Geek Trivia

The Non-English Characters Featured In The “Falling Code” Prominent In The Matrix Were?

Cyrillic Script
Egyptian Glyphs
Half-width Kana
Which Film Director Is Directly Responsible for the Rise of War-Theme FPS Games?

Answer: Half-width Kana

The Matrix, the iconic 1999 American sci-fi action film, was the second film from The Wachowskis (director siblings Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski) and the one that put them on the map as a directorial powerhouse.

The film was strongly influenced by Eastern philosophies, Japanese animation and sci-fi, cyberpunk, and, of course, martial arts movies (with a very strong influence from Hong Kong action cinema). The subtle touches and nods to the Eastern influences on the movie are sprinkled liberally throughout the film and even found in the very code of the Matrix, which film viewers experience as the water-fall-like effect wherein green computer characters fall down the screen of both the terminals within the rebel ship the Nebuchadnezzar and when the main character, Neo, is able to see the Matrix simulation for what it is: a bundle of code.

At first glance the falling code might look like just a bunch of random ASCII characters (and, to be certain, there are plenty of regular letters, numbers, and characters like question marks and back slashes), but within the stream of code you’ll also find a very distinct nod to the cultures that influenced The Matrix: half-width kana.

Half-width kana are a type of katakana character (the elementary pieces of the more complex Japanese kanji they are derived from) and were an innovation from the early days of Japanese computing. Rather than display them in their true square 1:1 aspect ratio, the half-width kana are designed to fit into the monospace font system used by Latin characters and are compressed into a half-width form so that their ratio is 1:2 (just like Latin-language letters such as T, H, or L).

Although half-width kana have been phased out for the most part with the development of more appropriate fonts and more advanced computers, they made for a perfect little Easter Egg in The Matrix when designers wanted to put a subtle nod to Japanese culture into the Matrix code.