Because real biometrics don't just say "CONFIRMED."
Casey: "I'm installing 'Cinema-OS', the operating system used in the movies." Andy: "Any downsides?" Casey: "Yeah, it can't show any font under 72 point."
Any computer interface that is designed to be seen on television, as opposed to actually be useful for the user.
- All Fonts must be huge, and the resolution must be ridiculously low. This doesn't apply when displaying program code, which must be too small to read.
- All applications must be run almost full screen — there is no multitasking on television. Windows may show in the background, but they might as well be wallpaper for all anyone uses them. Conversely, even where the user is trying to concentrate on doing just one thing, it will not be possible to quite eliminate the off-putting spinning graphics and useless other windows.
- All makers of police database software must put extra effort in making the user interface have pizazz. The UI must have distracting and superfluous widgets, animations, and nonsensical bits of technical-sounding text and random numbers.
- The application interfaces must not conform to any established UI development standards. They must not share common interface conventions even between themselves (for instance, the facial recognition database cannot in any way function like or resemble the ballistics matching database).
- Superfluous animation and sound is required. When sending an e-mail, for example, it is useful to have an animation of the message folding itself into an envelope and flying off into the ether, accompanied by a synthesized woman's voice informing the user that the email is being sent. When searching through any database (such as a fingerprint database), it is useful to flash an image of each search failure just to let you know the program is working. (In Real Life, this would increase the search time by a factor of 10 or more).
- Passwords are never obscured by asterisks as they are typed. Passwords are always simple, non-case-sensitive English words, and never a random combination of numbers and letters.
- Text being displayed, such as incoming email, must appear on the screen one letter at a time, as if it is typed in right then. Sound effects are optional.
- All computers running in a scientific institution display a spinning DNA helix, positioned in a top corner, at all times. Atoms with electrons on fixed paths are a popular alternative.
- If the interface talks, you can expect it to audibly announce every single function and command, no matter how irrelevant or routine.
- Any kind of graphics manipulation software will be positively controlled with keyboard only, and the amount of clicking noises is the sole factor determining the effectiveness of operation. All manipulation is done on rectangles, which are selected automatically and then zoom in to fill the screen, line by line. Arbitrary zooms and other image enhancements work instantly and on any input; a single pixel of source from a surveillance camera is just about enough to extract a hidden message written with a substance only visible in ultraviolet light.
- Computer equipment is highly sensitive to concerned looks, grunting "hmmm"s, and crossed arms. Two or three people possessing the above, standing behind the person operating the computer, will immediately unlock just the right functions needed in the software.
- Every operation for the computer brings up a titled progress bar. This bar will be enormous, color-coded, will obscure the entire screen, and will always say something like "Cracking Into Pentagon: 45% Complete." And, most unbelievably for anyone who has used a real computer, this progress bar will be entirely accurate.
- Computers can tell what type of file you have not just down to the file extension, but what it does, providing such prompts as "Downloading Virus" or "Uploading Medicine." As shown in the example above computers can also calculate how long things will take and how far you have got even when it is a hit or miss event like finding the top secret plans or Cracking Into Pentagon.
- Touch-screens may be prominently involved, though most aren't installed the right way: they're nearly vertical when they should be nearly flat. It has been proven that constantly raising your hand to touch a screen over a long period of time is unnatural and uncomfortable, to the extent that those in the field have dubbed it "gorilla arm."
- The presence of malware on a network triggers effects such as melting, channel swapping and white noise on all monitors connected to the network.
- Because ALL your users are important, not just the legitimate ones, people caught trying to hack in will be shown blazing skull graphics and screaming sound effects, rather than say just cutting off their access or reporting the illegal access attempt to the control room.
Often, a Viewer Friendly Interface is a front end for an Omniscient Database
, and often made of Beeping Computers
with Magic Floppy Disk
drives. For Science Fiction
, however, Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future
Can be Truth in Television
, as programmers like you to know that "Yes, the computer is working."
In fact, computers have been around long enough that some glaring examples are actually Aluminum Christmas Trees
Contrast with Unusual User Interface
. Also see Technology Porn
and Pop-Up Texting
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, Kaiba goes to his Hacker Cave and uses a computer that follows almost all of the above rules to break into Pegasus's secret database (It does multitask, but then again the screen is 2 by 3 metres). Seeing as it's also commenting on his mood, it might be more advanced than it looks like.
- The Magi from Neon Genesis Evangelion use a particularly flashy multi-layered holographic interface, and see fit to blank out every display in Central Dogma if something bad happens. Which it inevitably does. With great frequency.
- To be fair, they are supposed to be highly advanced AIs; they probably feel that they have to show a flashy interface in order for the humans to pay any attention to them.
- It's also somewhat averted whenever Ritsuko needs to modify them; she has to engage in a lot of rapid-fire typing to create a lot of what is probably total gibberish, but looks surprisingly like some C-like programming language. Once she's done though, this trope snaps back in full force.
- Also, the MAGI supercomputers are heavily implied to be three Beowulf clusters, given by the fact that small segments are cracked in episode 13
- Averted in Death Note; when Light accesses his fathers computer, he uses an interface that looks a lot like MS Windows.
- L's Apple-style interfaces, particularly in the Hacker Cave, border on this, but they stop short of being downright impractical. Let's say he programmed in the [GUIs] to amuse himself during a slow week.
- In the live-action movies, on the other hand, the police database Light hacks into — or maybe the hacking program itself — has ridiculously flashy and impractical graphics.
- Another notable aversion in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, which doesn't use anything more complex than Windows XP.
- "Disappearance of" had Windows 95, even with proper startup sound.
- This includes computer-heavy episode The day of Sagittarius, in which Yuki hacks a multiplayer game on the fly by typing C++ code extremely fast in an enormous amount of command line windows in, yes, Windows XP. What she appeared to have actually programmed is a patch that would modify the game when executed, even while the game was running. On the command line, the second to last command is "C:\> bcc32 -W SimInject.cc", which compiled whatever she wrote, and the last one is "C:\> SimInject.exe", executing it. Aside from all the windows she used to apparently write only one file, computers do work this way.
- Even the multiple windows can work that way, as many C++ projects end up being in multiple files. It can also be convienient to have a single large source file open in multiple editors/windows so that different parts of it are visible simultaneously.
- ROD the TV has an interesting aversion. Nenene is shown asleep at her computer and, when the view shifts to view the monitor, we see that it is open to a simple and extremely accurate Word Processor, and whenever she types (Or falls asleep on the keyboard with her head pressing one of the keys) it types as a real computer would.
- Often played for comedy in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann with Gunmen interfaces sprouting a number of whimsical, spontaneously generated, and often personal icons, like when Kamina first tried to pilot the Gurren and the monitors seemed to be displaying a "No Kaminas" sign.
- Many Real Robot shows seem to have bizzarely simple cockpit configurations... how the hell can you make a giant robot fence with a steering wheel or even fight at all in a melee combat using only two joysticks and some pedals?
- As the Battletech entry below will explain: Left joystick for left arm, right joystick for right arm, pedals for legs, and some way to measure minute movements in the pilot to handle the torso.
- The aesthetic of the Ghost in the Shell anime franchise is partly defined by its distinct manner of visualizing the Net and human-computer interaction, replete with oversized flashing letters, completion bars, dials, meters and windows floating in space. Also, the OS wars seem to be over - every single computer display uses the same look.
- Viewers never get a good look at an actual computer screen. The flashiest interfaces exist within Cyberspace and could be attributed to the users' minds making sense of data, while cyborg users can have their perception enhanced with AR elements if they desire — including adding extra elements (that no one else can see) to a normal computer display.
- Partially averted and partially played straight in Digimon Adventure. Koushiro's laptop is a Bland-Name Product of Apple's products and generally does a good job of behaving as such, but occasionally things in the vein of this trope happen, like Gennai walking across the screen to deliver a spoken message. In the second and fourth films, the computers there are Windows 95/98 and generally act the part, again with a few viewer-friendly oddities like the captured and emailed Kuramon in the fourth appearing on the desktop and being moved by Koushiro into a virtual refrigerator sitting in the middle of said desktop, and all the emails in the second opening up of their own accord upon receipt.
- Played for Laughs in Gundam Evolve 10, a CG short based off of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. Judau is in his ZZ-GR, talking to Roux through a video screen, when a new message starts to appear. An annoyed Roux grabs the new message frame and tries to shut it by physically squeezing it, growling "Stay out of this!" She manages to squash it down into a sound only transmission, but can't keep a grip on it and falls on her butt as it assumes its proper place on Judau's screen.
- One of the reasons you so rarely see computers used in comic books is that it's virtually impossible to make the display look even half way decent. All-Star Superman showed a monitor head-on once, displaying a word processor with letters that took up half the screen.
- Oracle's computer interface in Birds of Prey looks nothing like a normal OS, but instead seems to be something she created herself (it often prominently features her "mask" logo). Probably justified in that she is a computer genius doing highly unique work, and is perfectly capable of making software especially suited to her purposes.
- In Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, Verity types up a farewell letter on her laptop. In the trade paperback, writer James Roberts comments that he can never look at that panel without thinking 'Dear Ultra Magnus, by the time you read this you'll have discovered that I have a thing for oversized fonts...'
- In Jurassic Park, Lex sees a graphical, 3D representation of a file system, which she immediately identifies as UNIX. Surprisingly, this actually is a real UNIX program, a Silicon Graphics file browser designed mostly to show off. But it seems unlikely that even the most dedicated young hacker (of that time) would have seen it, and it certainly is not visually particularly UNIX-like.
- The book does away with this by presenting a basic command prompt. But, apparently, Michael Crichton enjoyed the movie interface, as the book for The Lost World (1995) uses a highly sophisticated mosaic display. Of course, this interface is a deliberate wink and nod at the uselessness of the movie's 3D display, since the resident whiz kid is unable to use it, it is horribly cumbersome, and it's actually just a severe distraction as the characters are trying to barricade themselves from the dinosaur attack.
- In fact, the only real use the 3D display is when the resident whiz girl has a Eureka Moment realizing that the only way for the interface to run so smoothly was for it to be hard-wired to another building full of computers.(I guess the folks at Jurassic Park ran out of budget for supercomputers when it came time to set up the convenience store.)
- Besides, the computers shown in the movie belong to the Macintosh Quadra series, which did have a UNIX OS available from Apple called A/UX, but was more likely to have Mac OS 7 and 8 instead.
- Bridget Jones's Diary, featuring messages displayed one letter at a time. This is actually real, if outdated. You can still find programs that allow for realtime chat that show exactly what is typed, when it's typed, but your average person wouldn't use one.
- In Alien vs. Predator - when this sort of thing would usually require a modicum of human intervention - a computer announces by way of bright red flashing that it's detected an "unusual heat signature" and then zooms in on the satellite photos of the source and generates a map which shortly thereafter becomes a plot point.
- Admittedly, this is a computer getting a feed produced by the film's fictional Weyland Corporation, the founder of which is the "pioneer of modern robotics", but this takes place and was filmed in 2004, so this would have to be a case of Instant A.I., Just Add Water in that case.
- Computer usability guru Jakob Nielsen has written a list of the Top 10 Usability Bloopers in the Movies
- Iron Man embraced this trope with enthusiasm, though to be fair, this is Tony Stark's home and company..when an 'outside' computer was used, it used a mostly text-based interface, and unwieldy keyboard commands. (F11 then "Control + I"?)
- The outside computer still plays the progress bar trope pretty straight though, even though it's the computer in the cave, with the box of scraps.
- Hackers, in which the Gibson supercomputer represents the various virus and hacking activities with super-flashy 3-D graphics. It has been noted that many of the basic viruses and techniques demonstated are based on real information, horribly extrapolated; it has been theorized that the visual displays were a cross between making these highly technical activities interesting to the average person, and a kind of Lampshade Hanging.
- Independence Day
- The F/A-18 fighter's display is not only much more advanced than most F/A-18 HUDs, but also is kind enough to tell you why a missile didn't fire in detail.
- The "Uploading Virus" progress bar.
- Avatar uses a variation of this trope. The interface itself is rather small and unassuming, but things like reports, diagrams, false color images and security feeds are rendered in uber-definition. And let's not get into that "brain synching" screen with the synapses.
- Generally averted in The Matrix trilogy. A particular example is in Reloaded, with Trinity working with a bog-standard Unix command-line interface to launch what is a plausible-looking attack. (The famous green-scrolling effect may well be an attempt to develop the most viewer (or at least user) unfriendly interface. There is comparatively little "real-life" UI shown - a holographic display on board the ships - but most of what's left is handled by jacking in.)
- The tools used (nmap) and ssh bug exploited (CRC32 buffer overflow) were mostly real with only a small amount of Hollywood expediency thrown in.
- Averted, for the most part, in the Swedish versions of The Millennium Trilogy films, with both Blomkvist's and Salander's computers clearly being Apple computers that actually run Mac OS. All of the software that both of them run are standard Mac applications, with the particular exception of Salander's hacking program being different, appearing to instead be more UNIX based.
- Computers in Sky Blue follow this trope; however, since the text is in English but the original dialogue is in Korean, it's questionable how viewer-friendly it was for the Target Audience.
- The Incredibles. Let's start with the fact that what's apparently meant to be Syndrome's "master computer" is the only thing in the room it's in, if it can even be called a room◊. Then there's the usual huge text even though the screen itself probably dwarfs some of the ones the film was shown on in theaters; the Highly Visible Password (which happens to be the codename of the project); the fact that the most plot-relevant information instantly comes up like a slideshow without any searching (except when Mr. Incredible checks to see if the locations of his wife and Frozone are known)... the whole thing pretty much touches every base and slides into home.
- The entire point is the computer is isolated so anyone getting into it has to run the gamut of the security system (including the very literal firewall). If they so much as sneeze while using it, they're incapacitated. Syndrome thought that the only people who could get in were himself and his trusted minions.
- Used in Transformers when Frenzy is hacking into the Air Force One computer.
- Despicable Me plays with this. While the "CookieOS" that controls the cookie robots is fairly normal, it does mean that a completely functional GUI operating system was created specifically for the purpose of controlling one-time use cookie robots.
- The movie Salt has a Nuclear Launch Sequence progress bar. It stops partway through for a 'reconfirm identity' check.
- The SHIELD Helicarrier of The Avengers has a few giant vertically-mounted touchscreens for agents Fury and Hill to use, which feature giant spinning holograms of the Helicarrier, Earth, or just some moving wiggly lines. Background drones get keyboards and joysticks on their machines.
- The "captain's" screens are specifically designed for a person with normal eyesight, which is lampshaded by Tony Stark when he covers one eye and tries to see all the screens around him and then asks how Nick Fury can see them with just one eye. (He turns, according to Maria Hill.)
- Both The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel feature very advanced-looking computer interfaces: touch-screens everywhere, giant fonts, and holograms all over the place. Even a carjacker does his work with a touch-screen key-descrambler device. Oscorp must have its sinister tendrils in every technology-pie in New York.
- The Pemalite ship in Animorphs.
- A rare literary example occurs in Digital Fortress.
- In one Relativity story, a henchman who decides to try his hand at full-blown villainy feels it necessary to install a giant digital display to show the heroes how much time they have left before the convoluted deathtrap kills them.
Live Action TV
- Mass Effect has Virtual Intelligences. They are advanced computers with a humanoid hologram instead of a screen and they can respond to and produce normal speech, sort of like IBM's Watson. They were likely added so players didn't have to do a whole bunch of reading when encountering a machine.
- The game Uplink is a simulation of Hollywood Hacking. It has a UI set at a resolution low enough that you can, provides highly visible progress bars for everything, scrolls a list of attempted passwords (complete with individual letters locking into place) when hacking, and has an animation of dialing IP addresses.
- And that's not all! You also get ridiculously simple LAN configuration displays, access screens that have apparently been standardized all over the world, and just for shits and giggles, Elliptic Curve Cyphers that make no sense in real life and provide no reasonable means of unlocking them without hacking. As in, even the people who should have access would arguably have to hack it anyway.
- No human interface, surely that means that authorized users are given some sort of program (or a dongle) to unlock without actually hacking and setting off alarms.
- Your computer is also fully capable of recording a person's voice and generating a voice recording convincing enough to fool a biometric system. While they may be possible in Real Life, the program somehow transforms a tiny sample of the person's voice, such as "Hello! Hello! Who's there?", into the always used password "Hello. I'm am the systems administrator. My voice is my passport. Verify me." How would it even come close to that?
- Justified in Doom 3, because in this game you can actually move the screens' cursor to interact with them, and it would be difficult to interact with an user interface that didn't featured huge controls and fonts.
- Ever17 has Sora and her holographic interfaces. Justified in that Sora is both meant to provide comprehensible visual information to theme park guests and is herself a holographically projected AI made for the purpose.
- Many Command & Conquer games have blinking displays with cool sound effects, both in the GUI and the cinematics. This is especially common in the Tiberium series, from video conferencing to AI advisors.
- The breifings inAce Combat 5 and possibly the other Ace Combat games are filled with flashy satilite maps, random popup windows, and computer sound effects
- Inverted out-of-universe in the console version of Dragon Age II, which had fonts so tiny they were unreadable unless you were using a massive TV or were sitting three inches away.
- A lot of console games designed for showing off a console's HD capabilities suffer from this when played on a standard definition screen. Text often shrinks to the point of illegibility.
- The Dead Space series suits have blinking lights on their spines to indicate Isaac's vitality and project a holographic interface in front of his face. The latter is angled to seem like it's meant for his eyes but the screen elements are huge to the point that he would have to turn his head to see them completely (and it lacks a vital sign reading like the one on his back). Both are clearly visible to the player whose viewpoint overlooks his shoulder and one could argue that they would be useful for coworkers in the suits' original mining context.
- Parodied in K Kn D. The user interface shown during briefings has a section with useless or funny text on the side including showing random numbers.
- In Fallout 2, you would expect the Gecko reactor computer system to be fairly streamlined and designed for professionals, but judging from some dialog choices, you are occasionally asking and giving instructions in regular narrative, to which it responds in narrative. It can be justified as the PC thinking out loud, though. Later, when you request the location of the Oil Rig from the Navarro mainframe, it first gives you exact coordinates and distances, then offers layman terms (off the coast, out in the ocean) then explains that if the layman terms are too complicated for you, nothing else it can do would help.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, hacking takes you directly to the email, which conveniently always only has 2-5 emails in the inbox for you to look at. The Tai Yong Medical area justifies this with TYM having an insanely strict email policy that limits all employees to 4 emails maximum (including the one telling them they're approaching capacity), which is simultaneously absurd while sounding exactly like something an efficiency-obsessed executive would come up with. This also helps explain why so much personal information is found on portable devices; people have to keep the excess mail somewhere.
- One of the hallmarks of poorly done console-to-PC ports is interface elements that aren't changed to reflect that the game is being played on a smaller monitor closer to the viewer's face as opposed to a much larger but farther away TV. This got better when consoles started supporting HDTV (which uses similar display standards and technology to computer monitors), but it still crops up from time to time.
- Casey and Andy has a strip about Casey installing "CinemaOS" on his computer, the features of which he lists as the ability to "instantly access any devices, all programs work perfectly, and you can hack into incredibly secure networks". When asked if it has any downsides, he says "It can't show any font under 72 point."
- The geek-oriented User Friendly strip has an entire Story Arc focused around Miranda producing MovieOS that functions exactly like those described above, and then fails to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Among other things, it was designed to have all its security features disabled by typing "OVERRIDE".
- Even independent films aren't exempt from this! The YouTube film Bradley's Summer, created as a project by middle school students, uses an enormous font in an AOL Instant Messenger conversation so it is readable to the viewers.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Red Tornado's computer display the commands in huge red capital letters that fill the entire screen and are occasionally accompanied by computer voice repeating what we can clearly read.
- The Fairly OddParents - Timmy wishes himself inside of a computer. What he sees essentially is everything defined above, from extremely graphical email programs and colour coded progress bars that take up the entire screen to what is essentially a physical manifestation of a computer virus.
- Gargoyles: Preston Vogel is uploading a virus in Fortress Two's computer. We see a laptop displaying a huge yellow progress bar on a blue background.
- This is the principle behind the "10-foot user interface", used for televisions and media servers, where the user is expected to be sitting across the room with a remote, rather than at a desk with keyboard and mouse. Large fonts are used for readability, many functions are available on the remote control, and any onscreen buttons are large and sparse.
- Similar contraints influence the UI designed for netbooks, tablets, and smartphones, such as like MeeGo's Clutter, Ubuntu's Unity, and the U Is of Android and iOS. These devices tend to have small screens and somewhat limited resolution as well as less processing power compared to their larger and more powerful counterparts.
- One of the main criticism of Windows 8 is that the "live tiles" screen is like this.
- Most antivirus programs display on screen the name of the exact file they are scanning. You'll have about 1/20th of a second to read each one, but then you probably only care about (a) a rough idea of where it's up to (especially if it's going through directories in alphabetical order), and (b) any file it pauses on.
- Also, it's proof that it's actually working and making progress.
- As mentioned above, the evolution of a user-friendly interface is very much Truth in Television. Old-style (as in, room-sized) computers didn't necessarily have any way to indicate whether or not a particular program was being run, and therefore many a computer programmer would leave their station for a snack and come back to find that their in-progress project was interrupted in favor of someone else's (or accidentally reset their own program because it was impossible to distinguish between a working and non-working process).