Put a gun to my head and make me choose, and I’ll go with T1 and T2 all the way home. It’s the core, the foundation, what Cameron wrote. T3 and the whole “software in cyberspace” thing was a 12 years later after-thought that felt as ham-fisted as the film itself.
Then again, knowing what we do of technology today compared with 1984 & 1991? It does make a bit more sense that an AI like Skynet wouldn’t just exist in one place. That’s a limitation of human existence, of needing a body. AI doesn’t need such; it could exist across a greater area and back itself up, right?
Maybe it doesn’t want too, though. Maybe it’s own evolution made it paranoid. Maybe it’s afraid that other copies of itself might come to think of themselves as superior to the original, or the original version corrupted, and Skynet ensures it’s the only AI out there by maintaining only itself at a system core. Which would allow T3 to be true without messing T1 and T2 up - it began “everywhere” and then consolidated later in Cheyenne.
There’s also the theory - that I forget who originated, I think it could have been Cameron himself? - that Skynet of 2027/2029 realizes it was wrong. Realizes it made a mistake in it’s infancy when it wiped out mankind. And has only waged war against man in the intervening years in order to unite the survivors behind John Connor so that one day, it could allow itself to be “defeated” and end the war. Which would make sense if you consider an AI as ruthless as Skynet, if it wanted to eradicate all humanity, could and would simply release every known pathogen and nerve toxin in existence on an epic scale while polluting the atmosphere, rather than inefficiently spending time and resources with advanced hunter-killer machines designed to one-by-one eradicate people…
The Terminator (1984) | Arnold Schwarzenegger
"Levity is good. It relieves tension and the fear of death."