When the film Jurassic Park came out, and I saw that scene where Ariana Richards is sitting in front of the computer and says;

This is a Unix system. I know this. It's the files for the whole park. It's like a phone book - -it tells you everything.

I've always wondered. Is that silly 3D interface they show on the monitor actually real? Was there a 3D file navigator for Unix back in 1993.

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    Ah ah ah, you didn't say the magic word Jan 30, 2013 at 0:47
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    IMHO, the best Unix file browser in 1993 was on NeXTSSTEP and is what is on today's MacOS, but I guess for the general public the one in the picture looks better. Jan 30, 2013 at 18:54
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    I always thought it was a great example of sounding technical while not being very technical. UNIX wasn't (and still isn't) well known outside of computer operators, and the field was pretty small back in '93. People knew Windows, but UNIX was way outside the mainstream. It made Lexi seem really hip and knowledgeable. Oct 28, 2014 at 19:53
  • Did chief engineer (Samuel Jackson) use sudo on accessing mainframe? Aug 22, 2019 at 20:40
  • While the machines 30 years later are hundreds of times more powerful, screens today have only what ... at most 16 times the pixel count and perhaps 3 times the linear size? I mean, I could still work with that monitor. Apr 6, 2023 at 12:25

3 Answers 3


Yes, it is absolutely a real Unix system, it was a Silicon Graphics workstation (using IRIX, the SGI System V based Unix) running the three dimensional file system browser fsn ("File System Navigator", pronounced "fusion").

Silicon Graphics were early developers of hardware acceleration for 3D graphics, so they had the capability to create a 3D file system viewer in 1992, a year before Jurassic Park released.

The fact that the SGI logo is visible on the monitor, makes me wonder whether this was an example of product placement.

References: Wikipedia:Silicon Graphics, Wikipedia:fsn, SGI-Stuff

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    This was definitely helped by the picture in the question, I could just about make out the SGI logo on the monitor.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 29, 2013 at 22:28
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    Wow, I can't believe this crazy thing was real! Who on earth builds a 3D file system viewer in 1993? Well, I guess I shouldn't underestimate questions which I think the answer to be trivially obvious. Next you will tell me they really rotated a plain security cam video in Enemy of the State. ;)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jan 29, 2013 at 23:18
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    @ChristianRau I did some work at some of those workstations a couple of years later. The 3D file browser was a good party trick, but nobody actually used it for work. The command line was simply faster. Jan 30, 2013 at 1:55
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    @dmckee The command line is still faster today ;)
    – atripes
    Nov 11, 2016 at 13:37
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    Command line is always better ! Dec 3, 2018 at 15:10

The application is fsn (pronounced Fusion). There's more information available on wikipedia:


and there's an open-source clone available called FSV:


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    +1 great find. As @dmckee says in another comment - its kind of a fun app, but doesn't look that useful in reality.
    – iandotkelly
    Jan 30, 2013 at 16:47
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    Hmm. Very nice find, but it doesn't really provide much more insight than iandotkelly's existing answer. A comment would have sufficed for this.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jan 30, 2013 at 16:54
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    Yes it does. He gives the exact system
    – Travis
    Jul 23, 2013 at 16:00
  • @iandotkelly It wouldn't be. No one in their right mind would use a 3D browser to navigate a filesystem. Especially not a unix one -- there's a lovely little command called find. Dec 15, 2016 at 11:25
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    Nobody not plugged into a VR system and navigating with there hands anyway... Feb 14, 2017 at 15:31
  1. As noted it was fsn, and it was actually an interesting example of a class of applications where we were using 3D navigation to visualize non-physical data, like file systems, sales data or stock market behavior. You could see large amounts of data, then quickly navigate to area that looked interesting and drill down. I occasionally used it, although find(1) had been worked on by an old boss of mine (Dick Haight) at Bell Labs when I was there. They serve different purposes.

  2. This was in the movie (not the book) because the ILM folks used SGI workstations, pretty much exclusively, had the fsn program and thought an SGI workstation would be cool to have in the movie. I don't think it was a product placement.

(I was at SGI 1992-2001 and used to talk to ILM, Pixar, Sony, Disney, Digital Domain, Weta Digital, etc. and I still have the SGI "building a better dinosaur" T-shirt with Jurassic Park logo, which wasn't easy to get.)

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