In Terminator, Kyle Reese says only living tissue can go through the time portal. But he also says that they found the time machine after the T-800 had gone through and had to quickly send someone after it before blowing the place up.

Where did the Resistance get so much info on the machine? Did they know about it beforehand? Did SkyNet leave the manual lying around? Was it a guess after watching Arnie streak across the room?

  • Maybe they tried it. When you have a time machine, you have more time than you might think! Apr 22, 2016 at 15:04
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    I always assumed they just told him that for a laugh.
    – Valorum
    Apr 22, 2016 at 15:06
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    @PaulD.Waite - "Well, Bob's dead. Hey, let's see what happens with just the shoes... Dave?" Apr 22, 2016 at 18:03
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    Richard's answer is better, but keep in mind that they could have simply gotten the information from John. (Who got it from Sarah, who got it from Kyle, who got it from John. Yes, ouch, but at the end of the day John did have a lot of foreknowledge.) Apr 23, 2016 at 14:32
  • What I wonder is what's so special about the terminators' metals that exclude them from the list of things you can't send back in time. I mean, why not make a suit of armor out of some t-800 remains? It's a complex machine, probably not too different than a laser of their time. I have to know since it's a documentary and all. The facts MUST be there somewhere
    – Kai Qing
    May 12, 2016 at 23:16

2 Answers 2


The Terminator 2 novelisation indicates that John Connor's techs were capable of reading (and understanding) the research the Skynet had conducted into time travel. As such, they would know everything that it knew.

John and his men approached a busy hive of techs who had pulled up several floor panels and tapped directly into the cabling of the machine, using portable terminals that they had wheeled in. Many of the soldiers in this war against machines were technical specialists; child-geniuses who had gotten their education in bombed-out libraries and on the battlefield. Men who not only had to think on their feet, but as they ran. John had gathered the best of them to break Skynet’s machine code, read its thoughts and plans, and analyze its data. Fighting fire with fire, John thought as he proudly watched his techs moving with rapid assurance. It was one of the main reasons why they had won.

So yes, Skynet did indeed leave the manual lying around.

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    Just goes to show how valuable "RTFM" is.
    – user31178
    Apr 22, 2016 at 15:23
  • Those are some fast hackers. I always liked how the movie could sidestep all the technical stuff about time travel by only sending back someone who was specifically ignorant of it. Apr 23, 2016 at 23:20
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    @JohnSensebe - Short of sending John, Kyle is the Resistance's top option. He grew up around John Connor and has heard every story about Sarah. He knows how she thinks and will react. He's weapons-trained with guns (not just pulse-rifles) and has been tasked by John with learning about the sort of tech that you get in the 1980s so he's able to blend in. In short, he's the perfect operative. He doesn't need to know about the TDE device because it's a one-way trip anyway.
    – Valorum
    Apr 23, 2016 at 23:24
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    That's wasn't what I meant. I thought it was clever story-wise. Just have him give very basic info, shrug his shoulders and move on. And the reason he knew all about Sarah was because John knew he'd eventually send Kyle back, and he needed to give Kyle every advantage to find Sarah before the big guy. Apr 23, 2016 at 23:31
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    @JohnSensebe - Agreed. In the movie they even hang a lampshade on it by having the shrink confirm how clever it is that he doesn't have any proof.
    – Valorum
    Apr 23, 2016 at 23:32

Note that Richard's answer applies to , which most likely is a modified timeline, so whether Skynet also left its research reachable, especially given the blowing* up Kyle Reese mentioned, is open. However, if you saw the you'll observe that time travel worked also when wearing cloths. They just didn't travel with you. So Kyle might have started clothed and maybe even armed, ended up very naked and unarmed in the past, and put two and two together.

* You might even consider that in this (at least) second iteration, John already knew Reese's story including Skynet's blowing up the time machine and thus will have given (uhm, future past tense anyone?) him the advantage of sending someone to defuse that this time.

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