A major piece of Dune‘s backstory is the Butlerian Jihad. This cataclysmic event saw humanity rebelling against machines and artificial intelligence, eventually resulting in the complete destruction of all “computers, thinking machines, and complex robots”. By the time of the events of the book and movie, these functions are performed either by mentally conditioning humans or those altered by Spice consumption.
All of which makes it appropriate that Dune screenwriter Eric Roth ditched modern software to work with a truly ancient MS-DOS word processor. According to Vice, Roth uses Movie Master, which was first released in 1987 and provides only bare-bones functions.
So why use such antiquated software? Roth says “it’s half superstition and half fear of change”, though points out that the inherent memory limitations mean he can only work on 40 pages of script at a time, which helps maintain act length.
He’s far from alone in eschewing state-of-the-art tech, with many writers using old computers that don’t connect to the internet as a way of avoiding distractions. Some go so far as to use typewriters or handwritten drafts, though I’m sure those painstakingly transcribing their manuscripts at the publishing house wish they’d at least move into the digital age.
But Roth must be doing something right. His other scripts include The Insider, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and A Star Is Born, and his latest, Killers of the Flowers Moon, is Scorsese’s new movie. He may also be setting foot on Arrakis again very soon, as the critical and box office success of Dune means part 2 just got greenlit.
Those who’ve read Frank Herbert’s book will know where this story is going, but I’m hyped to see more of Denis Villeneuve’s stunning realization of this sci-fi epic.