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Cool Code of Source

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If there's a show set in the 21st century, The Team will have a hacker, an operator, or other kind of computer user on board, who is set up in a Hacker Cave with three monitors and a bunch of high-end computers. Since the writer wants to portray that person as a computer genius, there must be constant of lines of source code flowing over the computer screens.

In Real Life, no software developer goes about things that way. When developing programs, you need to study and create every single line of source code with all your focus. Since this isn't cool enough the Cool Code of Source will be forever running down the screen.

Even the designers of TV shows have to get those lines of code somewhere, a common source is the Linux kernel.

This is not only for collecting scenes where we get to see lots of code, but also for collecting the fragments that we recognize.

Related to Matrix Raining Code and Computers Speak Binary. See also Programming Language.

For an automatic gibberish source code generator, go here.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ghost in the Shell (1995), it's:
    • C.
    • Mostly file path string manipulation with some references to drawing.
    • It eventually repeats itself during that scene.
  • In one Mobile Suit Gundam Wing episode, a screen displays part of the Photoshop 6 manual as a purported readout from a medical scanner.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya episode "The Day of Saggitarius", Nagato with the help of a macro program reconfigures the entire steering method of a video game in C.
  • Lain from Serial Experiments Lain apparently does all her hackery in Lisp. Specifically, she's implementing Conway's Game of Life, with code from the CMU AI repository. She also does C++ in the artbook.
    • Apparently, she's hacking Lisp while not paying attention to a lecture about C.
  • In the original Bubblegum Crisis, it's typically music; track lists from the BGC OST, lyrics from the same, or sometimes from Madonna music. Very occasionally there will be some BASIC code.
  • Several episodes of Please Twins! have what appears to be C++ , plus some program showing a hex dump.
  • The code seen in .hack//Liminality is from the source code of the .hack games.
  • Robotics;Notes, in Episode 3, shows some C code that Doc apparently either wrote or viewed. It seems related to joint control.
  • Kobayashi codes in Python in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid (the anime anyways, the manga uses Google Tag instead). One episode even had scene transitions composed of 5 character commands.

  • In one strip, Dilbert involved using such 'code' as a screensaver.
  • DC Comics published a limited series called The Hacker Files in the early 90s. At one point, we see two examples of code, which are supposed to represent very different levels of competence. They got it exactly right, averting this trope entirely.

    Films — Live Action 

    Live Action TV 
  • Stargate SG-1: At some point, code from the Replicators programming turns out to be code for a web page, as noted on The Daily WTF: Code of the Replicators.
  • Dollhouse uses the HTML source (which isn't code—it's markup) from the Web site for Wolfram Research in a cracking scene during the episode "Briar Rose". Wolfram Research is a real company that makes Mathematica software, but it shares a name with an evil corporation on Whedon's series Angel, making it a particularly nerdy hidden reference.
    • Their environmental control system also seems to make heavy use of some XML dialect, as seen when Alpha uses it.
  • An episode of CSI: NY involved someone using a hack to cheat in a Gears of War 3 tournament. At one point we see the hack's source code. Apparently, it's coded in... HTML. The author of this article (in Polish) even tracked down the original website from which the HTML code was taken for the show.
  • Whenever actual source code is shown in ReBoot: The Guardian Code, it's always snippets coming from the Microsoft Developer Network or the Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Some news programs have HTML scrolling in the background while reporting on tech-related news.

    Music Videos 
  • Mi-Sex's "Computer Games" uses BASIC code that looks like it's for a game, since it has the line PRINT "WHEN YOU SEE AN (@) TO THE LEFT OF [...] YOUR TURN."

    Video Games 
  • The flying code in the .hack games is somewhere between this and Matrix Raining Code.
  • The first Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune would briefly show some faint scrolling text in the background of its Attract Mode video. Closer inspection shows that it's a bunch of random characters from the middle row of a QWERTY keyboard. Apparently, the person who made it couldn't even be bothered to mash keys on a different row.
  • PAYDAY 2: Certain monitors tend to have command line windows open filled with what is essentially XML. The more traditional example of the trope is during specific hacking sequences in the game, where you place a gadget on or near some hardware and force an I.T Technician to hack it, which usually displays some stylised scrolling code.
  • In Portal, once you get backstage there are monitors that are basically scrolling code, except really they're scrolling distorted cake recipes.
  • One cutscene in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes shows a computer screen with complicated code showing up on it; it's a hexdump of a gzip file.
  • In Mass Effect 2, one of the mini-games to hack into systems involve selecting chunks of what appears to be C/C++ code. If you actually look at the code, it appears to be gibberish.
  • There's a more literal example in Yars' Revenge. The Rainbow Colored field where you are immune to the little tracker guy? That's the source code of the game.
  • Watchdogs 2 attempts to show computer screens with relatively realistic coding, and makes use of genuine Linux commands and terminology that can be seen on the screens in the hackers' den.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played with in Daughter for Dessert in the flashback of the protagonist and Lainie getting the funding to start the diner. The actual hacking of the computer contians a minigame where password lines show up amid huge blocks of code.
  • Averted in the scene of Double Homework where the protagonist hacks Dr. Mosely’s computer as per Dennis’s instructions. The process looks more cartoonish than anything else.

    Western Animation 
  • The Code Lyoko supercomputer screens apparently display a PHP image gallery script.

    Real Life 
  • Granted, writing a new program with good development practices doesn't involve hacking through zillions of lines of code at a time, but if you are, for example, trying to understand the source code of a large, poorly documented and badly written piece of software in order to fix or improve it (a very realistic scenario), you can end up with tens of windows showing hundreds of lines of code from different files while you are trying to understand how everything works (and doesn't work, and should work) or how, by all accounts it shouldn't work, but it does.
  • Compiling a program (i.e. translating human-readable source code into a form that the computer can run faster) often prints lots of diagnostic information derived from the source code, if you enable "verbose" output or have really poorly-written code that generates a lot of warnings.
  • Many programs record lots of information in log files (though not the source code either), and some system administrators have windows running "tail -f" that always show the last few lines of certain log files.
  • Assembly language code, which consists of primitive instructions usually written one per line, tends to be quite verbose. Reading a longer assembly listing may resemble this trope. Though these days one rarely needs to read (or write) assembly code.
  • Reading a long file often ends up looking like this. Some IDE's (text editors optimized for a particular language) have hyperlinks to various points in a link where a variable, method, function, class, macro, type, etc. was created or defined, which accentuates the effect.
  • Meta-example: when computer network intrusion isn't portrayed Hollywood-style, chances are there will be nmap output somewhere on the screen (though strictly speaking, this is not source code).
  • In the process of making any very large program, the programmers will eventually have to write a program to help them compile their own program. It's a common enough problem that there are a number of popular "build automation" tools that write that stuff for you (once you configure them right). The code output by automake and the like can be quite long, and while you wouldn't ordinarily watch it scroll past while it's being generated, you could if you wanted to.
  • At the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., part of the source code for DeCSS is shown as part of the background for an exhibit on cyber war. The same DeCSS that resulted in tons of lawsuits and controversy.