Watching Terminator 2 again, I find the statement

"The T-1000 can't form complex machines"

to be intriguing, mainly in the sense that the T-1000 itself is a complex machine. This got me thinking about how the T-1000 operates as a machine, in particular the computing side of it, and specifically how data is stored within it. It is clear that the T-1000 contains some very sophisticated programming (by our standards). Its abilities include:

  • participating in natural language conversations (to at least some extent)
  • mimicing voices that it hears
  • reshaping its appearance to nearly perfectly match humans that it only briefly encounters
  • seeking and acquiring information required to track a target, and strategizing for the disposal of that target
  • operating a wide variety of machinery: cars, trucks, helicopters, etc.

The first ability above is a significant marker of the programming sophistication behind the T-1000, but so too is the third: it implies that its programming includes extremely robust algorithms for convincingly simulating the mechanics of a person's gait, visage, skin, and clothing from only brief samplings of these components' motion.


How are the T-1000's programming (almost certainly very extensive) and its memory stored within the liquid metal? Without moving parts, how are particular routines or memory files accessed? Related to this, when the T-1000 is separated into many little blobs, how are its programming and memory recombined? If data is distributed diffusely throughout the liquid metal, would the T-1000 suffer data loss (or display programming errors) if one of the blobs were lost?

This would give a nice explanation as to why he waits for the last blob to rejoin his foot before resuming the attack on John Connor and the T-800 near to the end of T2.

In-universe information is preferred, including facts gleaned from novelizations, DVD extras, interviews, etc.

  • 1
    "Cannot form complex machines" != "Is not a complex machine". It would be most accurate to say, the T-1000 was a complex machine that could reform itself into simple machines that had no moving parts. "Without moving parts, how are particular routines or memory files accessed?" Neither CPU nor RAM typically has 'moving parts'. In my latest PC, the main 'hard disk' is a Solid State Disk. It's not so much about moving parts, but access to both electrically conducting and resisting materials, materials that can act as switches, diodes and amplifiers.. Commented May 25, 2015 at 6:40
  • @AndrewThompson : "Cannot form complex machines" != "Is not a complex machine" I'm not making a claim that these are equivalent. I was just explaining how I was led to my question. Also, I'm not claiming that memory cannot be accessed in general without moving parts. However, a pot of liquid metal is different from the devices you list. How does memory access work for the T-1000 in particular?
    – Praxis
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 7:37
  • FWIW, in TSCC, a liquid metal Terminator keeps a small blob separate from itself for quite a while with no apparent ill effect.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 11:33

1 Answer 1


According to the Randall Frakes novelisation, the T-1000's memory (and its programming and its 'molecular DNA') are stored across its entire structure:

It didn’t have a wafer-circuit brain to think with. It was something on a completely new level of artificial intelligence. The molecular brain acted like the rest of the thing, a liquid. And now it bubbled with possibilities.

All of them lethal.

The distant sound of approaching sirens reached its auditory sensors, which could have been formed anywhere on its body (since every molecule had the “genetic” blueprints for all needed parts programmed into them), but were now in the shape of human ears.

as to what the main programming of the separated parts was;

In the corridor, the T-1000’s head was lying in two mutilated masses on its shoulders. The concept of pain had never factored into the sensory sphere of the liquid machine. Pain was an indicator of damage to a part of the organism.

But this “organism” didn’t have parts, except on the molecular level. And its molecules were each primitive, miniaturized versions of the total machine. If any section were parted, the separated halves would revert to metal poly-alloy. The only default command it had in molecular memory was to find the main mass again and rejoin it. Each molecule had a range of fourteen kilometers. And the blasted apart sections of the T-1000 were much closer than that. So, after a moment of hesitation caused by ballistic shock, it rapidly reformed into a healthy human face, with absolutely no trace of “injury.”

  • 6
    Perfect. (But I admit, my first thought was, "Riker wrote a novel?")
    – Praxis
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 14:05
  • 2
    @praxis - this is why we can't have nice things.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 14:14
  • So to kill one break it into pieces and take one piece more than 14 km away? Then the 'separated halves' (plural) just stay liquid forever? Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 12:14
  • Something does not make sense. If separated, the piece should stay solid forever. Liquid would imply that it can be and was shown to be moldable, when all pieces are joined. The example is when the T-1000 was chasing John Connor and his mom with the T-800 in the police car. When the T-800 shot the T-1000 off, it severed his liquid metal arm and the piece left behind, stayed solid. Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 17:46

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