In Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, a system was created by Dennis Nedry to operate the park almost autonomously with minimum staff. Images of its interface are provided in the book.

Do the abbreviations in the menus actually mean something and if yes what?

Additionally, I would like to know if the structure of the menus has a reason or is just random?

  1. For example, here is the screen after John Arnold restarts the park (page 288):

    Image of page 288 of the book

  2. Then here is Tim trying to understand how the screen works and touches the RESET/REVERT (page 383):

    Image of page 383 of the book

  3. Here Lex presses the VIEW (page 384):

    Image of page 384 of the book

  4. Here we have the COMMON INTERFACE (page 386):

    Image of page 386 of the book

  5. Here Tim touches some of the options in the COMMON INTERFACE (page 387):

    Image of page 387 of the book

  6. Here is the SETGRIDS DNL (page 388):

    Image of page 388 of the book

  7. Here is the main page after something happens which I am not sure what exactly (page 402):

    Image of page 402 of the book

  8. And finally here is the ELECTRICAL MAIN (page 403):

    Image of page 403 of the book

  • 4
    What is your actual question? You want to know what each thing in the little boxes mean?
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 6, 2018 at 8:14
  • 6
    Well, someone might go through the effort to guess at what each thing means, but I'd bet that none of it is really important and that unless it's explicitly mentioned in the text it's just extra filler.
    – Edlothiad
    Aug 6, 2018 at 8:18
  • 6
    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/135417/57310 -- And I think the answer is the same "each code block containing a chunk of human-readable text squashed into a chunk of meaningless rubbish (to make the reader work for it and feel smart)." but replace "code block" with "menu items"
    – Skooba
    Aug 6, 2018 at 11:50
  • 8
    After seeing these pictures, all I know is Nedry's reputation as a system designer is highly exaggerated. Aug 6, 2018 at 13:21
  • 3
    When I was a RADAR tech in the military before computers were big, we had indicator light boards. Some of them were buttons, others were just lights but the all looked the same. The buttons were stacked this way so that each column was a category, for example IFF->Power Supply ->Altimeter->Radio. The IFF button was a light to show it was available, the power supply status, whether or not the altimeter was set and transmitting local atmospheric pressure and you could hit the radio button to turn the transmitter on or off. The IFF is a component of the big RADAR Aug 6, 2018 at 20:42

1 Answer 1


I would call this an attempt to bring an old-fashioned graphical user interface onto printed paper.

Notably, page 387 looks like modal boxes stacked on top of each other. A modal box is a box that must be confirmed or canceled, or just confirmed, before the user can go on to any other function. Think of the "save as" box in a word processor -- you must tell it where to save the file, or abort, before you can edit the text some more.

Way back in the last century, many computer monitors were not graphics-capable or not very graphics-capable. They would display black and green, black and amber, or black and white, and the most efficient way to "build" boxes was to use a few lines and edges in the character set. Here is a list of one such character set (from MS-DOS, while Jurassic Park was probably supposed to use unix).

On page 388, the character decides to reset the default parameters on the power grid of the island. Those are the settings that the programmers defined in case the operator did not enter anything different.

On page 402, some "buttons" are "pressed" or some "lights" are "on" -- one cannot tell from the picture if getting black means that something has been started, or is being started, or is dysfunctional.

As to what it means, most is just technobabble.

  • 1
    "from MS-DOS, while Jurassic Park was probably supposed to use windows" ... I thought Jurassic Park's computers ran Unix? (Although I never read the book...)
    – Jules
    Aug 16, 2018 at 19:57
  • @Jules, right, edited. Been some time since I read the book.
    – o.m.
    Aug 17, 2018 at 5:28
  • NCurses, foiled again! Mar 7, 2023 at 1:15

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