It was recently my birthday and my folks consulted my Amazon wish list for gift ideas. I have a pile of books, movies and other tech goodies on there but out of it all, they chose these two movies as part of the package. Not wanting to bore my wife with these, I had to wait until she was out of town to watch them. She humored me with Pirates of Silicon Valley. But I didn’t expect these to be nearly as entertaining for someone not grossly obsessed with the tech industry. I would still stick with my original call. These movies are not likely wife-friendly.
I started out with Triumph of the Nerds. I have to say that I found this movie thoroughly enjoyable from the start to finish. At this point, it’s a little dated but still very relevant. Bill Gates was only worth around $11B at the time of this movie for instance so it was probably much easier to capture the great interviews with him at that point in time. Steve Jobs still looks pretty young and lively in this movie as well. Some of these founding fathers of the tech industry are just as outrageous as ever. Steve Ballmer for instance spewed out a few lines that were just hilarious.
This movie also has an interesting and just plain bizarre host, Bob Cringely. Bob claims that he was Apple employee number 12 and was offered stock back in those days because the company was short on cash. Unfortunately for him, he held out for the cash and apparently his mother has never let him live it down. 🙂 The movie is broken up into three parts but you’ll probably just want to plow through it all at once if you are anything like me. I would consider this movie as the perfect follow up to Pirates of Silicon Valley. If you want a much more accurate portrayal of what actually happened, this is your movie. That being said, I certainlywould not skip Pirates of Silicon Valley. It’s also an excellent movie and not HORRIBLY inaccurate. Just a little dolled up for Hollywood.
The second movie I got was Revolution OS. If you are not a Microsoft hater, I might consider skipping this one. There is an undertone throughout the whole movie that Linux can do no wrong. That being said, there are several great interviews in there that are worth seeing. Interviews with Richard Stallman of FSF, Linus Torvalds(creator of the kernel) and Larry Augustin of VA Linux. They touch on the wild Linux IPO’s, open source vs free software camps, pivotal decisions by Netscape and the Apache web server.
If you have been into Linux for a while, you might not learn or gain much from this movie but if you are new to Linux and want to learn about it’s roots, it’s not a bad place to start. Just a word of advice though, don’t drink all the kool aid this movie is spitting out. Pay close attention and you will see some of the ways that clever video editing is being used to put new context into what the interviewees are actually trying to say. Also, pay close attention when they are talking about the IPO’s. You’ll notice that they BRIEFLY flash onto the screen the post earnings announcement stock prices. You can barely even read the message, let alone comprehend it and see that the stocks when from the mid $200’s to less than $5 overnight.
This movie brought back some not so pleasant memories. I was there myself, right in the thick of it. I worked for a start up company that was producing a Linux-based product. We were trying to raise funding for ourselves and had tangible network appliances that we were ready to release. After Redhat and VA Linux tanked, no one would touch our company with a 10-foot pole. This eventually led to us shutting the doors and we weren’t the only ones that suffered. I personally believe that the tech crash was catalyzed by those two specific companies. Having that footnote glossed over annoys me a bit and reminds me why I didn’t touch Linux for a good 3-4 years after that period of time.
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