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The Matrix is not a movie with an overdose of realism.

But parts of it take place in the normal "real" world. We see Neo at work in his software company in his cubicle before the Agents come to his workplace to arrest him. Neo is a programmer in his day job. So why does his cubicle not look like a programmer's? Whatever your view of what a programmer's workplace should look like, it should not be a sterile empty cubicle with no sign of any actual activity. There is no paperwork, no notes and no signs of any sort of activity on his desk. There are no reference books, manuals (and this is set before such resources as stackoverflow went online) or any other sign of activity. Moreover, his computer is turned off.

What explains this? Is it meant to mean something, or were the film makers just being lazy?

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I think it's safe to assume that Neo doesn't put too much effort into his day job, and probably does the minimum he can get away with. Notice the contrast between his cubicle and the computer desk in his apartment where he does his "real" work:

enter image description here

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I like this illustration. I'd like to have seen side by side images. –  Andrei Freeman May 11 '12 at 15:19
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As you can see on my SO profile stats, I'm not a terrible programmer.

  • I have zero dead tree books in my cubicle. They are all in electronic format for easier searching.

    On a related note, if you are a programmer and not familiar with O'Reilly Safari, I would strongly recommend you check it out.

  • My monitor (not computer) can be off for 50% of the 2-4 hours a day I spend outside meetings, since I design things and plan on paper (it isn't since I monitor SO feeds, but Matrix was before SO).

  • I don't have a single post it note - just a notebook and a Crackberry to organize.

  • I quit coffee long time ago, and try to keep the desk clear of old tea cups.

  • Pizza boxen go into a data center (of the Sun kind) or garbage (of the food kind), right after pizza is shared, which isn't often. I doubt I have pizza more than 2x/month.

Either I exist in the Matrix, or you're WAY overgeneralizing what a typical slob programmer workplace looks like

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Don't forget the matrix is a recreation of the late 90's - so no electronic books. However I do agree that it is a generalization that programmers are slobs. –  iandotkelly Jan 25 '12 at 0:50
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@iandotkelly - huh? I have had electronic books in USSR back in early 1990s, never mind in USA in late 90s. Electronic books != iStuff –  DVK Jan 25 '12 at 2:28
    
'no books' is perhaps a little overstated, but I hope you see my point. Yes, I am sure you can point to examples of books that were available in the early 90's - in man, tex, word-perfect, pdf - but you cannot claim that they were anywhere near as common as paper books in the late 90's. They are barely more common than paper books now. –  iandotkelly Jan 25 '12 at 2:55
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True. But what if you compare his cubicle to his flat? –  kapa Jan 25 '12 at 8:36
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@AndrewLatham It isn't about having a professional looking desk: its about having a sterile desk where no work appears to take place. It's not tidy it's empty. –  matt_black Jan 25 '12 at 15:39
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In addition to the possibility of a mere oversight on the filmmakers' side, it could also be intentionally. This way it emphasizes the sterile and unrealistic feeling Neo has about the world around him, which plays well with him wearing this average joe suit and the very contrast-less visual style of this scene (or many of the in-matrix-scenes).

Neo is a standard cubicle-drone walking through his 9-to-5-daylife without paying any attention or doing any (considerable) work. Something along those lines maybe.

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Just because Neo works at a software company doesn't mean his cubicle has to look like that. Maybe he works at a software consulting form. He is, after all, wearing a suit. As for the no books, maybe he learns it all at night? He's supposed to be a programming God, remember, so the lack of books just goes along with that.

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God? He couldn't even crack an IRS D-Base!!! Pfeh. –  DVK Feb 25 '12 at 23:04
    
@DVK Awesome programmer != Hacker. I seriously doubt whether Bjarne Stroustrup can hack into anything. –  Bobby Alexander Jul 3 '13 at 2:39
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