What does the Native American Chief symbol mean in the Hackers movie from 1995?

How is it connected with hacker culture?

Or is it just a coincidence?


I'm a little bit confused.

When you are watching the Hackers movie you can see a that a symbol of a Native American Chief shows up from time to time:

  • The hackers watch the Hack The Planet show at 00:31:32. The hackers watch the Hack The Planet show at 00:31:32.

  • When Dade watches TV at 00:06:55. Dade watches TV at 00:06:55.

At first I thought that it is just a really cool logo of a TV station or something like this. However, there is a series of workshops for programmers (at the University I attend) and their posters look like this:

So I decided to do some research on the Internet but search engines didn't show me anything useful when I typed "native american chief hacker symbol" in as you might expect.

  • There is a bit of a connection with programming through Apache software. Back in the day, it was much used for website hosting (both professional and a free private version), and is therefore a well established concept. (And to be pedantically complete, the Apache were also a native American tribe, in case you didn't know) That poster you linked may be alluding to this. However, for the Hackers movie specifically, I think the provided answer is correct; there is no direct link.
    – Flater
    Jul 14, 2017 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


This has nothing to do with Hackers. It's a common TV test pattern.

The Indian-head test pattern is a black and white television test pattern which was introduced in 1939 by RCA of Harrison, New Jersey as a part of the RCA TK-1 monoscope. Its name comes from the original art of a Native American featured on the card. It was widely used by television stations worldwide during the black and white TV broadcasting era before 1970.

It became obsolete after the transition to color TV, but appears on Hackers since it precedes an old Outer Limits episode from the 60s. The test card is occasionally displayed or referenced in other films and shows for its nostalgic value.

enter image description here

  • 6
    Test cards are one of those things that slowly died out and nobody really noticed. In the past, when a TV station experienced a technical fault getting the source video, it would put up a test pattern. Now, it's more rare presumably because they have systems that can play filler shows. Before videotape was common this was literally a card they have a camera pointed at, though after that it was an image generated by an analog test pattern generator. Different countries have wildly different test patterns, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_card
    – T. Rutter
    Oct 17, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    @T.Rutter i recall they would also show the "technical difficulties" pattern when things when horribly wrong in non-technical way...
    – Michael
    Oct 17, 2015 at 17:54
  • The assertion in Wikipedia that this was used worldwide seems wrong. Oct 18, 2015 at 10:24
  • Depends on your definition of the word. The article does specify that it was used not only in the U.S. but also Canada, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Mexico, Sweden and Brazil.
    – Walt
    Oct 18, 2015 at 13:31
  • 1
    @Tom, no, it didn't. I asked the e-point company about it. It is just a cool poster with a cool Native American chief. Oct 20, 2015 at 14:56

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