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Alien User Interface Hell

I tend to like a movie to be playing while I'm working, preferably one I know well so I can ignore it. Today Alien was up on Netflix Instant. While going to make more tea I noticed the early scene where the Nostromo's captain goes into the command area to commune with Mother. What the hell were the designers thinking when concocting the fake system user interface that is depicted in that scene?

There's a million tiny status lights, all white, set into a white background. None of them has a readable label. The whole surface of the pod is encrusted with incomprehensible but significant miniature beacons. It's been frequently pointed out that some errors on our limited space missions so far have been tied back to ambiguous or confusing information displays in spacecraft cockpits. What evolutions did Ridley Scott expect to have happened in a few decades that would allow a standard human pilot to instantly discriminate one white light from ten thousand others and act on its information?

Then there's the higher-resolution interface, which turns out to be a 1970s 9" version of a Tektronix terminal. The human input device also looks like an IBM keyboard with the top plate taken off.

A movie made in the early 80s looks forward to the mistakes of the 60s and the limiations of the 70s. Really, what was the art director being paid for?

Comments

brent said…
alien was released in 1979.

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