Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review
If you care at all about computers or technology or business or the future, this is a movie you MUST watch. The movie goes hand in hand with other amazing technology business movies such as Micromen and The Social Network. This movie shows you how the megacorps we know as Microsoft and Apple started, according to writer and director Martyn Burke. It was also based on the book “Fire in the Valley” written by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. I’m not saying it’s exactly what happened, but it’s close enough. I used to obsess as a kid wanting to know the exact details of the true history of something but I’m not a time traveler so such details no longer bother me.
It’s easy to watch the movie as they have multiple copies of it on youtube.
The movie shows two camps: Apple with its technology loving engineers and hippie turned businessman turned devil and Microsoft with its college nerds who love to play poker and jocks turned executive geniuses. You get to see Steve Jobs go from this rebel non-conformist into him signing over his soul to the devil to then becoming the devil himself. Gates is just ambitious from the start and his ambition never wanes.
Like all pioneers, nobody at their time took them serious or understood what they were trying to do. They were creating a revolution in technology, in the way we live our lives (especially if you’re a computer person like me). Think about where we would be without the personal computer. Even the things that came after, like cell phones, smart phones, laptops, mp3 players, the internet, social media… none of that would be possible without the work of engineers and businessmen such as these. I’m not saying they were the definite cause for all this but they were major contributors. We must also accredit other people such as all the fine people at Altair, Commodore, Atari, Nintendo, IBM, Sega, Sinclair, Acorn, and more.
Back to the movie… The movie shows both sides eventually doing whatever it needs to get ahead. The movie is not called The Super Nice Nerds of Silicon Valley, it’s The Pirates. Yes, they WILL cut your throat if you are in their way to success. Now, I’m not saying they’re as evil as wall street or the banks that just robbed the world, but they’re no saints!
A recurring theme in the movie is to get people to want what they don’t really need necessarily, which you might not even have yet but you want them to want it, creating demand (and getting the money to get it made).
One of the most important scenes is at the 1977 tech show when Gates tries to talk to Jobs, explaining what they were doing at Microsoft, only to get blown off by him, which in turn starts part of their war against each other.
The best part of the movie is probably when Microsoft sells DOS to IBM. I’ll let this clip speak for itself:
The other best scene of the movie is when Apple gets the GUI from Xerox. I couldn’t find a video of that clip to post here. It is also really interesting when an Apple employee confronts Gates telling him that instead of Apple thinking IBM is big brother that they don’t realize that Microsoft is their true enemy. He points this out to Jobs while he was trying to woo the Apple employees during a conference by showing them the famous 1984 Apple commercial.
Microsoft had the foresight to see that without software the hardware did nothing. Sure, you could have the most incredible monster machine but if nobody can do things with it, who would buy it?
Gates reminds me a lot of myself. He is characterized as being a very good poker player, the kind who will never let you know how good or bad of a hand he has and will make you make the wrong decision. Especially in the beginning, he uses a strategy of making you think that he has many business deals going on, when in reality he had none. Both sides did that actually. He got in trouble with the law, especially speeding (that’s me!), and doing other crazy things (not so much me, well, actually…) such as wrecking his friend’s car. Throughout the movie and in real life, he is a very competent negotiator.
Steve Jobs was just evil to me all throughout the movie. In real life, I still don’t like him, which is funny because I hated everything Microsoft for many years when I was younger, but in reality I didn’t like how he reacted to being informed at the number of record suicides at the Foxconn factories, which make a LOT of Apple products. The transformation this movie shows goes from stoner hippie to egoist pioneer to evil business genius. I just think he’s a real asshole. Through the movie he kept denying that his daughter Lisa was actually his.
Throughout the movie, the characters I enjoyed the most were Steve Wozniak (the Woz) and Steve Ballmer. I felt bad for the Woz because he just wanted to create and then he had to deal with all the drama and bullshit from Jobs, as well as seeing Jobs putting down people and destroying the Lisa. Woz was always trying to do the right thing, like not fuck his friends out of stock or treat employees like subhumans. I felt terrible for him when he quit the company after Jobs had pretty much created a civil war inside Apple (Macintosh vs everything else). Ballmer was just a total trip. He was this crazy jock that would always have the common sense, especially when it came to getting girls, that Bill Gates and Paul Allen did not have.
As a movie critic I give this movie a score of 7 out of 10. As a computer geek I give this movie a 9 out of 10. I think Micromen was a much better movie, about a similar topic. The music selection throughout the movie is excellent and I was really shocked by this as this was a made-for-TV movie. Noah Wyle as Jobs just blew my mind, which you might know as the science teacher from Donnie Darko. John DiMaggio was great as Ballmer, which is a real treat because he is usually known for his voice work in cartoons such as Futurama and also voice work for many video games.
Go watch it.