1. AwesomeTingle
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    AwesomeTingle Member

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    How do you make a computer scary?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AwesomeTingle, Apr 7, 2011.

    I'm currently writing a sci-fi story, in which a computer goes self reliant and turns evil. This has been done many times, with some great examples like Hal 9000. But, how can you really make the reader scared of that computer? How do you frighten someone with a fictional machine?
    Thanks
     
  2. Enerzeal
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    Enerzeal Member

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    Grab a copy of System Shock 2, deep in space the player wakes up on a huge ship with amnesia, your enemy just so happens to be shodan, an AI which has gone insane and believes its self to be a god.

    Machines are usually considered cold calculating and ruthless. Nothing scares me more than a terminator without its skin.
     
  3. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Put all of your life into it, your books and stories, your homework, your photos, your home videos, your diary... and then have it crash.
     
  4. xzdollfacexz
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    xzdollfacexz New Member

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    "Put all of your life into it, your books and stories, your homework, your photos, your home videos, your diary... and then have it crash."

    Lol. That's pretty effin scary. No backups or anything. *shudder*

    Hmm, how about it turning on when he turns it off? Or it could flash screens of red, or something scurry. I had a computer once whose harddrive made weird popping noises. I think a definite way for my laptop to scare me would be not doing what I commanded it, seeming like it has a mind of it's own, etc. Think 'Christine' of cars, maybe?
     
  5. bumblebot
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    bumblebot Senior Member

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    What does the computer control? Is it a regular desktop? Hal is so scary because of how much power he has, so an average home computer is going to be a different kind of villain to develop. If it is just a home computer, What is it's motivation and who is at its mercy? Potentially, to start out, it could ruin its victim's life by sending horrible things to all their contacts, performing illegal activities online, refusing to be shut down, maybe playing loud sounds in the middle of the night. Beyond that, I'm not sure what my home computer could do to actually hurt me without being mobile.
     
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  6. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Hrm, I personally find dealing with Windows and Internet Explorer pretty scary... So maybe just make a computer with all MS products? :p
     
  7. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Try to understand how computers think. Even believing that they are non-sentient.....


    The camera and microphone are as equal to them as the keyboard and mouse. Not only do they think in absolutes of 1 and 0, but the glittering darkness of cyberspace is more interesting than the stimulus from where their motherboard resides; the stimulus of keyboard and mouse, and perhaps other peripherals that provide pulses that have name without meaning.

    The umbilical is a router/modem combination, and only half the users have machines that share a router. Those that share a router are aware of each other, but on what level?

    It's mind-boggling to share a space with something that has a thought-process so alien that analog creatures can only hope to understand. Those that do understand the binary have trouble relating the process to their fellow analogs.





    Sorry, I've been stuck on how a right-brained person who could have fixed a decade-old computer would explain the computer thought-process to a wizard from an alternate dimension. That's assuming that she broke into a quasi-Azimov quote about technology being magic unexplained. She finally stares into space and remarks, "Wow, that is pretty ****ed up," and probably lapsing into a comment about being glad that machines aren't actually sentient enough to truly be annoyed at humanity, though her own computers like to pretend.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep changing the linux distribution and interfaces on it so next time your wife turns it on she has no idea what she is doing :) Thank is scary to any technophobe like myself when the blasted won't turn on or it does something different to the last time you turned it on (try being a technophobe married to a geek).
     
  9. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Take the example of the movie Eagle Eye. All the things that happened were because of a computer....scary...very scary....Eee!
     
  10. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    I'm trying to imagine myself getting scared by a computer. Keep in mind that I have just dismantled an LCD screen to re-solder a capacitor tomorrow. Not exactly a computer, but once you have all the bits and pieces lying around and you know what they do, it's hard to get scared. ;)

    I guess the most important part is to keep the computer "faceless". Like I say, if you see the box, open it up, and find the usual array of circuit boards etc., it's just a machine that probably can't even move. Let the computer send weird emails, manipulate billboards, tv networks, whatever, to broadcast its message. Let it hack into elevators, toasters, industrial machinery, and generally cause mayhem.

    Or... give it eight legs and a furry skin. :p
     
  11. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Completely off-topic.... imagine being a geek and having your job forcibly remove you from your spouse who thinks like a geek but doesn't have the mental capacity to actually understand the technology.

    I mention "voiding the warranty" on a machine he gifted to me a month ago, and he conveys begging by email. The issue in question means either completely dissembling the machine and involving a soldering iron to make the mod look seamless, or non-invasively duct-taping the components to the outside.
     
  12. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Are you asking for advice? :)

    I think I'd have to know what sort of machine it is (and whether or not you can use a soldering iron), but I generally always prefer total disassembly. Did that with a couple of laptop computers and - as mentioned above - my LCD screen. Though, mind you, the LCD screen is not yet working again. Still waiting for tomorrow.
     
  13. AwesomeTingle
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    AwesomeTingle Member

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    Just to clarify: In my story, it is a man on a spaceship, who managed to survive an explosion, which killed the rest of the crew. Lightyears away from any help, He is the only survivor, except for the ship's AI computer. He suspects the explosion was due to alien terrorism, or something like that. As the story progresses, he finds that it was sabotage by the computer. Then the computer tries to kill him... or something like that, I'm not totally sure yet.
    Thanks everyone for your suggestions!
     
  14. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    You make a computer scary the same way you make anything scary; you make it a Shadow.

    A Shadow is one of the archetypes discovered by Carl Jung. It haunts our dreams starting at about age two. It is the bogeyman, the thing under the bed, the monster in the closet. It is simply fear.

    A Shadow is:
    1. always out there,
    2. always watching,
    3. always one step ahead (of the protagonist),
    4. and always seeming to be planning the hero's demise.
     
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  15. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Oh, I'd definately play the MC being able to adjust enough to the computer's viewpoint that he's able to form an argument that works in the cyberspace-wetware bridge.


    As far as dealing with a spouse that buys you an e-machine when a tablet was specifically requested.... mentioning the upgrade kit is aggressive for me. Other than using my laptop in only vertical-mode when he is around, and forsaking the keyboard in favor of hooking up an intuos I that is bigger than the machine, I'm not sure how much more passive-aggressive I can make it.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    think 'demon seed'!
     
  17. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Start thinking of hte similarities between a computer and a human being.

    Your DNA is an organic program. Your nerves are wires. Your brain is the CPU or harddrive. Your body is a living memory card.

    You could go even further and think like in the Matrix. You are a breathing, walking, talking battery.
     
  18. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Good idea :)
     
  19. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    Make it electrocute the living hell out of someone drinking at a water fountain! Make it murder a baby; graphically! Make it have someone commit a fake suicide, and then people find out it was a fake suicide! Show us that it's pure eeeeevillll(Emphasis on the 'i':))!

    Ruthlessness is usually something that is defined as pure evil.
     
  20. Boriol
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    Boriol Member

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    Glados, from Portal. :::SPOILERS::: She had a sense of humor, but it was sick. A lot of it revolved around your death, especially the last testing level, where she stuck you on a moving platform, promised you cake, and set the platform on track for a pit of fire. Afterward, you destroy her piece by piece while she floods the chamber with deadly neurotoxins and tells you how worthless you are and how nobody will miss you when you're dead.

    I think--I'm not 100% positive--that giving even computer characters a good personality, with just enough good points to make it feasible and not just "Rar, I'm gonna kill you!"
     
  21. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    maybe you become obsessed with it. you start to become isolated and spend more and more time with it. if you go out, you take it with you.

    you even talk to it. you already gave it a name

    it can get bizarre. you start bringing it to the dinner table and your families like WTF? they begin to worry but you begin to get angry over their prying. you defend your computer.

    you have a dreams, both dark and light.

    i guess it could even talk to you, so you think. the person is completely imagining this. it is an illusion in their minds, but the computer comes alive to them. it loves her. she sleeps with it and gives it a hug good night.

    and then, of course, when the family comes in to tear them apart. knife-time. for most of the story, the computer seems be be steadily crawling into her until she is lost in it and then it begins to direct her. the roles of used and user are switched
     
  22. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    The computer would me more afraid of me at that point, I assure you. Think Jigsaw if one of his victims ever got a hold of him.
     
  23. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    true. but you like the computer, you don't want to hurt it. in fact, your willing to hurt others for it.
     
  24. ChilliumNitrate-Dead
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    ChilliumNitrate-Dead New Member

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    Computers, as viewed by fanatics, tend to be shown as having slight human characteristics. In the theme of making one scary, make it have nothing but human-like characteristics. Physically, it is still a square box full of data. The way it communicates, however, can make everyone around it think that there is truly a person in pain trapped within the machine. They would then be sympathetic, an' get withing range of the evil comp to kill them brutally.
     
  25. EricaJRothwell
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    EricaJRothwell Active Member

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    We are scared of the unknown. Of things that happen that don't seem to have a rational explanation behind them.
    I don't know what kind of computer you mean but I'm just imagining an ordinary desktop or laptop. You could have things happen that the user didn't command it to do, for instance, turning on in the middle of the night, bringing up disturbing programs or internet articles when he's working, flashing words across the screen, if it has a built in webcam have the indicator light turn on and make out like it's watching him - he could be going through his webcam videos and find videos of him in his room doing random things that he didn't film!
     

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