Friday, April 27, 2012

When Computers Became Cool

With the advent of the first personal computers during the late '70s and early '80s, there dawned a new era of coolness for computers and those who used them. Suddenly, those quirky, savvy "computer geeks" were the epitome of chic. There was even a certain shadowy sense of power that was perceived to derive from being hip to all the secrets and esoteric knowledge of computers. 

One of the best examples of this was the sci-fi flick Wargames (1983).

 Wargames was the story of a young computer hacker, played by Matthew Broderick, who succeeded in hacking into a powerful defense department computer which was enabled with the ability to launch nuclear missiles. Although the character played by Broderick originally thought that his interaction with the defense computer (dubbed the "WOPR") was just a game, things quickly escalated to the point of nearly causing a nuclear war.  The movie's portrayal of the race to prevent nuclear catastrophe, and the climactic ending, served as a moral lesson in the midst of the Cold War.

 Wargames became a popular and well remembered '80s movie classic, and also an example of the emergence of the computer geek. 

 A less easily remembered TV show that came along around the same time was Whiz Kids. Whiz Kids aired on CBS during 1983-84, a featured a story line about a group of computer savvy young teens who use their computer skills to fight crime.

Here is the opening credits to the short-lived Whiz Kids.

Afterward, computers, and those who kept the knowledge of computers, began to appear in many of the movies of the '80s. This included many of the nerd oriented flicks that appeared during the mid '80s, such as Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and Weird Science (1985).