In Neo's apartment in the movie The Matrix (1999) we can see a program on the monitor. The program is constantly searching something. What does it search for and is this program real?

Picture of Neo working at his home computer

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    In general, computer programs seen in Hollywood movies or TVs are not real, but are simply visual elements designed to look like a computer program. They’re digital props. (Of course, there are exceptions, and you do see ubiquitous software packages like Windows or Linux or Google Chrome and so on in movies, but in general if you see a computer program running in a movie or TV show, it’s usually a digital prop, rather than a real piece of software.) Feb 2, 2019 at 3:08
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    Also, because of the fact that you need to precisely synchronize the framerate of the monitor with the shutter of the camera, otherwise you get nasty flickering and rolling effects, it is often easier to just leave the monitor off and copy in some graphics later. Feb 2, 2019 at 3:15

3 Answers 3


Based on the first words we can read during this scene, Neo is searching online papers for Morpheus.

enter image description here

The first time we get a good look at the computer screen, we can read 'Searching...' as part of the used software, and the large header 'Global Search', before it scrolls to 'Morpheus eludes Police at Heathrow Airport'. The last entry we see has the caption '******** (Morpheus?) International Manhunt Underway'.

enter image description here

The picture of Morpheus is actually superimposed (as can be easily seen in the video): it can either be a saved result, or a search parameter.

screenshot of The Matrix, showing results of Neo's searching algorithm

The algorithm is searching globally: the first characters, barely visible, are Chinese, the second search result is in English, the third is from An-Nahar, a "leading Arabic-language daily newspaper published in Lebanon", and later on it's browsing 'The Courier Press'.

As for whether it is an existing program or not, sources are hard to be found, leading me to believe it is not an existing program. This would make sense, since Neo is an accomplished hacker, "guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for" (as agent Smith phrases it), who might want to skip the user-friendly GUI's of established operating systems.
A similar question is on Fantasy SE, here, and the bottomline is that if this software were existing, it was probably well-documented.

Nevertheless, the monospace font can be identified as (very similar to) OCR Extended:

enter image description here


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    I would not describe this application as "skip[ing] the user friendly GUIs." lol. Building a UI that flashes images by like that would be net work for very little benefit. But artistic license, I suppose.
    – jpmc26
    Feb 1, 2019 at 19:50
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    Actually quite weird. There was not that much info online in '99 as I remember and pulling it in and processing it with a PC would have been hair-raisingly slow and expensive. Better to visit the archive of newspapers (What would "the two Kevins" have used? Nothing; they would have picked up the phone to perform social engineering or would have performed dumpster diving). But the pic is my new wallpaper. Feb 1, 2019 at 20:55
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    I have yet to see any movie show an accurate depiction of software development or "hacking", but such a depiction would make for a very boring movie. Few programmers would go to trouble of putting in all the flashy graphics and animations you see in movies, but they sure are a lot more exciting to watch!
    – Seth R
    Feb 1, 2019 at 22:49
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    @DavidTonhofer, ah, but all the newspapers were inside the Matrix anyway, so technically ALL of that info was online. ;)
    – Wildcard
    Feb 2, 2019 at 0:06
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    We have to keep in mind that this movie came out about six months after Google was founded. I don't know how many here are old enough to remember, but there was absolutely no such software around at the time. The lucky ones might have had a backbone internet connection through a university at a couple of MBps, but anyone in a crappy apartment like Neo's would be lucky to have 56k or maybe a 128k ISDN line. Pulling and searching mass raster scans of newspapers like that would have taken days or months of download and compute time. There just wasn't anything like that around at all.
    – J...
    Feb 2, 2019 at 18:57

The matrix script simply describes it as a search engine.

The DARKNESS CRACKLES with phosphorescent energy, the word "searching" blazing in around us as we EMERGE FROM a computer screen.

The screen flickers with windowing data as a search engine runs with a steady relentless rhythm.

I would assume it was not a real bit of software but something created for the film to appear like it is searching.

As for what Neo is searching for, the script doesn't say but we could guess, based on the events that follow, it is performing a task for a client or crawling the internet for either Morpheus or The Matrix. My reasoning for the latter is what Neo and Trinity talk about when they meet.

TRINITY I know because I was once looking for the same thing, but when he found me he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer.

There is a hypnotic quality to her voice and Neo feels the words, like a drug, seeping into him.

TRINITY It's the question that drives us, the question that brought you here. You know the question just as I did.

NEO What is the Matrix?


It can only be assumed he's doing port scans to find computers with open ports so he can hack into them. Despite that fact that the film was released in 1999, due to the sets it's difficult to determine if the film is actually set in 1999. He appears to be using Nmap to port scan, and at one point Trinity is trying to get an exit and she is definitely using Nmap to communicate with Tank.

It should be noted that any scenes where you see Matrix code (i.e. the green characters falling down the screen), that is definitely not legitimate code. That's all computer generated and a custom font meant to resemble Kanji.

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    Well, technically it's set hundreds of years after 1999. But within the matrix, it is 1999. Feb 1, 2019 at 19:38
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    @Acccumulation Maybe Neo found an unfiltered port into a Real-World archive full of material about In-Matrix Player Characters and didn't know what he had? Feb 1, 2019 at 21:09
  • @DavidTonhofer write it up! I'm looking forward to watching it in a few years... ;-)
    – uhoh
    Feb 2, 2019 at 23:54

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