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a computer in Severance

Is this computer, as in hardware, fictional? It has a very strange keyboard layout.

Everything with the computers is wrong, given the high-tech background of Lumon Industries.

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    "Wrong" is very subjective: can you expand on that?
    – Joachim
    Jan 8, 2023 at 10:17
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    @Joachim, resolution is very low, color is black / white, keyboard arrow keys are next to the mouse ball, display is CRT, display does not take up all the space (there is a addtional space to the right of display), there is a handle to the right of the monitor.
    – Yu Zhang
    Jan 8, 2023 at 11:20
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    You could just swap the word 'wrong' for 'anachronistic' or 'antiquated' & preserve the overall meaning of the question.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 8, 2023 at 13:54
  • @Joachim You just know when something wrong. You see it, and you can feel that there's something not right about it. Jan 13, 2023 at 3:16

3 Answers 3

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They're props, but the design is based on a real terminal screen/keyboard from the 70's

The entire design premise of the show is based on an uncertainty of where we are in time.

"We wanted to confuse the viewer about whether this is a period piece, contemporary, or the future."

The "Lumon Industries" terminals are based on the Data General Dasher D2 or D3 terminals (circa 1977/1979), but, according to production designer Jeremy Hindle and set decorator Andrew Baseman, "any single brand of computer would be too identifiable for viewers".

“We brought in every imaginable desktop we could think of. [...] We made a computer that, if it ever came out in the real world and the engineers described what they were doing, no one would believe them. It’s a cathode-ray tube, but it’s a touchscreen. It has a trackball. We recognize some aspects of it, and some not at all.”
The contradictory qualities are supposed to be baffling but also a bit amusing. “It doesn’t look like an adult high-tech computer,” Baseman added. “It looks like a toy.”

Quote from Keyboard Builders' Digest / Keyboard Spotting - Severance terminal itself quoted from Vulture - The Stories Behind Severance’s Eerie Office Design

I chose this particular one because underneath it has…

u/gza-genius posted some photos with the title:

My buddy made the keyboards in Apple TV’s “Severence”

enter image description here

enter image description here

…and as some else noted, "There's no Escape." Quite fitting.

Original Dasher D2, for comparison…

enter image description here enter image description here

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    Not seen the show but love that the designers gave nods to so many of the computers and terminals of yesteryear but also infusing the modern era. Nice details. The kind of prop/concept that would be fun to work on. Jan 8, 2023 at 13:35
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    Cathode-ray with a touchscreen and a trackball is fairly normal for some naval computers...
    – fectin
    Jan 8, 2023 at 18:44
  • Are you talking about the aspect ratio of the overall enclosure? The aspect ratio of the screen itself is squatter than 4:3, not wider. Jan 8, 2023 at 21:47
  • I've dropped the 4:3 paragraph because when you actually measure them, after a perspective crop, they're nearly the same - both very slightly wider than a 4:3 aspect. The cases makes them look more different than they really are.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 9, 2023 at 9:37
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    @Criggie - I'd noticed the prop screen looks flat whereas the one from the show looks curved. Whether that's CGI or they added a curved glass front, we may never know. It's not important whether the screen actually has any touch facility, or even that there's any 'computer' in there at all. Usually things like this are just playing video, so precise timing can be achieved, take after take if necessary.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 10, 2023 at 10:29
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No. According to this interview in the New York Times, it was a custom designed prop. However, it was inspired by vintage and classic computer designs from the 80s and earlier. In particular, the Data General Dasher:

A Data General Dasher D200. A low and boxy screen with a curved shrouding cover sits behind a boxy keyboard

The museum which the product designer probably visited to get inspiration seems to have a slightly different Dasher with a monitor that looks more like what they used in the show:

A Dasher with a large rectangular monitor. The screen itself is square and offset to the left. It is mounted on a brack stand allowing the monitor to be angled up and down

As for the odd keyboard design in the show, while the Dasher seen above has something more familiar to modern computer users, but it wouldn't be unusual for various computers throughout history to have certain customisations to fit specific requirements. It's really only since the late 80s and early 90s that computers and keyboards became highly standardised and generalised (though there are still custom layouts).

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    It was the Dasher D2, i.e your second image, which is not a prop, it's a real Dasher.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 8, 2023 at 10:02
  • @Tetsujin It's possibly an original monitor - though there are subtle differences between the museum piece and the monitor in the show. The keyboard is custom, though.
    – HorusKol
    Jan 8, 2023 at 10:09
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    Your picture is definitely a real Dasher. The screen is a different ratio to the one in the show too. The show's keyboard has no 10-key or command block, but an additional trackball.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 8, 2023 at 10:11
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They're custom-designed by the prop department, but they're "real" in that they're fully functional computers that the actors actually use on-set. Per The Verge:

Hindle says that the computers are functional and that the actors are really messing with numbers on screen during the show. The machines also went through multiple revisions before production began to get the size just right (among other things), so that they were large enough to be a focal point but small enough to not obscure the actors or interfere with their eyelines.

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