Poor Dillinger

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I’ve been enjoying the two Tron Legacy Official Trailers that have been released so far. My first contact with the original Tron movie was not long ago, when an uncle of mine gave me the Collector’s Edition DVD a few years back as my birthday present. Tron was released before I was born and it’s a very uncommon movie, at least in my country, so I didn’t have many opportunities to watch it until recently, with the 20th anniversary of the film release and, even more recently, the arrival of its sequel.

The first impression I got from the movie was so-so. It’s fun and, for a computer engineer, the references to mainframes, IO ports, programs and games are enjoyable. After watching the movie I went directly to disc 2 and watched the documentary on how it was done. It was then when I started enjoying the film much more. The documentary helps you appreciate TRON as the piece of art it really is and all the attention paid to the different details in the movie.

By coincidence, I watched the film last Christmas with a friend of mine and we both share a fun interpretation of its script. TRON is a movie you can enjoy because, as in many other good fantasy and science-fiction films, the bad guys win in the end. Now, before you jump at me and wonder what I’ve been smoking to say that, just think about it. Do you really think Dillinger and the Master Control Program are the bad guys in the movie? The bad guy is Flynn! And that little program, TRON! It’s a tragic and realistic story.

A company, ENCOM, and two programmers: Ed Dillinger and Kevin Flynn. Ed is the good guy in the company. Working hard to improve technology in his cubicle until late hours, motivated by the need to create something bigger, better and never seen before. He’s a shy guy with brilliant ideas and creates a program, called the Master Control Program, based originally on a chess program, with several features that will be a breakthrough in computing history. First, the Master Control Program allows for real multitasking. Programmers don’t interfere with each other and they no longer have direct access to the computer hardware. The modern operating system is born, also with a built-in firewall to monitor and control connections to and from external systems. Second, this program is powered by an incredibly advanced AI system capable of developing primitive feelings, and also features natural language parsing via audio input and replies in the same language, with a voice synthesizer.

The Master Control Program is amazing and could push ENCOM from being a medium-sized company into a big corporation in every field of technology. However, management are too short-sighted to pay attention to it and the shy guy who created it, and are amused by the extrovert programmer Kevin Flynn. Much younger than Ed Dillinger, as we can see in the film, he enjoys creating video games and breaking into different systems and, with such a personality, the company board is waiting for their golden boy to do something spectacular that will never really arrive, because Flynn uses the company resources to create games that he will keep for himself. He won’t let the company see the real good games and will be jumping ship as soon as he finds a good deal with a big game publisher.

Dillinger, untalented for creating popular games, sees envy grow at the core of his heart and one day decides to steal the good games from Flynn and presents them to the company board as his work. He shouldn’t have done that, but poor Dillinger thought that was the only way to get attention from the board. From then on, they finally pay attention to him and he can push the Master Control Program forward as a way to manage the company’s computing resources and is promoted to the position he really deserves. They even start investigating on teleportation. Of course, TRON (the program) is rejected by Dillinger and the MCP. After all, TRON is redundant and its tasks are already being performed by the MCP. No good engineer would tolerate such an evident duplication in functionality. Alan Bradley suffers from the NIH syndrome.

All that technology never reaches the market because, in the film, we see the bad guys preying on this good guy for his only mistake until he is defeated, his programs are deleted forever from the hard drive and he, probably, he’s fired from the company.

I’ll be watching Tron Legacy to follow the adventures of Flynn and the result of his evil and ego-driven plot to control the world with his videogames, unable to realize he lacks the talent Dillinger had. If you watch the trailers released so far you’ll see Flynn is really evil, as he has always been.

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