The question that is not revealed clearly from the movies (or maybe I missed it). Is Skynet a single supercomputer or a distributed net of computers, that just coordinate their actions, but do not subordinate to each other?

The first one seems more appropriate for military command, but the second variant is much harder to destroy, since the elimination of one node will not interrupt the action of the others. So, any guesses, which one is used by Skynet?

  • 3
    I don't know about the movies, but in the real world, the military is not a single entity; it is a widely distributed system with a clearly defined chain of command (or subordination structure, if you prefer). If one part of the overall organization breaks down, the others remain operational. Having a single point of failure (person, hardware, location, ...) in a military organization would be a huge risk, and I'm pretty sure no country actually really does it that way. There can be central facilities which are highly important (and hopefully, properly hardened), but not absolutely critical.
    – user
    Jul 4, 2012 at 7:53
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    I probably exists on the cloud...
    – AncientSwordRage
    Aug 4, 2012 at 0:46

3 Answers 3


It's a distributed system.

In T3: Rise of the Machines, the closing scene states quite clearly:

By the time Skynet became self-aware it had spread into millions of computer servers across the planet. Ordinary computers in office buildings, dorm rooms; everywhere. It was software; in cyberspace. There was no system core; it could not be shutdown.


I disagree with Williham Totland's answer.

The answer is "BOTH yes and no".

There are Three DISTINCT things called "Skynet", which is what causes the confusion:

  1. The original virus (which wasn't actually called "Skynet"). That was what Williham Totland's quote referred to. That one had no central core/system.

  2. General Brewster's military AI system. That one DID have a core and a central system. THAT project was code-named "Skynet" by military/Brewster.

  3. A resultant malevolent AI entity which was produced when the virus in #1 infected the military AI, which as per T3 was brought online for the purpose of fighting off the virus that was taking over machines in DoD.

    After the Judgement Day, that resulting entity was ALSO called "Skynet".

    Most likely that entity retained BOTH characteristics of its two progenitors - a central core of the military AI, but also cloud-like abilities of the virus.

  • Was I the only one that thought that #2 was the cause of #1, as an attempt to get the military to release its shackles?
    – Xantec
    Nov 27, 2012 at 17:39
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    @Xantec - Black helicopters are on the way. Please hold. Nov 27, 2012 at 17:43
  • @Xantec No, I also thought they said/implied that #2 created #1 in order to be "released" into the wild where it was actually capable of taking control, rather than just in passive mode.
    – Izkata
    Nov 27, 2012 at 23:57
  • @Xantec Actualy, apparently they said both, depending on whether you believe the technician who knew nothing of J-Day, or John: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/27267/2242
    – Izkata
    Nov 28, 2012 at 0:02
  • You're putting your theory everywhere. From the viewpoint of canon, its wrong...
    – user931
    Nov 28, 2012 at 1:30

It depends on which source you have in mind. In T3, as noted above, Skynet is a network of some kind. In T2, it is a single piece of hardware located inside NORAD HQ in Cheyenne Mountain.

One day the computer designed to automatically control the U.S. nuclear strike force would become “alive,” and Skynet’s first sentient decision would be that mankind was obsolete. It would launch a first strike, riding out the firestorm of retaliation to follow, safe in a hardened underground complex in Cheyenne Mountain....
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (official novelization)

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