The new Marvel Studios show Loki takes place, in part, at the Time Variance Authority, an interdimensional, bureaucratic agency. Without getting into spoilers at all, the Time Variance Authority has a retrofuturist style with a lot of 1950s through 1970s technology; it’s very Fallout.
TVA workers use old electric typewriters and computers that look like they may or may not have existed. (There’s one device, in an elevator, which definitely didn’t exist.) But as Loki walked into the building lobby, something went “ding!” in my mind. Most of the tech in this show appears to be custom-made, but the first episode starts with a true computing classic front and center.
The TVA’s lobby is marked by some gorgeous orange terminals. Those appear to be custom-painted Lear-Siegler ADM-3As, a classic dumb terminal from the mid-1970s with a very signature look. The ADM-3A was one of the most popular terminals of the 1970s and could be connected either to personal computers or to mainframe systems.
You can still find the occasional ADM-3A for sale, if you’re patient. They can be connected to modern computers or even a Raspberry Pi, to call up the kinds of displays you see on the show.
One other keyboarded computer takes up a lot of screen time, but it isn’t as real. The TVA’s holographic projector is a work of art: a red, globe-shaped CPU and display unit on top of a white keyboard base molded to fit.
It took me a while, but I eventually realized that this isn’t a real computer. It isn’t a real keyboard, at least. The top row reads QWERTYUIO. Something missing? Yes, the holoprojector lacks a “P” key. There is no way to type “P.” There’s also no number row.
Loki’s production design brilliance comes in how almost-real the device is. The red bubble display evokes a 50-year history of red bubble televisions. I’m convinced it’s actually based on something real, although I can’t find a red bubble TV where the display is quite so small. If you’re familiar with the components used, tell us in the comments.
The first episode of Loki debuted this week on Disney+; new episodes will drop on Wednesdays. Marvel has used a mix of real and imaginary technology before; for a survey, take a look at our Super-Phones of the Superheroes feature.