For all the intense debate about the Steve Jobs movie that was recently released -- very high-profile with major talents involved from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin to director Danny Boyle and its A-list cast -- there was, in fact, another movie that covered some of the same subject matter and got completely lost in the discussion.
The film was Pirates of Silicon Valley, made for television that aired on TNT 16 years ago. It was based on the book, Fire in the Valley: the Making of the Personal Computer and looked that the competitive battle between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs from before they founded Microsoft and Apple. It was really quite well-done. Noah Wylie starred as Steve Jobs, and Anthony Michael Hall played Bill Gates.
Its style and pacing is perhaps just a bit dated today, and being made-for-TV its budget was far lower (and the production was far less flashy), but it was thoughtful, generally well-acted and covered the ground in a reasonably accurate and low-key way. Indeed, the writer/director Martyn Burke began his career as a journalist in Vietnam and got into films by making documentaries.
If you haven't seen it, the movie is available on Netflix and well-worth checking out if you're interested in the subject matter (or saw the Steve Jobs film and would like to see an expansion on the topic). One historic note is that when it was made, Microsoft had largely come out on top of the battle, with Apple at its low point. Since then, of course, the iPhone and iPad have turned around Apple's fortunes.
(Also, this is a very good article here on the well-regarded CNET tech website. It revisits the film and looks at it from a technology accuracy perspective and how it holds up purely as a movie. Not to worry, this is not remotely a geek article, but thoroughly accessible and interesting. The short version is that they feel the movie still holds up quite well. And they end with saying, "As such the film is an enjoyable primer on the foundation of Apple (and Microsoft) and an interesting look at the first act of the Jobs legend. Perhaps the new 'Steve Jobs' movie will shed more light on the second act.")
Here's the trailer --
And as a bonus, here's an extended three-minute scene of a critically important moment in the history of the two companies, when Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and other young Microsoft executives are invited by Steve Jobs to come over to the Apple offices and get a tour, where he showed up Apple's new graphical interface -- from which Microsoft developed its Windows operating system.
One of the many things I like about the film is that it puts this famous event in perspective. While so many Apple fans like to point at this as being when Microsoft "stole" Apple's operating system, the movie rightly shows earlier that Apple itself "stole" the graphical operating system from Xerox.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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