The Movie-Based Terminal Effect Not Yet Recreated by Hackers

The Matrix’s “raining code” effect is loved by hackers, and for that reason, often recreated. However, much to my surprise, there is one 90s era hacker movie featuring a similarly intriguing effect that has not yet been recreated.

Text Decryption Effect (Sneakers, 1992)

In 1992, a group of security specialists were blackmailed into stealing a “little black box” capable of accessing nearly any encrypted data source, granting them virtually unlimited access to government and banking resources. No, this didn’t happen in real life. It happened in the 1992 movie “Sneakers”, one of my favorite movies as a young aspiring programmer. The movie holds up very well today, but as much as I’d love to wax poetic about how great it is, such is not what this article was intended for.

This article is about finally paying this movie tribute by recreating its famous text decryption effect.

It was done for the Matrix countless times. Why not Sneakers? Frankly I am shocked no one has done it yet. Shame on you, hacker community!

So, simply recreating precisely what we see above isn’t good enough. The effect needs to be functional, capable of taking input from the user if and when a menu is revealed. It also needs to be modular so it can be imported in to any program and applied to any string of text we wish to print to the terminal.

Here is an example of a standalone executable I built, called nms (acronym for “no more secrets”, a notable quote from the movie), that takes input from a shell pipe and displays it using the film’s famous text decryption effect.

Recreating the Decrypting Text Effect

Here is another example showing this effect on the exact text we see in the movie clip shown above. Additionally, in sticking with the functionality requirement, this version also accepts input from the user after the menu is displayed.

No More Secrets

If you’re interested in playing with this effect, or if you want to include this effect in to your project, see my github repository linked below. Instructions and examples are provided.

If you run in to any problems, please reach out to me on github. As always, I am open to any and all feedback.


Edit: When I originally posted this I was only using standard ASCII characters. Thanks to the helpful comments, I was able to identify the character set used in the movie and I’ve now updated my project.