The film The Social Network has landed and with it a huge pile of curiosity from the 500 million Facebook users out there who make up the potential audience for this blockbuster movie. Just how many likes will it get?
If you do give it the thumbs up, then the good news is that it’s not over on the tech company movies front. There’s a whole pile of them out there to enjoy, so if you want to head down the ageing institute that is the video shop, or more likely go and download it, then these are five to look out for.
Pirates of Silicon Valley
Top of the tree for glitz and glam, both in terms of Hollywood production values and the tech companies depicted, Pirates was a docudrama originally made for TV and aired back in 1999. The story is largely set in flash back and offers a thoroughly entertaining brief history of the Apple/Microsoft conflict from the very start; the action follows the lives and relationship of the tech gods that are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs played by Anthony Michael Hall and Noah Wyle, respectively.
It's based on the book Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine, for those that prefer a read, and is generally a rather splendid watch. It’s available on DVD and almost feels rather weird in this day and age as historically it never makes it as far as the iPod, let alone the iPhone. Surely time for a sequel?
A fictional company this time, but not unlike what you imagine many of the Silicon Valley big player CEOs were up to as they were trying to get the ball rolling. Primer focuses on a group of tech workers starting up a business from their garage while still employed as engineers at bigger companies during the day. With the proceeds of their side project, they spend time working on a science invention that they hope will attract some venture capital business.
What they actually manage to come up with is a box capable of time travel and what follows is one of the most complicated and confusing films you could ever possibly hope to see, guaranteed to melt your mind. As one reviewer said, before Primer picked up the award at the Sundance Film Festival, “anybody who claims to fully understand what's going on in Primer after seeing it just once is either a savant or a liar”.
There’s nothing fictional about this one. Startup.com is highly enjoyable and painful to watch in equal measure as filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus offer a documentary look at the rise and fall of a new online business beginning a short time before the dotcom crash. 10 years on, it gives an astounding record of how companies were given huge sums of investment money to play with, based simply on an idea.
The action was cut from over 400 hours of footage as the film team follows the young business entrepreneurs attempting to establish a website where people can interact with local government agencies in the US. High emotion, enormous stress, industrial espionage, huge success and terrible failure, this film has it all. It’s like watching a car crash over the course of 107 minutes with the knowledge that it’s not your vehicle, and not your friends driving it either.
Triumph of the Nerds
Triumph of the Nerds is another superb documentary, but this time far less fly on the wall and much more informative. It was originally televised as a three part film and centres round talking heads interviews with some of the key players in the field of computing since the 1970s. Jobs and Ballmer both feature as do their companies, most heavily in episode 3, but it’s perhaps the earlier two which are of more interest and follow the creation of MS-DOS and the mass arrival of the PC, as IBM loses its grip on the market.
If you enjoy that one, which you will, there’s also a sequel available called Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet, with interviews with Tim Berners-Lee and Bill Gates among other excellent views on the dotcom bubble and the world wide web in general. Both are available on DVD, but if you can get a copy of Triumph on VHS, you’ll be party to some scenes that were mysteriously edited out of later editions.
The Code was shot in 2001 by Finnish film writer/director Hannu Puttonen and seems like one for the purest given that its subject matter is Linux.
All the same, it’s a decent watch for even paid-for OS users and features interviews with plenty of the central figures from the free software movement including Linus Torvalds and Jon “maddog” Hall. Best of all, as the topic might suggest, the film is entirely free to watch on Google Video. Well worth an hour of your time.
So, that's our pick of the best 5 tech company films out there. However, on our travels putting this lot together, we decided that there's a serious gap in the market. In which case, here are 5 other tech company films that really ought to be made. If you do draw inspiration and go off and shoot one of these, do remember to invite Pocket-lint along to the screening.
A feature length docudrama on the microblogging revolution that is Twitter. The story, of course, follows Jack Doresy, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, each from their respective backgrounds, as well as the increasing addiction of members of the community to the service. As the three become more and more successful we watch with increasing terror as a man descends into sharing more and more of his life and thoughts with a world he’s never met. The catch is that this sweet and sour tale is to be told using just 140 characters.
The next three part documentary made for TV must be Format Wars, with each episode using the Triumph of the Nerds approach to unravelling what went on during some of the biggest chapters in consumer tech history. The first is on the battle between VHS, Betamax and Video 2000; the second on home computers in the 80s and the third with Blu-ray vs HD DVD. It’s got cult hit written all over it.
The entirely fictional tale of a tech company that forms the largest ever presence on the Internet. It begins with simple search, but starts to get involved in more and more areas of web life until it even makes the jump into people’s living rooms by taking over their TVs. Finally, the technology behind all of this becomes self-aware and the war of man versus machine begins for real.
Sharing is caring
Could be dramatised but, for legal reasons, might best be done as a straight documentary; Sharing is Caring is all about the file sharing revolution that took place on the Internet from the late 90s. The action should begin with how Napster came about and started it all, then through Audio Galaxy and the Pirate Bay and finally the beginnings of irrelevance as free music and video streaming turned up.
A documentary is probably the best way to go with this one which will be a look at the arms race that is, and has been, the console games industry since its inception in the 70s and 80s. Naturally, the key players would be Atari, Nintendo, Sega and more latterly Sony and Microsoft - but there’s no reason why it couldn’t cover the slightly more bizarre efforts from Philips, MXS and others. An explanation of the ethos behind the cuddly family look and feel of Nintendo would be a must.
Do you know any technology company movie musts that exist? Or do you have any ideas for ones that should? Pitch us your scripts in the comments below.