Tuesday Review – Pirates Of Silicon Valley

Tuesday Review:
Pirates of Silicon Valley
1999 NR 97 minutes

This is an odd film to look at from the perspective of 2011. It was made in the late 90’s but tries very hard to project an image of the 80’s, mostly by the dress, speech and music used.

A side note here: I have seen this movie, and you will think I am lying, at least 100 times. Not because I think it’s really good, or that I really like it. I used the movie in my classes on computers, to try and give the students some perspective. It’s not a great film, not a bad film, but it gets the job done.

Over the years (!) that I have used the film in class I also assigned the students to review it. In most cases they wrote pretty straightforward papers, some of which were cut and pasted from the IMDB movie site. I flunked them!
Some students actually took the time to debunk some of the myths that the film brings into play, which was very satisfying to me as a teacher.

In most cases the film deals only superficially with the subject at hand: the exponential growth and development of personal computers and as a side plot the competition between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Because the film is short and because it is really NOT a documentary it paints things in a very sophomoric fashion. Bill Gates is a computer geek, Steve Jobs is a starry-eyed hippie visionary.

The casting is very good, at least in terms of how close they come to looking like the real deal. Bill Gates, (Anthony Michael Hall) looks like he is uncomfortable unless he is in the company of computers and Steve Jobs (Noah Wylie) is out there but also a hard-edged cut-throat asshole. The truth of the matter is they probably both had elements of asshole in them but Gates comes off a little more likeable. Steve Ballmer (John Di Maggio) is a weak link in the movie, played over the top but he does get a great scene where he breaks the “fourth wall” and steps away from the movie to show up a pivotal moment. It’s pretty good film making.

The film shows its age lately, as the technology progresses so fast that there is really very little about that devices the characters are using that translates to our world of smart phones and tablets. Still, it’s not a bad thing to remember history, right?

If you would like to further your education and see how some of the reality played out these films are a good start and not so incidentally are available on Netflix stream.

Revolution OS
2002 NR 86 minutes

Welcome to Macintosh
(Welcome to Macintosh: The Documentary for the Rest of Us)
2008 NR 73 minutes

The Future We Will Create: Inside the World of TED
2007 NR 73 minutes


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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