1983 Techie Drama starring Matthew Broderick, and Ally Sheedy.

David Lightman (Broderick) is a hacker, who is looking to get into a system to play some games. After seeing an ad in a magazine for Protovision, a company planning to release some hot new games for home computer systems, David gets excited. The problem is, the games aren't planned to be released unil around the next Christmas.

David, being the impatient and persistant kid he is, decides he wants first crack at these new games. He tracks down the area code in which Protovision is located, as well as their phone number, and begins War Dialing numbers in that, and surrounding prefixes. (The terms "War Dialing" and "War Dialer" actually came about as a result of this movie.) When his friend Jennifer (Sheedy) comes home with him the next day, the computer has already found several different modem numbers. Playing around, they book themselves tickets to Paris, and eventually come across a system that doesn't identify itself.

LOGON:

David attempts to log on using different methods, including

"Help Logon"
, but doesn't get anywhere. Thinking this system might be Protovision, he tries
"Help Games"

'GAMES' REFERS TO MODELS, SIMULATIONS, AND GAMES
WHICH HAVE TACTICAL, AND STRATEGIC APPLICATIONS.

After seeing this, David is convinced he has finally found Protovision, and lists the available games.

List Games

FALKEN'S MAZE
BLACK JACK
GIN RUMMY
HEARTS
BRIDGE
CHECKERS
CHESS
POKER
FIGHTER COMBAT
GUERRILLA ENGAGEMENT
DESERT WARFARE
AIR-TO-GROUND ACTIONS
THEATERWIDE TACTICAL WARFARE
THEATERWIDE BIOTOXIC AND CHEMICAL WARFARE

GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR

David brings a hard copy screenshot to his friends at a local computer lab to try to find out what kind of system it is, and Jim mentions that it definitely didn't come from Protovision. (Melvin mentions it's probably military.) David begins doing some research on the creator of the system, Stephen Falken. He tries using a whole bunch of keywords at the login screen looking for a backdoor, but is largely unsuccessful until he tries "Joshua", the name of Falken's deceased son.

David is now able to log into the system, and have a brief conversation with the computer before firing up "Global Thermonuclear War." What David is unaware of, however, is that he is actually connected to a NORAD system. By asking to play the war game, he has awakened a system called WOPR, which is designed to simulate war tactics, evaluate all possibilities in a nuclear war scenario, and deploy the best strategy to destroy the enemy.

David and Jennifer play as the Soviet Union, and start picking targets in the United States to nuke. Norad's computers kick in, and start screaming "Missile Detection". This, as you might imagine, causes all of NORAD to go totally apeshit, diverts the President to a safe location, and brings the DEFCON down to 3. NORAD finally figures out it's a simulation, and brings their defenses down. After the incident is reported on the local news, David is all set to throw the number away, and trash all evidence of his tampering with the system, until the computer at NORAD calls him back.

The movie is funny in lots of places, has an overall suspenseful feel, and is one of the few highly respectable techie movies ever produced. Even with classic computer equipment like David's IMSAI 8080 (complete with acoustic coupler modem and primitive, yet still cool voice synthesizer), the movie doesn't really become dated terribly much, with the film's message still as important as it was when it first came out - maybe moreso today. Fortunately, that message isn't beaten into you, it just comes along with the pure entertainment the movie provides.

Shall we play a game?

As a little piece of trivia, Matthew Broderick's home computer was an IMSAI 8080, a clone of the Altair 8800. It was released in 1975, and it cost $438 in kit form, and $631 pre-assembled.

As standard, it had 256 bytes of memory. In all probability, it was chosen for the film for its looks - as with the Altair, it is a rectangular box festooned with toggle-switches and lights. In reality, Matthew Broderick's character would probably have been armed with an Apple II.

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