Pirates of the Silicon Valley (1999)


Computers were the royal sophistication reserved only for research institutes, scientific labs and giant corporations. Not until the 80s the commoners were able to lay their hands upon them. The history of personal computers (PCs) could never be written without two men. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are not just names but the fulcrums of the digital era that we live in. The dreams of these two personas redefined the way we think and communicate with each other.

 ‘Pirates of the Silicon Valley’, the docu-drama directed by Martyn Burke is based on the book ‘Fire in the Valley: The making of the Personal Computer’ authored by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. This movie chronicles the inceptive years of two companies Apple and Microsoft. Along with it showcases the boisterous years of Steve jobs with his friend and life long collaborator Steve Woznaik . The life of the shy Bill gates is narrated along with as a parallel track. The movie couldn’t be categorized as bio-pic since it chronicles the lives of two men and also it focuses the timeline from 1971 to 1997.


The Steves are introduced amid the student riots in California University. The story unfolds through the eyes of Wozneik. The beginning years of the Steve are full of josh yet focused on the goal. He is one of the thousands of tech geeks who dreamt of being the corner stones of the digital era they dream about.

Bio-pics about eminent personalities always have room for compromises for there could be choices of incidences taken into account while writing the screenplay such that the aura around the protagonist is never lost. This might give us a pleasant output but would certainly be far away from the truth. This movie saves itself from the aforementioned treatments. It’s raw and showcases plain truths.


Through the lives of these two techies the inception years of the digital revolution the world was heading in the 80s is traced. From tech conferences of the late 70s, the chaotic initial years of the Apple and Microsoft, the oscillations in the decisions made by the young CEOs of these companies, the film showcases everything. In fact the story material chosen for the screen play seemingly befitting for a documentary has been cleverly chiseled into an interesting fast paced drama that engages the audience since frame one.

Some of the incidences those of which are history now come every now and then as the film progresses. With Steve personal character traits often play spoilsport in his professional life. Whereas Bill is calm and composed even in his toddling years in business. Both the company CEOs are in actuality more capacious as business administrators than as techies. But without their entrepreneurial skills the talents of both the camps- Apple and Microsoft- would never have realized to what they are today. They are visionaries in their own ways.

For the first timers the movie has loads of shocking surprises, facts that are hard to believe. DOS, the operating system which Bill sold withholding the rights to IBM is not his’. The GUI (Graphic Users Interface) and the mouse that redefined the user experience altogether was actually the brainchild of a bunch of researchers of the Xerox Corporation. More than telling the early lives of Bill and Steve the story focuses on unraveling the professional rivalry that popped between the duos.


The movie attracted very positive reviews from critics and audience alike while it was released back in 1999. Te film is packed with youthfulness without compromising the intention of chronicling history. The movie since revolves around living legends, the two titans of the digital era, everyone like he crew was interested to know the reactions of the Steve and Bill. Having decided to go on with the project the director Martyn Burke avoided contact with both of them. Steve Wozneik said he was thrilled to see the student riot scene on screen for it was, according to him, exactly dramatized. Bill Gates commented that the scenes are closer to actuality. But Steve didn’t comment on the film for a while. Later he said he hated the story and the movie. However he called actor Noah Wyle who portrayed him on screen and patted him on his performance.

This is a must see flick for anyone interested in history of evolution of computer technology for it places itself closer to the truth.


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