Films Depicting Vintage Computing Equipment in Action

I haven't made any kind of systematic search of survey, but recently happened to see the following films that contain sequences of authentic 1940s, 50s, or 60s (or earlier) punched-card or other computing machinery in action. I hope to expand this very short list as time goes on -- suggestions welcome!

Title Year Topic/Genre Remarks
Air Force 1943 World War II Adventures of a B-17 in the Pacific in the early days of the war. At the beginning is shot of an IBM Radiotype machine receiving a message.
Wing and a Prayer 1944 World War II Dana Andrews; carrier pilots in the Pacific. Brief shot of IBM 405 typebars in action (the 405 dates from 1934).
Allotment Wives 1945 Post-World War II About a racket that defrauds the Department of War's Office of Dependency Benefits by having women marry multiple GIs. At the beginning of the movie we see typebars in action at the ODB.
Walk East On Beacon 1952 Early Cold War A noir movie about communist spies, has about a minute of footage of the IBM SSEC designed at Columbia's Watson Lab.
Infinity 1996 World War II Matthew Broderick as Richard Feynman programming and operating an IBM 405 at Los Alamos; scenes of machine room with various equipment.
Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII 2010 World War II Centered around interviews with some of the original ENIAC programmers. There is film (not just stills) of Vannever Bush's Differential Analyzer and ENIAC itself in action, as well as the woman computers seated at their desktop mechanical calculators, supplemented by stock footage of 1930s-40s IBM equipment, war production, and the war itself, not well-checked (for example, B-29s are used to illustrate the B-17 bombing missions over Germany).
The Heralds of the Internet 1972 ARPANET A documentary about the early ARPANET that showed up on Google Video in mid-March 2006 and then promptly disappeared. I watched the beginning, which consisted of a montage of equipment, Teletypes, backplanes, IMPs, etc, and then some interviews with ARPANET creators, but when I went back to see the rest it was gone.

Another possible candidate is Enigma (2001), a fictionalized story of the World War II code breakers at Bletchley Park. (Later...) No, forget it, it's a soap opera and its depiction of the Colossus is totally inaccurate. Now that Colussus has been declassified, you can see it in action.

Numerous films made in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s include stock footage of card sorters and/or spinning reel-to-reel magnetic tapes. The 1957 Tracy-and-Hepburn movie Desk Set features an impressive but fictional 1950s "electronic brain".

The Andromeda Strain (1971) has several closeups of Teletypes in action and some early computer graphics, plus a great deal of science-fiction / doomsday computing,

The IBM historical archive has a newsreel of NORC, a supercomputer built at Columbia University, completed in 1954.

The IEEE has a 1946 film clip showing how Teletypes are used in telegram transmission.

Allan Olley points out another site that lists movies with computers in them: Starringthecomputer.com, mainly featuring Apples, Ataris, Commodores, PCs, etc, but some gems among them:

Last update: Fri Nov 8 15:43:51 2013


Frank da Cruz / fdc@columbia.edu / Columbia University Computing History /