Pirates Of Silicon Valley

Pirates Of Silicon Valley (1999)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Noah Wyle, Anthony Michael Hall, Joey Slotnick, John DiMaggio
Extras: Introduction, TV Spot

I remember anxiously waiting for the broadcast of the TV movie "Pirates Of Silicon Valley" on TNT back in 1999. Having worked in the computer industry for most of my life, and having actually been part of the digital revolution of the 80s, I was, of course, eager to see how the story of the early days of Apple and Microsoft would turn out. The film was a lot of fun, to say the least, and gives viewers some insight into the guys who changed the world – and also explains some of the philosophies that made them who they are now.

The film essentially centers around Steve Jobs (Noah Wyle) and Steve Wozniak (Joey Slotnick) two Berkley students trying to leave their mark in the world. They build blue boxes in their spare time and eventually, Woz builds a little computer in his garage, starting the Apple phenomenon. Steve Jobs immediately realizes the potential behind Woz's little computer box and has a vision. A vision to strike it rich and to make sure everyone in this world will soon a computer on their desk. He approaches computer manufacturers like HP and IBM, all of who have nothing but a smirk for the long-haired hippie, clearly not seeing his vision. When Woz comes up with a second generation of his computer the start their own company, call it Apple und begin producing and selling the "Apple II" themselves. The success is beyond anything any of them would ever have imagined and overnight, Apple becomes a major player in the computer business, turning Jobs and Wozniak into superstars.

At the same time a geek called Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall) is trying to carve out a niche for himself from his dorm room. He and his friend Paul Allen write software and when they hear about the Altair computer Gates is determined to provide the operating system for the machine. Bluffing his way into business he negotiates a deal with Altair that allows him to start Microsoft. But he has even bigger plans. He manages to convince IBM that they'd need his operating system because it would revolutionize the way people would work with computers. He sold them DOS, once again, bluffing his way through business without having even a single line of software to show for. After closing the deal he buys someone else's operating system and uses it for the IBM contract in a deal, which over time would make him the richest man in the world.
Of course, Apple's and Microsoft's paths cross as well and a rivalry ensues between the two renegade companies – or more precisely between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. A rivalry that lasts to this day, of course.

"Pirates of Silicon Valley" is a fabulous look at the period when a bunch of Berkley graduates made history and changed our world forever. The birth of the home computer and the birth of Microsoft both happened at the same time and here we get a glimpse at the people who were responsible for it, without the PR spin that makes them appear larger than life. These were guys like you and me, and to this day Steve Wozniak is one of the most down-to-earth and funniest people I know.

Warner's DVD release features the original fullframe presentation of the movie in a transfer that is clean and clear. No defects mar the image and color reproduction is as natural-looking as you could ask for. Skin tones are faithfully rendered and blacks are deep and solid. I did not notice any edge-enhancement in the presentation and the image has a very detailed and well-defined look throughout. The compression is also without flaws, making it a great showing.

The audio on the release is a Dolby Stereo track that fully serves the purpose. The sound field is active and dialogues are well integrated without distortion. The frequency response is wide with natural basses and the track's dynamic range also nicely matches the overall presentation without being overly aggressive. Overall, this is a solid track.

As extras the DVD contains a brief introduction by Noah Wyle as well as the movie's TV promo clips that were used to advertise the TV movie before its broadcast.

"Pirates Of Silicon Valley" is not only a fun movie, it is also a solid lesson in modern history. Whatever you think of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, here you get to see them as über-geeks, out to sink their teeth into this new world of technology, determined to leave their marks – and so they did.