Must Watch: 12 Years Later Pirates of Silicon Valley Still Holds Up

I finally got around to watching the TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley (full version available to watch online below for now), which is a cliff’s notes version of how Apple and Microsoft came to be the technology giants that they are today.  Considering that this flick is nearly 12 years old it still holds up quite well.  The acting gets a little annoying (Ballmer), but I truly feel like Wyle (Jobs) and Hall (Gates) did masterful jobs in recreating the idiosyncrasies of the two Gods of Geek that they portrayed.  If you’ve ever watch Jobs and Gates in public you’ll clearly see that these two actors did their homework.

Obviously the death of Steve Jobs this year was motivation for me watching this TV movie again, but I also wanted to see if it reflected what I’ve been reading in the recently released Steve Jobs Biography.  For the most part it tells the early story of Steve’s life pretty well, but you can tell that they glossed over certain aspects for the sake of saving time.  I do think this film captures who Steve was, and the same can be said about Bill Gates.  It definitely paints the picture of both companies liberally “borrowing” technology from each other, as well as Xerox.  I think my favorite scene is when the Apple crew finally figures out that IBM isn’t their biggest competition.  It was in fact one of their partners in Microsoft who straight up ganked the Mac’s GUI and called it Windows.

Say what you will.  Apple did get the idea for the GUI and mouse from Xerox, but Xerox did allow them access via a stock options deal, so did they really steal it?  They didn’t design the tech, but the company that did opened their doors willingly to share their innovations with Apple.  On the other hand I think Gates did do a shady number on Apple.  Microsoft more or less scored some prototype Macs in a deal Gates made with Jobs, and as a result they magically created their own GUI called Windows.  Although, Gate’s explanation in Pirates of Silicon Valley where he equated the GUI OS to a car did make some sense.  He essentially said that all cars have steering wheels, but no one ever claimed to have solely invented a steering wheel, so the same line of thinking should apply to a computer’s OS (this scene is about 1:29:00 minutes in).  That scenario is definitely more sketchy than the Apple/Xerox situation, but in the tech game almost anything goes.

Just look at the state of technology these days.  No company can produce something without a knock-off popping up a short time after it.  In fact, I’d say Apple is probably the biggest victim of this practice.  Maybe it’s karma, but it’s curious that after they launched the iPod a whole host of portable MP3 players showed up in the market.  Then you had the iPhone and it’s clones (where do you think Android got its ideas from).  The same can be said about the iPad.  Sure tablets existed before the iPad, but they just couldn’t find a market to cling to.  Now iPad wannabes are all over the place due to Apple’s successful design.

Honestly, I don’t feel bad for either company, because when it’s all said and done both of them have made billions of cash selling awesome gadgets and software.  It does suck that innovations can be jacked faster than Hank the Gank can steal your kills in Gears 3, but that’s life in the constantly evolving tech industry.

If you’ve been wanting to get a little nostalgic and learn about the early days of Apple and MS, I highly recommend watching Pirates of Silicon Valley, which you can watch in full below.  I would also suggest reading the first few chapters of the new Jobs’ biography as well, because it helps to paint a better picture than what you’ll see in this 90 minute TV movie.  All of these computer pioneers were a little sketchy, but their story, and how they changed the world forever is definitely worth your attention if you consider yourself a Geek Historian.  Check out the full length version of Pirates below!  You’ve been wishing that you were alive during the Silicon Valley tech rush…

Pirates Of Silicon Valley (Full Movie)


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Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.