Arts & Life

Blogger Reveals Cracks In Codes Onscreen

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Computer programmer John Graham-Cumming began the blog, "Source Code in TV and Films," several weeks ago. The blog points out the frequent misuse of computer code in shows and movies.


Filmmakers beware. The nerds are watching. If your movie includes a computer with what appears to be code on its screen, you'd better make sure it's the right code.


There's now a Tumblr called Source Code in TV and Films, where the computer savvy watch for misused or nonsensical digital language. The idea came from a British programmer, John Graham-Cumming, when he was watching the big sci-fi movie "Elysium."

JOHN GRAHAM-CUMMING: One of the characters is writing some code to reboot a space station, and I immediately wanted to find out what it was he was writing. And it turned out it came from an Intel manual, which just amazed me, really.

CORNISH: Graham-Cumming and his team post screenshots of suspicious Hollywood code on the Tumblr, crowdsourcing the effort to figure out what it really says.


TIM ROBBINS: (As Gary Winston) This business is binary. You're a one or a zero.

BLOCK: That's actor Tim Robbins in the high-tech thriller "Antitrust." In one scene, actors posing as computer experts stare in awe at computer code. According to Graham-Cumming, they're looking at the basic JavaScript.

CORNISH: In "The Terminator," when we see the world through the killer machine's eyes, menacing code scrolls down the screen. It turns out it's the assembly code for an Apple II computer.

BLOCK: And the "Iron Man" movies use a similar effect. The code that scrolls down his visor display in at least one sequence is for a Lego toy robot.

CORNISH: John Graham-Cumming has mixed feelings about all this misuse of programming code.

GRAHAM-CUMMING: Some ways when it's really right, like it was in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," then it shows real depth of producing of the film. It's kind of both ways. And sometimes it's just amusing that they use something that's so wrong.

CORNISH: One final note. Graham-Cumming mentioned "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." The other big film the site praises for its code is "The Social Network." So can you crack that code? Both were directed by David Fincher.

BLOCK: So, Mr. Fincher, kudos to you. The Internet approves.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from