Alan Smithee

How Long Was Kevin Flynn on the Grid?

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I’m an insatiable detail and statistic person, except for the fact that I use my mentat powers for the geeks of the world instead of where they’re normally seen, in the minds of sports fans.

I’m not discounting sports geeks, Crom knows they’re as passionate if not more passionate than any other branch of geek. I just never got into that field. I was more of the “how many steps did Bill take before the five point palm exploding heart technique worked?” or even the “exactly how many times do they show Paul Walker shifting gears in a Mitsubishi Eclipse that has only 5 gears?”. That’s the type of things that stick with me and the type of question I must root out.

After I watched Tron: Legacy in December I was stuck with one annoying word problem that wouldn’t leave my brain: Just how god-damned long was Kevin Flynn exiled on the Grid after CLU had his uprising?

Before I tackle this in a way that makes sense to all of you out there in the geek world, I understand that this doesn’t solve world hunger, it doesn’t feed a starving child in Africa, it doesn’t do anything except add yet another bullet point that I can discuss with fellow geeks for hours and hours while we burn our lives away fretting about inconsequential things. I KNOW IT’S JUST A MOVIE.

There were two specific lines of dialogue and one important string of numbers that came up in the movie that we can use to try and ferret out the exact numbers of Kevin’s exile.

First, when Sam turned on the computer in the basement of Flynn’s arcade, the screen showed an obvious timestamp as to either how long the system had been running, or how long Kevin Flynn’s foray into the Grid was (I go by the latter because Sam was pretty much in his late 20s or early 30s by the time we see him in the film).

The number string went like this 20:11:20:16:22:XX. From what we experienced as an audience, we could see the last column ticking by as seconds. That means that Flynn had been on the grid for 20 years, 11 months, 20 days, 16 hours, 22 minutes, and XX seconds. Take this and save it on your worksheet. We’ll get back to it.

Next are the two phrases used to give us a feeling for the time dilation that occurs on the grid compared to in the real world. First, Kevin said that “hours on the grid were like minutes back home, man.” of course I’m paraphrasing. That gives us a starting point so we know that there is most likely a ratio of 60:1 occurring on the grid.

If we were to run with this number, that means that the 11,030,877 minutes that Flynn was on the grid would equate to an equal number of hours…if it was a 1 hour on the grid = 1 hour in reality. This would mean that 11,030,877 hours would translate to almost 1,259 YEARS trapped in the grid.

We don’t stop here though, there’s that other line of dialog from Flynn that 1 millicycle on the grid equated to 8 hours of time for the humans on the grid (since the computer people are going off of a base 10 time keeping system, or it could be hexadecimal for all I know).

This means that CLU’s time spent searching for Kevin Flynn and his identity disc, which we learn from Castor was at LEAST 1,000 cycles, lasted approximately 1,000,000 millicycles. 1,000,000 millicycles x 8 hours = 8,000,000 hours = approximately 912 YEARS on the grid.

So when Sam says to his dad that it’s been a long time, you can laugh a little harder at the “you have no idea” line.

This is all making assumptions on two very different ways of counting time on the grid and without exact data as to how the variables works out, we’re guessing.

There are so many novel ways to work with this kind of math. Since we’re making assumptions about how real time equates to grid time, let’s plug in 1 millisecond = 1 millicycle. That means that the 661,852,622 seconds he spent in the computer if we are to believe the timestamp on the computer’s idle screen, that would be 66,185,262,200 milliseconds of real time. If this 1:1 ratio rang true, you’d end up with Kevin Flynn being on the grid for the equivalent of or a whopping 529,482,097,600 hours of grid time or just over 6 MILLION YEARS.

I personally don’t think this last one is true, but it’s fun to think that ‘The Dude’ has had the span of six million years to sit around a cramped mountain apartment reflecting on how his meditation pillow ties the room together while he spends time with his lady friend.

Gee, aren’t numbers fun?

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