophylactic factory on television, etc. However they made a movie about a rather heavy subject, especially in 1983, and they don't ever get preachy about it. They don't smash you in the face with the moral of the story like so many writers and directors do.

The pacing works well while the beginning doesn't have a lot of action, being mostly setup, it isn't slow. They change the  point of view a number of times and don't stay in any one of them long enough to get boring. Between a third and halfway through the movie the action picks up and really never stops. WarGames just works on every level yes, it's got computers in it, yes it has hackers in it but It isn't a movie about technology. It's a movie about people. That's why you don't have to be a geek or even really know anything about how computers, modems, or defense systems work to enjoy the movie.

I have to say though that I would bet this movie sold more computers and modems than any other movie ever made. I know it got a lot busier on BBS's and on Compuserve after the movie came out.

I watched this movie today for the anniversary on Blu-ray which is available from Amazon and elsewhere. Though I am surprised that they didn't wait for the 30th anniversary to release it. The release date was August 21st of 2012 and was not billed as an anniversary edition like the DVD re-release on the 25th anniversary. You can also watch the movie on Amazon Prime Instant Video if you have access to that. You can rent the DVD from Netflix but is not available to "Watch Instantly". if you have never seen the movie, take a chance on it. If you have seen it make sure to watch it again this week!



1 comment:

  1. [...] Monday about WarGames and how it’s my favorite movie of all time got me thinking. What would be my top ten movies [...]

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