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Quite soon in the movie, Alan Bradley tells Sam Flynn that he got paged by Sam's long-lost father Kevin Flynn. But as explained later, the Grid is completely isolated except for a short time (1000 millicycles corresponding to 8 in-Grid hours) after a user entered. Kevin Flynn has been lost much longer than that, so the Grid should have been completely isolated when Alan got paged - so how did it work despite that?

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I took this from Bruce's Flynn Lives wiki, where he gathered together all the various details along the way and formed them into a coherent story. While I could describe it, I'd rather let him do the talking:

On December 1, the Digitalpulse began. A news post on FlynnLives.com and discussion at the secret forum led players to a new puzzle trail, culminating in the announcement of a final attempt at locating Kevin Flynn, beginning December 8th.

On December 8, 16 cities were revealed over the course of 8 hours wherein ground operatives were to meet a Dumont Shipping agent and sign for an anonymous package that contained a special copy of Flynn's book The Digital Frontier. They then had to locate a Flynn Lives operative to decode and supply a special numeric sequence via laptop as a part of the "digital pulse". Once all 16 codes were provided, the synchronized pulse punched a connection through to Flynn's hardware and opened a communication portal that ultimately allowed a page to be sent - the page received by Alan Bradley in the Tron: Legacy film itself. The flashing light on the final image of the pager beeped a morse code leading to Electrify - a final free film screening event for the general public on Dec 13th."

Man, I can't describe the pants-soiling excitement we all felt when we saw the buzzing pager. I miss Flynn Lives and the community.

Edit: I ran through some of the old forums and such to refresh my memory and try to put this in perspective. Please pardon any inaccuracies, I'm going on memories over 5 years old (FlynnLives ran for quite some time). The quote above explains the what but not the why. The why, as I recall, was something like this:

Flynn had amassed an obsessed following like a combination of Steve Jobs and Ghandi. There was a secret message board where some of his TruFans met to talk and compare ideas. There was question of, of course, what had happened to Flynn. Someone suggested that if he were dead, it would have been found by now. In addition, he wasn't the type of person who would go into seclusion, even with his wife dead. So the only explanation was that he was being held against his will. Flynn was such a genius, he must be working on some way to get out, some kind of call for help to find him. Therefore, the effort on the part of the members of the secret board, as well as the ARG folks, was to search for his signal, and to remotely boost it, open a way for his signal to come through, shunt resources to it, whatever. Groups around the world decrypted the data and sent it through, slowly finding and decoding the signal which was indeed there.

Of course, the signal was actually Clu's.

And I do mean groups. That bit about meeting the delivery guy? A half dozen of us met up in real life, total strangers but knowing each other through the message board, here in NYC to solve our part of the puzzle together.

So, to the absolute best of my recollection, that's the why of it.

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    You were part of it? Man, how I envy you...
    – Zommuter
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 19:06
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    :D I still have all my swag. My wife framed a bunch of the postcards. I also bought several sets of the injection-molded fan-made Bits. Still have my Flynn Lives t-shirt; used to have several but gave a bunch away. All the pins. Some of the really rare stuff slipped through my fingers tho, just one of those things. At one point I managed to solve a puzzle and actually got commended by name by the creators. Felt really good.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 20:55
  • I seriously wish the sequel gets un-canned and its own ARG in Europe...
    – Zommuter
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 6:18
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This is a very poor answer, I'll update as I find more information.

Before the movie opened, an ARG hosted on FlynnLives.com started. A in/out-of-universe meta-crossover, you might say. At the end of the game, all the puzzle pieces came together and allowed a millisecond pulse to punch through to the Grid. CLU was able to send out a signal back along that pulse and page Alan.

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I do not have any sort of canonical evidence, but my assumption was that Flynn established some sort of a simple diagnostic output from the system so that he could glance at to verify that the server hadn't caught fire and the electricity hadn't shut down. Depending on how well the output was sanitized, CLU might have found a way to do something like a buffer overrun and get an actual message out. After that, of course, some system administrator probably noticed that that port was not actually in use (as it had not been in decades) and had been the target of an attempted cyber-attack, so they simply blocked the port and called it a day.

Another possibility is that Flynn built in some sort of a "if I don't remember to switch toggle this every 24 hours" deadman's switch to automatically send out a distress signal to Alan, again just in case something went wrong. The initial, automatic, message was no doubt inconspicuous in case he got caught up in the Grid and just forgot, with further, more detailed, messages to be sent afterwards. In this case, he underestimated CLU, who ensured that the switch stayed toggled so that no one knew anything was wrong until CLU decided to pull someone in.

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Hopefully Jim will expand his answer on the ARG a bit. Nonetheless, another potential explanation could be that CLU actually managed to send the page through during Kevin's last visit while the portal was open, but it got delayed all those years either by accident or design.

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  • One could of course speculate that CLU somehow managed to sneak one program to the outside world and gave it very specific instructions. Such a thing might of course show up in Tron 3. But hold that thought...
    – Zommuter
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 9:48
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Has anyone considered that the coup was staged in part by Allan?

He could have conspired with CLU pointing out the imperfection of the ISO's

He had been in the GRID before so it should have been obvious where Flynn was and he never thought to maybe check? He did help build it after all

I think he faked the page to get Sam to "stumble" onto the GRID and get deresolutioned or at the least stir something up, betting he was the sole beneficiary of Sams shares in the company. The timing would explained it he was being out muscled on the board of directors.

Even if he wasn't involved and it really was a page from CLU why hadn't Allan tried to save Flynn from the GRID.

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    When was Alan in the grid? That was Tron. And I'm afraid this is no place for unfounded fan theories.
    – Zommuter
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 6:10

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