That UI in Jurassic Park Was A Real Thing

I don’t remember exactly when and where I saw the movie Jurassic Park, but I do remember it was during its theatrical release and I was with a group of people who were aware of the state of the art in computer graphics. We were there to admire the digital dinosaurs in that movie, which represented a tremendous leap ahead. Over twenty-five years later, the film is still recognized as a landmark in visual effects history. Yes, more than half of the dinosaurs in the film are physical effects, but the digital dinosaurs stood out.

Given the enthusiasm in computer generated effects, it naturally followed that this crowd was also computer literate. I believe we all knew our way around a UNIX prompt, so this was a crowd that erupted into laughter when the infamous “It’s a UNIX system! I know this!” line was spoken.

jurassic park unix

I was running jobs on a centralized machine via telnet. Graphics user interface on UNIX systems were rare on the machines I had worked with, never mind with animated three-dimensional graphics! I had assumed it was a bit of Hollywood window dressing, because admittedly text characters on a command line doesn’t work on the silver screen as well.

Well, that was a bad assumption. Maybe not all UNIX systems have interfaces that show the user flying over a three dimension landscape of objects, but one did! I have just learned it was an actual user interface available for Silicon Graphics machines. SGI logo is visible on the computer monitor, and their machines were a big part of rendering those digital dinosaurs we were drooling over. It made sense the production crew would be aware of the visually attractive (optional) component for SGI’s UNIX variant, IRIX.

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