Pirates of Silicon Valley

Pirates of Silicon Valley

I re-watched The Pirates of Sil­i­con Val­ley a cou­ple of weeks ago, since it had be recent­ly released on DVD (okay, it was actu­al­ly more like months ago, but what­ev­er). Any­way, it’s one of the bet­ter made-for-TV films I’ve watched and it was just as good the sec­ond time around. I also think this movie did a lot to bring Antho­ny Michael Hall back into the spot­light. It’s sort of iron­ic that he end­ed up play­ing who so many of us (right­ly or wrong­ly) asso­ciate as being the kind of all nerds, Bill Gates, after play­ing nerds in his youth and is now known for a very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter: John­ny Smith on The Dead Zone.

The film spans from the mid-sev­en­ties, when both Gates and Jobs were 20 years old, to rough­ly the time that Jobs was back on top at Apple and Microsoft invests in them to help them stay in busi­ness. The sto­ry shows appar­ent rise and fall of Jobs and the mete­oric rise of Gates. A lot of the action is focused on Jobs, par­tic­u­lar­ly pay­ing atten­tion to his per­son­al life, as it is more dra­mat­ic. Through­out all of the sen­sa­tion­al­ism of their sto­ries though, we can see a lot of how these two men have influ­enced our lives and cul­ture.

I began to think as the film drew to a close how a sequel could be just as inter­est­ing. Apple, since Jobs’ return, has become so much of a cul­tur­al influ­ence with the release of the iMac and lat­er the iPod. Bill Gates has some­what reduced his role at Microsoft, com­par­a­tive­ly, and has moved more into social caus­es. Lean­der Kah­ney wrote a great opin­ion piece for Wired’s Cult of Mac Blog on how Gates has actu­al­ly done so much more in a social sense than Jobs and won­ders why so often the con­sen­sus seems to be more in favor of Jobs. I have always found it inter­est­ing that Jobs, for all intents and pur­pose, is a man of vision instead of tech­ni­cal skill. I agree, he rec­og­nized how impor­tant per­son­al com­put­ers could be, then again, so did Bill Gates. Unlike Gates, though, Jobs nev­er actu­al­ly wrote or designed any of Apples prod­ucts1. Gates always seemed to have a tena­cious busi­ness sense, but not always the vision of what con­sumers might want or use (remem­ber how he seemed to not get the inter­net as exten­sion of an open soci­ety?). I think the two men actu­al­ly com­pli­ment one anoth­er and Heav­en help us should they decide to run a com­pa­ny togeth­er. Then again, I don’t think egos that have had all this time to grow play very well togeth­er.

This also reminds me that I real­ly want to read Andy Hertzfeld’s book Rev­o­lu­tion in the Val­ley. Any­one know of any good books about Bill Gates and the his­to­ry of Microsoft?

  1. This state­ment is, to the best of my knowl­edge, true. I’m sure some fan­boy of Apple or Microsoft would be hap­py to cor­rect me. []