Tron: Legacy was one of 2010's most anticipated movies, with a year or so's worth of teaser trailers and alternate reality games. We were lucky enough to get to a preview showing a couple of weeks ago, and it's one of those films that leaves you wondering about the technology its designers envisaged. Not the light cycles (as cool as they are, they're clearly fantasy machines!), what we're interested in are the Encom operating system and the touch screen tables used in the Encom offices.
The touch tables used in Tron: Legacy are an obvious descendent of the table Dillinger uses in the original film. In Tron, Dillinger logs onto the Master Control Program through his desk in Encom's offices. It's a desk that as well as having multiple windows (though they don't overlap and the fonts are really really large!) also has speech recognition tools – something we're still only just getting on our desktop PCs. Dillinger's terminal is more like today's Surface or iPad than an early 80s VDU – it's the birth of a ubiquitous computing world. I wouldn't be surprised if the original film's industrial designers had spent some time talking to the folk at Xerox PARC…
We got our first look at the new Tron screen/keyboard combination through the Flynn Lives teaser site. Following links from the site, we found ourselves on a page that let us log into a screen with a keyboard and windows, similar to that built into Dillinger's desk – but considerably evolved.
Drilling in to the trailers on the Disney site we were able to get a high resolution screen cap of Sam Flynn logging into his father's old workstation, wiping the dust off a screen that showed a rather UNIX-like operating system with a set of features that reminded me a lot of AIX (isn't that SMIT in the background there?).
The touch tables are everywhere in the real world of Tron: Legacy. They're all over the Encom offices (even in the data centres and the security monitors). It's a world where despite Kevin Flynn's success as a programmer and game designer, the one character from the original movie to have a real technological legacy is Dillinger. He bootstrapped it from keyboards to touch – and left Encom's UNIX the dominant operating system for the next 30 years.
Who wouldn't want to leave that mark on the world?