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IN THE MOVIES


Hit Counter    rev. 09/21/13

Everything you want to know and more about the 1983 MGM film "WarGames"

Turner Classic Movies featured "WarGames" as one their choices for the "31 Days of Oscar" program during February of 2008.  Every time I watch this I find something new!  Director John Badham packed a lot of fun in his brilliant take on the original script.  Watch it again if you haven't seen it in a while!

Want to build your own WOPR replica, or buy one ready-made?  
Consideration to offer full-size plans, materials, and drawings for building a copy of the original 1982 film prop (based on scaling and construction details of the "AT&T replica W.O.P.R.") is being assessed.  Materials list and construction notes will make this set of plans a fulfillment of requests we have received over the years from folks with a "different" sense of reality!

A fully functional half-scale version of the original prop is currently in the design and sourcing phase.  Additionally, contacts and sourcing are in the works with experienced Hollywood prop craftsmen who can supply the cabinetry.  We plan on supplying graphics, sheet metal and hardware, lighting controller, and requisite "Good JuJu".  E-mail if you're interested .

WOPR Replica Missing... or Stolen!

 

The W.O.P.R. Replica built for the AT&T commercial two years ago sold on eBay May 28, 2008 for $1,567.00. 

Addendum:  The story of the WarGames replica W.O.P.R. is gaining even further intrigue! 


 

Backstory:  In consideration of what I have photographed at the time of the original AT&T commercial shoot two years ago, experienced first-hand, and have been informed of since the original "WarGames" 1982 shoot, I believe the story of the W.O.P.R. replica might prove to be far more interesting than that of the original prop which was scrapped shortly after the 1982 filming of "WarGames". 

Although the cabinetry for the replica was executed in a professional commercial display manner, the installation of inaccurate LED lighting and a cheesy 10-channel controller to light them gave an unconvincing imitation of the original.  I was offered the opportunity of hauling this particular item off after the 2006 commercial shoot where I provided the original "WarGames IMSAI" and related props.  I declined the offer due to the bulk, some cosmetic damage incurred during the shoot, less-than-convincing value, and consideration of the space required to store such a prop.

I was first contacted via e-mail in May by one "Marco", who informed me in non-native English that "they" had it.  Something very clandestine and slimy came to mind as this individual was unable or unwilling to give me any information as to how "they" acquired it after the shoot, and where it was located.  It almost seemed that "they" were holding it as hostage, thinking I might dig deep into my pot of gold to provide ransom!  I was soon provided a grainy set of still images and a link to youtube for a short video showing it in operation, presumably in the dank recesses of its current resting place.  Evidence of peeling laminate and deterioration so predictable was prominent, and my initial reaction that it might be better served by shoveling landfill over the remains!

The prop later popped up on eBay, so I informed the Dutch contact of this fact.  He was ultimately the successful eBay bidder for the replica W.O.P.R.  At his request I made contact with the Seller, a seemingly affable man who told me he had no direct contact or influence with the original construction efforts of early 2006 for the AT&T "Voices" commercial campaign.  According to his story, he had rented space in his building for the original construction crew who apparently built, then ultimately abandoned this prop recently in lieu of rent. 

The Dutch buyer contracted for me to travel to Los Angeles to collect the prop, bring it back to my home near Sacramento, document it, prepare and crate it for shipping, then take it to a Shipping Agent for shipment to Holland where it would reside and be made available 24-hours a day via webcam.

I left home with my truck and trailer around midnight of August 6 in order to drive the 450 miles to L.A. where I was to meet the Seller and arrange to collect the prop.  Unable to reach the Seller despite a number of calls to his cell phone, I left messages stating that I would be there early Wednesday morning.  I finally reached him around 9:00 AM and told him I was parked close to where he told me the prop was stored.  He could not (or would not!) remember the street address, but told me he would be down in about 45 minutes.

I had earlier been in touch with Academy Award Winner ("The Golden Compass") Michael Fink  who was Special Effects Supervisor on the 1983 production of "WarGames", and he agreed to meet me to swap stories and to get some photos of us together with the W.O.P.R.  He was even able to get his son to join us as a stand-in for the younger Mike Fink to recreate the pose Mike took while crammed inside the original W.O.P.R. with an Apple ][ in his lap and a 9" monitor in front of him, as Director John Badham had him key control input for display of the one-of-a-kind fluorescent display that served as the W.O.P.R.'s countdown clock.

Mike and his son would not be there until around 11:30 AM, so I continued to try to contact the Seller without success.  Mike and his son showed up on time and we spent several hours in the parking area where I waited.  We shared many stories of our respective involvement with production of "WarGames", I brought along the original "IMSAI 212A MODEM", as well as my collection of original communication with Mandy Films, MGM, and other provenance.  I also showed Mike and his son images I took of the W.O.P.R. during the AT&T commercial shoot.  This was the first time we had ever met face to face, and it was truly joyful and rewarding experience for all of us.

Shortly after Mike and his son left, the Seller called me back and said that he couldn't get there until 6:00 PM.  I had no choice but to continue to stay where I had been for the past 5 hours and wait it out.  As 7:00 PM arrived and still a no-show, I called and left a message yet again.  At around 7:30 PM he called back and told me that "the landlord of the building where the W.O.P.R. was stored had changed the locks and demanded $600 for back rent, that he didn't have the money, and I could not get the W.O.P.R. that night."

I was furious that he had lied to me and kept me strung out for over 11 hours!  I told him that I would let the Dutch Buyer know and hung up.  I was determined to drive back to Sacramento immediately, despite having been up for 20 hours and facing a 7-hour drive home.  I finally arrived home around 3 AM, tired and disgusted, and e-mailed the Buyer later that morning of the situation.

At this point we must conclude that the W.O.P.R. is missing and presumed stolen.  The possibility also exists that the Seller resold it to another after being paid by the original purchaser.  The Dutch group is pursuing matters from their end, and I will provide whatever support I can here in California.  It is hoped that we can successfully recover this item and resolve this issue.  Meanwhile, a dirt bag named "W.O.P.R. Michael Webb" continues to slither the streets of Los Angeles.

Update: 2-2-2011:  The remains of the W.O.P.R. replica built for the 2006 AT&T commercial shoot have surfaced!  More on the details and disposition are forthcoming as details are worked out for its recovery!

 

Punk'd by Wired-  I completed delivery of the "WarGames IMSAI" and related props (including the loan of an IMSAI FDC2-2 floppy disk drive from my good friend Sellam Ismail at www.vintage.org) for Wired Magazine's August edition coverage of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the original release.  Despite promise of reimbursement for my expenses in delivering the props to their Oakland, California photographer's studio for the shoot, and especially credits in the magazine, neither happened. 

In recent e-mails to and from Wired's representative Daniel Salo:

Hi Tom,
 Sellam's credit (vintagetech.com) is on page 142 (on the right-hand side), and the higher ups felt that Imsai was properly credited due to the multiple mentions it receives in the photo caption and throughout the issue ("20-year old Ally Sheedy was a lust object second only to the Imsai 8080").

-D


Hello Daniel-

I have to be honest and say "We got screwed by Wired".  Had the typeface been a point smaller, or the binding a fraction tighter, Sellam's stipulated credit would be completely unreadable.  As for me, I think your "higher-ups" have their collective heads higher-up their asses.  Getting stiffed for my expenses in helping keep your production costs down by delivering the equipment to your photographer in Oakland is insult enough.

But to not get credit or mention that my firm is still active and not an ancient anecdote is an affront that I don't take casually.  Especially when I recall giving my business card to your co-worker to ensure proper credit!

 

Hello Daniel-

Despite your seemingly earnest concern, I still have to go back to your earlier e-mail where you state :

"Don't worry, I'll make sure you and Sellam are properly credited.
Thank you both for all your help!
-D"

I'm worried as well as greatly disappointed in how neglectful your firm has handled this entire matter which could have turned out so much better for all of us.

Regards,

-Thomas Fischer

 

"Tom and Sellam,

I'm very sorry you feel this way.  You know how much your efforts meant to us, and even though it is against our policy to credit any website, I fought for vintagetech and succeeded.  The only other place we give credit for any art in the magazine is on the bottom of the page, which is only reserved for commissioned art.
In the only transaction we had regarding giving credit, I obeyed your request.  Please see below:

"Make sure Wired gives VintageTech appropriate credit!  I'm not expending too much energy here for this loan but as you said it's a good opportunity to get our collective names & identities out there.  I know how these media characters work: they are absorbed in their own duties and obligations and often forget to give credit where it's due, so please impress on them that I would be very chagrinned, very chagrinned indeed,  if they did not credit VintageTech - http://www.vintagetech.com (yes, the URL included) for the hardware loan."

Initially, I put in the whole URL in the credit line, but our Copy Chief would only do it if we removed the http.  It was the only way of getting in the credit, so I took it.

Being that this was the only discussion between you and I about crediting, there was no mention of crediting imsai.net.

Regarding reimbursement, your invoice was submitted to corporate and is being processed. Unfortunately it's past business hours on the East coast, but I will provide a status update for your tomorrow morning."

Reimbursement eventually came in the form of a check without the previous "hoop in front of me to jump through".  Next time media knocks on my door, I'm getting a contract in writing, and so is Sellam!

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary DVD digital release of Wargames
I just received my copy of the new special 25th Anniversary wide-screen edition DVD of the film WARGAMES from Fox Home Entertainment.  It is a real treasure, packed with behind-the-scenes stories and detail on the making and production of this true film classic.  I had thought the earlier Director's Cut DVD would be the pinnacle of promotion for this 25-year old classic, but the wizards of Hollywood seem to have devised something even greater!  Release date of the DVD version of the film was July 29 .  The IMSAI 8080 and related props get some great coverage and exposure in the Special Features add-ons too!  An added bonus is a "WarGames" Screen Saver that uses images originally created for the Crystal Palace war room display sequences.  While never a fan of screen savers, this one hooked me!  Well worth the street price for a remastered version of a great film.

LATEST NEWS-  Wired Magazine did a spread for their August 2008 issue on the 25th anniversary of the film "WarGames", and their people asked me to drag out the old props and provide them for a photo shoot in Oakland, California.  I'm always a sucker for publicity, so complied!  Who'da thunk?  I was skeptical back in 1982 of the original concept but went along willingly.  Most folks don't know the story of how I created the forerunner of Proctor and Gamble's "Bounce" fabric softener sheets in 1971, nor my creation of the first generation design for PianoDisc, possibly the best piano player/recorder system in the world today way back in 1987.  But they do know me as the man who provided Matthew Broderick's "Bedroom co-star" in the 1983 film "WarGames". 

History Correction:  The "Voice" of "Joshua"-  

In the early version of the "WarGames" script, the W.O.P.R. prop was the military executive mainframe responsible for the parsing and decisive coding necessary to resolve scenarios presented to it.  A common misconception exists about the "voice" of "Joshua", reference to Professor Falken's deceased son.  The script implies that each computer used in those scenes where we hear the "voice" has a voice synthesis capability.  Today's skeptics overlook the possibility that a common voice protocol and parsing platform MIGHT have existed at the time.  For Heaven's Sakes, People... suspend disbelief and remember, this is a movie!

How the effect was generated has been the subject of speculation and assumptions rather than reality.  No, the actual sound heard was not produced using a VOTRAX, CompuTalker, or other computerized voice synthesizer of the period as some folks believe.  I reviewed my Director's Cut DVD version of "WarGames", listening and taking notes on the Special Feature commentary of writers Larry Lasker and Walter Parks, joined by Director John Badham in preparation for an upcoming photo shoot of the original "WarGames IMSAI" and related props.

James Ackerman is listed on the film credits as "Joshua".  Some folks and web sites interpret that as meaning the "voice" of Joshua, rather than the child actor seen in the simulated historical film clip depicting the assumed deceased Falken in an earlier time.  "Joshua" was the password that character David Lightman intuits and subsequently uses to gain access to the W.O.P.R. mainframe.  The child actor's name is James Ackerman, obviously too young to have voiced the special effects sound track at the time.

Director John Badham states in the commentary that the actor voicing the raw content that was later modified for the computerized effect was John Wood (the Falken character), reading the script word-for-word in reverse order in order to portray a "flat quality" with limited inflection.  That raw audio was then edited and re-assembled after being run through audio processing equipment to achieve the desired effect.

Verdict-  The "voice" of "Joshua" never existed per se.  Joshua is the name of Falken's deceased son, and was Falken's original  password into the "back-door" of the W.O.P.R. mainframe.  The highly modified "voice" was created by the Sound Effects Department from the vocalizations of actor John Wood.





 A commercial for AT&T's "Voices" campaign was launched in March 2006, filmed on the grounds of Playa Vista Studios, former site of one of Howard Hughes' immense airplane assembly hangars (a few miles north the Los Angeles International Airport), where some of the most memorable technical props in modern film history were assembled for a major commercial shoot. 

 

I provided the original "WarGames IMSAI" (and related props), which is featured in a starring role along with "Robby the Robot" from the classic 1956 MGM film "Forbidden Planet"  (uh... that's me on the left!)...

http://mrl.nyu.edu/~perlin/experiments/rosie/

"Rosie the Robot"
(from television's historic animated series "The Jetsons")...




and "K.I.T.T.", the intelligent talking Pontiac from the "Knight Rider" television series in AT&T's commercial campaign.  More photos and story coming up as soon! 

The commercial clip can be found on YouTube here.

The original film release of "Forbidden Planet" in 1956 was one of my absolute favorites.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I might someday share Robby's space in place of the lovely Anne Francis, as shown in the following image:

PLUS! ...

... the answer to one of the most asked-about items


 "What happened to the W.O.P.R.?"

Short answer is that it was scrapped shortly after filming of the original movie.  The back story of the W.O.P.R as depicted in the original film can be found here.

BUT...

3/18/2006  NOTE-  A reproduction of the original 1982 W.O.P.R. prop has been made and is featured with the "WarGames IMSAI", "Robbie the Robot", "Rosie the Robot" (from television's "The Jetsons"), and "K.I.T.T." in an AT&T commercial that was filmed in Los Angeles.  Photos and more on the story will post shortly)