Best Fictional Software Developers
Posted by Charlie Recksieck
Who Would You Want Working At (Or Running) Your Company?
Today's question is a little different: Which fictional programmer would you want working on your software project or running your technology company?
Who's NOT On This List
Not hackers. So, say goodbye to the casts of Hacker and Sneakers, Neo and April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Also not appearing on this list are real people, which eliminates The Social Network and Pirates Of Silicon Valley. Not that I would ever call Steve Jobs a developer; to me he was just a charismatic guy who bullied software developers for a living.
14 Best Fictional Software Developers
Enjoy. And let us know if we overlooked somebody.
At first you think Jeffrey Wright's character's name is Bernard Lowe but it turns out Bernard was a just a "host" copy of Arnold. Sorry, spoiler alert. Westworld's Head of Programming and guy who was light years ahead of where we are even now with artificial intelligence. Arnold/Bernard brought a lot of great speculation about the nature of intelligence to the show; and watching Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Hopkins act in Season 1 propped this show up. Each season (and perhaps each episode) was worse than the one who came before it. But for a while, Bernard and this show had something to say.
It's a pretty damn close tie between Dinesh and Gilfoyle on Silicon Valley who's the best programmers in the main cast. Some would say Richard - but when you stop and think about it, he stumbled onto the magical compression algorithm in the first season of the show. But Gilfoyle and Dinesh did the most development at Pied Piper. That said, while Gilfoyle dedicated himself to fucking with Dinesh instead of working - Dinesh was too much of a wild-card and willing to blow it up.
Maybe a few minus points because just a video game developer instead of something more useful to society or revolutionary. But as a software developer she's got every trait you could want: Insane work ethic, belief in her convictions, knows her shit and well-educated. Ian's character, by the time we see him, has his best work behind him and full of bluster. Poppy is the engine of future development; and a damn decent manager as well.
The evil nerd trope was a little heavy-handed. But within the logic of the film, Jurassic Park was definitely understaffed by John Hammond and programmer Dennis Nedry was really doing an incredible job of keeping that place running. As Ian Malcolm says in the movie, it's John Hammond's hubris that's really to blame for everything that went sideways; including his low-balling of his contract with Dennis Nedry to program all of the systems for a cutting edge theme park - never mind the dinosaurs.
The Dark Knight Rises
Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) seems like the brains of the outfit at Wayne Enterprises but lets not forget that it was Wayne himself who developed the high-frequency surveillance network. Yes, Batman always represents the light AND the dark, especially when creating awful technology in the pursuit of evil. Say what you will about his ethics, but Bruce Wayne had some software development chops for sure.
Cyberdyne Systems Corporation
While most engineers always ask "Can we?" instead of "Should we?", Miles Dyson once presented with Arnold Schwartzenegger's robotic skeletal arm totally gets it - almost in time. Unlike Robert Oppenheimer. Watch the clip to watch the guy work. A total pro. Although he really did have an unfair advantage since he dd inherit technology leftover from the original prototype in the original Terminator.
OK, this deep dive into the history of Kevin Flynn is a little too deep for my taste - he was a rock solid video game developer. And an ahead-of-his-time ethical coder. The rest of the movie was goofy visual representations of hacking, but his early movie dialogue is actually fairly smart and on point when it comes to software development.
This is no figurehead CEO. Eldon Tyrell was the creator of the important replicant technology in Blade Runner and knew what he was talking about. Watch him engage with Roy in this clip and explain the fail-safes that prevent Roy from gaining more life. He's not unsympathetic to Roy's emotions, he's fascinated by them. This guy has an engineer's mentality, through and through.
A View To A Kill
More of a microchip manufacturer than a software developer. But he clearly was a super genius - as part of a Nazi experiment on feeding babies steroids to make super-children. Even for the Roger Moore era, this movie was a bad James Bond film - but Walken is gold. If you have empathy you don't like this guy; but if you're one of his stockholders you're laughing all the way to the bank.
If there's anything you take from this article, I think it should be that you should rent "Mumford" if you haven't seen it. On paper it's a lesser Lawrence Kasdan movie, a semi-failed modern Capraesque film. But personally I think it's charming as fuck. And Jason Lee nails the boy genius creator of Panda Modem who basically employs an entire town. "Find a need and fill it."
Samir was pretty much just a security expert and Peter did 15 minutes of work per week. So, of the Office Space programmers, Michael is clearly the best. And his "salami slicing" scheme of pocketing percentages of a cent isn't just a plot point from Superman III; it was a thing.
Sadly, this is probably the most realistic programmer on this list. Stuck in an inefficient company with a pretty bad boss, Dilbert is not going to go on to great things no matter how smart he might be. The character and comic strip points out that talent isn't enough - it takes a knack for politics to succeed as much as it takes "the knack."
Halt And Catch Fire
Great portrayal as a genius on an underrated show. This show's dedication to history and getting it right is pretty amazing. That said, the limitations of computing at the time make this hard to relate to when lots of the plot depended on the speed of phone modems.
The IT Crowd
A little broad in his nerdiness. But for those of us who spent a lifetime in front of a computer can relate to this clip of reporting a fire via an email.