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Viewer-Friendly Interface
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.

Key tenets:
  • 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 after downsampling to the TV's resolution.
  • 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.


Examples:

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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...'

    Film 
  • 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 1 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. (F5 then "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.

    Literature 

    Live Action TV 
  • All the shows in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise use an AFIS front-end that fits all the key tenets.
    • One specific episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation used a highly graphics-intensive program that allowed the user to recreate a location and then set it on fire, for the purposes of investigating possible arson cases. Rather than just crunch numbers and return a near-instant result, it actually animated the fire in real-time.
    • It's taken to ridiculous extremes in the Miami, which have computers that look like Star Trek with red and blue mood lighting and a similar font, yet fit the flashy artistic direction. New York is not nearly as exaggerated, but still a couple steps beyond practical.
      • One episode of CSI: Miami involved a gossip blog about a certain company. The blogger in question was secretly using spoiler text, thus, to distribute insider stock tips. When it is demonstrated, the tech shows his coworker an apparently cut-and-pasted blog post. He highlights the text and the tips become visible. Given that the interface segment in question was bright yellow-green text on an animated, mostly dark red background, this meant that either a) the blog happened to use the exact same formatting as the CSI interface, b) the web browser CSIs use automatically converted the spoiler text and made it invisible on the animated background until it was highlighted, or c) the tech deliberately reformatted the post for the CSI interface, instead of simply using the actual web page.
    • Although the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is terribly guilty of color-coordinated (neon-blue on black, since you ask,) display-each-hit search screens, CSI: Miami is considerably worse. Whenever a suspect's information comes up on screen on glaring green over orange, it displays a blank form upon which letters pop in one at a time, Power Point-style, making viewers and investigators wait several seconds before reading anything useful.
  • Dexter zig-zags on this trope - sometimes people will be seen using computers in a fairly normal fashion - for example, Dexter's home computer, which changes around a bit but mostly looks like some brand of Linux, or Mac OS. Then we go into his lab, where everything is designed for blind fools and the computer knows to helpfully label every sample in 72pt text. And then someone sends Dex a text and the words 'MEET ME' will take up the entire screen.
  • The highly advanced LCARS interface used in the Next Generation era of the Star Trek franchise is totally unwieldy and would be impossible for a real person to navigate with any kind of efficiency. It would be particularly impossible for anyone to navigate the menu systems by touch, though we see users do this several times (most obviously in Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Shades of Gray").
    • "Highly advanced"... and also totally unworkable, if not unintelligible, for the simple reason that the vast majority of "data items" displayed are strings of numbers and nothing else. No labels, no indication of what the numbers mean, no nothing. There are some exceptions, but most of what LCARS shows is random sequences of digits — numerical gibberish, meaning it's actually an aversion of this trope, as it conveys absolutely nothing of any value to the viewer other than that it's not something that viewers are supposed to be familiar with.
      • Although usually you can't see that closely in standard definition. A lot of the screens (known on set as Okudagrams after one of the prop designers) have a number of in-jokes and random humor (including a duck or two on the Engineering screen showing the Enterprise cutaway).
    • This is taken to ridiculous extremes in Star Trek: Insurrection, when Picard goes from the flight controls of a shuttle to Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore by pressing TWO BUTTONS. Two more taps initiates a karaoke version of A British Tar, complete with bouncing ball over the lyrics...
      • Not to defend LCARS, but right before that Picard does verbally mention Gilbert and Sullivan— it's possible the computer picked up on that and had some kind of shortcut to Gilvert and Sullivan displayed for Picard.
    • Of course, that hasn't stopped all manner of Trek-related games, programs, and websites from designing interfaces in the LCARS style. There's even a program to revamp your desktop LCARS-style, complete with a library computer.
    • It has been speculated that the UI in Star Trek may be more advanced than a mere touchscreen and may include some form of tactile feedback that would make it feel more like pushing a button than touching a panel.
      • As demonstrated by an epsiode of Voyager in which Tuvok is blind, Trek interfaces have a full featured tactile mode, though it's not the default.
    • It's important to consider what such an interface is designed to do, as opposed to how it's specifically portrayed. Remember, often the LCARS interface is nothing more than a backlit design on plexiglass, as opposed to a real display/interface. If you consider that these displays would change their options based on which function one is performing, much like existing menu systems do today, it could be a fairly straight-forward design to use on a large-screen touch display. The "touch" thing is a big point as well, considering unlike traditional mouse pointer navigation, the design elements would have to be fairly large for usability reasons (much like iPhone/Android devices now). While such an odd layout doesn't appear on such devices, there are two things to keep in mind. First, such devices are more multi-app based, as opposed to a pre-set purpose (Helm control wouldn't have much of a need for "apps" - just features and options relating to the specific purpose). Second, even as tablets are becoming the new rage, very little thought has gone into developing an appropriate UI for that screen size. Instead, most just use the same layout as a device with a screen more than half its physical size. In the end, LCARS, if portrayed correctly, could be a very decent UI design - for specific-purpose complex systems. Not so much on personal computers or other "multi-task" systems.
  • Bones frequently makes use of Angela's "mainframe", complete with Omniscient Database and holographic display (despite all this modern technology, everything in it usually has a yellow tint), although we don't see the screen of the stylus-controlled tablet device she uses for input. The tablet's interface must be pretty viewer-friendly, because she can create entirely new simulations on the spot with a few strokes of the stylus.
    • Thankfully, the series seems to have moved away from this (well, most of the time).
  • Law & Order: SVU embraces this trope more and more every season, to the point of invoking Early-Installment Weirdness when going back and watching older episodes where they had to actually get off their asses and do some actual police work once in awhile.
  • Early in the show, Castle would speculate about the cool TV-friendly software and equipment they were going to use, only to be disappointed by the mundane stuff actually used by the police. The police would then lampshade the trope and Castle falling for it.
    • Later, Castle started playing the trope straight, showing computer forensics with Hollywood-friendly graphical interfaces.
    • Even in the early seasons, whenever there's a Fed, Castle brought in the cool graphics and magitek.
  • Mid-1990s television seems to be particularly susceptible to this trope; for example, the show Animorphs did this with regularity.
  • Averted in an episode of La Femme Nikita. The screens have about the font size you'd expect on a real computer, so that things have to be shown in close-up, and the series's computer geek, as Voice with an Internet Connection, first explains to Nikita how to find a process ID and then tells her to type in "kill -9" to make it stop—bog-standard UNIX.
  • The SGC dialing computer in Stargate SG-1 is remarkably flashy for something supposedly 'MacGyvered' together by military scientists and technicians to interface with advanced and unknown technology. It's impossible to show on a still image, but the Stargate glyphs are animated, flying out of the picture of the top chevron and into their cells. That said, the Ancients seem to have been addicted to fancy holograms, so maybe it's their influence seeping through.
    • On the other hand, the folks on later seasons of SG-1 and on Stargate Atlantis very clearly use Dell computers, many of them very obviously running Windows XP.
    • Another possibility is that the Stargate program was inactive for much of the time, so its entirely possible some Air Force programmer just got bored and created a cool-looking interface.
  • Firefly averts this somewhat with Serenity's rather simplistic and basic user interface. On the other hand, the interface in Inara's shuttle and the various Alliance computers are much more complex and gimmicky.
    • One episode ("Trash") also subverts this trope. When Kaylee and Zoe are trying to install a new hardware part to change the direction of the trash shuttle, the screen shows a Windows 2000 "Found New Hardware" screen.
      • Clearly, things only got worse after Vista. Maybe thats why Earth That Was died in the first place?
  • Eleventh Hour (UK): The third episode features a program which "decrypts" a scientist's encoded mathematical formulas... Into an animated presentation complete with 3d special effects.
  • NCIS plays this trope semi-straight. Many of the interfaces are somewhat realistic, except for some big text inserted to help viewers (and possibly Gibbs) see what is going on. This approach also applies to the accompanying Techno Babble. It's not that far off the mark, but the non-geek members of the cast (everyone except McGee and Abby) usually ask for a translation.
    • There is this once-an-episode scenario:
    Gibbs: Zoom in on that. * points to something on screen*
    Abby: * type type type*
    • NCIS: Los Angeles uses an OS that looks like MovieOS, but is based on Perceptive Pixel's actual multitouch system. Another episode subverts this with Product Placement for Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface tablet.
  • Ghostwriter famously had a word processor that was just a blue screen with large text, typical of early programs like WordStar. The New Ghostwriter Mysteries used a more typical word processor, but the text was still impractically large for standard use.
  • Norton's supercomputer in War of the Worlds never seemed to show the same interface twice.
  • The G&G Network on Profit was designed with a punch-button interface (complete with a giant fake hand pressing the button on the screen), an organization system based on a slow-moving-but-cool-looking hallway theme, and only was able to depict people in cube-format... Still, it was cool how they exploded when people get fired.
  • In the British miniseries The Last Enemy every computer reads every single word on the screen in a synthesised voice, even those the user typed in themselves. Apparently Twenty Minutes into the Future default computer settings assume impared vision and are very difficult to change.
  • The CBC kids' spy show Spynet had the main character (a spy) infiltrating villains' homes (normal suburban houses) and hacking their computers (Windows 95). An amusing aversion.
  • Person of Interest: in scenes showing the world from The Machine's point of view, there are lines of text and graphic boxes Color-Coded for Your Convenience. A real system wouldn't need visual displays like these, but they help the viewer understand what The Machine is "thinking."
  • Every single screen on Leverage, and we mean every single one is like this. Everything from alerts to notifications to confirmations appear in GIANT CAPSLOCK LETTERS and bright, vivid colours that take up half the screen.
  • Sarah Jane's computer, Mister Smith, is almost always displaying a fancy spinning pattern that does little of relevance. Since he's a sapient alien supercomputer with processing power to spare, it may just be due to his own enjoyment. He also plays a loud fanfare whenever he activates.
  • Parodied mercilessly, along with every other aspect of TV Computers, in Charlie Brooker's A Touch Of Cloth. The OS is ridiculously grandiose, has voice control, and allows the detectives to alter history, going so far as to grab a piece of physical evidence from a video playback. It's all in service of Rule of Funny, of course, so they don't use this to - say - warn the victims ahead of time...
  • Averted by the 2nd episode of The Blacklist, where a polygraph program is seen running on a Windows 8 desktop. Not even the funky Metro shell.

    Video Games 
  • 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 does this with a tiny sample of the person's voice, such as "Hello! Hello! Who's there?" How would it even know how that person say the letter "a", for example?
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • Casey & 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".

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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).


Online AliasMagical ComputerWetware Body
Tron LinesRule of PerceptionVisible Invisibility
Falling Chandelier of DoomImageSource/LiteraturePilgrim's Progress

alternative title(s): Movie OS
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