What Operating System Did They Use in Jurassic Park?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In the background, the CM5 supercomputer with its iconic red lights. Source: Universal Pictures

Jurassic Park (1993) needs no introductions. It is a film that was successful at the time and continues to like. Best of all, it’s hardly aged. In addition, curiosities about her continue to appear after more than 20 years. And there is so much to talk about in this film… For example, computers that appear in various scenes and that, in fiction, make it possible for everything to work, more or less. In one of the final scenes, one of the characters claims that the operating system he is viewing is UNIX. To what extent is this true? What operating system did they use in Jurassic Park?

When in a movie or television series it appears an electronic device or a computer, I usually look at what make and model it is and what operating system or applications it uses. It is something that strikes me, especially if I am seeing a title from a few years ago.

In some cases, they are created dummy interfaces for the moment. There are some very successful, as in the Star Trek saga or Minority Report, but others are limited to simple screenshots. You also have to try to be true to reality. In Matrix Reloaded, for example, we could see a real hacking scene on a command line. And in series like Seinfeld, throughout the seasons you can see that its protagonist changes his Mac for a PC and returns to the Mac again, showing software boxes of different versions already obsolete.

All this comes to mind because there are films in which the technological component is more relevant, especially when it stars in several scenes. In Jurassic Park (1993), one of the movies that better has aged and that is still a must-see, there are many scenes in which computers are the protagonists. In addition, the design effort of the park control interfaces.

What’s more, some of the scenes have gone down in the history of cinema, such as the one known as “You didn’t say the magic word” in which the character of Arnold, played by a very young Samuel L. Jackson, try to access the computer of Dennis Nedry, played by the comedian Wayne Knight. However, the latter has locked all systems to the point of showing an animation showing its own face.

Another mythical scene is known as “It’s a Unix system” in which the character of Lex, played by the actress Ariana richards, sits in front of the computer Dennis Nedry and recognizes the interface you see on the screen as a UNIX system. In the scene we see how scrolls through folders and files in the form of 3D cubes, something very innovative for 1993. The scene in question attracted attention at the time with some controversy, nothing to do with what would have happened today in the middle of the social media era. UNIX and a 3D interface? How crazy is this?

So, let’s go back to the 90s to take a look at the ins and outs of filming Jurassic Park. Specifically, we are going to stop at the computers we saw in the movie and determine what operating system did they use in fiction. Were they real? Is everything we saw fiction? Did they really use UNIX in Jurassic Park?

Asking the experts

First stop, internet. When someone says that everything is on the internet, they are not wrong. And it is that we can find practically anything if we search well. For example, Starring The Computer, a fantastic page that collects the computers that appear in movies and television series. It is very useful for unraveling mysteries from old movies or vintage reenactments where it is easy to fall into temporary errors. Also, it is frequently updated with new content.

As well. If we consult its file on Jurassic Park we will find from the computers used by the park’s workers and programmers, which in this case are computers Apple Macintosh Quadra 700, up to the supercomputers that are in charge of controlling the entire park, in this case Thinking Machines CM-5. In the control center we also find a SGI Crimson and a SGI R4000 Indigo Elan, workstations or workstations on the way between the home computer and the supercomputer.

Source: Universal Pictures

So, the computers that we see in several scenes in which a park control interface, with maps and other visual elements, are Apple’s Macintosh Quadra 700, computers that were for sale between 1991 and 1993 and that used Motorola 68040 processors. As for the operating system, as we see on its screens, it is the System 7, with its characteristic icons and the edges of the windows. And if you want to spin finer, the version is between the 7.0.1 that these factory computers came with and the 7.1 that was published in August 1992. Regarding the park’s controls interface, the person responsible was Michael Backes.

We have already unraveled the mystery behind most of the computers we see in Jurassic Park. Now we have to take a look at the workstations, protagonists of the mythical scene “It’s a Unix system”.

We have spared no expense

The phrase you just read is repeated over and over again by the character from John Hammond, the billionaire responsible for the park and who plays the always great Richard Attenborough, unfortunately already deceased.

This motto of “we have not spared expenses” refers to how much they have invested in the Jurassic Park: research, facilities, technology … Ironically, that phrase loses validity in the figure of Dennis Nedry, character who disagrees in that sense. But I will not say more for not gutting the film.

The case is that it can also be applied to the computers that we see on the screen. In 1993 the CM-5 supercomputer that we see in the film was considered the fastest in the world on the prestigious list TOP500. Moreover, for several years, that model was in the top ten on the same list. It is interesting to see how reality merges with fiction in something as secondary to a movie as it is a technological element that we hardly see in a couple of scenes, in the background.

Regarding computers Macintosh Quadra 700 The ones we talked about before were priced at the time of $ 5,700.

And now let’s go to the workstations, the SGI Crimson and the SGI R4000 Indigo Elan. Both were created by SGI, an acronym for Silicon Graphics, Inc. His specialty, workstations specialized in graphic tasks. Precisely, several of the models seen in the film were used in tasks related to some of the visual effects that we see on screen. And, by the way, they were integrated into the scenography as part of the Jurassic Park facility.

This is UNIX system

The model that interests us to finish this article is the SGI Crimson, who stars in the aforementioned scene. In that scene, Lex’s character claims to see UNIX on a computer screen that turns out to be that of Dennis Nedry and that we have seen in various scenes of Jurassic Park.

In the previous scenes we have basically seen a console where the character of Nedry and Arnold entered orders by text commands. But in the scene in question, we see a three-dimensional interface. Through it, Lex moves through the park controls.

As well. That 3D interface corresponds to fsn, pronounced fusion and which is the acronym for File System Navigator, an experimental application for viewing folders and files in 3D. A file explorer, go. The tool was designed by SGI, the manufacturer of the workstation itself SGI Crimson. The experimental thing is literal, because it did not have a lot of travel despite inspiring other similar applications.

The experimental 3D interface for IRIX. Source: Universal Pictures

As for the operating system that SGI Crimson machine runs, it is IRIX. This operating system was also developed by itself SGI (Silicon Graphics). First released in 1988, IRIX was specifically designed for computers with RISC processor, which were the ones that ran on SGI workstations.

RISC was based on UNIX System V. And among other improvements, it included BSD extensions, its own XFS file system and the graphic system OpenGL. As for the version of RISC that we see in Jurassic Park, it may be IRIX 4.0, released in 1991. The later version, 5.0, did not see the light of day until 1993, when the film had already been shot and was released in theaters. As for the IRIX interface that we see in the film, it is very familiar because it is X Window System (X11R4), introduced in 1991.

As a curiosity, that interface has been honored in Jurassic Systems, a page that recreates the screen of Dennis Nedry’s workstation. At a graphic level it is practically identical, but it is not very interactive and we can hardly do anything.

Source: www.explica.co/