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"Desk Set" (1957)

We saw an awesome old movie last night.  "Desk Set" with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

The movie came out in 1957 and takes place around the same year. She works as the head of (a major TV network)'s research division and he works for IBM and is going to replace her entire department with a computer that will store all the facts and figures of the world.  It is very proto-Google.

The movie is morely about office life. The computer doesn't appear until the very end.

The depiction of office life would be shocking to most people today. She is dating her boss, people smoke at work, and the phone system is, well, how phone systems used to be. Katherine Hepburn is the smartest person in the office, but has a lower position than the executives even though she could do their jobs easily.

There's a great scene where Hepburn demonstrates the use of mnemonics as a way of improving ones ability to memorize random facts. As a mnemonics user, it was great to see how they portray it.

(Related post on my EverythingSysadmin blog)

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David Blank-Edelman used "Desk Set" in one of his LISA talks years back about how SysAdmins are portrayed in movies & TV. I loved the clips.

When I got home I was telling ted_badger about this great old movie I saw clips from, describing the plot and he say something like, "oh yeah, that's Desk Set, I love that movie".

Very tangentially ...

I don't use mnemonics much, because I often have more trouble remembering the mnemonic than the thing it's supposed to help me remember. (The only one I use often enough to count is, "On old Olympus' towering top, a Finn and German viewed some hops," and even that doesn't come up more than a couple times a year for me, if that.) I do occasionally bring up mnemonics I don't use but somehow manage to remember, to share with folks who find them more useful (they are, after all, a great tool for a lot of people who aren't me), or as trivia to toss into conversations (I've long been amused by the "How I need a drink ..." mnemonic even though I wind up needing to reconstruct it by first remembering digits it stands for and then re-attaching words to them).

But I was amused at the final question on last night's Jeopardy: they provided an unfamiliar-to-me mnemonic and asked for the scientist who created the system the mnemonic was for. I immediately recognized what the mnemonic was for by the familiar pattern of first letters, even though I'd never seen that particular version ("Kings play chess on fine grained sand") before. (I've always heard the "King Phillip..." version.) This amused me even more than knowing which scientist they meant.

Note that there are plenty of things where I can't remember the mnemonic or the raw information ... *sigh*

That said, since I'm dealing with a pile of resistors and a solderless breadboard and am oh so incredibly out of practice at reading resistor colour bands, I may try re-learning a mnemonic for that until I get back to being able to just look at the colours and see them as digits. (I was at that point once, briefly, long, long ago, but didn't maintain the skill for long enough for it to stick.)

+1 for loving "Desk Set". I used to be utterly unable to stop watching it if I happened to spy it while flipping channels.

it is very awesome

but, i wouldn't say it's mostly about office life

i found it to be an amazing view on how folks react to technology

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