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blue modem

Friday Fun for the IT Crowd: What did '90s movies teach us about technology?

September 10, 2015
By Sarah O'Connor


After covering 1980s movie references to instant messenger, home sound systems and cell phones, I also wanted to explore how the 1990s handled technology. Remember, the Internet launched in the early '90s and it wasn’t long before we were all monopolizing the phone line and saying “www” before our URLs. Join me (and cover your ears) as I plug in my dial-up modem and revisit a few outdated tech themes from 1990s movies.  

Using the Internet

In the early and mid-90s, we spent a lot of our online time launching Netscape Navigator, clicking around on Geocities, asking Jeeves our questions and waiting for images to load.

  • Top pick: The Net (1995) – Computer analyst Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) inadvertently accessed information she shouldn’t, making her a target. Hackers deleted her identity and assigned her a new one, scaring everyone about Internet privacy and cyber security. This movie also introduced us to the concept of ordering pizza online, which was pretty revolutionary at the time. 
  • Honorable mention: You’ve Got Mail (1998) – Remember the ubiquitous greeting from AOL (because nearly everyone had AOL back then, thanks to the abundance of AOL installation CDs)? Email and online dating took center stage in this romantic comedy about two rival business owners (Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), who bonded in a chatroom as ‘shopgirl’ and ‘NY152,’ respectively. Already, it sounds very '90s, doesn’t it?

Hackers

Computer hackers in 1980s movies never seemed to have much trouble evading security barriers, and 1990s hackers were just as lucky (or skilled). We—the viewers—were still interested in watching teenagers and disgruntled employees hack into things they shouldn’t, and authority figures still couldn’t stop them.

  • Top pick: Hackers (1995) – When pre-teen hacker Zero Cool (Jonny Lee Miller) crashed 1,500 computer systems and caused the NYSE to drop, he was banned from using computers until he turned 18. But once he became of age, he got a new nickname and a new crew of like-minded friends (including Angelina Jolie) to hang out with. Keep an eye out for other relics like the pay phone, the joystick and the floppy disk.
  • Honorable mention: Jurassic Park (1993) – 2015’s Jurassic World was set 22 years after this original film about a dinosaur theme park. You may have justifiably been distracted by the velociraptors in the first movie, but don’t forget that high school student Lex was breezily able to hack into the park’s Unix system and re-engage the security system.

Technology to make our lives easier

  • Top (and only) pick: Clueless (1995) – Twenty years later, and no one has managed to replicate Cher’s magic closet?! While there are many mobile apps that can catalog your wardrobe, I don’t think I’ve seen any that take control of the hangers in your closet to create a custom head-to-toe look for you each day. Maybe she would have passed her driver’s test if her Fred Segal shirt wasn’t at the dry cleaners’…

Any other fun '90s movies or themes I missed? Let me know in the comments.

You may also enjoy these past posts:

Technology Throwback: Evolution of music videos

Technology Throwback: The first video games

Technology Throwback: IT Then and Now

 

As marketing communications manager, Sarah O’Connor develops and supports strategies to promote TEKsystems’ brand to job seekers, consultants and clients. She enjoys running and exploring new cities—preferably both at the same time. 

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