The sci-fi/action movie Tron released in 1982 was directed by Steven Lisberger. It was written by Steven Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird. The cast includes Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, Dan Shor, Peter Jurasik, and more.

A world inside the computer where man has never been. Never before now.

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a games programmer/video arcade owner. He used to work fro ENCOM until they stole all his ideas and fired him. Now Flynn is trying to find proof that the games, which have become immensely popular, were actually his ideas. All his hacking and cracking attempts from outside are stopped by ENCOM's MCP (Master Control Program). He needs to get inside the ENCOM building to a unrestricted terminal. With the help of some friends he gets inside and begins to use a terminal in a research lab of ENCOM. This lab is where they are researching matter/energy conversion (deconstructing and reconstructing material objects to and from energy). The MCP takes control of the "laser", deconstructs Flynn, and brings him in the ENCOM mainframe as a "program." Flynn learns that the MCP is a tyrannical dictator over all the programs in the mainframe and if programs don't follow it they are forced to combat on the Game Grid till they de-rezz (die). Also the programs have a sort of religion revolving around their "users." Now Flynn must find Tron (Bruce Boxleitner). A system security program that is probably the only program that can defeat the MCP. And hopefully get back to the Real World.

Classic computer movie. Awesome special effects for 1982. The director really used what he had well. If you use your suspension of disbelief and don't think about what actually goes on inside a computer this is a great movie. Sit back, relax, and just watch it as a entertaining adventure movie. Some of the computer landscapes were really cool. The gladiator games were awesome. I remember vividly being amazed after seeing this movie the first time. I continued to enjoy it on repeated viewings.

The movie name "Tron" came from a keyword implemented in BASIC, especially the Microsoft flavor included with IBM PCs in the original 1980 ROMs.

TRON stands for TRACE ON, and sets the BASIC interpreter into a debugging mode. Every time a new line of the BASIC code would execute, the line number would get PRINTed. Presumably, the programmer would be able to see whether all of the lines in a subroutine were being executed as expected.

In the movie, Tron was a program that was designed to audit the other programs running in the mainframe computer. Metaphorically the same sort of idea.

The command to turn off BASIC Trace mode was TROFF, not to be confused with the Unix command troff(1) (table run-off formatter).

Troll-O-Meter = T = true-hacker

tron v.

[NRL, CMU; prob. fr. the movie "Tron"] To become inaccessible except via email or talk(1), especially when one is normally available via telephone or in person. Frequently used in the past tense, as in: "Ran seems to have tronned on us this week" or "Gee, Ran, glad you were able to un-tron yourself". One may also speak of `tron mode'; compare spod.

Note that many dialects of BASIC have a TRON/TROFF command pair that enables/disables line number tracing; this has no obvious relationship to the slang usage.

--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.

Tron is also a way to throw a frisbee. While it is a relatively difficult throw to master, I have seen people with exceptionally good trons. A good tron can go almost as far as a forehand, almost as accurately. However, because of the large windup, tron is very easy to point-block, and it is also just inferior to a forehand in almost every way. It is thrown in games about as often as dookie. Tron is a very old(relatively speaking) frisbee throw. I've heard it was used along with the backhand in the very early days of Ultimate.

To throw tron, put your index finger along the outside of the rim, the rest of your fingers on top of the disc, and your thumb on the inside of the rim. The motion for tron is somewhat awkward and difficult to describe. Unlike other frisbee throws, keep your elbow straight. All of the motion will come from your shoulder. Face your target, and hold the disc slightly behind you. Now, keeping your elbow straight, swing your entire arm up and forward. Snap your wrist early and release. Early wrist snap and release is key to throwing tron. Waiting too long will result in the throw floating and moving slowly. The trick is to snap and release where the disc has the greatest forward momentum. You should probably release it slightly below and in front of your shoulder.
'Tron' is also the name of the first arcade game to be based on the film. It was released in 1983 by Bally Midway, and was followed a year later by the same company's 'Discs of Tron'. This latter was intended as an element of the original 'Tron' but it was felt, rightly, that it would be a hit on its own.

The machine featured an unusual control arrangement consisting of a joystick (translucent and backlit; 'Tron' was a big-budget affair, just like the film) and a paddle. Gameplay was divided into four sections, on completion of which the game became harder. The sections were:

The tank bit, in which the player drove a tank around a maze in the manner of 'Wizard of Wor', but with an independently-traversing turret;
The famous bit, with the light cycles, in which the player must lure opponents into a trail of light laid down by his or her motorbike;
The grid bug bit, based on a creature barely seen in the film, in which the player had to shoot bugs which blocked the path to a transporter. This was very dull and became extraordinarily hard in later levels. The player character's arm was controlled independently of his body, and could be made to perform some intricate dances and Nazi salutes; a similar control method appeared many years later in the PC game 'Trespasser';
The 'Breakout' / 'Gorf' bit, in which the player had to shoot holes in a moving wall.

All four sections had to be completed in order to progress to the next level. Levels were named after programming languages, such as BASIC and PASCAL. After the first level the game became almost impossibly hard, and it was one of the earliest games to have a 'continue' option.


Apart from the arcade machines, 'Tron' was mined for inspiration by countless computer games. Apart from the standard 'Light Cycle' clones, there were several 8-bit games based on the 'driving a tank through a valley, shooting at hovering enemies' section (Steve Turner's 'Seiddab Attack' being the most memorable), and Jeff Minter's 'Gridrunner' was based loosely on the 'flying a spaceship along a wire' section.

Although the film was touted as being a festival of computer graphics, it apparently only features fifteen minutes of proper CGI; the backdrops, sets and most of the landscapes are actually airbrushed art. In 2002 Disney released it on DVD, in a two-disc set with lots of extras; furthermore, they released Wendy Carlos' soundtrack for the first time on CD. Coupled with the re-release and rediscovery of much media from the late-70s and early-80s it would appear that late-twentysomething adult males are the new teenage market.

"You ain't making me talk, Mr high and mighty Master Control."

The latest rumor, as evidenced by the IMDb, suggests that the sequel to Tron will be called Tron: Killer App, a name taken from the phrase used to describe a computer software application that defines a turning point or milestone in technological history.

Incidentally, in an interview included with the 2-disc, 20th Anniversary Tron DVD, animator and director Steven Lisberger states that the character's name and title of the movie was coined because of its elecTRONic nature. In fact, Lisberger had no experience with the BASIC programming language and had never heard of the tracer on command so often attributed to the title when the name was created for a character used by Lisberger's Boston-based animation company for radio station commercials years before the movie was developed.

TRON is a multilingual character set designed in Japan as part of the larger BTRON system. This will largely be a rant, as I can not speak fully about the system; why should become obvious shortly.

Why TRON will never surplant Unicode

Let's start with the social reasons:

Social reason 1: It's all in Japanese

I have nothing against Japanese as a language, but it's not a language everyone is fluent in. In fact, besides the Japanese themselves, not very many people know Japanese. Compare this to English, French or Spanish, which are learned by a lot of students that don't have that language as their native tongue. Even Latin, Esperanto or Latino sine Flexione would have been a token effort towards Indo-European language speakers.

Social reason 2: Stop whining.

A substantial part of every English TRON webpage seems to be given over to telling us how Unicode is made by American Computer Companies and how they are trying to oppress the poor Japanese. (Occasionally, we get to hear about how the creators of Unicode are Sinocentric, too.) All of which is fine and good, but honestly, most of us don't care. Most of us are interested in how well it works for me and my projects; telling us how well it supports Hindi and Cherokee and mathematics and APL is more likely to catch the world's attention then whining about Japanese repeatedly.

Social reason 3: No one likes Japanese computer companies any more than American computer companies.

The argument that Unicode is the product of American computer companies has some merit. But Unicode can point to its close association with ISO; and while the list of full members is packed with American companies, the list of associate members includes groups like "Hong Kong Telecom CSL" and "Government of Tamil Nadu, India". Where are the non-Japanese groups involved in TRON? As far as I can tell, there are none. Judging from their webpages, I get no impression that they have any interest in supporting anything besides Japanese.

The technical reasons

While I'm not as qualified to speak on the technical reasons, not reading Japanese, I will give it a try.

Techncal reason 1: TRON does excessive blanket copying

This one has many twists and turns. Starting off with a minor social reason — saying you support me (everything besides Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) by including most of Unicode does nothing to induce me to switch from Unicode. Especially when you mention Unicode 2.0, which is missing many fun things present in Unicode 3.2.

Also, copying stuff does not make for good integration. TRON does not support combining characters (more on that below; what happens to the combining characters in Unicode? What about the languages that weren't explicitly supported in Unicode because they could use combining characters, like Sioux or Lakota or Navajo or the student orthography of Lithuanian (with additional accent marks)? Is it updated with Unicode (apparently not)?

Unicode has this problem to some extent, as some Unicode blocks are copies of old standards (ASCII became Basic Latin; ISO-8859-1 became the Latin-1 block; ISO-8859-7 became the basis for the Greek block.) TIS-620 became the basis for the Thai block, meaning that Unicode adopts the typewriter order for Thai characters, instead logical order, which is used for the rest of Unicode. But they were copied into Unicode and became part of Unicode, subject to all the rules thereof, and nothing too awful was permitted. For example, Unicode followed ISCII, but made a seperate copy for each script instead of following ISCII's lead in using script selecting control characters. Unicode also never tried swallowing 8,000 characters without change, like TRON did by accepting Unicode.

Technical reason 2: No combining characters

TRON repeatedly attacks Unicode for Han unification, claiming that it was a decision soley made for making it simpler for the computers. (While most Unicode gurus will argue long and hard for Han unification, they will admit that starting out with 16-bits was a simplification, that they knew would have to be worked around (and has been). They would however argue that it never could have succeeded if they had said 32-bit from the start.) This, however, seems to be a similar decision on TRON's part. Combining characters are necessary for many languages in the world. While precomposed characters (at least a thousand) could be added for them, this is not true elsewhere. Both mathematics and linguistics use the ability to add arbitrary combining characters to any character, and can't be reasonably supported by adding precomposed characters. The sole justification for this appears to be that composing characters violate the priniciple of fixed length characters.

Technical reason 3: Redundant characters

TRON has apparently encoded the same character repeatedly by reference to other character sets. This seriously hurts searching and fontmaking.

Technical reason 4: Poor non-Japanese support

The only non-Japanese characters mentioned on the English webpages are Braille characters. Thomas Chan of Cornell believes that TRON is missing even the most basic Cantonese and Hong Kong Chinese characters (of which there are several, because they aren't included in the very basic Chinese character sets that TRON references. Outside Braille and the CJK character sets that TRON references, there's no evidence they went any farther then referencing the Unicode book on this subject.


I could go further with the technical reasons, but I lack sufficent solid evidence. Honestly, I think the social reasons are more important; if developers seriously interested in your product can't get past them, how are the technical reasons going to come into play?

For all the claims about being a multilingual character set that will take over the world, I doubt even the developers believe it, except possibly a few with a Japan-centric view of the world. Compare TRON's rants about Americans to Unicode's "When the world wants to talk, it speaks Unicode" (an old slogan, but memorable). You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Unicode also works with ISO 10646 and various governments (Iran!) and groups to produce something that is obviously more than merely the work of American computer companies with no respect for the languages. TRON is preaching to the converted, and that's not the way to overtake Unicode.

The TRON Project began as a computer standardization movement in 1984 as a result of a recommendation by the Japan Electronic Industrial Development Association technical committee, then chaired by Prof. Ken Sakamura from the University of Tokyo. TRON Association currently consists of 63 companies and 2 academies, including Red Hat, NEC, Metrowerks, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, and Hewlett-Packard, to name a few.
Some observations made by Prof. Ken Sakamura back in 1984:
  • Backward compatibility slowed down technical innovation in microprocessor design.

  • Computer systems were designed to handle English, which uses a one-byte character system, and hence could not efficiently process Japanese, which uses a two-byte character system.

  • Microprocessors and their operating systems were not designed for real-time processing

  • There was no standardization among the various computer systems in use and many technical details of the proprietary systems that had become de facto standards were not made public

TRON stands for "The Real-Time Operating System Nucleus." The TRON Association designs an open architecture for computer hardware, software, and middleware that works with the TRON Hypernetwork (a.k.a. 超機能分散システム, Highly Functional Distributed System, HFDS). Everything from the specification of the chip to the operating system is designed for distributed, real-time computing. Note that the TRON Project only makes specifications and not actual implementations. Instead, OS and chip makers are left to implement it.

TRON Subarchitectures:
  • Industrial TRON (ITRON) - kernel specification for home appliances, industrial machineries.
    Implemented in: NTT DoCoMo's i-mode-enabled products.
  • Business TRON (BTRON) - multitasking RTOS specification for PCs, workstations, handheld PDAs.
    Implemented in: B-right/V OS by Personal Media Co.
    • First released in the late 90's. Comes with support for vertical-directional text, and also support for approximately 130,000 characters (including Cantonese, Braille, and all characters in Unicode 2.0), as opposed to Unicode which has less than 64,000 (2^16) characters defined. Many people buy TRON systems for their support for a larger set of kanji. For example, Rashômon by Akutagawa Ryunosuke, a work only a few decades old, can be presented in the characters originally used, which are not all available in Unicode.
      Screenshot at:

      To the dismay of developers who are commited to Unicode, the TRON Association opted for their own version of a sort-of superset of Unicode called the TRON multi-lingual large character set processing environment. TRON uses multiple character sets in a standard called the TRON Application Databus(TAD). TRON specifies the support for a light version of Unicode (Unicode minus Unihan), along with other previously existing East Asian character encodings. TAD switches between various character sets in a manner that is a bit more complicated than ISO-2022.
      More TAD info at:

  • Central and Communication TRON (CTRON) - multitasking RTOS specification for communication hubs.
    Implemented in: Fujitsu's Sure System 2000
  • Macro TRON (MTRON) - an architecture to link together ITRON, BTRON, and CTRON-based systems.
  • Micro Industrial TRON (μITRON, or Micro-ITRON) - A real-time operating system nucleus specification for embedded systems that is a de facto standard in Japan.
  • JTRON - Mixes ITRON with Java.

grabbed from:

  • TRON Project officially launched
  • NEC announces first ITRON implementation based on ITRON/86 specification
1986 1987
  • Fujitsu anounces ITRON implementation based on ITRON/MMU specification
  • Mitsubishi Electric announces ITRON implementation based on ITRON/32 specification
  • Hitachi announces Gmicro/200 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • TRON Association incorporated TRON Association officially established
  • Toshiba announces TX1 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '88 (TEPS '88) held to demonstrate EnableWare technology to the disabled
  • Matsushita unveils a personal computer for educational use based on the BTRON specification
  • TRON Intelligent Building concept unveiled
  • Oki Electric announces the RG68KS-BOS basic operating system based on the CTRON specification
  • Mitsubishi Electric announces Gmicro/100 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • Fujitsu announces Gmicro/300 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • Construction completed on the TRON-concept Intelligent House
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '90 (TEPS '90) held
  • Personal Media launches premier issue of a new magazine called TRONWARE
  • Oki Electric announces OKITRON-C operating system based on the CTRON specification
  • Toshiba announces the TR90 kernel based on the ITRON specification
  • Oki Electric announces O32 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • Matsushita begins marketing BTRON-based PanaCAL ET educational computer
  • TRONSHOW '90 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • Personal Media begins marketing the TK-1 TRON-specification ergonomic keyboard
  • Personal Media begins marketing 1B/note, a laptop computer with a BTRON-specification OS
  • Two bus architectures TOXBUS and TOBUS are unveiled
  • TRONSHOW '91 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • Software portability experiment across CTRON-based systems completed
  • Human-machine interface (HMI) design competition held
  • Yamaha announces a bus controller LSI for LANs based on BTRON-specification systems
  • TRONSHOW '92 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '92 (TEPS '92) held
  • Tandem Computers Japan announces Integrity C300 transaction processor based on CTRON-specification OS
  • Toshiba announces TX2 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • Hitachi announces Gmicro/500 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • Oki Electric announces the OKITRON-L/M series digital exchanges
  • TRONSHOW '93 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '93 (TEPS '93) held
  • TRON Project celebrates its 10th anniversary
  • Personal Media begins marketing 1B/V1, a BTRON-specification OS for IBM PC compatibles
  • Mitsubishi Electric announces Gmicro/400 32-bit microprocessor based on the TRON VLSI CPU specification
  • Hitachi announces the HPT500 chip for CTRON-based systems
  • TRONSHOW '94 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '94 (TEPS '94) held
  • Works solicited for the CTRON standard operating system contest
  • BTRON-specification 1B/V2 operating announced by Personal Media
  • 12th TRON Project International Symposium held
  • TRONSHOW '95 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '95 (TEPS '95) held
  • Interest in TRON rises overseas; many seminars and other events held
  • Multilingual computing project begins at the University of Tokyo
  • Sun Microsystems and Personal Media announce ITRON ported to the microSPARC II chip
  • Activities begin at the University of Tokyo's Digital Museum, which uses TRON technologies
  • Seiko Instruments unveils the micro-BTRON-based BrainPad TiPO personal digital assistant
  • 13th TRON Project International Symposium held
  • TRONSHOW '96 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '96 (TEPS '96) held
  • BTRON-specification 1B/V3 operating system announced by Personal Media
  • Interface design study group for human-machine interfaces launched
  • Special ITRON technical committee lanuched for automotive real-time operating system applications
  • University of Tokyo holds the "Open Academia" exhibit, which uses TRON technologies
  • BTRON-based product used at Japanese national athletic meet held at Namihaya near Osaka
  • Metrowerks announces CodeWarrior development environment for TiPO and BTRON
  • Aplix Corporation announces JBlend, a combination of Java plus ITRON (JTRON)
  • TRONSHOW '97 held to exhibit TRON-based products to the public
  • TRON Electronic Prosthetics Symposium '97 (TEPS '97) held
Recommended site for further reading:
TRON Web : :
Official news source for the TRON Project (in English!! :D). Also contains an overview of TRON and products related to it.

Film: Tron
Year: 1982
Rating: 3/5
Summary: A unique, stylised fantasy world come to life.

First off, the plot of Tron is complete fantasy, and while it sort of works as a story of people fighting against an evil totalitarian government, you have to suspend your disbelief that half of the characters are anthropomorphic computer programs. This is a shame because the kind of people who watch films about computers are usually the same kind of people who too often take things literally.

Tron seems to work better as a metaphor for the Roman Empire, with slaves battling to the death for the amusement of others. There also appear to be one or two references to the films of George Lucas, such as the guards poking hapless citizens with large electronic sticks, spaceships slowly flying past the camera to reveal more and more of their gigantic size, and the general theme of being stuck in an electronic labyrinth.

Further requiring you to suspend your disbelief, the acting isn't always brilliant, but given that the actors often had to react to crosses of tape representing baddies or epic landscapes while running around in a darkened room, you can't blame them.

No one is likely to watch this film for the plot or the acting, however. It works better as an hour and a half showcase of cutting edge technology, wild imaginations, and most of all, painstaking hard work. Everything in the computer world is stylised, consisting of straight lines and simple curves made out of glowing neon. Despite the standard plot and acting, the movie captivates you, immersing you in its unique world of bright lights and geometric shapes.

To say that the special effects are good is an understatement. Rather than try to make computer generated images that look organic - an impossible task at the time anyway - painstaking effort was put into making the actors look artificial, and the effect is just as seamless. Even decades after the film's release, it's hard to guess which combination of techniques was used to produce any given shot.

As a movie, the plot is rather simple and unlikely to sustain an adult's interest, but as an experiment showing how a film can give you a glimpse into an alien world, it will likely inspire children, animators, programmers, graphic designers, and artists. No other film offers anything like its experience. It is truly unique.

Tron (?), n.

See 3d Trone, 2.

[Obs. or Scott.]


© Webster 1913.

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