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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.

enter image description here

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    Ah ah ah, you didn't say the magic word – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jan 30 '13 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. – Peter Grill Jan 30 '13 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. – Johnny Bones Oct 28 '14 at 19:53
  • Did chief engineer (Samuel Jackson) use sudo on accessing mainframe? – huseyin tugrul buyukisik Aug 22 at 20:40
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+500

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

Silicon Graphics were early developers of hardware acceleration for 3D graphics, so it makes complete sense that even in 1993 they had Unix workstations capable of a 3D file system viewer.

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

References: Wikipedia, 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 '13 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 '13 at 23:18
  • @ChristianRau lol, I know what you mean. I thought for sure this thing was fake, but it's bugged me all these years not knowing for sure. – Reactgular Jan 29 '13 at 23:33
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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. – dmckee Jan 30 '13 at 1:55
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    @dmckee The command line is still faster today ;) – atripes Nov 11 '16 at 13:37
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The application is fsn (pronounced Fusion). There's more information available on wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fsn_(file_manager)

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

http://fsv.sourceforge.net/

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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 '13 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 '13 at 16:54
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    Yes it does. He gives the exact system – Travis Jul 23 '13 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. – Shadur Dec 15 '16 at 11:25
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    Nobody not plugged into a VR system and navigating with there hands anyway... – Matthew Wilcoxson Feb 14 '17 at 15:31
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  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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