How emacs got into Tron: Legacy


31 Responses to “How emacs got into Tron: Legacy

  1. Roy Trumbull says:

    The Hollywood set designers couldn’t manage something as simple as a radio station so being unable to do anything realistic with computers is no surprise. To his credit George Lucas used a real radio station for a scene with Wolfman Jack.
    On the other hand some real scientists supplied input for the film Buckaroo Banzai, one of the worst groaners of all time.

  2. klossner says:

    The computer screens in The Social Network were real too. Linux and emacs and perl all up on the big screen. My proto-nerd daughter and I stepped through the blu-ray disk frame by frame so I could explain it in detail.

  3. soundandmotion says:

    It’s funny that the word “Quora” is in the bottom left screenshot, particularly given that “Quorra” is a character in the movie.

    • Scott says:

      I think that might actually say quota, just with the top chopped off.

      • retchdog says:

        that’d be some really weird kerning (on a fixed-width font :-/); also it doesn’t match the “t” in “*Tetris*” on the emacs-frame below it.

        i’d say it’s for the quorra code (designers often misspell things or use first drafts) he was working on, except that it seems to be surrounded by asterisks, which usually denotes a process buffer (i.e., running code or an interpreter, shell, &c.) in emacs.

  4. retchdog says:

    i was so disappointed that none of the fireworks played a Conway’s Life pattern, that i totally missed the homage to Bit.

  5. warreno says:

    Yes. Because when you’re talking about a movie wherein a person’s consciousness is getting sucked into a computer simulation by a laser, realism is something you want to maintain at every level of the production.

  6. plh says:


    And of course Emacs fundamentally /is/ a Lisp variant and that’s where it gets its extraordinary magical powers from. Blub¹ programmers and system administrators can go to hell with their petty squabbles: Emacs is for *everyone*. Org mode² alone is worth the investment in learning to use the magnificent… thing that is Emacs. ;-)


  7. Auto Parts for Brains says:

    It’s good to have some sort of reality on tech movies especially if they are portraying some really tech stuff. It’s all in the details, and geeks appreciate it when the makers go through all the trouble just to not destroy the movie experience with cringe worthy errors.

  8. God45 says:

    I want a cool computer desk like the ones in Tron.

  9. Jonathan Badger says:

    The Jurassic Park UNIX interface wasn’t a result of poor Hollywood research — that was an actual interface (FSN) on SGI workstations. Granted, maybe saying “I know this; this is the slow FSN interface that I always get out of when I use IRIX” would have been a more accurate line

    • EtanSivad says:

      Very true about Jurassic Park. The file navigator application (FSN, like you said) that she uses was commonly bundled with SGI workstations to show off their “power.” SGI supplied all of the workstations for the movie, so it’s not surprising that the file system would show up.

      It is possible to compile FSN on modern Linux systems (FSN was written for UNIX.) but it’s a pain in the butt and requires many hours of hunting down deprecated libraries. Still, an interesting challenge.

  10. Jack Aubrey says:

    I didn’t cheer when I saw nmap in “The Matrix.” I thought it was dumb. Everything else is so far-fetched, absurd and even nonsensical; why try to inject a little realism at that point? Conversely, I had no issue with the representations inn “Hackers”; who cares if the on-screen stuff isn’t really representative of hacking? It was the concept that was interesting. Jeez, if you’re going for realism, the entire fucking movie could’ve been shot in some teenage kid’s basement.

  11. RedShirt77 says:

    “I take representing digital culture in film very seriously in lieu of having grown up in a world of very badly researched user interface greeble”

    Lol, did he see the rest of the film, its scienceless fantasy world were programs have faces and personalities and can up and decide to go ride a motorcycle around “town”.

    but at least the early 80′s touch pad technology seemed feasable…

  12. argexpat says:

    Um, losing the forest for the trees, dude!

  13. lecti says:

    emac’s for the smelly gnu hippies. Vi is the way to go!

  14. Anonymous says:

    vivivi — the editor of the beast

  15. Sharktopus says:

    I initially used vi back in the day because I found it was better suited to maintaining UNIX servers over the slow serial connections that were common at the time.

    I’ve played around with Xemacs and like it alot, but vim is still my go to editor on my servers and Mac desktops.

  16. Don says:

    I was asked, in the interview for my current job, whether I use emacs. I said no, I don’t have enough thumbs.

  17. holtt says:

    Vi indeed, at least that’s what I was asking myself.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Awh man, am I the only nano user here?

  19. Anonymous says:

    The original Tron was based on the Burroughs systems and the movie is full of Burroughs terminology from TRON to the MCP.


  20. RobertBigelow says:

    emacs is *the* ideal tool for coding and programming in LISP and its variants, the former being the programming language for AI (A_rtificial I_nitelligence).

  21. DG says:

    I was very disappointed to see “reindeer flotilla” not typed anywhere on screen in the new movie. I don’t know why, but I just loved that character string in the 1982 flick. Somehow those word just go together, like nuclear launch codes, or one of the military scenario titles rapidly flashing by on screen in War Games.

    Repeat after me,… reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, reindeer flotilla, help me.

  22. Anonymous says:

    lol – what year was this supposed to take place?

    Sysads I know would rather use Nano than something huge like emacs. Considering that vim is typically installed as a default editor for Linux systems, it seems that emacs is more a nod to developers than hackers, who frequently need to use whatever is natively on the system they have hacked into.

    • retchdog says:

      leaving your controversial definition of “hacker” aside, the character who used emacs was primarily a developer or development manager.

  23. blackboar says:

    It should be noted that this specific guy is both a freaking genius and one of the very few artist programmers I actually have ever heard of.

    Anon, does Stallman qualify as a hacker for you?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if somebody could do a revival of FSN using modern features and libraries that aren’t older than I am… then again I’d still probably stick with my Awesome Yet Practical KDE install for day to day work because FSN looks horribly inefficient….

  25. Anonymous says:

    Am I the only geek that noticed the CAPS key where the Control key goes for a proper Emacs keyboard? How does he even control (ha!) Emacs without a Control key?

  26. lysdexia says:

    Yet another stick in the eye of vim-americans. Shame!

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