Re: Laptops in Computer/Film Reviews
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 3 Feb 97 12:55:23 -0800
Subject: Re: Laptops in Computer/Film Reviews
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jim Millick)
Pardon me for this geek response to Joe Lavin's laptop note, but I happen to
have first-hand knowledge of the SGI machines. Friends of mine (Banned From
The Ranch Entertainment) did display graphics for TWISTER, and I helped out
a little bit, including fixing a couple of the faux-laptops.
> Four of the biggest films of 1996 -- Twister, Eraser,
> Mission Impossible and Independence Day -- have one thing
> in common besides box-office success: in each film,
> portable computers played a prominent role. We decided to
> put the portable computers in these flims to the test and
> asnwer once and for all the question, "Hey, if I happen to
> find myself in a big-budget Hollywood movie, which
> portable computer will give me the best performance?
> Twister featured a Silicon Graphics laptop, which is
> intesting since Silicon Graphics doens't make laptops.
> Nevertheless, a label reading "Silicon Graphics" was
> placed conspicuously on the computer, because you just
> never know when you might forget the brand name of your
> computer. Overall, this computer performed more than
Let's hear it for product placement. SGI did all the computers for TWISTER.
The laptops were indeed supplied by Silicon Graphics, made up by the same
company that does prototype work for SGI, with a standard laptop keyboard
The part I thought inconguent was that not only did the "rich" team headed
by Carey Elwes' character have them, so did Helen Hunt's "poor" team.
Anybody who's seen an SGI price list knows SGIs wouldn't be in budget for
a "poor" team (nor in keeping with the rest of their beater equipment).
Both teams had SGI desktop models (Indys and Indigos), as well.
The laptop case material was a Corian-like gray material, and it was
machined, rather than molded, as is the typical laptop. The display was
color LCD, modified with an array of small flourescent tubes behind it to
make the brightest laptop display in history (necessary to show up on film).
If left on too long, the lid would get very warm, almost hot, but it was
really bright -- brighter than the 20" SGI CRTs, if I remember correctly.
Functionality was another thing. Neither the keyboard nor the trackpad
worked, as you'd suspect.
However, what you saw on the display was real SGI. Hidden off-camera
(usually under a table) was an SGI Indy for each faux-laptop, running SGI's
IRIX X-Windows GUI with custom display software doing overlays and
Umbilicals brought up the display signal, a 12 volt power supply delivered
power to the flourescents, and a 9 volt battery inside the laptop case lit
up the green, red, and yellow LEDs above the keyboard. I had several cases
apart to fix the cold solder joints in the battery wiring.
So when Joe thinks they weren't real SGIs, he was right, but only partially.
© 1997 Peter Langston