Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

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.

Glen VanDenBiggelaar: The Amiga Lounge

Amiga 500
Amiga 500

The Amiga Lounge

Many of us at Obsolete Gamer are fans of and owners of the Amiga computer so any chance to talk about the culture and community is a joy for us. In addition we are profiling stories on the Amiga in an effort to assist the Viva Amiga team with their upcoming documentary.

Glen VanDenBiggelaar is the owner of The Amiga Lounge where he shares his love of all things Amiga including his own experiences, collecting, and building of the commodore Amiga. We were able to get a great look into his corner of the Amiga world.

Obsolete Gamer: How did you come to create the Amiga lounge?

Glen: The Amiga lounge came from a need to research the Amiga when I decided to jump into the hobby. Before the Amiga, I was collecting and restoring the TRS-80 Color Computer and built www.thecocolounge.com website . Like the Amiga lounge, I had an on-line store and such, and during that time I was getting frustrated with the limits of the Co Co. One day, I was having breakfast with my best friend and his father, I knew that he had been a veteran at Xerox for over 30 years and he always had some fascinating story about Xerox and computers, and he suggested I look at the Amiga. I then found out he was one of the first people to have a Commodore PET in Canada, and later one of the First Amiga’s in Canada, going right to Commodore to get them. He passed away a few years back and left me all his Amiga’s in his will. Tons of books and software and such. The blog started out as a “Blogger” site, but when Google decide to take away FTP transferring to the blog, I then decided to expand the site to try to make it a “one stop” site with all the information I could find in one place instead of surfing all over the net and book making hundreds of sites.

The “Commodore” pages came after I read the book “ON THE EDGE- The Spectacular rise and fall of Commodore”-by Brian Bagnal. I instantly fell in love with the history of the company and started collecting the other Commodore Computers. I started with the “Ugly Stepchild” of the Commodore line- the TED Series and also fell in love with it. People tend to jump on the Plus /4 as a pile of crap and never really gave that computer its rightful due; they just compare it to the C64. It was never meant to compete or replace the C64, but nobody cared and it died a quick and horrible death because of that. I then got a PET in and so forth, so the website just grew and grew. I still have a ton of work to do on the Non – Amiga pages, just time is not there.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your personal experience with Amiga computers?

Glen: My experience with Amiga’s has been great. Back when I was doing the CoCo, everyone had heard or seen a CoCo or new someone who had one, so it wasn’t very awe inspiring. The Amiga on the other hand is a completely different story. If I am talking to a person who used the Amiga, a flood of stories come out at the wonderful things they could do with it. It sounds corny, but these days, a computer is just looked at as a tool, like a hammer for example. No one is truly fascinated at what the box can do for them, or the joy they had discovered making Music Demos or such. The users have such fond memories of the machine, that it is almost legendary. For those people that have never heard of the Amiga, they are usually fascinated to hear that some  of their favorite movies or TV shows (computer animation) was done on the Amiga, and always say why didn’t we know about this back then. The best part is showing of the CDTV or the CD32, for even the diehard video game collectors, usually never seen or heard of them. Everybody seems to agree though, that the story of both the Amiga and Commodore is fascinating and sad that certain “forces” are doing their best to re-write history and erase Commodore and the Amiga from it.

Amiga 1000
Amiga 1000

Obsolete Gamer: Besides your own blog how active have you been in the Amiga community?

Glen: Besides belonging to a Few Amiga Forums (just no time to Cover them all), I belong to the local user group AMICUE. AMICUE doesn’t really focus on Amiga’s anymore; it’s more of a small social club that its members have been going to for years. I am trying to bring back life to the club, by bringing Videos of new Amiga’s, interviews with the creators and trying to get companies like AMITRIX to make new hardware again for the Amiga. So far, it’s a slow, hard battle, as most members got rid of their Amiga’s years ago. I always feel I can do more though. If work and money were not a driving factor in my life, I would push Amitrix to make more hardware, or create a company and make it myself. It was always my goal for the online store, to put the stuff I can’t use back to the Community, and the (small) profits that I make, all go back into the community, by buying more stuff from the Amiga Vendors. I COULD make tons more money on EBay, but I feel that the greed on EBay actually hurts the Amiga Community then helps it.

Obsolete Gamer: What is it like to be an Amiga collector?

Glen: I consider myself a “Computer Historian” as I am fascinated and could actually teach some computer history. Being an Amiga Collector is a perfect “spring board” for that, as EVERY Amiga or collection I have obtained has a long and detailed story. Most people that used Amiga’s back in the day have gone on to be brilliant computer programmers, famous artists and musicians and what not. I am really kicking myself for not keeping better records of the history of the machines I get in, because most people have no time to talk about them when they bring them in to me.
I usually wear an Amiga shirt about once a week, and I get a lot of people asking about it-sort of remembering it, so being a collector, and letting people know it, you become an unofficial ambassador of the Amiga

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a collecting story you’d like to share?

Glen: I have so many, but I guess the best I can share with you, is not really a collecting story, but the fact that a few of the original designers, engineers, and programmers, the people that were actually there, have contacted me and taken the time to share stories and corrections about my site. This may sound crazy, but a nobody like me, getting a phone call from these guys really kind of justifies what I am doing, because at times, I just feel like a mad man ranting and raving and collecting stuff that everyone moved on from 20 years ago.

Amiga 3000
Amiga 3000

Obsolete Gamer: Which Amiga is your favorite?

Glen: Oooh! Tough question. Owning EVERY Amiga model except an A4000 tower system at one time or another, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, my LEAST favorite is the A500. Die hards will scream at me for this, but as one of the highest selling models of the Amiga, by itself, it is a rather useless machine. You can pick up A500’s all day long for next to nothing. To make them useful, you need some sort of expansion. Be it a hard drive or an accelerator, and those or worth their weight in gold. The same can be argued for the A1000, but the A1000 looks at least like a real desktop and has cool features like the way you can side the keyboard under it. The least popular I can see in the community is the A2000, but the expansion cards are cheap and easy to get.
My personal favorite at this time, is my A3000 tower. The tower is huge and lots of room to work on inside. it weighs a ton though. One of the best things about it, is right out of the box, you can hook up a VGA monitor to it. No paying an arm and a leg for a VGA adapter.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your Amiga store?

Glen: Sure! The store came out of the need to clear some Amiga stuff out to the Community. I did not want to part take in the greed fest that eBay provides. My goal is to someday open a museum where everyone can come for free to use and play with the Amiga, and the store was a way to get rid the excess (who needs 9 A500’s). any money raised in sales and donations to the website go right back into the Amiga community. The PayPal Account is NOT linked to any bank account, and I use that money to buy more Amiga stuff that I need and don’t have, from other Amiga manufactures, distributors, re-sellers and hardware makers. You would be surprised, but there are tons of small time hardware makers, making new stuff to make the Amiga more modern. One of the biggest is Amigakit from the UK.

Obsolete Gamer: Did you have a favorite game on the Amiga?

Glen: I try a new game every week (I literally have thousands of floppy disks to go through), but “Lemmings” is still fun, and frustrating. My biggest problem is the controller. Most Amiga joysticks are (please forgive me) pure and utter crap! Trying to play “Golden Axe” with an Epyx 500XJ stick is horrible. The closest that I can find tolerable is the Amiga CD32 pad. I have yet to pick up a Sega Genesis pad, I hear those work well.

Amiga 4000 in box
Amiga 4000 in box

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the Amiga RV Tour?

Glen: Not too much yet. I have been planning a RV trip across the USA and Canada for about 4 years now, to tour the Silicon Valley and visit all the major Computer HQ’s. But the technology to broadcast it live, steaming video feed over the net did not (and probably still doesn’t) exist yet. Coupled with the fact that nobody cares about a lone computer geek’s trek. It did not seem a feasible or sane thing to do.
But, with my love of the Amiga, and wanting to do something to raise awareness of the retro- computing hobby, the Idea evolved into one, that could not only promote the Amiga Community, Give me a chance to “save” Amiga’s and Commodores from the dump.


It also give the opportunity to promote (or create) a whole new untapped technology field. Soon, a lot of baby boomers and such will be retiring and want to hook up their RV, camper and such to the internet, so they will not have to rely on “hot spots” and such to keep up to date. This is a chance to for some company (like Cisco for example) to showcase a new technology that hooks the internet up “anywhere”, not relying on the cell phone companies (as this will be traveling both in the US and Canada) through Satellite or such. Some very smart Company could use this as a test. Also, Looking at the big picture and expanding on the above Idea, a computer company could create a “modular” computer system -let’s say in a shock proof case that could just “plug-In” to the RV. One would only need a TV or Monitor, keyboard and mouse actually on board and the camper could have a full computer system “on-board” and easily upgradeable. The possibilities from this trip are truly endless from a Corporate, or technology point of view.

I know from a recent weekend camping trip, that people were amazed when we had just hooked up an IPhone and networked a few laptops together, and had Wi-Fi out at the camp ground, and we were checking e-mail from fireside.

What I can tell you is we are at least a year away, and depending on actually outfitting the RV, it might be 2 years. The plan is to leave here (Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada) in October 2011 or October 2012 (to avoid the Canadian winter here). Besides the 4 or 5 Cameras on the RV, I will have a hand held, and I have already started making the documentary of the whole thing. Once the tour is complete, that Documentary will be put together and edited on an Amiga Video Toaster unit and the sales (about $10 each) will go to help recoup some of the cost of the Tour.

Obsolete Gamer: What would you like to see covered/talked about in an Amiga documentary?

Glen: I would love to see a “where are they now?” feature of all the people behind the Amiga. Dave Haynie and Bill Herd pop up every so often, but what about everyone else?

We’d like to thank Glen for the interview and if you have a story or website that profile the Amiga sent us an e-mail and let us know.