Remember PalmPilots? IMAX is using the tech to run Oppenheimer in movie theaters

Oppenheimer movie still
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Oppenheimer is set to be IMAX's newest major blockbuster hit when it premiers on July 21, but it's running on technology dating from the 1990s: a PalmPilot. Turns out that operators will use the old system to project the movie, and it's sparked a flood of nostalgia online. 

The PalmPilot emulator had been spotted being used on an iPad in a TikTok video that IMAX released on July 14 about the engineering tweaks that have been had to be made to accommodate Oppenheimer's three-hour runtime. 

The video had meant to be showcasing how the 70mm film reel, which is 11 miles long and weighs 600 pounds, was so large that IMAX had to extend the film platter that holds it – the extension had been done specifically for Oppenheimer.

But those who are familiar with the handheld device's interface were quick to notice it being emulated on the wall beside the film platter and wanted more answers as to what the operating system was being used for. See the video below: 


♬ original sound - IMAX

Why is IMAX using tech from the 90s? 

The PalmPilot may seem like outdated tech, but its operating system's ease of use and stripped-back design made it popular with developers, including with IMAX. 

"The original Quick Turn Reel Units operated on PalmPilots. In advance of the release of Oppenheimer, IMAX Engineering designed and manufactured an emulator that mimics the look and feel of a Palm Pilot to keep it simple and familiar for IMAX film projectionists," an IMAX spokesperson told Motherboard.  

It seems fitting that a movie about the hurried and desperate development of technology should require its own strange technology mash-up to make it work. 

Can't wait to see Oppenheimer? Check out our Christopher Nolan movies ranked list to get ready for its big debut, or have a look at our new movies list to see what else is available.

Amelia Schwanke
Senior Editor UK, Home Entertainment

Amelia became the Senior Editor for Home Entertainment at TechRadar in the UK in April 2023. With a background of more than eight years in tech and finance publishing, she's now leading our coverage to bring you a fresh perspective on everything to do with TV and audio. When she's not tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos in the ever-evolving world of home entertainment, you’ll find her watching movies, taking pictures and travelling.