‘WarGames’ 30 Years Later, Cyber War Foretold
Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy in 1983's 'WarGames' (Photo: Everett/Rex USA)
When "WarGames" premiered 30 years ago this summer (June 3, 1983, to be exact) the only "smart" phones were in fancy cars, a lightweight laptop weighed in at a hefty 4 pounds, and Al Gore hadn't yet invented the Internet — at least not the consumer version.
But the Matthew Broderick-Ally Sheedy technology-driven thriller is far from obsolete.
With hackers from China and Iran in the news — and allegedly up in the business of U.S. corporations — the movie, about a cyberbreach that nearly leads to all-out "global thermonuclear war," as Joshua, the game-playing NORAD computer program, puts it, "is as relevant as ever," said noted hacker Pablos Holman after a screening at last year's Tribeca Film Festival.
Discussing the possibility of cyber-attack on the US government, a scenario that received its first public airing in the film, Holman continued, "We are set up to protect the land but not so much with our computers." Laying out one possible scenario, not all that different from the mayhem unleashed by Matthew Broderick's character in the film, he said, "Hackers can hack into [China’s computer] and launch missiles and you would not question that. We're getting very specific, targeted attacks."
In other ways, in fact, the film is more relevant than ever.
'WarGames' served as a precursor to future events (Photo: Everett)
Broderick's character, the disheveled David, though a familiar archetype today — the high school nerd who spends his days and nights hidden away with his computer — was a rarity; his hobbies, from inflating the biology grade of his comely classmate, played by Sheedy, to "war dialing," the practice of one computer running through a list of phone numbers via a modem until a fellow computer is reached, were exotic novelties. (The term "war dialing" didn't even exist prior to "WarGames"; even hacking itself was explained in the most basic fashion.)
One of the few areas where "WarGames" was behind the curve was in the computer-prop department.