A tribute to analog computers in film

Continuing this week’s accidental theme of production design, we came across a terrific article summarizing the history of analog technology in science fiction films. Minority Report‘s gesture-controlled holographic interfaces and touchscreens changed the popular idea of a futuristic interface, but before that, the future in film looked a lot like the 70s: toggle switches, dials, and LCD displays. These tactile computers had a unique, lived-in aesthetic that’s still fondly remembered.

The authors at Hopes and Fears assembled a great collection of some of film’s best physical interfaces, most of which came out before 2000. Among the famous examples including Star Trek and Blade Runner, the article includes interesting tidbits from the designers themselves. The ship from Alien, for instance, was built as a single contiguous set. Many ships in Star Wars were apparently built from airplane scrap for the sake of authenticity.

Film production designers pour clear love into their scenery, and this demonstrates the lengths they go to in order to make such memorable technology. We may have left behind the bulky metal boxes from 80s science fiction for the intuitive shiny floaty boxes of the 21st century, but we miss attention to detail like this.

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