Friday, September 05, 2008

An American Tale

1999. A film about a frustrated computer nerd given god-like powers by his realisation that the world around him is a computer generated hallucination is on it's way to becoming a global phenomenon. Meanwhile, another film, telling the true life story of a bunch of ambitious and driven computer nerds who went out and formed the companies that helped changed the shape of reality as we know it, is going quietly about its business.

ClOSE UP: a young man in his mid twenties, focussed and earnest, stares straight down the camera lens directly addressing the viewer:

“I don't want you to think of this as just a film - some process of converting electrons and magnetic impulses into shapes and figures and sounds - no. Listen to me. We're here to make a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why even be here? We're creating a completely new consciousness, like an artist or a poet. We're rewriting the history of human thought with what we're doing. That's how you have to think of this.”

The camera tracks back to reveal that the young man – one Steve Jobs – is in fact on the set of the Apple “1984” commercial, talking to Ridley Scott, who clearly has other things on his mind: “Steven, right now I'm a touch more worried about getting light on the actress, know what I mean?”

The film is called Pirates of Silicon Valley, a made for TV movie produced by an American network, it tells the story of the rise of the home computer from the point of view of two of the men who made it happen, Steve Jobs of Apple and Bill Gates of Microsoft.

It is a quintessential Americn success story, there isn’t a lot of insight, but so much swagger and brovado. All of the characters are already fully formed when they are introduced to us - Bill Gates is a poker playing mastermind, born for the boardroom, and Steve Jobs is an idealistic hippy who shaved his beard and bought a suit.

Great little lines of dialogue and exchanges are peppered throughout, and little surrealistic touches really bring the technology and the boardrooms to life, creating a palpable sense that what these people were doing was truly groundbreaking and revolutionary.