August 09, 2009

What the Hell Did We Just Download? (1957)

Greetings. Have you ever gotten a, well, creepy feeling when downloading data from a third-party source? Ever sort of stared at the boxes, the cables, and the blinking lights and found yourself wondering if all that data flinging by almost impossibly fast was totally on the level?

I've known this feeling a number of times over the years, with more intensity as increasing amounts of data could move in ever shorter intervals. Unless you wrote the code and generated the data yourself, there's often some "leap of faith" aspects involved.

Amusingly, a relatively little-known 1957 Sci-Fi film captured the essence of this emotion exactly and rather dramatically. Called The Invisible Boy, it was -- in a bizarre sort of way -- a sequel to the much better known and classic Forbidden Planet -- in that our friend Robby the Robot, not just in body but in spirit and voice as well, plays a major role.

The plot basically involves a computer who is so devious that it makes the Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey seem like an Eagle Scout. When Timmy, the boy who manages to reassemble Robby (don't ask ...) becomes irritated with Robby's unyielding protection (courtesy of "Asimov laws"-like basic directives), the computer offers to update Robby's firmware. The results are predictably not pretty.

But the scene where Timmy plugs Robby into the evil mainframe for the data transfer process captures (for me, anyway) the essence of the "What the hell are we really downloading?" feeling that can tickle the back of the brain from time to time.

I think that's pretty neat for a 1957, youth-oriented, low-budget sci-fi flick.

And here's the scene.

You gotta love those light panel props, which showed up in various films and TV programs over the years. I've always wondered how noisy their control units might have been, since they were surely based on relays and stepping switches.

Now play nice, Robby.


Posted by Lauren at August 9, 2009 06:56 PM | Permalink
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