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Let’s face facts. Connectors are not the most glamorous component in the electronics industry. A connector will rarely have a starring role.
When the time comes for the hero to save the universe, it won’t be with a handful of connectors that need to be connected in the right order. And when James Bond searches for an arch-villain with plans for world domination, the superweapon that threatens the whole world is not going to be a particularly fiendish plug.
As someone who has spent far too long in the connectors industry, it pains me to say this, but… connectors are just not that exciting. But there are a few times in the history of Hollywood where a connector has played a supporting role. Here is my top 3 countdown.
Number 3: Back to the Future
The time-travelling adventures of Doc Brown and Marty McFly make up one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time. It is a firm favourite of podcaster and fellow geek Pete, and I must say he’s got a point. It’s great fun from start to finish, with loveable characters (and plenty that you love to hate).
The big connector moment is at the beginning of the first movie when Marty tries to use Doc Brown’s monstrous speaker to play his electric guitar. He turns everything to max, and then plugs in his guitar with the classic quarter-inch jack before chaos ensues.
In the whole history of connectors, that guitar connector is most familiar to musicians around the world. It’s also the oldest connector design in existence and is still going strong, more than 140 years since it was originally patented. I think Back to the Future is a great salute to this connector-industry veteran.
Number 2: I, Robot
I am so pleased that I could add something from Isaac Asimov to this list. Asimov is my favourite science fiction writer. A scientist in his professional life (he was Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University), his list of written works is huge. In the Foundation and the Robots series (both of which were eventually incorporated into a single, fictional universe), Asimov made predictions about the future and technology that seem remarkably prescient. While he may have got some wrong, Asimov’s view of the future has some very familiar elements to it.
Although writing fictional works, Asimov did much to advance the study of robotics (in fact, the word itself was one he unwittingly invented). His Three Laws of Robotics are of interest to scientists who are developing real-world artificial intelligence (AI) systems. This movie explores the Three Laws and speculates on how they may evolve.
The movie I, Robot actually only bears a slight resemblance to the book of the same name but incorporates many themes from Asimov’s extensive catalog of short stories. These stories, many of which were published in the science fiction magazines that were popular in the mid-20th Century, represent some of Asimov’s best work. The resulting movie may not have been pure Asimov, but with a great cast and some excellent action scenes, I will happily watch it again and again. In this scene, we see Hollywood’s interpretation of a high-tech connector.
Number 1: Star Wars
It would be hard to imagine any kind of list like this without a reference to Star Wars. When it was released in 1977, the first Star Wars movie represented a watershed moment in movie history. With its sequels, and maybe some of the prequels, it has become the favourite movie of geeks around the world.
There are plenty of technical details in which Star Wars fans can immerse themselves, but when it comes to connectors, there can only be one scene. In the Death Star, when R2D2 hacks into the space station computer to discover a way to free the Millenium Falcon, he uses an in-built connector for the task.
No wireless technology is on display here – no WiFi or Bluetooth, both of which were still decades in the future when Star Wars was made. No, it’s old school all the way for our Artoo with a conventional plug and socket, making this the all-time number one connector in the movies for me.
Honourable Mention: Apollo 13
I had to mention the 1995 movie that tells the tale of the Apollo 13 mission. I love this movie, partly because I am fascinated by the whole Apollo program and what was achieved in an amazingly short period of time, and partly because it is a gripping movie filled with great actors (Ed Harris as Flight Director Gene Krantz is my favourite).
There are tons of technical details in the film, including the moment when the crew used connectors to reverse the power flow between the Lunar Module Aquarius and the Command Module Odyssey. However, the story of how the team on the ground overcame the problem of the CO2 scrubbers shows quite how much Apollo was a team event. This is an object lesson in the problems caused by not having the right connector for the job. Here’s a clip…
Connectors in movies are rare beasts. they do not often receive much screen time, so spotting them can require patience and a sharp eye. These are my picks, but have you ever spotted any? Let me know…