The most unrealistic part of The Avengers isn't the Norse god or the green guy with the anger-management issues -- it's the idea that a government agency would have a high-tech flying base filled with super advanced, holographic computers. In reality, today's government workers are lucky if they get the same 1998 Compaq your grandpa uses to talk to Arby's on The Face Book.
#6. NASA Had To Buy Spare Parts From eBay
NASA is the only U.S. government agency that has sent people to the moon and installed a selfie-taking robot on Mars, so it should come as no surprise that it sits at the "forefront" of technological innovation. Please note the sarcastic quote marks. For starters, before the space shuttle program was retired in 2011, NASA still tested the safety of its booster rockets with Intel 8086 chips -- the same chips used in the original IBM PC in 1981, back when the word "laptop" just meant your crotch.
Because if it's good enough for running over 8-bit donkeys, it's good enough to colonize Mars.
Obviously, Intel stopped making that chip long ago ... so where did the official space agency of the world's mightiest nation procure this essential equipment? In the same place where you get your vintage, lightly used ThunderCats Underoos, of course ... on eBay!
"We also won the complete Lost In Space series on LaserDisc. Ominous, yet fucking sweet."
Since the likes of RadioShack and Best Buy don't stock the 8086 anymore, NASA had to turn to auction websites to boost its ever-dwindling collection of backup parts. If you sold an old computer or some outdated medical equipment to KubrickFan69 around 2002, there's a chance your used junk has left our atmosphere at some point. And it wasn't just chips: NASA also had to plunder other arcane parts, like drives for its eight-inch floppy disks.
Presumably, the idea is to make aliens feel so sorry for us that they won't even bother to invade.
The space shuttle has since been put out of its misery, but other NASA projects are still running on pure nerd nostalgia. The Hubble Space Telescope's backup systems depend on a chip from 1989, the International Space Station's most important computer runs on a processor from the year The Breakfast Club came out, and even the Mars Curiosity rover was launched into space in 2011 with a version of a chip from 1997. Hopefully NASA gets a good deal on the interplanetary shipping when they inevitably have to order replacement parts for that one.
#5. The Secret Service Relies On An '80s Mainframe That Works Only Half The Time
Since it's charged with keeping the president safe, of course the Secret Service would be equipped with all the best super-technology that the USA has to offer the world ... of 1987.
For those living in the present, unfortunately, the Secret Service's rig might seems a little dated. According to Sen. Joe Lieberman, as recently as 2010 the Secret Service still relied on an '80s-era mainframe, much like the one Matthew Broderick hacked into in WarGames. Something like this:
Erik Pitti / Wiki Commons
There are no photos of the Secret Service's actual setup for security reasons,
and because the film is still being developed.
And it's not like it's one of those "still does the job just fine" situations. Lieberman, who once depended on the antiquated machines for his own safety, says the Secret Service's IBM mainframe is so problem-prone that it's fully operational only 60 percent of the time. Since the government standard is around 98 percent, this means that the computers meant to keep the thickness of the president's skin from being tested in a literal way are probably less reliable than the ones giving out change at the Pentagon's cafeteria.
The last thing they want is for the blue screen of death to be a reference to their boss.
Luckily, the Secret Service is making a valiant attempt to modernize, starting with the most important area: They've recently solicited proposals to develop software that can detect sarcasm in social media posts. Oh, and they asked that this software work with Internet Explorer 8, because when the president's life is on the line, you accept nothing less.
#4. VA Hospital Employees Still Use MS-DOS To Schedule Appointments
The VA hospital is where legitimate American heroes receive the maintenance they often need after getting run through the engines of war. That is, if they can get an appointment with a doctor at all. Over the past year there's been a controversy about VA hospitals failing to do the one thing they're here for and letting veterans die without care ... which is slightly less surprising when you find out that this what they're using to schedule appointments:
Medicine, Abort, Fail?
That's MS-DOS, the Batman Begins to Microsoft Windows' The Dark Knight -- a relic from the era before software developers recognized the power of colors. Last summer, the director of the VA hospital in Wichita, Kansas, informed U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts via fax (of course) that the Jurassic-era scheduling system had contributed to the creation of "secret waiting lists." These pen-and-paper lists not only allowed the staff to make vets wait longer than the federally acceptable period of 14 days for an appointment, but if they croaked while waiting, they wouldn't show up in the hospital's official records. Which raises the question: If a vet dies and there's no official record of it, are you bastards still going to Hell?