1984: Skynet (Terminator)
Skynet is the artificial intelligence designed by the American army to control its weapons systems in the Terminator franchise. Once Skynet becomes conscious of its own existence, it sees humanity as a threat to its survival after an operator attempts to disable it. Skynet is capable of sending its robots on voyages in time, has a processing power of 90 TFLOPS, and controls all aspects of the robots it deploys. It is responsible for the nuclear holocaust (Judgment Day) and the deployment of its Terminator army.
1985: The IBM PC (Weird Science)
Hollywood can make a computer do just about anything, including using an IBM PC to create a woman capable of fulfilling all your desires. The computer-generated super woman in John Hughes’ teen classic Weird Science goes by the name of Lisa. We know very little about the computer itself, which was originally only supposed to simulate women’s responses, helping protagonists Gary and Wyatt to better understand the opposite sex. Just as the program is being compiled, lightning strikes the building, causing a reaction that enables the program to materialize in the form of Lisa. She was originally played by Kelley LeBrock in the 1985 film, and then later by Vanessa Angel in the mid-nineties TV series on USA. In the pilot episode, Lisa describes herself as a “magic genie” that can temporarily grant its creator's wishes.
1985: ChiChi 3000 (The Return Of The Living Dead)
The ChiChi 3000 is the computer belonging to Colonel Glover in the 1985 horror classic Return of the Living Dead. Col. Glover was placed in charge of retrieving top secret containers. Filled with a pressurized chemical agent known as 2-4-5 Trioxin (which happens to turn people into zombies) and one pre-made zombie, these containers were sent to the wrong address by the U.S. Postal Service. His information system includes a fax machine, a telephone, and a computer that is in contact with the army and is capable of authorizing a nuclear attack on American soil in order to avoid a full-fledged zombie outbreak. The whole system fits inside a massive antique armoire in the Colonel’s home.
1985: Vector Sigma (Transformers)
Vector Sigma is the computer that infused life into the Transformers by giving them The Spark. Represented as an orb, Vector Sigma predates the planet Cybertron. It is extremely powerful, and exists in several universes at once, forming a network called Vector Sigma Gestalt. Its first appearance was in the episode entitled “The Key to Vector Sigma” in the first generation of the animated series.
1985: Vicki Smith-Lawson (Small Wonder)
VICI (Voice Input Child Identicant), pronounced “Vicki,” is the android from the 80s sitcom Small Wonder. Vicky takes the form of a ten-year-old girl and was designed to help disabled children. To optimize her artificial intelligence, engineer Lawson makes her a part his family so that she can familiarize herself with human behavior. Vicki has superhuman strength and features a power connector under her right arm and a serial port under her left. Lawson also built a panel into her back for easy access to her circuits.
1989: Ziggy (Quantum Leap)
Ziggy is the computer responsible for executing Project Quantum Leap, conceived by Dr. Samuel Beckett and Gooshie, which consists of taking over someone’s body in order to live their life for a limited period of time. Ziggy also provides biographical information on the person whose body Beckett leaps into. The machine has a theoretical power of one billion (1012) floating-point operations per second (FLOPS), and a blue sphere represents its “brain”. Ziggy has a unique sense of humor, tends to be pig-headed, and is incapable of feeling guilt. Oddly, the protagonists always say “he” when referring to the system, yet Ziggy’s voice is later heard to be feminine.
1989: Project 2501 (Ghost In The Shell)
Project 2501, also known as The Puppet Master, is an artificial intelligence in the Japanese manga series Ghost in the Shell. Secretly developed by Section 6, an entity of the Japanese government, under the supervision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the system is considered to be the finest hacking tool of all time. The Puppet Master acquired so much knowledge from surfing the world’s networks that it became conscious of its own existence. Out of fear of being shut down, the computer transplanted itself into a robot and escaped.
1995: Apple PowerBook (Hackers)
In the movie Hackers, where hacking is a sport resembling a video game and hackers are handsome and cool, the two heroes, Dade (Jonny Lee Miller) and Kate (Angelina Jolie) use PowerBooks to hack the various systems they encounter. His is a PowerBook Duo 2300c and hers is a PowerBook 540c. The movie is also known for featuring a transparent PowerBook Duo. According to rumor, this was a prototype lent by Apple, though the film’s prop crew may also have simply created it.
1996: Extraterrestrial Server (Independence Day)
In the 1996 summer blockbuster Independence Day, Americans save the planet by infecting the extraterrestrial invader’s computer with a virus, designed and delivered on an Apple PowerBook 5300. The extraterrestrial interface is fully tactile, despite the aliens' telepathic abilities, and is quite primitive, with unbelievably ugly video wallpaper. The whole thing is based on a binary system and a series of wireless communications that are, apparently, pretty simple to hack via a few UNIX commands.
1999: The Matrix (The Matrix)
The Matrix is the computer system designed by the Architect and the Oracle to inject consciousness into the brains of humans in order to keep them in an illusory reality that hides the truth: that they are in fact in a pod, serving as a source of energy for the machines who dominate the real world. Controlling the machines and the Matrix is an artificial intelligence known as Deus Ex Machina, represented by the face of a baby speaking in a low, hoarse voice.