In which FP’s disbelief loses some of its suspension

Just recently, we’ve been spending a lot of time sat indoors in front of the telly, watching season one of The Wire, which a friend was kind enough to buy us on DVD, saying: “it’s the sort of thing you’ll like”. And, indeed, it’s very good. I’m not normally a fan of police dramas; but The Wire is good enough to stand as a drama on its own without the “police procedural” aspect of the show.

One little tiny thing, though, made me think: bah. One little detail they slipped up on: right at the start, in the opening credits. It’s the curse of knowing too much about anything, being able to spot the detail mistakes in any sort of fiction. The Wire is so named because a lot of the police’s evidence comes from phone tapping;* the credits features closeups of surveillance equipment,** phone-tap gear, spectroscopic voice analysis screenshots, and so on. Including this gadget:

Screen capture from The Wire's opening credits

That thing at top right. It’s got lots of nice blinky LEDs – you can’t see on a still, obviously, but the lights move in a regular step. Problem is, I know, from work, exactly what that is. Lots of computer geeks will. It’s a cable tester – you can just about make out the words on it – for 4-pair cable, the sort used mostly for Ethernet.*** I keep one in my toolkit, with the cable crimps, because it’s invaluable to check if you’ve crimped a good joint. It’s also absolutely no use for tapping a public phone. Ah well. Just that one little mistake by a set dresser, and it disappointed me a little.

* Hopefully that isn’t giving too much away there.

** One thing that puzzled us: if it’s set in this decade, why do all the cops use 1970s-era Nikon cameras for surveillance, and not the equivalent digitals? Or, for that matter, why are they forced to write up reports on Smith-Coronas?

*** Or, to be fair, for some office phone systems. It’s also worth pointing out that although it’s used for Ethernet cable it doesn’t prove a cable is good for Ethernet – it’s easy to make a cable that will pass this (electrical) test but not work as a network cable.

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3 comments on “Hardware”

  1. Alex M says:

    Funny, we’ve just got through The Wire s1 as well, also having been lent the DVDs by a friend. Compulsive stuff – we’ve just started S2.

    As for the cable tester – wouldn’t it be useful to test if your wire tap was installed correctly and functioning?

    Also the thing with the typewriters was, I think, brought up in the first episode. It was mentioned that their department is really, really strapped for cash and can’t afford new equipment. Though fair enough – surely by 2002 there would be some old 486s that could be handed down? Maybe they can’t afford to pay someone to support them?

  2. Forest Pines says:

    You have a point there; but I suspect it was put in because of the nice blinky lights.

    We wondered that: it’s all very well saying you can’t afford computers, but you’d think there’d be some ancient word processing box lurking in a cupboard for them.

    We’ve got S2 on our Christmas list.

  3. Dimitra says:

    I don’t think the curse is knowing too much though; I think it is caring too much about this kind of thing!

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