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
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
to slither the streets of Los Angeles.
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
In recent e-mails to and from
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
old Ally Sheedy was a lust object second only to the Imsai 8080").
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
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!
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.
"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
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
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.
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
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".
The "Voice" of
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.
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.
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!)...
"Rosie the Robot" (from
television's historic animated series "The Jetsons")...
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
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:
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.
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."
commercial that was filmed in Los Angeles. Photos and more on
the story will