Films don’t always take great care in accurately depicting new technologies, whether it’s accounting software, the Internet, or even the fax machine. The results can be hilarious in hindsight. Now that technological advancements have condensed our ability to stay connected down to minuscule portable devices, keeping that gear protected is paramount, which is made easier with Samsonite business bags—the sponsor of this post. Here’s a look back at some of the once cutting-edge advancements that now look downright silly.
The Mojo, Almost Famous (2000)
Almost Famous is defined by nostalgia, cobbling together the reminiscences of writer/director Cameron Crowe from his time on the road with bands like Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. The movie highlights the quirks and habits of that decade, but nothing is so glaringly dated as the use of an early fax machine. Nicknamed a “Mojo” in the film, the term actually comes from Hunter S. Thompson calling the new technology the “mojo wire,” capable of transmitting one written page “in 18 minutes!” What must have seemed like a godsend to traveling reporters is played up as a gag by Crowe, well aware of how antiquated the Mojo seems in comparison to even the modern fax machine, not to mention e-mail.
Tiger Talkboy, Home Alone 2 (1992)
The variable-speed tape recorder that Macaulay Culkin uses to dupe employees at an expensive hotel was originally intended simply as a prop, but the popularity of the device as a movie tie-in led to a retail version in 1993. A clunky, brick-shaped tape recorder with a handle and an extendable microphone, it’s since been lapped by just about any run-of-the-mill digital recording device. But its use as a prank tool in the original retail commercial made it look like a must have for Dennis The Menace-inspired schemers everywhere.
Myspace, He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)
Was there any technology with a smaller window of significance than Myspace? The adaptation of the self-help book He’s Just Not That Into You focused on the numerous types of technology that come between actual human interactions, funneling most of the stress through Drew Barrymore’s character. She suffers rejection via phone, voicemail, and e-mail, but her fumbling attempts to interact with men over Myspace felt incredibly dated even in 2009. It’s supposed to make Barrymore look like she’s searching every cutting-edge dating platform for a match, but it actually made her seem hopelessly behind the curve.
Pizza.net, The Net (1995)
Any film centered around a data analyst who spends most of the time on the computer in the 1990s now looks as though screenwriters and production designers were making things up on the fly. Of all the primitive computer work Sandra Bullock’s character does while unraveling a cyber-terrorist plot, the opening of the film is the most hilarious: While alone at home and chatting online (and using the computer voice feature), Bullock orders herself a large pizza with garlic and anchovies from Pizza.net, the one-stop online shop for online pizza delivery. Now that online ordering is ubiquitous, it makes that spotlight moment for Bullock’s tech-savvy character all the more laughable.
Palm Pilot, Little Black Book (2004)
The concept of a man’s “little black book” detailing all of his potential hookups was already archaic by the time this Brittany Murphy romantic comedy rolled around. But what makes this particular instance of the Palm Pilot unique is that her boyfriend (Ron Livingston) uses the Tungsten C, the only model of the personal digital assistant to connect wirelessly to the Internet at the time. With the proliferation of connectivity on mobile devices and social networks, both the device and the concept at the center of Little Black Book looks ridiculous by modern standards.
“Salami slicing,” Superman III (1983) and Office Space (1999)
The role that led to Richard Pryor’s five-year deal with Columbia Pictures cast him as a disgruntled corporate employee angry that his weekly paycheck has money taken out for taxes and social security. When he discovers the existence of half cents left over in transactions, Pryor’s character uses simple and ridiculous computer directives like “Override All Security” to create an expense account to hold all the half cents leftover from payroll. The disillusioned Initech employees in Mike Judge’s Office Space attempt to replicate the swindle, but their digital heist is played for maximum comedy, exchanging a floppy disc with blaring rap music on the soundtrack.
A phone booth, Phone Booth (2003)
As a cramped space to anonymously confine someone for the duration of a thriller, a phone booth works just fine. But there’s one big problem—okay, a few big problems—with Joel Schumacher’s film as the years go by: Phone booths are increasingly obsolete thanks to the rise of cell phones. Some countries are turning them into charging stations for electric cars, and London keeps them for tourist posterity, but many countries have lost phone booth service altogether. In a generation, it’s possible that anyone who stumbles across this Colin Farrell/Kiefer Sutherland morality play will wonder why in the world there’s a phone attached to the ground in the middle of a city.