Thursday, August 18

Dune was written in outdated MS-DOS software | Digital Trends Spanish


If you have seen the new movie Dune or at least its advances, you have probably noticed the incredible effects and landscapes that the film shows, which is due to the advanced technology that allows that cinematography to be developed today. However, in the case of the script, something totally opposite happened, since an obsolete program was used to write it.

Eric Roth, the screenwriter for this film adaptation, used an old program called Movie Master – 30-year-old software that only works on MS-DOS, the operating system developed by Microsoft in 1981.

Roth is known for being the screenwriter of Forrest Gump, for which he won an Academy Award in 1994, and for his other Oscar-nominated screenplays: The Insider, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and A Star Is Born (2018). His most recent script, Killers of the Flowers Moon, is currently in post-production by director Martin Scorsese.

To adapt Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel, Dune, Roth worked with screenwriter Jon Spaihts (who was behind Prometheus and Doctor Strange) and his work was eventually brought to the big screen with director Denis Villeneuve.

Roth’s archaic method

In a 2014 interview, Roth said, “I’m working on an old computer program that no longer exists,” referring to the legendary Movie Master. And he kept using it until at least 2018 when he wrote the Lines of Dune, as suggested in a podcast from last year.

In the same 2014 interview, while Roth was discussing his work routine, he opened a DOS window in Windows XP and launched Movie Master 3.09 using an old beige keyboard.

According to Roth, because his method is so old-fashioned, his co-workers cannot get his scripts online; this one can’t even be emailed. So what Roth does is give the team a hard copy for them to scan and then they each put the script on their computer.

For Roth, using this ancient method “is half superstition and half fear of change.” However, working without an internet connection also makes his works difficult to hack and, as he himself mentions, thus avoids distractions.

The program only allows you to write up to 40 pages, otherwise the system runs out of memory. But that’s exactly what helps him structure his scripts. “I like it because it separates acts. If I haven’t said it in 40 pages, I realize I’m starting to get in trouble, ”says Roth.

For many the choice of this writer may seem absurd, but the truth is that it is appropriate for the world of Dune Herbert, where all supercomputers and smart robots have been banned. In fact, all the complex calculations there are performed by specially trained humans called Mentats.

Despite the fact that most of today’s screenwriters use modern programs like Final Draft, leaving softwares like Movie Master in the past, Herbert would probably be proud of Roth by not advancing with new technologies the same as in the novel.

Other writers who prefer discontinued software

Roth is not the only writer who uses old programs to do his works. George RR Martin has used the discontinued MS-DOS software WordStar 4.0 to write each book of game of Thrones.

On the tv show Conan Back in 2014, the author said that he enjoys the simplicity of this 1978 software and that he doesn’t like autocorrect and modern spell checkers. “If I wanted a capital letter, I would have written a capital letter. I know how the shift key works ”, he joked that time, making the audience that accompanied him laugh.

Like George RR Martin, there are other science fiction writers who prefer to use that program from the past, such as Robert James Sawyer (The Terminal Experiment).

Sawyer wrote a whole Article explaining why WordStar is his favorite writing software, despite having gone through WordPerfect, Word, MultiMate, Sprint, XyWrite, and any other word processing program for MS-DOS or Windows.

In the article, Sawyer argues that WordStar helps achieve creative composition by having an interface designed for touch typists. In fact, this software was released in 1979, before computer keyboards became standard.

At that time, most keyboards did not include the arrow keys to move the cursor or the special function keys to issue commands. All these keyboards integrated was the standard layout of a typewriter: a QWERTY layout, alphanumeric keys, and a control key.

According to Sawyer, a lot of writers also prefer WordStar: Roger MacBride Allen, Gerald Brandt, Jeffrey A. Carver, Arthur C. Clarke, David Gerrold, Terence M. Green, James Gunn, Matthew Hughes, Donald Kingsbury, Eric Kotani, Paul Levinson , Vonda McIntyre, Kit Reed, Jennifer Roberson, and Edo van Belkom.

And as he tells in the essay, they have been criticized by users of WordPerfect, an equally old software, but it was updated and displaced WordStar in the early 90s.

Anyway, the important thing is that programs like WordStar and Movie Master, despite how ancient they are, fulfill their objective, which is to host the impressive works of writers like Eric Roth. In fact, during your first weekend, Dune it grossed $ 41 million at the box office along with sizable streaming numbers on HBO Max.

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