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Pirates of Silicon Valley

CmdrTaco posted more than 15 years ago | from the stuff-to-babble-about dept.

Television 346

Several of you have written in to mention the Pirates of Silicon Valley movie that TNT aired last night and we've mentioned here in the past. Its the story of Jobs and Gates, but made-for-TV. Click the link below to read my brief review of the film, and to have a chance to give your opinion on it.So I've never seen the PBS series 'Triumph of the Nerds' all the way through (although if anyone can get me tapes, I'd be uber happy). I've seen the last half of it like 3 times, but I always seem to miss the first episode. But its apparent that the story told there is absolutely fascinating. My original involvement was through PC Magazine and the likes- somehow I acquired a crate containing like 1983-1986 of all the trade rags, and I read every one of them cover to cover. But they don't tell the real story. TotN did a good job showing the people behind it.

Pirates of Silicon Valley had a different goal. It was supposed to be entertainment and not a documentary. Parts of the movie were somewhat interesting. And it was kinda cool watching people act out what I'd read about and seen people talk about. It added a certain amount of realism watching a women try to prevent Jobs from getting in at Xerox. It was pretty cool having the whole story narrated by Woz's charachter.

They played some of the more standard predictable elements of the story up big time (Jobs and his family life is an overdone theme throughout, as is Gates screwed up lovelife- neither of these things would have been important on PBS, but the director thought they were important here).

Anyway, they don't talk about anything technical. And it makes ommissions and plays with timelines a bit to make things more entertaining. And its not a great movie, but it ain't bad for a made-for-TV production starring a washed up brat pack kid and an ER star. I'd suggest seeing it, but if you're interested in the story, watch Triumph of the Nerds.

Don't take my word for it, I know many of you tuned in. What did you think?

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Re:Hatchet Job?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840840)

People also so conveniently forget that Apple PAID Xerox licensining fees to use the ideas that they came up with -- unlike Microsoft.

inventing basic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840841)

It made me sick that they made it seem that Gates and Allen invented/created Basic. They negelected to include Gates's internship at Digital where he stole a copy of their source.

Disappointing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840842)

I was quite disappointed in the movie. I saw 99% of it from watching the previews of it. I wasn't expecting a WHOLE lot, but I was expecting something more than 90 minutes of yawning. They placed too much emphasis on the past (pre-1990), and mentioned next to nothing on 1990 to present. The only time they mentioned something current was in the last 5 minutes of the movie. In all honesty, I thought the movie was going to go an extra hour. But no, 1990 to present was summed up in 5 minutes.
But then again, who am I to judge? I've only been following the story since 1981. I could have been doing something productive. If anyone missed the movie, I'll gladly give up the tape of it.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840843)

Just like Apple didn't invent the GUI, neither Apple nor Xerox invented the mouse.

Not so bad but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840844)

It definently had some good moments, but a little too fluffy for my taste. I actually learned a lot though, I had no idea that Gates got started that way.

Maybe I'm wrong, but didn't the colorful apple logo appear years after the unveiling at the computer faires? I thought I read that Jobs hated the idea of an apple split into colors.

Pretty good story, lots of personal background I would have done without, and I would have focused more on Woz, without whom Apple wouldn't exist. I mean, if you ask me Woz is synonymous with 'hacker god.'

Re:Hatchet Job?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840845)

Actually, a Xerox employee did invent the mouse. At least that is what I seem to remember from "Revenge of the Nerds v1.0" They actually interviewed the guy and showed the first mouse which had three wheels instead of a ball and was made of wood. The idea of a pointing device was not Xerox's, of course. There have been many experiments with joysticks before PARC started messing with the Alto computer (Xerox's PC), especially in aviation industry. None of the planes used an electronic steering scheme, but there were prototypes of crude joysticks (probably not even named at that point).

Re:Decent enough waste of two hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840846)

correct me if im wrong, but wasnt that prototype
Xerox computer with a gui called the Star or something along those lines?

"why's it harder to subtract code than add it?"

it was pretty excellent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840847)

I've read dozens and dozens of accounts of all
this stuff before and this seemed like a very
excellent summary, especially when given a 2
hour time limit.

Finally, the masses will understand that Gates
and Jobs are not computer geniuses -- they are
businessmen. And they copied and stole. But
that's capitalism. And it works. And its
all worth it.

Looking forward to the next movie about RMS
and Linus et al wiping the slate clean and
freeing us forever...

Re:Aired three times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840848)

TNT always has a habit or showing their TNT-Original movies back to back many times in the same night. Also expect to see it shown a couple of times this week if they keep true to form. I guess since they made the movie they really want to give it a lot of exposure.

Integrity is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840849)

Richard Nixon dealt it a mortal wound, but it was dying slow. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates finished it off.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840850)

Not only that but a number of Xerox employees from PARC left to go work at Apple. The movie sort of alluded to that since the original lady who was opposing Jobs et al. going into the labs was later shown working at Apple. I would have to say that I think the idea the the PARC people were opposed to Apple visiting is sort of weird. They had been giving free tours a year earlier to anybody who wanted them...

Re:World's Richest Men (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840851)

Because most of his net worth is in Microsoft stock which doubled in that time period.
You don't get taxed until you SELL the stock.

And the proceeds from such a sale would only be taxed at 20% due to capital gains.

Undeserved money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840852)

All these people should have their fortunes stripped from them and donated to the poor. To have a single individual worth $90 billion is completely sickening. They should defintely have to pay 95% taxes on that income after you make over $200k/year.

The real Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840853)

I could have sworn at the very end when he was leaning over the podium Jobs was played by himself. It was uncanny how much Wiley looked like him at that point.

Re:Not so bad but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840854)

Nope, the multi-colored plexiglass apple was present at that first computer 'Faire' as shown.

One man's dickhead is another man's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840855)

...shrewd businessman.

Nicely trolled.

Re:Undeserved money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840856)

It is this type of thinking that will cause OSS to fail.
No one should be punished because they are successful. I would dare say that Mr. Torvalds and a few other Linux gods are making damned near, if not more than, this $$.

If you continue to equate OSS with Communism, it is destined to die.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840857)

I'm just in it for the money, you think I have fun with this stuff? Are you telling me I'm in the wrong line of work? Damn

Not a Hatchet Jobs....Re:Hatchet Job?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840858)

Given Jobs has the rep for being an ego-driven child, the movie was as 'fair' as it is gonna get.

Its always been the work of others that Jobs and Gates have used to get to their #1 spot.

Gates - The professor who sub-contracted BASIC to him, the QDOS deal.
Jobs - Rafkin, Woz, Ives.

And if Jobs wasn't good at taking credit, why is Pixar doing fine w/o him?

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840859)

I think the big difference between jobs and gates is that jobs had vision. He knew what the market wanted and what consumers would buy. Gates just knew how to piggyback off of someone elses vision and then market it better. He's smart indeed, no one ever said he wasn't.

Hacker God, try WizardRe:Not so bad but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840860)

The Woz is a wizard.

(Few can call themselves wizards anymore. A wizard FYI is someone who is good with hardware AND software. And when I speak of hardware, I mean building the interconnect of logic gates, not plugging in PCI cards)

Re:they didn't have to stray (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840861)

The change that I didn't like the most was the whole issue of IBM getting DOS. I always thought the story was that IBM went to Digital to make a deal, it didn't happen for one reason or another, so IBM then went to Microsoft and made a deal with them for basic and a OS. The movie shows them (Billy, Paul, and Frankenstein..uhh I mean Steve Ballmer) going to IBM to sell them DOS.

At least they did explain/show the issue of MicroSoft buying Qdos.

Overall not a bad movie, just a couple of nitpicks here and there about details. Of course a better name for the movie would have been A tale of two Buttheads....


HP and Xerox Blew It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840862)

Jobs and Gates, love em Or hate em, but HP and Xerox came out looking like fools for not seeing the future they had created.

Gates is a thief and a shark, who stole the GUI; they left out technical facts, and took liberty with the time line. They forget Job's payment for the GUI to Xerox PARC. Oh well, TV writer's always play hob with the facts to their own ends don't they?

good makeup. Re:The real Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840863)

Good makeup can make ya believe anything.

And if you keep saying "I built Apple" or "I created the Macintosh", people will believe you.

No matter how much The Woz or Jef Rafkin built Apple or created the Mac idea.

Interesting (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840954)

How you people try to defend Jobs (the underdog) and attack Gates. Steve Jobs is a dickhead,
Gates is just a shred businessman -- who has
given over $3billion in real money top charity
(not MS software this time), I might add.

Besides all these, you people keep focusing on how much Gates stole technology, but the fact of the matter is, no one in this world completely invents anything anymore. You stand upon the shoulders of the knowledge produced by those who came before you. You could say that Linus *STOLE* Unix from Minux or AT&T. The vast
majority of open-source software is simply cloned
from commercial apps. Whether or not Gates
wrote any code is moot, it's not illegal
to hire or buy software, and then resell it
and get rich. Do the CEOs of Redhat write any
software? No, but they sure have made a lot of $$$ off the backs of GPL programmers.

Everyone here seems to think that Gates lied, cheated, and stole his billions -- of course, no one could ever get rich honestly right?

The fact of the matter is, Gates is smart. There
have been industry giants before, from the mainframe era, the minicomputer era, the non-networked PC era. All of them got washed away by a sea change in the industry. Except Microsoft, which has fought every revolution and won. They
must be doing something right.

There are a lot of whining losers on this board, people who don't have the business savy, marketing savy, or ability to sell themselves or their software. As a result, someone will else will take their ideas and get rich on it.

You can say you don't care about money, or who's successful, and that all you want to do is have fun coding, but if that was the case, you wouldn't give a damn about Microsoft at all and you wouldn't complain so much.

I relish the day when the Linux hype gets crushed, and Microsoft pulls yet another coup. Then Linux will be reduced to the level of Mac zealotry with a bunch of people still holding onto an inferior platform.

Bill Gates Jr.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840955)

Woz is, interestingly, the only truly admirable person there. And from what I've heard, that's really true... very decent guy, very different from the usual sleaze (Jobs, Gates, Ballmer)

Decent enough waste of two hours (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1840956)

Perhaps the most perplexing part of the movie was that TNT played it at least three times in a row that I noticed.

It was fun to watch, although the only educational value was the fact that they stole it all from Xerox. Maybe the next time I take a comp-sci class I won't have such a hard time convincing the instructor that Apple didn't invent the GUI.

Seriously though it really made me want to dig around and find my old Xerox computers (Altair, is that right?).

In some of the scenes with both Apple and Microsoft it was realy hard to tell whether the commentary was coming from Balmer or Wozniak.

Too bad the show didn't really have any substance beyond two hours of whiny bickering brats. It's more frightening to think that these two are on top of the computer world for many people. Talk about role models.

Too damn early. need coffee.

The one good scene... (1)

Shiska (131) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840957)

(badly paraphrasing)

(Jobs) "We're better than you, we've got a better product."
(Gates) "You just don't get it, do you, Jobs!? ... THAT DOSEN'T MATTER!"

Now that's comedy.
----------------- ------------ ---- --- - - - -

Pirates (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840961)

Posted by grphxguru:

They did portray Jobs as real Prick...wonder if he watched it? Hall did great with Gates, would've liked to see it more technical...but ...PBS...anyway...I enjoyed it. Made HP look moronic.

Okay... (1)

rasterboy (871) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840965)

Yeah, it was ok, it was *entertainment* not exactly reality. Funny in parts though. Any real hacker admires Steve Wozniak, of course. Did Apple invent the GUI? No, but they did market it, and bring it to the people. A.M. Hall was great as Gates, Ballmer is such a jackass, Jobs is, well, Jobs... no mention of NeXT or Pixar, of course. And, gee, Microsoft _owns_ part of Apple? So does every stockholder, right?

Displaying the Mac (1)

rasterboy (871) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840966)

Oh, my favorite prop was the little rotating display thing that Jobs had for the Mac, where he pushed the red button and it turned 180 degrees. Can't you just see him pushing it 100 times for practice before he shows Gates and company?

Gotta get one of those for my next product launch!

Missing one element. (1)

Damon C. Richardson (913) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840967)

I thing It could have used Jar Jar Binks. Maybe he could have played the guy that invented the ethernet.

Re:Windows 1.0 vs Macintosh? (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840968)

>I thought Macintosh had 5 to 10 years of being the only real GUI that was actually used.

The Amiga and the Atari ST both had GUIs in the mid-80's, and there were others (GEM?) as well. The Xerox Star was (I b'leeve) the first commercially available computer with a WIMP interface, although it sold very few machines just like the Lisa. And X Window was born in 1984. But yes, you are correct about a usable (if pretty lame) version of Microsoft Windows not being available until the 90's.

Re:Various corrections and comments... (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840969)

>CP/M used a C> prompt...

Shouldn't it have been an A> prompt? The C> prompt only came to be because most hard drives were C, after two (A and B) floppy drives.

Windows 1.0 vs Macintosh? (3)

Smack (977) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840970)

One thing that caught my attention was the way that the Macintosh and Windows 1.0 were shown as competing seriously. Windows didn't really catch on until 3.0, right? I thought Macintosh had 5 to 10 years of being the only real GUI that was actually used. Windows was quite late to that market. But in the movie, they make it sound like Windows was a heavy competitor from day one.

It just makes it look, to a naieve viewer, that Macintosh has always been second best, when I don't think that was true for several years.

TNT vs Reality vs Geeks (1)

seth (984) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840971)

It is a well known fact that occasionally one hand of the TNT management tries to play up to the nerd population and then stops immediately when the other hand finds out what the first is trying to do. This can be shown quite clearly in TNTs dealing with Babylon 5, its occasional choice of movies and a situation like Pirates of Silicon Valley.

I think that the movie started as a documentary, in which the story would be told, and then got mangled into a docudrama and then further got mangled into a story that has a clear "Bill Gates Won" ending.


Methinks the actual history was far more interesting. The sad thing is the lukewarm reception this will get in feedback and numbers when they show it again will give TNT the impression that geeks are not a signifigent part of the viewing population and then it is a waste to give them anything that is catered to them.

Anyways, I did like the ending. Here's Steve B as President of MS, Gates as richest man in the world, Jobs running Apple (and leaving us with the impression that he's Gates' bitch).

And then we have Woz. He teaches kids how to use computers and funds a ballet.

I know who I think got the best deal out of the whole thing.

Aired three times (2)

Jerky McNaughty (1391) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840985)

I'm still trying to figure out why the heck they felt the need to air the movie three times, back to back.

I came in about half way through the movie and was on IRC so my attention to the movie was somewhat poor. I didn't know when it ended and another "instance" started so I, at first, thought they were doing something really screwy with bouncing back and forth between times. Ha.

But, hey, they showed it three times so I just paid better attention later and watched the whole thing.

Maybe TNT just knows us geeks too well. Knows we were all hacking or chatting and not paying much attention. We needed the movie three times before we really got it.

iMac is the best selling computer? (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840989)

Good grief, even discounting the fourteen gazillion million Intel based machines...

The best selling computer has been the Commodore-64 for quite a long time, having sold something like 15-20 million of the buggers over the course of it's lifetime.

After the midnight reshowing... (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840990)

Well after watching it for the 2nd time, they played Weird Science.


But WarGames was a classic!!! (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840991)

WarGames was fun, as long as you ignored some of the glaring technical merits of the film.

Such as the fact that Broderick had about $10k of computer equipment in his bedroom, with no explanation of where he struck it rich. :)

Re:Windows 1.0 vs Macintosh? (2)

sheldon (2322) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840993)

Correct. The Mac was introduced in 1984. However Windows 3.0 wasn't introduced until like 1990. The first couple versions sucked pretty hard.

It wasn't until the release of Windows 3.1 in around 1991 that Microsoft dominated the playing field.

On the other hand from 1985-1990 the Mac faced competition from the Amiga and other home computers. And it's funny that Jobs says "We're Better", when the Amiga was better than all of them at the time. :)

Various corrections and comments... (3)

sheldon (2322) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840994)

Several people have commented that Gates sat in front of a computer with a C> prompt and somehow this was out of sequence.

CP/M used a C> prompt... CP/M was originally written for the Altair. And then later became the dominate OS on hardware from Cromemco(which was important in Gates career and not mentioned :(), Osborne, Morrow, Kaypro, Northstar, etc. Microsoft and Gates were selling CP/M software... MS-BASIC, Macro-Assembler, I believe they even had a C compiler at the time.

I am not sure about the historical accuracy of the meeting with IBM. My understanding was that IBM approached Microsoft, not the other way around. This was after Kildall had blown them off when IBM asked to have CP/M ported.

As far as the theft from Xerox and whether it was theft or not. This was all covered in the court case back in 1994 or so when Apple sued Microsoft. Microsoft won the court case, and I believe one of the aspects was that since Apple did not originate the ideas they had no property rights to protect. Those rights belonged to Xerox who wasn't involved in the lawsuit. (as far as I remember)

I thought it was entertaining. Hall did a wonderful Gates impersonation!

But my favorite line in the whole film was when they were at the unveiling of the Mac and Ballmer turns to Gates and says "Since when did this stop becoming a business, and start becoming a religion?"

my thoughts (1)

Garfunkel (3569) | more than 15 years ago | (#1840999)

I thought the movie was going just fine and was pretty entertaining. Then about 5 minutes before it ended, it looked like the whole thing ran out of money and time. The last 4-5 minutes covered as much time as the previous two hours. I kind of wish they would've gone farther and bridged the gap between Jobs getting pissed ad Gates and eventually getting fired to the point where Jobs was rehired and became "buddies" with Gates. Other than that, I thought they did a respectable job on it (though it seemed more focused on Jobs than Gates.)

One product Gates hasn't filched (1)

Dr.Whiz-Bang (4662) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841005)

Bob. Okay, you win.


Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841006)

Well, Paul Allen got out of MS before his dickness could mature fully... And he funds many startups, thus offering future generations opportunity, so I don't think he's that bad...

And sue me, Steve Ballmer cracks me up..

Just goes to show, what a little luck, a lot of nerve, and a penchant for criminal negligence will get you..

(And I'm _glad_ SJ took it in the ass as he did in this feature, he deserves all the shit that'll stick..)

The sequel will hopefully feature a Ballmer aside where he tells you exactly when Gates sold his soul.. (or did he even have one to sell?)

Fell flat at the end (2)

EngrBohn (5364) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841012)

They also played a little with some facts. For example, Apple getting WIMP from Xerox PARC (the leading technology center for everyone but Xerox) was completely above-the-table, with stock gifts, etc.
It was kind of "okay" IMO. When it ended, I felt like there was still another hour of the show -- that's my big complaint, that it fell flat at the end.
And, frankly, I'm surprised those NECs were shipping with Windows 1.0, since my first taste of MS Windows (2.something) was that it was a horrible piece of wasted bits -- even Windows 3.whatever was a vast improvement.
Christopher A. Bohn

Re:My Thoughts (3)

EngrBohn (5364) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841013)

This was filmed in 1997, and supposed to air last year. That's why there's no iMac. I think the other reason it ended where it did was because that's a good poetic note, with BillG looming over Jobs on the big screen just like Big Brother in the 1984 commercial.
Christopher A. Bohn

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Apocros (6119) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841015)

they sure didn't. that was SRI.

Re:World's Richest Men (1)

Apocros (6119) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841016)

interesting. i saw this on the news this morning and the top 5 were:
1: gates $90 billion
2: buffet $36 billion
3: allen $30 billion
sultan of brunei $30 billion
5: king fahd(sp?) $28 billion

ballmer wasn't mentioned.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Apocros (6119) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841017)

actually, from what i understand, the mouse was invented at SRI. in fact, i have a mousepad with a picture of it (it's a large wooden block with a single red button in the top right corner--so either it's for southpaws or the picture is backwards--and what i think is a sun serial connector at the end of it's cable) and a caption stating: "SRI International, Inventor of the Mouse".

Re:World's Richest Men (1)

Glith (7368) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841021)

MS's stock doubling = Bill Gates' fortune doubling.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

The OPTiCIAN (8190) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841022)

Yup. Say what you like about apple. they're bastards for what they've tried to do to Be. Bsatards for what they're doing with the quicktime codecs. Bastards in general. But they know their stuff, and they *really* know what consumers want. Whereas everything Microsoft has ever got has been through back dealing and wars of attritious marketing.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

ghjm (8918) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841029)

Yeah, CP/M had drive letters like DOS, and (if you weren't running ZCPR3 or something) you might very well see an A> or B> prompt under CP/M.

But it's very unlikely you would see a C> prompt. Upder CP/M the only way that would happen is if you had three floppy drives. Or a sense of humor.

But remember, this movie wasn't made for us. It was made for Them. They don't know the difference between a C> prompt and a paper tape, it's all just neat-looking props.

deal makers (1)

dmeiz (9373) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841031)

those two didn't invent anything; they just bought , stole and made the deals. it is those deals that makes them geniuses.

Re:Undeserved money? (2)

david614 (10051) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841033)

Much as I am not really much of a fan of Bill, Steve Jobs, or the rest of this bunch, they do not deserve to have their property stolen from them and distributed to another bunch of people who have done nothing to earn it.

Let's avoid the socialist rants, and allow *some* people to keep some part of what they earn.

Incidentally, wealth resulting from the stock valuations is hardly "income" in the traditional sense. Are you suggesting that their stock should be "seized"? How would you do that?

Truly ridiculous suggestions.


Gates (1)

voncheesebiscuit (10243) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841035)

I really liked the sinister music in the background whenever Gates was on screen, especially when he met Jobs at the Computer Faire. I was waiting for Gates to but in a hockey mask and whip out a chainsaw.

Glad WOZ got airtime (1)

Croaker (10633) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841037)

The one thing I feared was that it would be purely Gates vs. Jobs. It's good to see that WOZ, at least, came off looking good. As someone who cut his teeth on an Apple ][+, I always looked up to WOZ as a real hero. Back in those days, Jobs was just the guy who seemed to handle the business stuff.

I do think they overplayed the threat that Windows posed to the Mac early on. Windows at that point was just a joke. It was there mainly so IBM could say "Yeah, our stuff can do that pretty graphics thing, too... but hey, who needs it to run 1-2-3?"
The movie made it seem that the introduction of Windows was the beginning of the end for Apple. The reality of mismanagement, bad marketing, and who knows what else that caused Apple to poop out is a much more complex story, and ill-suited to a movie of the week.

It would have required a miniseries (such as, say, Triumph of the Nerds) to tell the whole story... the downfall of IBM (including the OS/2 debacle), Apple's faultering, Microsoft finally getting it right (enough) in Windows 3.0.

I suspect they didn't go into the later 80's and early 90's because of a nostalgia factor. There was still this naive sense of wonder with computers back in those days. Nowadays, they are boring beige appliances that most people pound on during the day at work.

Old tech (1)

pholbrook (11088) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841038)

I got the biggest kick out of of seeing the old machines.

Gates was shown hacking up Basic on what looked a DEC PDP-8/E (the box with the orange/yellow front panel and lots of flat toggle switches.)

I also looked like they found an Alto. It was also a kick to see the Lisa interface again.

I'll swear I saw what looked like an Apple III on a desk.

I know I was at at least one Homebrew Computer club meeting where they were showing the Apple I, and I was at the First West Coast Computer Faire where the II was introduced. But in both cases, I remember the machines, not the people.

World's Richest Man (1)

Geek In Training (12075) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841044)

Just to clear up some of the confusion about Billy G's wealth...

There are several websites out there (too lazy to dig up a URL) that track an "estimated minute-to-minute value" of Bill's Worth.

His "personal" wealth has been hovering in the 120 billion dollar range lately. That number, to me, is just staggering, especially given that he's such an unscrupulous jerk. Of course, had I not the social inclinations that I have now, I may have ended up a sick sadistic nerd bent on world domination myself.

That 120 billion dollars probably "only" includes a few billion in liquid assets, and maybe 10 billion more in "other" investments. The rest is wholly his Microsoft holdings and options, which is why the number can fluctuate so much. It's to the point where if MS stock goes down a point, Billy can "lose" a billion dollars. Then it's up two points the next day, so he's "made" two billion dollars. It's like monopoly money, just like the rets of the stock market. It's not yours until you pull it out of the market and pay your 40% to the government. Then, it's liquid, but less volitile.

Bill's child is gonna be one seriously eligible bachelorette some day; she's an heiress the likes of which have not been seen since the days of the steel magnates!


It was good.. (1)

sboss (13167) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841048)

I really liked it. It was nowhere near academy award type movie but it was entertaining. I was scared on how much of it was true. Jobs back then was a freak that would push push push and then blow up at any roadblock. Gates has always been that maniplative. Gates (this is what I have heard over and over again) did not win as much as he lost at pocker. He really like it but was not that good. The stories about how gates sold DOS to IBM without owning it was soo true. I think that gates and jobs need to partner up. They both freak out at work at anything. From people that I have talked to that used to work for the big M$, that gates walks into the meeting screaming and leaves screaming with nothing but screaming thoughtout the meeting. I think both of them have issues that they need to work through.. Jobs supposely is much calmer now than back in the 70/80s. I think the person that kept his head the best back then in the middle of all of this chaos was Woz.

Synopsis: It was entertaining.


sboss dot net

My Useless Review (2)

foxtrot (14140) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841050)

I liked Pirates of Silicon Valley overall. It's an interesting story, even to those of us who grew up with the characters in the news, watching the whole thing as it really happened.

It probably could have been retitled "The Rise and Fall of Steve Jobs"-- most of the interesting parts of the movie were the ones dealing with Apple, not Microsoft. In fact, often it seemed like the Bill Gates scenes were only thrown in because he's the richest man in the known universe, which should make him a sure draw for Nielsen ratings-- but they're rarely interesting scenes. In fact, during the negotiation with IBM, they have to step back and have Steve Ballmer's character tell people that "Hey, this is history! This is important!", but most of the scenes dealing with early Apple were interesting in their own right.

The treatments of historical events was played a bit fast and loose for the sake of the story-- but the character interaction seemed to be right with what we'd expect from these people, whom admittedly, most of us have never met. Steve Jobs comes across as the eccentric we expect. Woz is the technical genius who really doesn't have any clue that he's building 'tomorrow'. Bill Gates comes across as someone who _really_ doesn't like to lose. And the corporate bigwigs are dead-on. None of them believe there can be any money at all in personal computers.

If you're looking for a movie about the geek gadgets that evolved into what we now know as computers, this is not the movie for you. But if you want to get a glimpse into the minds of the people who changed the world, I think this is a good guess at that.

Of course, you should take this review with a grain of salt-- after all, I liked War Games, too...


well done (1)

wmeyer (17620) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841058)

The movie was well done, and within the limits of what can be accomplished in two hours, presented a more even-handed view of history than I expected.

For those who have not been close to the story of small computers for the last 25 years, yes, the Altair was the first to appear, and its basic complement of memory was 256 bytes.

The casting was very good, the characterizations of Gates and Jobs were very well done, and the story, having been based on the book from Freiberger and Swain, was accurate. Weighting factors might be argued, but the movie did an excellent job of showing the men behind MS and Apple, and their egos, frailties, and abusive ways.

While Apple may have dealt honestly with Xerox for what it got, they have attempted to rewrite history very heavily in their favor. I was using an Imsai 8080 in 1975, and before either the PC or the Mac appeared, had been very active with what we all referred to as personal computers. My own machine (by then a Z80) was roughly 2-3 times as fast as my first PC.

Apple didn't invent the personal computer. Neither Apple nor Microsoft invented very much, in fact, in the era shown in the film. Apple did a good job of developing Xerox technology into viable product, and both Apple and MS cloned event driven operating systems, with varying degrees of skill and success.

What impressed me most is that I found no significant errors in the film.

As to the handling of the personal lives of Gates and Jobs, I thought the film showed just enough to make clear that neither is a socially well adjusted individual.

Kudos to Turner for a film which does not fawn over the wealthy in either of these companies, nor take license to bash either beyond the realities of their respective histories.

Re:It was good.. (3)

knick (19201) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841061)

Actaully, they were a bit off in how the whole IBM/DOS thing happened.

IBM came to MS for applications for the PC. MS signed a non-disclosure and everything before IBM would even talk to them about what they wanted. Then, IBM went to Digital Research for DOS (I *believe* that MS even suggested them for the DOS. They had no interest in doing DOS, since they had no OS experience) Digital Research freaked at the idea of IBM approaching them and wanting this non-disclosure signed before they would even tell them why there were on thier front porch (DR was still operating out of thier house at the time) and basicly told IBM to go away. IBM went back to MS, told them what was going on, told them that without the DOS, the whole project might be in jeporady (remember, IBm wasn't REALLY stong on the idea of a PC, it was kind of a back-burner project). Facing the prospect of losing the whole application deal, they stuck thier necks out and told IBM they could do the DOS too. Paul Allen freaked, becuase he didn't believe they could come up with an OS that quickly with no experience. Of course, then they went and bought the DOS, but the fact of the story was, the fact that they didn't want to lose the application contract, and the fact that DR dropped the ball, made Microsoft what they are today.

Bottom line, they lucked into a good positon, and were willing to take a chance on the fact they could come up with an OS.

Entertainment value? (1)

the_tsi (19767) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841063)

I was really disappointed from both a technical standpoint (obviously) and for the entertainment value. All the (loosely built-up) conflict in the movie was resolved not with plot elements but "ten years later, here's a snapshot of what happened." It was incredibly weak, even for a TV-movie.

I did think one of the "best" parts was in the last fight between Gates and Jobs. "Our product is better." "That doesn't matter." It sums up the events that happened through the whole movie and since then between Apple and the world.

I wish they had gone just two or three years more into the conflict. Wozniak leaving Apple was a big deal, and they did it in two seconds of screentime. Here was ALL the technical brain behind the startup of the company *leaving* (to start his own company, not mentioned).

Oh well.

I'd like to see the real folks take on the movie. I think that would be more interesting. I wonder what Steve Jobs thinks of the scene where his character drops acid with completely no plot justification.


Re:Entertainment value? (1)

rm -rf /etc/* (20237) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841065)

Woz never actually left apple. To this day he is still on retainer and is technically an employee of apple. He doesn't do anything, but the interview I read said he feels his loyalty belongs there, and he will always remain an employee.

I though so too. (1)

Misha (21355) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841069)

I liked the movie, though I wished it was longer. The story itself is much more rich than what they showed in two hours time. Remember Revenge of the Nerds? That documentary seemed to go on forever and it only covered 15-20 years of events excluding the gaps. Oh, and the personal life of silicon valley moguls was left out by cringely, not pbs. cringely is a nerd, hence he does not care about personal lives, just the technical stuff. pbs would show any documentary if it was any good.

A.M.Hall was acting very well I thought. Plus watching "The Breakfast Club" for the twentieth time on both TNT and TBS in the past 6 days helped. I think he is a pretty good actor and fits well into movies of this type, where it is more important to capture the physical look of a real life character. And I believe he will soon get a role in a hollywood movie thanks to the BG gig.

Steve Jobs should have played himself though. In the RevengeotNerds he was the only really guy who appeared to still think differently from everyone else's point of view, just like in the beginning. The rest of the characters calmed, lost their external enthusiasm, but not Jobs. I cannot say that I saw that on my TV yesterday. I don't think Noah W. was playing the real Steve Jobs. Or perhaps I simply do not know about Jobs' personal life as much as Noah has researched.

no flames.

Re:World's Richest Men (1)

Misha (21355) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841070)

I thought Larry Ellison was Silllicon Valley's second billionaire? (how do you spell that?) And Bill Gates was worth $40 billion only last year (February 1998 -- some stupid bullsh*t PC journal). How could he have more than doubled it while still being in the 40% tax bracket? Anyone know?

Re:Decent enough waste of two hours (1)

Misha (21355) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841071)

The Xerox's computer was called Alto, AFAIK. (The Altair had nothing to do with Xerox -- it was just a box with lights and switches without a company other than Ed Robert's MITS behind it). The interesting thing was that it had more than just the GUI. It also had email and object oriented programming. That is mentioned by Jobs in Rev-o-t-Nerds. One other thing was that the Alto had a monitor that had higher vertical resolution than horizontal. Turn you monitor sideways, set X to be monochrome, and kill the window manager to have a feel of what that was like. 8)

Re:Anthony Michael Hall was amazing (1)

Misha (21355) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841072)

Other repliers forgot to mention "The Breakfast Club." I think A.M.Hall had his best acting there. Upto now, of course.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

bushido (23357) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841077)

did anyone else think that it ended rather suddenly? it felt like they left a lot of the story untold. the whole movie felt kind of strange - especially when Steve Balmer started speaking to the camera as he was "brought out" of the IBM meeting into an art gallery. what was with that?!
there were a couple funny parts - i really liked balmers' "oh fortran! fortran!..."

My Thoughts (5)

DougLandry (27581) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841082)

There were several things I didn't like about the movie:
  • First, Steve Jobs' character faults were overdone. Yes, I realize it was a 'docudrama' not a documentary, but more specifics on the facts should have been included. They could've shortened the five minute Jobs-Drops-Acid scene.
  • The technical errors. We were chatting on IRC as the movie played, and we collectively noted a few errors. Gates used the IBM PC when it hadn't shown up on the scene yet. They used a Apple II screen that hadn't been invented for eight years. There were a few others.
  • The historical errors. I understand a certain poetic license must be taken to make this appeal to the common watcher. However, to say that Apple stole the GUI from Xerox PARC just as much as MS stole technology from Apple is ludicrous. There was a financial deal, involving a 1 million dollar payment that appreciated, to allow Apple access to the Xerox technologies.
  • Lastly, the time frame covered of the movie was really skewed. They focused on the years of the Lisa and original Mac, but didn't show the 14 or so years after that, leading up to the iMac that signalled the return of the company. They left it at MacWorld Boston 1997, where MS bought 150 million of *nonvoting* Apple stock. This was probably the beginning of Apple's turnaround...They could've at least added a note at the end during the messages like "bill gates is the richest man in the world" that simply said "Apple's latest iMac is the best-selling computer in the world, of all time.

The movie was decent. I think it was okay for a made-for-tv movie. However, for someone who has read all the inside-Apple non-fiction books, some info was lacking in some areas, and the choice of timeframe covered left a lot to be desired.

I suppose my main beef is that the millions of people whose only notion of Apple is that colorful iMac they see on TV now think the company is run by a acid-dropping CEO.

Re:World's Richest Men (1)

GatorMike (29847) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841090)

Forbes puts out a couple of different lists each year. They have lists for all-out wealth (like unearned and born into) and working wealth. Interesting to see who are in the working wealth though.

1: gates $90b
2: buffett $36b
3: allen $30b
4: ballmer $19.5b

Interestingly Michael Dell is #6 at $16.5b
That's Forbes for ya....unorganized as ever.

Re:Greatest moment... (1)

GatorMike (29847) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841091)

Yep...saw it....still came into work today and used it :)

Tells a good story (1)

mhm23x3 (30474) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841092)

Personally, I thought that the movie told the story of how Gates and Jobs arrived on the PC scene quite well. Without going into unnecessary technical details, the movie covered the arrival of the Altair, Apple Computer starting in a garage, how Microsoft acquired DOS and sold it to IBM, how Jobs got his idea for a graphical interface from Xerox... You even see a working model of the Lisa.

Of course, there were a few historical errors, e.g., Xerox did not invent the mouse. But Gates' characterization is quite good. I like his line when Gates, Allen, and Ballmer are at Harvard, on the phone with the Altair guy: "We have to let him know what he doesn't think he needs, and that we are the only people he can get it from." Seems to sum up Microsoft's business strategy.

The underlying story of the movie was that Gates and Jobs were sucessful because they understood what the personal computer was good for, whereas Big Business (IBM, HP, etc) did not. Which is probably fairly true.

Definately watchable, if you can get past Ballmer's very badly done bald cap.

I saw it (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841094)

I thought they did a very good job of showing that the people who supposedly made the biggest impact in the micro-computer era, Jobs and Gates, weren't the guys who actually made anything. I loved the way they had Balmer's character sneering at the way Gates sold something he didn't have (DOS) to IBM. Woz actually created the Apple, but Steve didn't mind taking credit for it. In the same way that Paul seemed to be the technical driving force behind Microsoft.

I think this movie should help to finish scraping the boy genius inventor image off of Bill Gates that the has been polishing for so many years.

Memorable quotes... (1)

D3 (31029) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841096)

tied together with nominal dialoge to wrap around a loosely historical storyline about exaggerated characters.

But then again, what TV docudrama isn't like this?

I really want to know if the real Bill Gates said that line about 'successful people don't believe they can be beat'.

A cardboard Gates. A sculpted Jobs. (2)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841098)

I found very interesting the level of depth put into Jobs' character versus the level of depth put into Gates' character. Steve came across looking (aside from an emotional artist-genius) three-dimensional than the two-dimensional (yet very lucky) Bill Gates. But I am left with some respect for Bill, and some awe at Steve.

The delicious irony that the movie pointed out was how Bill despised Big Blue/Big Brother, and went to the belly of the beast to slay it. (Although I think they put a little too much foresight and gave too much credit to the demands of Gates at the conference table.)

Just like the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke's father, Big Brother has taken off the mask, and it is none other than Bill himself! And our young Luke Skywalker (Jobs) performes a marriage of convenience with his mortal enemy to save his empire. Is there another Skywalker?

Okay for nerds, great for carpenters. (2)

Penrif (33473) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841102)

I think TNT's view of things was a good introduction to the history between the two (Jobs and Gates). I mainly grinned and nodded at most of the factual content (and picked up a few things that might be true, who's to know?). But to their real target, people like my father who just don't touch these silly computer things, it was well done. It shows just a bit of what has gone on behind it all, but keeps their interest wonderfully. After he's seen it, I might just be able to explain to my father just what the Open Source movement could mean in the whole picture.

"Pirates of..." in Non-US? (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841113)

Anyone knows which station will broadcast Pirates of Silicon Valley in Canada? (or Mexico, or UK, or. ...)
- - -

well... (1)

Justin Norman (38075) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841117)

I thought it was pretty good, but not terriffic.. for some reason, it reminded me vaguely of Late Shift, the made-for-tv movie about the late night talk show wars. Of course, that one was quite good.. ;)

Anthony Michael Hall may be washed up, but I dont think they coulda chosen a better Gates =D


Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Math421 (38107) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841118)

Did anyone notice how there's a scene with Gates sitting in front of an IBM PC, with a C> prompt on it, and moving a highlight bar over some filenames, TWO SCENES BEFORE THEY GO TO IBM TO SELL THEM ON DOS, AND THREE SCENES BEFORE THEY BUY DOS FROM SEATLLE COMPUTER?

World's Richest Men (1)

Math421 (38107) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841119)

After the movie was over there was a story on the local TV news with the list of the world's richest men.

Numbers 1, 3, and 4 were Gates, Allen, and Ballmer.

Hatchet Job?? (1)

L1zard_K1n6 (39154) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841120)

Wow, they sure did make Steve Jobs look like a real prick. Then again, Jobs, Gates, Ellison, Ballmer all have reputations for being dicks. They're also all very rich. Is this a pettern? Haha I'm not sure - I've been a dick for years and I'm still broke.

Noah played Jobs very well - the obsessiveness, and the general flakiness.

Anthony had Gates' speech and physcial presence (slouching) down very well also.

This was a pretty good movie - it brought to the public the fact that both Microsoft and Apple stole from Xerox - a fact that escapes most people who think Apple invented the GUI.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Skratch (39859) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841122)


Well sure they're dicks, but seriously though, they made Jobs look like a total asshole and Gates just a sniveling weasel (which of course he is). But I think they were a little hard on old Stevey, I think he actually does have a knack (sp?) for seeing the future. Take a look at NeXTStep, it was way ahead of its time, just as most of his ideas, not neccesarily bad, just ahead of their times. But you have to keep in mind, Bill and Steve might have written code and messed with circuit boards back in the '70s, but they are really just marketing geniuses, the real geniuses are portrayed correctly in the movie by showing the folks who did the real innovative work, i.e. Xerox, Woz and the poor sap who wrote DOS. All this aside, I still think Steve Jobs in nowhere near Gates on the DickHead-O-Meter.

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Skratch (39859) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841123)

Yeah, in hindsight, that was a booboo, unless they had some other (semi-functional?) OS that worked like that... CP/M maybe? I dunno I'm not that old....

Re:Hatchet Job?? (1)

Skratch (39859) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841124)

Hey, I agree, they're bastards, but they know what the future is, unlike Bill, who makes bad copies of things. I'm glad they didn't make Woz look like a dick, because he's like the only non-dick in the whole big picture...

Re:Undeserved money? (1)

Skratch (39859) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841125)

I totally agree with you dude, as much as I hate Bill Gates, it's not cause he's rich, its the way he got rich.

Fuckin commie bastard.

they didn't have to stray (1)

caper (40124) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841130)

To tell the story in the 'entertaining' way that they wanted, they still could've been more accurate. Several of the scenarios were changed for seemingly no reason. Someone should do it right - for the big screen. Now is definitely the time to tell this story. The visions from that era of a PC on every desktop and in every home have finally come to fruition.

not quite right (2)

Vidar Leathershod (41663) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841131)

To say that Jobs stole from Xerox is silly. That was what Gates said to jobs, something like "You're problem is broke into Xerox's house to rob them, and now you're upset that I'm making off with the TV." I can't remember the quote exactly, but Apple made a deal with Xerox to get their engineers into PARC, and Gates didn't steal from the Xerox STAE system, he stole from the Apple Macintosh system. A big difference. Name one product Gates hasn't filched. Well, you probably can, but's it's probably not a very good one.


What's a "shred businessman"? (1)

LordRathma (44890) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841136)


Oh well....don't feed the Troll!

Re:Disappointing... (1)

Callan (46311) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841144)

Yeah, it'll be really interesting to see what the made-for-tv movie will be like 10 years from now, when the Open-sourcer's are part of the cast of characters.

Re:Anthony Michael Hall was amazing (1) (56524) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841155)

i agree...anthony michael hall was awesome as gates...very good acting.

i also ended up watching wierd science after they played the movie 3x :)

this (1)

p0d (56980) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841156)

It was rather entertaining, wasn't it? Though I do think that the film could have used some more technical elements, I thought it was fun to see how their personal lives unfolded :)

Triumph of the Nerds (3)

cetan (61150) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841158)

(as an aside)

Although occasionaly PBS re-broadcasts the episodes, you can buy the tapes and companion book from PBS at:

I'd highly recommend it. Let Hollywood have their artistic license, I'll stick with PBS.

Re:It was good.. (2)

fete (61267) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841162)

Now wait-a-minute here. While what you've typed here is, near as I know, the entire truth about the IBM/Microsoft deal, you didn't say anything snide about Microsoft in it. Don't you know this is Slashdot? Show some covert envy there, bucko.

Anthony Michael Hall was amazing (1)

mrneutron (61365) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841163)

The movie was pretty good for basic cable fare, with the sex/personal life angles fluffed up way more than they should have been (then again, we're talking about a made-for-TV movie here).

Anthony Michael Hall was simply amazing as Bill Gates. This guy can flat-out act. I couldn't even see Hall behind the Gates persona.

Steve Ballmer.... (1)

Raven_Jax (62006) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841165)

I thought all the actors had their real life coparts mannerisms down pat...but the guy that played Steve Ballmer had me lol!
I am a die hard Mac user, but any one who thought this movie was too hard on Steve Jobs should read some of the books about Apple's history. Then again "what is history but a fable agreed upon?"

Re:Anthony Michael Hall was amazing (1)

diamonddave (137417) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841183)

You could see Hall flopping about during the Travolta skating scene. That was pure 16 Candles!

History Repeating (1)

diamonddave (137417) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841184)

Be careful about the sequel with RMS and Linus, it may all be a little bit of history repeating. I saw a lot of lines in there that could be used in the the Linux v. Microsoft sequel. A group of hackers with purpose trying to revolutionize the computing world. Spending the early years going unnoticed by big brother as the guerrilla warfare begins. And ambitions of toppling the reigning king of the hill.

AT&T's original Unix will play the role of the Xerox GUI as the original source from which all ideas were taken.

Greatest moment... (4)

diamonddave (137417) | more than 15 years ago | (#1841185)

was when Steve Jobs' partner pointed to the "big brother" in the 1984 commercial and then pointed to Gates. Quite a revalation.

Of course Gates had a couple of great lines as well: when he was on the phone with the Altair guy, he told Woz that he needed to convince this guy, who didn't know what he needed, that he needed what Microsoft had and that only Microsoft could give it to him. A philosophy that has continued for years.

And the second good Gates comment was at the end when Jobs said Apple's stuff was better, and Gates gestured to the NEC running Windows and said it didn't matter. Another philosophy that continues today.

And although both Gates and Jobs were pirates, with Jobs stealing from Xerox and Gates from Jobs, Jobs created the Mac, and Gates??? well, Gates and Paul Allen didn't appear to create anything since they wrote their little piece of code for the Altair.

I hope plenty of Windows users saw this so they can see the depths from which their operating system came from.
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