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Sunday, June 16, 2024

We’ve figured out the most famous computer of all time. And no, its not an Apple device

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What’s is the most famous computer of all time? Sure, HAL’s going to be up there, but thankfully that murderous slice of silicon is purely a work of fiction. We have, however, uncovered a way to definitively state which real-life computer is the most famous, by virtue of how much screen time a given device might have got in its lifetime.

But fame can be a fickle thing. One minute you’re some fȇted Hollywood starlet, the next you’re relegated to the scrapheap of history, and because we can’t just sit around watching endless hours of Netflix for a hint of a keyboard we need some repository of computing fame. Thankfully I just stumbled upon StarringtheComputer. It’s a brilliant resource for anyone wondering where each of their favourite computers starred in media productions. 

Not only does the site include endless lists of shows and movies with computers in them, for each one there are also screenshots of its airtime, and a short overview of its role in the production. The site also gives each feature ratings that relate to the devices importance, realism and visibility. 

They even have a twitter account if you want to keep track of when the site gets updated, or even help out in identifying some of the more esoteric models that have been spotted on screen.

Unfortunately there’s no official overall count for how many times each computer has been featured, and it’s still a work in progress, but I admit curiosity got the better of me. So, I took the liberty of totting up those with the biggest lists, if only to prove Dave wrong in his assumption that the most famous personal computer in the world would probably be an Apple device.

I steadfastly refused to believe such a claim, and my stubbornness has paid off. The truth is much more agreeable. Here are the winners:

1. IBM AN/FSQ-7 – 100 features

Listed as the largest discrete computer system ever made, it was was designed as a ground-controlled interception device during the Cold War for use in SAGE air defence networks. In fact, its name stands for Army-Navy / Fixed Special eQuipment.

Shots of the AN/FSQ-7 can be spotted in The Bionic Woman series, Columbo, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and some Austin Powers movies, to name a few.

There are loads more I’m sure some of you will recognise, we spent ages spooling through the full list. Why not see if you remember some of these pure gems, and whether you figured the blinking console in the background was a real-life computer, or just some led-laden set decoration.

2. Commodore 64 – 63 features

With just over half the appearances of the AN/FSQ-7, the Commodore 64 is still arguably one of the most iconic pieces of kit. It holds a Guinness World Record as the highest-selling single computer model of all time, perhaps thanks to all these features in popular productions. Man, I’m tempted to do a recount just to see if I missed one—really want those numbers to align.

This one can be found in The Twilight Zone series, That ’70s Show, Red Dwarf, Murder in Space, among plenty of others.

The full list can be found here.

3. Apple II – 40 features

Come on, you knew Apple was going to be on here somewhere. The Apple II was the company’s first consumer-facing personal computer, and was one of the first super successful microcomputer ever to hit the market.

It’s been seen in the likes of The Dead Zone, Evilspeak, First Blood, The Goldbergs, Iron Man (2008), Lost, and the Knight Rider series.

The full list can be found here.

4. Burroughs B205 – 38 features

Coming in hot on Apple’s heels is the Burroughs B205. While perhaps not the most highly distributed of the lot, its pretty iconic. And it sure does have a distinctly sci-fi look about it. It was Burroughs Corporation’s first electronic computer console.

It’s been seen in Lost in Space, Batman – The Movie (1966), Fantastic Voyage, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and The Land of the Giants series.

The full list can be found here.

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