In the 1983 science fiction film Wargames, David was locked in the facility's infirmary room. He searched the drawers and found some scissors and a mini-tape recorder. He tricked the guard into opening the door and made a recording of the code. He then played the recording near the door and it opened.

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How did the door open just by playing the recorded code?

  • Maybe the writers couldn't think of a more plausible way to get out? – M. A. Golding Mar 19 '18 at 18:01
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    I just assumed the door lock, for whatever reason, was dial-tone based. – JAB Mar 19 '18 at 19:30
  • To close voters: "questions seeking scientific solutions or explanations are off-topic unless related directly to a cited work of fiction. [...]" (emphasis mine). – SQB Mar 20 '18 at 10:42

He recorded the electronic code-sequence onto the magnetic tape, then played the tape back to replay the code-sequence into the locking mechanism. The fact that we can hear audible tones seems to be largely incidental.

Cautiously he placed the panel on the floor, then rose up and peered into the control wiring and retrieved the cassette recorder, wired into the mechanism with the earphone cord.
He rewound the tape and moved the jack from “input” to “output.” This was it! His forefinger hit the “play” button.
Faint tones sounded—an exact repetition of the unlocking sequence. The door lock hummed quietly and clicked. Then, with malicious glee in his eye, he pulled a very important wire.

War Games: Official Novelisation

And yes, I'm aware that this is dumb, but that's Hollywood for you.

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    It's only dumb because you don't understand it – DCOPTimDowd Mar 19 '18 at 18:28
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    @DCOPTimDowd - Touché, sir. – Valorum Mar 19 '18 at 18:30
  • It's not dumb at all. My dad's first desktop PC used cassette tapes instead of floppy disks or a hard drive. You put the tape into the cassette player (which was just a plain cassette player that you could use to play music on), and played the tape. It's basically the same technology as a floppy disk anyway - magnetic storage media. Only instead of storing it on a flat disk, you're storing it on a strip of tape. – Jonathan Mar 19 '18 at 20:04
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    @Jonathan - This assumes that the lock outputs the keystrokes in the same frequency range as the tape is designed to record. It's theoretically possible, but in reality dumb because they don't do that. – Valorum Mar 19 '18 at 20:13
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    Probably inspired by phreaking which took advantage of the phone systems' use of pulses/tones to control routing - there's quite a few things the movie does that look cool but aren't really plausible (the gradual unlocking of the password, for example), but you can see where they might have gotten the idea from – HorusKol Mar 20 '18 at 7:48

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