Fictional Computers: Colossus and Guardian

Fictional Computers: Colossus and Guardian post thumbnail image

We will be taught loads by how writers and filmmakers think about expertise. Whereas some are nearer than others, there are some particular classes like by no means make a killer pc with out an off change you’ll be able to attain. We’re particularly eager about how computer systems seem in books, films, and TV exhibits, and so in Computer systems of Fiction, we need to bear in mind with you a few of our favorites. This time, we’re occupied with the 1970 film Colossus: The Forbin Undertaking. There have been really two computer systems: the titular Colossus, which was an American pc, and the Guardian, an identical Soviet pc.

The Story

In the US, Dr. Forbin has created a supercomputer deep below a mountain. Colossus, the pc, is put in command of the nuclear arsenal to remove human error within the protection of the nation. Colossus gathered intelligence, analyzed it, and was capable of launch its personal missiles.

Colossus realizes there’s one other system.

Shortly after activation, nevertheless, the pc reaches a startling conclusion: “WARN: THERE IS ANOTHER SYSTEM.” It supplies coordinates within the Soviet Union. That system is an identical system known as Guardian. The computer systems determine they need to speak to one another. The President decides to permit it, hoping to be taught extra in regards to the Soviet’s secret pc. The Soviets agree, too, presumably for a similar motive. You possibly can watch the unique trailer under.

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The Computer systems

Colossus and Guardian weren’t manufacturing computer systems, though the credit say that Management Information Company (CDC) offered about $4.8 million price of pc gear. Rumor has it that CDC guarded the gear, coated it when not in use, and put in local weather management on the stage. Studio staff had been sad that the corporate wouldn’t allow them to smoke or drink close to the {hardware}. We’ve additionally heard that among the consoles had been surplus IBM 1620s panels doctored to look just a little totally different. In the course of the opening credit, the scene the place the movie editor’s identify seems appears to be like to be a part of a 1620.

The pc made a lot of TeleType or punch sounds and infrequently displayed info on a scrolling show just like the “zipper” in Occasions Sq.. There have been additionally some funky show terminals with printers.

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Greet your new computer overlord!

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Greet your new pc overlord!

Forbin instructions the pc by voice command, though an Air Power chief grasp sergeant (with pre-1977 insignia) seems to be typing what he says. However generally it seems he simply speaks, and Colossus understands.  Later within the film, Colossus arranges to have a voice output put in that sounds very like a Cylon.

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To the modern eye, this looks like a rear-projection screen.

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To the trendy eye, this appears to be like like a rear projection display screen.

Regardless of the opening credit stuffed with circuit boards and paper tape readers, there isn’t a lot blatant show of pc expertise outdoors of the displays, the zipper, and a few blinking lights. We see even much less of Guardian. Perhaps probably the most unbelievable expertise isn’t the computer systems in any respect, however the handsome video telephones that sadly didn’t anticipate flat-screen displays. The oscilloscopes, too, look decidedly dated since that is presumably not set in 1970.

The shows appear like rear projections of movie — the identical trick utilized in 2001: A Area Odyssey. General, although, the depiction of Colossus isn’t dangerous. In spite of everything, in 1970, who might predict flat screens, large storage, and small computer systems? The printer sounds might be the precise printers operating, however in fact, it’s extra just like the house noises on Star Trek — the makers knew that wasn’t correct, however it’s what the viewers anticipated.


We don’t really feel dangerous freely giving the plot of a film over a half-century outdated. Colossus and Guardian develop their very own language which spooks the World leaders. The computer systems insist on reconnection, and after they don’t get their means, they each launch missiles on the different nation.

In fact, the 2 nations don’t have any selection however to revive the connection. The remainder of the film consists of makes an attempt to get the higher hand towards the computer systems. The whole lot failed. Not like many comparable films, ultimately, Colossus and Guardian — now a single entity calling itself “World Management” is squarely in cost, promising world peace by way of complete management. It even means that man will be taught to find it irresistible.

Closing Ideas

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Apparently, Colossus didn’t have any surface mount components!

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Apparently, Colossus didn’t have any floor mount elements!

In 1970, most individuals didn’t perceive computer systems very nicely. So when the President of the US defined to the pc that he’s the president and may give the pc orders, it most likely didn’t appear that ridiculous. Nonetheless, till lately, it appeared fairly dumb. Now, with ChatGPT and its ilk, the way in which they work together with the pc doesn’t appear as farfetched because it as soon as did.

The concept of a pc maintaining peace is hardly new. Star Trek, for instance, has visited that nicely many occasions. What makes Colossus distinctive is that it and Guardian seem to have succeeded. What occurs after that’s left to your creativeness. Or, you’ll be able to learn the 1974 novel, The Fall of Colossus which was the sequel to the unique novel that sparked the film. The writer, D. F. Jones, labored with computer systems in Britain throughout World Conflict II and undoubtedly named the pc after Colossus at Bletchley Park. Be mindful, the existence of that Colossus was labeled till the mid-Seventies, so, formally, not less than, it was only a coincidence.

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