Discover more from The Retroist
The Terrible Touchscreen Interface in Die Hard
The Nakatomi Corporation appears to be doing pretty well and Nakatomi Plaza is the jewel in their corporate crown. It has everything you could want, including new cutting edge computer powered touchscreen directories.
Unfortunately, the interface on these directories is about to run into a lot of trouble. Sure Nakatomi Plaza is not very full now, but once construction is done it is going to swell with workers.
When that happens, these directories will be populated with hundreds, maybe even thousands of workers. It is at this point they will need to make some changes to their touchscreen directory. Why? It needs a back button.
Let me walk you through John McClane’s visit to see his wife at the annual Christmas Party.
You see the problem here? John needs to Exit it to the main page and start over if he need to go back.
It is not a big deal with so few people working at Nakatomi, but what if they had dozens of pages or what if you were unsure of the spelling of the person you were trying to visit? It would be a nightmare.
It is a seemingly minor part of Die Hard and does not take away from the film, but I find these depictions of computer interfaces fascinating.
I for one could not wait to get more touchscreen time as kid. So these were influential glimpses of tech. Unfortunately, like most movie technology, not a lot of thought was put into the reality and it is the fine corporate citizens of Nakatomi and their guests who will ultimately pay the price.
Look at all those names!
Pausing and rewatching this scene gave me time to really read the names in the directory and some of them are pretty great and would make a good alias. Some of my favorites include:
But the best in the lot has to be Man, M.R. or Mr. Man. What a wonderful little joke.
Who is responsible for this Interface?
This looks to be the works of the video and graphics display section of the Art department who worked on the film. I have not been able to figure out who exactly worked on it specifically. Eight people shared credit for video and graphics.
A Whole Operating System?
The graphics used for the directory seemed to extend to the entire Operating System used by the Nakatomi Corporation. You see it quite clearly when Theo is attempting to hack into the vault and cracks Takagi’s password.
It’s difficult to make a user interface. It is even more difficult when you are working with new technology. Touchscreens existed before 1988, but they were not as common as they would come to be in the 1990s. Still, I feel like these screens are mostly built for utility. They are a slideshow that moves the story forward. Under any sort of scrutiny, they do not help in the worldbuilding that would make Nakatomi a more interesting seeming company.