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Probably a spoiler:

At the end of the movie Sam Flynn does a download of the data on the server to an SD card and hangs it around his neck. Presumably in rememberance of his father. He then seems to turn off the mainframe which was running the Grid all these years. Does this mean the Grid is shutdown and gone?

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4 Answers 4

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The grid was no doubt stored on the hard disks attached to the server, so when the server was shut off time essentially stopped in that particular instance of the grid. Start up the server again, the grid state is read off the hard drives and activity in the grid picks up where it left off. Download the data off Sam's jump drive into another computer capable of emulating the old workstation and another instance of the grid comes into being. Heck, if there are decent backups of past grid state, Sam should be able to go back in time and resurrect his father, the slaughtered ISOs and anything else of value that was lost during Clu's purge.

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interesting idea, vis a vis the backups. My first thought when I saw him put the grid on the jump drive was "he's assuming that software is the only thing that matters." –  Chris B. Behrens Jan 14 '12 at 19:34
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I think the whole state of the machine would fit comfortably on most any storage we carry around today. A half million dollar server in those days would have maybe 256MB of memory, and few GB of disk storage. Probably could emulate the whole thing on a phone nowadays. –  Kyle Jones Jan 14 '12 at 20:05
    
brings up an interesting ethical issue - restoring to a backup would a) result in the loss of all individual programs development and b) Quora would reappear in an earlier form. –  HorusKol Jan 14 '12 at 21:36
    
I think this would have occurred to Flynn after all that time if it were possible. I think it's more likely that the Grid is more than just the sum of the the storage - try to recreate on another (apparently) identical machine, and the subtle differences in the hardware will create a different world. Even the same machine changes over time, so this could make it impossible to truly restore the Grid from backup. –  Chris B. Behrens Jan 18 '12 at 21:03
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You have to remember that the Grid <> the hardware, TRON is a world of metaphor, a mirror like alternate reality, not actual programs running on actual hardware. –  user11154 Dec 7 '12 at 14:01

One thing about Tron that is important is that it is a metaphor for a computer system and not an exact duplicate of a computer system. Thus when things happen to the computer system what happens in the Tron world is a metaphor for what happens in the physical world.

The world of Tron in the first film appears to be one that matches the company network, so it appears to be a living and ongoing world which we can assume still exists at the time of the second film, although much changed.

However the world inside Flynn's 'server' in the second movie exists without external connection, that being one of the main points of the film. As it is pointedly 'saved' and shutdown at the end of the film, we have to assume that something like one of the following options occurs:

As the system is shut down the world starts to 'freeze' into stasis. Depending on point of view this could be horrifying for the programs, like dying, or perfectly natural, like going to sleep.

Alternately we can view this as the Tron world being 'sealed' so that while time appears to continue to pass (at one rate or another) within the world nothing can enter or leave. This would imply that somehow the world of Tron is not based on the digital bits that we use in real computers but at a lower level of atomic or quantum state.

Finally, excuse the pun, shutting down the system could be viewed as the world being utterly destroyed. This is how real computers work, the memory is copied to disk and then as the power goes it is permanently erased, only to be created from new when or if system is restarted. A horrifyingly final end.

As this is, above all, a Disney movie we can further assume that the creators did not intend for us to think that the world of Flynn's server and all it's inhabitants were cruelly destroyed. The scene where they are 'saved' implies a hope for the future, because, after all, I'm sure that Sam would want a chance to rescue his father.

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This interpretation makes a lot of sense to me; there's a relationship between the Grid and real-world program operations, but it's not 1-1. (I'm reminded of one great scene in the Tron 2.0 computer game, in which you get a chance to experience a drive format from the inside... if you don't run fast enough.) –  Tynam Dec 26 '12 at 21:37

Honestly... I thought Sam was downloading Tron the program to the external hard drive.. Since Tron was brought over from the old system, and not part of the "new" system Kevin Flynn made.. technically, Tron would survive the reintegration of Kevin Flynn and Clu... and Sam Flynn would've figured that out when he was checking the system after he was out.. Because honestly, wouldn't you make sure Clu was destroyed once you got out? I'd check and make sure.. Once he checked, he saw Tron the program was still inside what was left of the grid.. I'm assuming he downloaded him to bring him into what would be HIS version of the grid...

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so yes... what was the grid was destroyed by the reintegration of Kevin Flynn and Clu... but the technology Kevin Flynn used to make the grid would've been obsolete anyways.. Sam could use a much faster and bigger computer to potentially make a bigger and better grid.. –  Kevin Dechaine Feb 27 '13 at 10:26

Here's another prospective I came up with after I have recently watched the movie again. I see that it might be contradictory with certain facts we know from the movie, but I still find it to be interesting.

The world of the Grid does not actually exist in the computer at the Flynn's arcade. In the beginning of the movie we hear from Alan that Kevin Flynn was talking about quantum teleportation before he disappeared from our world. If we recall the multiverse theory, it says that there are countless different universes coexisting in some greater containment. And by countless I mean any universe you can imagine is out there. What might actually have happened is that Kevin Flynn teleported himself in a universe that was resembling what he was imagining the Grid should be like - a digital, kinda cyberpunk world inhabited with "programs" with an according set of physics laws, in which he has a power of the creator.

It might even be somehow connected to the computer he was using, meaning that certain events in the Grid find their resemblance on this computer and vice versa. The computer does not need to be directly plugged to the network, this connection is above the network connectivity, manifested by the combination of laws of physics in our world and in the Grid. How particles of matter and anti-matter always appear and vanish in our universe in pairs even if they are separated by incredible distance - there is no explanation to that, it just the way our world is - in the same way might the Grid be connected to this computer. After all, it might be because Flynn imagined the world that is connected to his computer.

Thus it might even still be possible to destroy C.L.U. from our world using Flynn's computer. But it's just a theory :)

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