I've used some of today's sick day to watch the 1999 TV film Pirates of Silicon Valley
, about Steve Jobs (and those around him) and Bill Gates (and those around him) changing the world. I try not to use hyperbole; it's not hyperbole here. It's almost banal to mention that we live in Jobs's and Gates's world; I'm nearly 40, and home computers have been a fact of my life since I was 10 and my brother T.J. and I were learning Basic on the Heathkit computer Dad had. T.J. learned the deeper language of computers; I never did. His whole career has been built on that knowledge. I use computers; T.J. can affect how
to use them. Jobs and Gates were among the people figuring out that deeper language, to give people like my brother the tools to do more with computers. And the film reminds me I'll never think like that. If I'm changing the world, it's a sliver of it. I hope I can do even that much. (I'm feeling insecure.)
The film recreates a bit of the "a beginning is a very delicate time" rinky-dinkiness of Making A Big Thing Start when you have almost no resources to fund it (or pay for a decent place to sleep); fairly standard biopic stuff, but presented efficiently and willing to reenact pretty concrete details, like the set of the famous Apple "1984" commercial
. (There's a decent Ridley Scott doppelgänger for that scene, too.) The film focuses more on Jobs than Gates, and more on Jobs's motivation and philosophy than Gates's, whose thoughts tend to be presented more in passing, in fragments. And since Apple was more involved in hardware (easy to show! You can have props!) and Microsoft was more involved in software, the hardware is pictured more often. There are ways to visualize and dramatize how software runs; this film only sort of shows that. And since it's a 1999 telefilm, the filmmakers knew there was more story they could never show or even anticipate. Pirates of Silicon Valley
runs into that frequent biopic problem of mainly just stopping, not climaxing; the film basically just ends. A way around that (I can act like a movie executive! "Here's the film I would've made...") would've been to hint at how much more story was certainly going to happen, post-2000, with computer hardware and software ever more integrated into our lives and Steve Jobs (even after his 2011 death) and Bill Gates remaining influential in that and other parts of our lives. "The Computer Adventure Is Just Beginning," to paraphrase Star Trek
And now I wonder how I would've reacted to Steve Jobs had I ever met him, how I'd react if I ever do meet Bill Gates. My hunch? I might possibly get along with Gates. Jobs, I'm not sure I would have. Don't know if I'd've gotten the charming, philosophical side of him or the jerk side of him. Won't ever find out now with Jobs gone; meanwhile, who knows, maybe I'll run into Gates somewhere and sometime in this odd world. And at least Gates seems capable of being goofy. I have real trouble picturing Jobs being goofy.
This also makes me want to read Walter Isaacson's Jobs biography. I want to know more. It's still (partly) his world I'm living in, after all.