"The problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have no taste and I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way."
September 29, 2007 2:35 AM   Subscribe

Triumph of the Nerds is a 1996 three-part documentary recounting the rise of the personal computer, including interviews with Gates, Wozniak and Jobs, among others. It was originally produced for British television, and aired on PBS in the USA. Part One: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Part Two: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Part Three: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Transcripts here. After you watch, you can play the "Guess the Computer" game.
posted by amyms (19 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
"You identified all of the computers correctly -- why aren't you a billionaire yet?"

Because, stupid quiz, I just recognize them. I don't know to make them.

Ok, NOW I'll go check out the other links. :)
posted by Malor at 3:23 AM on September 29, 2007

Robert X. Cringely is pretty good at this stuff, and this is possibly his best effort. Disclaimer, before he canned my ass I used to work for him (well, worked for him while being paid by a third party). I harbor no ill feelings, Bob's a good guy, and it was the only logical solution to the situation we found ourselves in.

You might also check out his NerdTV series (which ran for one season and has been perpetually promising a second...).
posted by maxwelton at 3:44 AM on September 29, 2007

Robert X. Cringely is pretty good at this stuff

"Robert X. Cringely" is actually a pseudonym/pen name, most often associated with Mark Stephens, who appears as "Robert X. Cringely" in the documentary, which was based on his writings. He also has a weekly column, "I, Cringely."
posted by amyms at 4:17 AM on September 29, 2007

Much better, at least I thought, was the six hour miniseries "The Machine That Changed The World", which aired on PBS in the early 90s. And only five minutes of which I can find on the YouTube. Sigh.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:50 AM on September 29, 2007

Ah! Never mind. Digging deeper, I found the whole series. In crappy RealMedia format (use media player classic and real alternative, folks)

posted by WolfDaddy at 4:59 AM on September 29, 2007

I got the book this was based on back in 1996! :))
posted by dabitch at 5:01 AM on September 29, 2007

Yay, we won!

Were we fighting somebody?
posted by JDHarper at 5:22 AM on September 29, 2007

JDHarper: the suits. But now we have suits too!
posted by honest knave at 6:14 AM on September 29, 2007

@Wolfdaddy: Thanks for the link. I LOLed at
Contrary to the expectations of the corporate establishment, people did apparently want to own their own computers.
Talk about understatement.
posted by mistersquid at 6:20 AM on September 29, 2007

Ah, the Triumph of the Nerds! Jobs and Gates at their classic best. I do like Jobs' bravado. well, I'm a MacGeek so I have to like him. I don't like his current lengthy partnerships which lock in Apple technology to half-wit industries like ATT and the iPhone.
posted by lonemantis at 6:52 AM on September 29, 2007

I hated Microsoft way before hating Microsoft was cool. In the 1970's almost all computers shipped with a programming environment, because there was little commercial software. And Microsoft made their first fortune providing the BASIC interpreters that powered those machines.

And even as a teenager I recognized that their product was crappy -- rushed, incomplete, inelegant, and slow. You constantly had to work around its limitations, and it often failed in spectacular and unexpected and undocumented ways. Microsoft BASIC is the reason a lot of people my age know how to program in assembly language.

When they graduated from making slow, crappy, bug-ridden BASIC interpreters to making slow, crappy, bug-ridden operating systems and slow, crappy, bug-ridden office suites and slow, crappy, bug-ridden web browsers, nothing was really different.
posted by localroger at 7:41 AM on September 29, 2007 [5 favorites]

Don't forget the TNT original movie Pirates of Silicon Valley! (youtube)
posted by ALongDecember at 7:56 AM on September 29, 2007

Thanks for the links, amyms! I saw TotN this when it came out. Good stuff.
posted by McLir at 8:16 AM on September 29, 2007

I want to hear Welton's Cringeley story! Unless it is too painful to relive.
posted by craniac at 9:33 AM on September 29, 2007

Have we won? It seems that the personal computer movement has degenerated into elitist geeks getting into anal-retentive OS wars and consumers pressed between the mass produced affordable product and the more expensive 'hip' product. In my mind we've completely lost our way and the idea of better computing for all and leveraging the power of technology has been tossed overboard for "Your OS SUCKS!!" or "The RIAA sucks!!" or "non GPL stuff sucks!!"

Shame really. From what I remember of the 80s computing scene people were more interested in doing things than just complaining and trying to win over converts to their platform. I remember when my modem on either my c64 or appleII or mac 512k would connect me to any BBS I wanted to go to. The idea of defining yourself through your computer-related purchaes (see ipod, iphone) was considered ridiculous then (and rightly so). The idea that one platform was so much worse than another seemed ridiculous, at least in comparision to the anti-microsoft rants that are bound to continue to fill this thread. I miss those days.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:11 AM on September 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Damn Dirty Ape, you really have struck upon a very important chord. Many of us geeks have given in to the infighting, intrigue, and verbose religiosity of it all. I'll admit that I've had my fits in the past, and I am trying to make amends and do my best to accept what is truly right.

This is FUN.

I mean, look at where we are and what we can do. Multi-core CPU's, vast tracks of hard drive, robust operating systems, Real time hardware virtualization, and 3D hardware the likes of which put SGI to shame (... and out of the workstation business.)

I run many different OS's here at TPSL'la. MacOS X, GNU/Linux, Windows, OS/2 Warp 4, Syllable, BeOS 5 r3, OpenSolaris and many other obscure systems that are just fun to explore.

The only one that really rubs me the wrong way is Vista, because it really isn't YOUR computer anymore. That's why should I ever use it, it will be virtualized.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:49 AM on September 29, 2007

Thanks amyms - that stopped me doing what I was supposed to be doing very late last night. Thus I can't quite remember which of the youtubettes I first learned about the IBM Songbook. Wow. I had no idea. I'm not sure about other countries but I find that evangelistic company adoration expectation (at least in the 'olden days') in America to be very very weird.

To the tune of Jingle Bells..

IBM, Happy men, smiling all the way.
Oh what fun it is to sell our products night and day.
IBM, Watson men, partners of T. J.
In his service to mankind -- that's why we are so gay!

There is an archive.org copy of one of their corporate songbooks still around. (doubtless this was a meme-tastic phenomenon a couple of years ago). [And it might be available elsewhere on a current site - I didn't bother digging too far kinda thing]


Triumph of the Nerds had a sequel in 1998 -

'Nerds 2.0.1 The History of the Internet.'

I haven't watched it (not sure if I will) but it's available at google video (parts 2 and 3 are linked up the top). They each go for about an hour. [PBS site on the show]
posted by peacay at 10:37 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

craniac, nothing juicy, unfortunately. Fresh blood was needed, which I agreed with--I was definitely past my sell-by date on that project by that point.
posted by maxwelton at 1:49 AM on September 30, 2007

The beginning of Part 3 on Xerox PARC's invention of the Graphical User Interface is classic. PARC people were featured on Talk of the Nation here, where they are clearly disappointed at the lack of innovation in computing today.
posted by McLir at 2:49 PM on September 30, 2007

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