No, this is not about an encounter with the Borg in space. It is about S2E4 of American Gods (2017, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green), titled The greatest story ever told. If you don’t know about American Gods, it is a STARZ show telling the stories of ancient gods fighting against modern gods for the worship of humanity. Well, I guess that it is a valid description, certainly not the only one. Regardless, the show is great, a tad odd and very well done, with beautiful pictures and a great cast: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Pablo Schreiber, Ian McShane, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Kahyun Kim, or Gillian Anderson.
E2S4 is an interesting episode because we can spot quite a spread of vintage computers and even some code! Which is absolutely not expected in such a show. In particular, we can spot an Atari Pong console, a first-generation Nintendo Gameboy, an Apple Macintosh Classic, and what must be a no-name PC. Not out of scope though considering that Bruce Langley (Technical Boy) gets his ass handed over by Crispin Glover (Mr. World), after the passing Argus and because he has some difficulties replacing his surveillance skills. Ok, all the good stuff is one thing, but what about the computers and the code spotting?
This brings us back to the post’s title: resistance is futile! [spoiler alert]. The kid’s character playing Pong is an autistic prodigy, pushed by his dad to learn all about music (playing, creating, appreciating, you name it). As the kid grows up, the dad tries really hard to pass down his understanding of perfection, but the kid seems impermeable to it. Once in college, the wiz kid creates a generative algorithm (he writes on the spot some C++ code) and demonstrates the result to his father. The dad is subjugated by his son’s musical creation. Unfortunately, when he understands that the music was not composed by his son but instead by a relative of a toaster, we can see his entire universe collapsing in a single frame. And we can attend his funerals in the very next one. Funny and maybe somehow premonitory…
Regardless, few comments about the production teams work: first, the code obviously leverages threads but at the same time it bears the comment // Make this parallel. Second, the program running on the Macintosh – written on a PC – is odd. Although it shows a player window, the source code seems to be a dump of an export table… I understand the need of the techno vibe, so all this can fit into the episode’s narrative, but a real music score being displayed by the Mac while the algorithm is composing would have been more compelling graphically.