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So, you're peacefully watching your favourite TV show or movie. Since we live in modern times, the team has a resident hacker on board, or possibly even just an operator, or other kind of computer user. Of course, since the writer decided to portray that person as a well-informed geek, there must be trillions of lines of source code flowing over the computer screen.

Not that any software developer ever actually goes about things that way, of course. When developing programs, you need to study and create every single line of source code with all your focus.

But that ain't really looking superduper cool now, is it?

Thus, Cool Code of Source will be forever running the screen.

However, even the designers of TV shows have to get those lines of code somewhere -- so, have you ever wondered what those programs that we get to see on those screens actually are? Is there some reasoning to which source code we get to see?

This is not only for collecting scenes where we get to see lots of code, but also for collecting the fragments that we recognize.

Related to Matrix Raining Code and Zeroes and Ones.

Examples of Cool Code of Source include:

Anime & Manga

  • In Ghost in the Shell, it's:
    • C.
    • Mostly file path string manipulation with some references to drawing.
    • It eventually repeats itself during that scene.
  • In one Gundam Wing episode, a screen displays part of the Photoshop 6 manual as a purported readout from a medical scanner.
  • In the Suzumiya Haruhi episode "The Day of Saggitarius", Nagato with the help of a macro program reconfigures the entire steering method of a video game in C.
  • Lain apparently does all her hackery in Lisp. Specifically, she's implementing Conway's Game of Life, with code from the CMU AI repository.
    • She also does C++ in the artbook.
    • Apparently, she's hacking Lisp while not paying attention to a lecture about C.
  • In the original Bubblegum Crisis, it's typically music; track lists from the BGC OST, lyrics from the same, or sometimes from Madonna music. Very occasionally there will be some BASIC code.
  • Several episodes of Onegai Twins have what appears to be C++ , plus some program showing a hex dump.
  • The code seen in .hack//Liminality is from the source code of the .hack games.


  • Didn't Dilbert have a joke like this, where the 'code' is the screensaver?

Films -- Live Action

Live Action TV

  • Stargate SG-1: Code of the Replicators.
  • Dollhouse uses the HTML source (which isn't code (it's markup))from the Web site for Wolfram Research in a cracking scene during the episode "Briar Rose". Wolfram Research is a real company that makes Mathematica software, but it shares a name with an evil corporation on Whedon's series Angel, making it a particularly nerdy hidden reference.
    • Their environmental control system also seems to make heavy use of some XML dialect, as seen when Alpha uses it.

Music Videos

  • Mi-Sex's "Computer Games" uses BASIC code that looks like it's for a game, since it has the line PRINT "WHEN YOU SEE AN (@) TO THE LEFT OF [...] YOUR TURN."

Video Games

  • The flying code in the .hack games is somewhere between this and Matrix Raining Code. I think.
  • The first Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune would briefly show some faint scrolling text in the background of its Attract Mode video. Closer inspection shows that it's a bunch of random characters from the middle row of a QWERTY keyboard. Apparently, the person who made it couldn't even be bothered to mash keys on a different row.
  • In Portal, once you get backstage there are monitors that are basically scrolling code, except really they're scrolling distorted cake recipes.
  • One cutscene in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes shows a computer screen with complicated code showing up on it; it's a hexdump of a gzip file.

Western Animation

  • The Code Lyoko supercomputer screens apparently display a PHP image gallery script.

Real Life

  • Compiling a program (i.e. translating human-readable source code into a form that the computer can run faster) often prints lots of diagnostic information derived from the source code, if you enable "verbose" output or have really poorly-written code that generates a lot of warnings.
  • Many programs record lots of information in log files (though not the source code either), and some system administrators have windows that always show the last few lines of certain log files.
  • Assembly language code, which consists of primitive instructions usually written one per line, tends to be quite verbose. Reading a longer assembly listing may resemble this trope. Though these days one rarely needs to read (or write) assembly code.
  • Reading a long file often ends up looking like this. Some IDE's (text editors optimized for a particular language) have hyperlinks to various points in a link where a variable, method, function, class, macro, type, etc. was created or defined, which accentuates the effect.
  • Meta-example: when computer network intrusion isn't portrayed Hollywood-style, chances are there will be nmap output somewhere on the screen (though strictly speaking, this is not source code).
  • In the process of making any very large program, the programmers will eventually have to write a program to help them compile their own program. It's a common enough problem that there are a number of popular "build automation" tools that write that stuff for you (once you configure them right). The code output by automake and the like can be quite long, and while you wouldn't ordinarily watch it scroll past while it's being generated, you could if you wanted to.
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