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Cinema&Tech #1 – Pirates of Silicon Valley

Riding the wave of The Social Network, we decided to dedicate some magazine space to films that explore the mythological figures, large and small, of the most recent technological revolutions: the famous people who have changed our world with computers, the internet, and social networks, as well as those who have been changed by them.

As a first instalment, we’ll drag a movie out of the pre-2000’s: the 1999-released Pirates of Silicon Valley (Martyn Burke, 1999) charts the birth of two empires, Apple and  Microsoft, and explores the troubled relationship between their respective leaders: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Jobs, played by Noah Wyle, is represented as egocentric and  so focused on his business that he compromises all human relationships. Gates, played by Antony Michael Hall, is shown as a determined man with a shrewd sense of business, willing to do whatever it takes to realize his project.

We find them, both students, with two competing ideas for the future of personal computers. This schism, jumbled in with the innovation it produced, has since altered and shaped the digital worlds we inhabit. The movie, based on the book Fire in the Valley by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine, explores the reality of the two most famous nerds in the world through the memories of Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft. The atmosphere, though produced at the end of the 90’s, is intentionally late 70’s and early 80’s: the look, style and vitality that these years represented for the future of modern technology, are essential to understanding this compelling and enveloping story.

In an old interview for Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, Noah Wyle said about his character (Jobs):

“I find the character of the young Jobs fascinating: he founded Apple in 1977, when he was 21, a student in Berkeley, assembling, together with his friend Wozniak, pieces of the thing which would become the future personal computer, in his parent’s garage in San Francisco. He was on acid, a half-hippie, he disappeared in India for a while and he came back more of an idealist than ever: but always with a huge ambition and a clear view of the impact of the PC on society. Soon he would become an egocentric boss, maniac, dictator, a paranoid manipulator. His morality is the first victim of the computer’s war.”

“Although he was convinced that his counter-culture’s ethic was intact. There’s nothing worse than a idealist with power, convinced that he’s still pure”

Although the movie was released more than a decade ago, it shouldn’t be hard to find a copy on DVD. We hope you enjoy and can place The Social Network into a new context.

(Translated from Valentina Versari’s Italian Original)

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