Colossus: The Forbin Project. It gives a good picture of what an AI super computer would look like to someone who lived prior to the dawn of the personal computer. Despite developing uncanny abilities to perform monumental speech and video recognition tasks, the system communicates primarily via slow teletype ticker output, either on paper, data terminal, or a large NASDAQ like text scroller, at least until someone hooks up a speech generator. But lets back up a bit. This system is supposed to take over the U.S. nuclear arsenal and is meant to run autonomously. It is a huge computer by even 1970 standards, taking up several long halls which are sealed up behind a maximum security concrete and steel fortress with internal radiation fields, etc. There is no way to get in, because that is the best way to ensure no one can break in via an inside job. Say goodbye to security clearances right? It has its own self-contained nuclear power source and can monitor all types of communication channels from the outside world. It is not hidden, as any attempt to bomb it would be detected and pre-empted. Yes, they included ballistic missile interception even before the Reagan era. The president, who in fact resembles J.F.K. from the audience's recent memory, announces to the country that they have handed over the arms race to a veritably perfect decision maker.
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Planet of the Apes with its famous dark ending, so I'm sure Hollywood followed suit here when they ended the film with Dr. Forbin clenching his fist and cursing at Colossus. A few other notable mentions is the very interesting soundtrack which maintains a sense of urgency even when nothing is happening, a cool performance by Eric Braeden, and of course, getting to see Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham from Happy Days) in the role of a serious computer lab assistant. It's a pretty good watch. An original trailer is below:
WarGames, starring Matt Broderick and Ally Sheedy, came out in 1983, right smack dab in the midst of the home computer revolution. In Forbin Project, everyone in the computer room was an adult, because at that time computers were owned and operated by businesses and governments. By the early 80's, the concept of the "computer whiz kid" entered the pop culture. In fact, 1983 also saw the start of a TV series about a group of computer hackers called simply "Whiz Kids". In WarGames, Broderick plays the hacker who gets into the DOD computer system, WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), which now controls the U.S. nuclear arsenals. He manages to accidentally trick the system into thinking a nuclear attack is imminent and the rest of the film revolves around trying to prevent World War III from happening. That's a pretty wild premise on which to hang an entire story, but it works because it is a well written script that is well directed, and the characters are all so colorful too. WOPR is a much more rational computer than Colossus, and the message in this film is that even a computer can learn enough to eventually understand the futility of a nuclear war. My favorite quote is the one that everyone remembers at the end. After comparing nuclear war strategies to the game of tic-tac-toe, the computer finally declares "Interesting game, the only winning move is not to play".