Les’ Science Fiction Vehicles/Spacecraft Hall of Fame #21: Lightcycles

Greetings, Manic Fans. Les here to continue my Science Fiction Vehicles/Spacecraft Hall of fame. One of the great things about science fiction is the fantastic ways they show how to get from point A to point B, whether it’s across town or across the Galaxy. I will induct a new craft at a time, give its origins, abilities, first appearances and why I think it’s amazing.


Today, I’m selecting:



Vehicle Origin

In the very early days of industrial computers in the 1980’s, megacomputingtech company, ENCOM was at the forefront of the industry.  CEO Edward Dillinger(David Warner) activated a chess program that evolved into the MCP(Master Control Program)  It quickly became sentient and started eating up other programs to gain power.  Inside the computer world(The Grid), programs existed as digital people who resembled their programers(Users, as they were known on the Grid).  To speed up the assimilation process, the MCP initiated a series of gladiatorial video games to weed out the stronger programs.  One of the games was Lightcycles, a game where programs drove motorcycles composed of light pixels that shot light beams behind them that were briefly solid to attempt to trap their opponents and destroy them.


Vehicle Abilities

Lightcycles were activated by handheld rods that transformed into the handlebars of the bikes after forming the cycles around the programs.  The cycles could operate on the lightcycle grid, or outside if the programs could engineer an exit to the rest of the computer world.  The bikes while on the lightcycle grid could instantaneously perform 90 degree turns and move at extreme speeds to produce greater game excitement.


First Appearance

Lightcycles first appeared in the 1982 Disney cult classic “TRON.”  In it, computer programming genius Kevin Flynn(Jeff Bridges) was attempting to hack ENCOM to find evidence that Ed Dillinger had stolen his 6 game programs that were smash hits and skyrocketed him to the CEO position in the company.  During the attempt, the MCP used an experimental laser/digitizing program to zap Flynn into the computer world where he was thrown into the game grid.  Being an expert video game player, however, Flynn broke himself, and two other programs(RAM(Dan Shor) and TRON(Bruce Boxleitner)) out of the Lightcycle grid to pursue a way to defeat the MCP and free up the system and get Flynn back home with his evidence.


Why I think they’re amazing

Lightcycles were a really cool concept that had never been imagined before, and the use of the then infant technology of CGI to bring them to fruition was a great achievement in special effects.  I loved the way they moved and the cool sound effects that accompanied them.  From a gaming perspective, this also appealed to my idea of a really great video game that required split second reflexes and strategic planning to defeat your foes on the grid.


Did you see this film?  Did you like this vehicle?  I’d love to hear your opinions, my friends.  Peace.

8 replies
    • les
      les says:

      Hi The Creature. I’ll have to check those games out. I remember the “TRON” arcade game when it first came out. Lightcycles on it was, unfortunately, limited by the technology of the day. “Xix” was an arcade game that seemed to be inspired by Lightcycles, and it was a better game. Thanks for commenting, my friend. Peace.

    • les
      les says:

      Hi T-kun. Oh, without question. 3 separate effects houses did work on TRON and were the absolute state of the art CGI of the time until 2 years later when Nick Castle came along and hired a team to work CGI through a Cray XMP supercomputer to raise the bar on photo realistic CGI with “The Last Starfighter.” “TRON,” however was the first real attempt to use the technology to create vehicles for a film, and the results were pretty damned good. Thanks for commenting, my friend. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. Peace.

      • moviefan
        moviefan says:

        I did some more looking and apparently, it’s at Shanghai Disney. And the rumor is that if it comes to Disneyland, it’ll either go in Tomorrowland or be rethemed as a Captain America ride and go in Disney California Adventure. Which would make sense as Guardians of The Galaxy Mission Breakout is opening soon.

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