Trumph of the Nerds

You may remember my mentioning in class that I was considering having movie screenings for tech-related movies that also happened to be good movies. That would include titles such as TRON (the original, not that G-d-awful remake), WarGames, Hackers, Her, Minority Report, and a couple of Simpsons and Futurama episodes for starters. If you’re wondering, I’m working with the legal standing that it all falls under the ill-defined idea of fair use since it’s being shown, ostensibly, for educational purposes.

I was going to do all that using a site called, however I am still wrestling with it. Therefore, I thought in the meantime, and since we have a couple of weeks before we will be gathering again in class, I would present to you a documentary about the history of the personal computer and the industry that grew up around it, called Triumph of the Nerds.

It’s not the greatest name, I know. It’s even derogatory in parts, although some of the characters live up to the title. And Robert Cringely who wrote and narrates the whole thing certainly means no harm. In fact, Bob Cringely is the well known (and fake) name of long-time technology writer Mark Stephens, but the Bob Cringely name has actually been owned by many people and in fact two people are using it as pseudonyms right now!

The documentary is in three parts, and it’s practically history itself. I have it on VHS, just to give you an idea how long it’s been around, so it only covers up until around the mid-90s. But it’s an exceptionally well-written, in-depth, easy-to-watch documentary that, if you have any interest in technology at all, is invaluable in explaining in detail – and you know how I am about detail – how we got to where we are today. And by today, I mean today ten years ago.

My copy on glorious VHS, in case you doubt my sincerity

My copy on glorious VHS, in case you doubt my sincerity

I should also mention that there is a DVD version, but for some inexplicable reason it had a few sections from the VHS version removed, something you should never do when discussing history. If you’re going to watch, the VHS version is the one to see and it’s the one I’m presenting here. There was also a sequel that focuses mainly on the development of the Internet, but it’s equally as fascinating so if you’re interested you can watch it on YouTube here.

History is history, it doesn’t change, and everything the series covers is as important now as it was then. A massive amount of fascinating interviews with, and in-depth looks at many of the people involved, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs while he was still at NeXT and before he returned to save Apple, Steve Wozniak, Larry Ellison, Dan Bricklin, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer, and examinations of the development of Apple, Microsoft, MITS, VisiCalc, the Homebrew Computer Club, there is such an insane amount of detail and information in the documentary that even if you’re not terribly interested, once they get in to the interviews, you will be. Of course, I love it, have seen it in its entirety countless times, and it never gets old. But I’m weird that way. And now you can be too.

I have embedded all the episodes below. Even if you just skip through ithem, you’ll find something interesting, I promise.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Going Up