Library staff recommendation: Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires

Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires
Written and presented by Robert X. Cringely


Greenfield DVD: GD977

This PBS documentary is not just a look at the personalities behind the development of the personal computer, it’s also a fascinating snapshot of the state of the high-tech industry right before the Internet turned everything upside-down.

Technology journalist Robert X. Cringely tells the story of the development of the personal computer, largely through interviews with those involved. Starting with garage hobbyists heavily influenced by Northern California’s early 70’s psychedelic scene, he continues through to the introduction of Windows 95, which seemed to cement Microsoft’s hegemony over the entire computer industry.

From today’s perspective, it’s interesting to see how the interviews with both major and minor figures in the development of the personal computer industry also end up describing the industry circa 1995. Bill Gates is feared and reviled. Steve Jobs is an underemployed also-ran. And the Internet is nowhere to be seen — it doesn’t get mentioned at all.

(Of course, the Internet was just around the corner, poised to explode; which required Cringely to produce a follow-up documentary, Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet, a mere two years later.)

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