Silicon Cowboys

Compaq may no longer be in business but their impact is still felt in today’s PC marketplace.

Silicon Cowboys tells the tale of Compaq Computer and how three former Texas Instruments employees founded the Houston-based startup that would create an industry that we take for granted – the PC market. The lively documentary is only 77-minutes long and definitely worth putting into your Netflix queue.

Based on the book Open: How Compaq Ended IBM’s PC Domination and Helped Invent Modern Computing by Compaq founder Rod Canion, Silicon Cowbows contains a lot of historical footage and vintage computer advertisements (I had forgotten that William Shatner was a pitchman for the Commodore Vic-20, for example). Compaq bested IBM by creating the Compaq Portable, an IBM-compatible PC that weighed 28 lbs. and had a handle. Because the IBM PC was made from off-the-shelf components like Intel microprocessors, Compaq and others were able to create the PC clone market. The biggest challenge was IBM’s proprietary and copyrighted BIOS, which had to be reverse engineered.

IBM later exited the PC market, selling assets to Lenovo. And Compaq was later acquired by Hewlett-Packard. Watching Silicon Cowboys brought back memories of the Intel 286 PC clone that I used in college.

Silicon Cowboys is currently streaming on Netflix.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jobs – a movie review

My review of Jobs, the movie

I watched Jobs this weekend with my 12-year-old iPod Touch-wielding daughter. By now, you’ve read several negative reviews, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s on Gizmodo. Or that the movie was buried by Oprah Winfrey’s The Butler on opening weekend.

I’m one of the few who enjoyed Disney’s much ballyhooed John Carter, having read the entire series of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels when I was my daughter’s age. And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve watched the original Tron. So I may not be the right person to ask for movie recommendations. But I enjoyed the Jobs movie and recommend that you watch it and form your own opinion.

I believe critics are reacting to the film the same way technology analysts react to an Apple product launch – with unrealistic expectations. Have you ever heard anyone complain about Dell putting PC’s in the same boring boxes year after year? Just as Walter Issacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was criticized as incomplete despite its 656-page length (see John Gruber’s review as an example), this movie is faulted for trying to put into 2 hours what even Ken Burns would struggle to put into a 10-hour miniseries.  Robert X. Cringely, despite disliking the movie, put this idea into words.

The great failing of this film is the same failing as with Walter Isaacson’s book… we don’t really understand [Steve Jobs] any better.

Robert X. Cringely
Ashton Kutcher’s Steve Jobs somehow misses the whole point

Even the mediocre reviews give Ashton Kutcher much (deserved) praise for his portrayal of Steve Jobs, including his mannerisms. Whatever the final box office success of Jobs is, I believe the movie is Ashton Kutcher’s “Philadelphia moment” that will propel the actor best known for That ’70s Show and Two and a Half Men into a new series of roles, just as the 1993 film Philadelphia propelled Tom Hanks out of comedies like The Man with One Red Shoe into dramatic films like Saving Private Ryan and The Da Vinci Code.

I did not leave the theater counting the days until The Social Network director Aaron Sorkin’s take on Steve Jobs arrives. I left the theater asking myself “can’t we do both”?  Can we create companies that build insanely great products without creating insane cut-throat work environments? For now, the answer is apparently still “no”.

If you are looking for the “real” Steve Jobs, check out Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview on Netflix. Or any number of books, including Issacson’s (see my book review in related article, Steve Jobs). But Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal is worth a ticket stub and some popcorn.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview is now on Netflix

Last year, former Apple employee and technology columnist Robert X. Cringely unearthed a VHS copy of a presumed lost interview with Steve Jobs that was recorded in 1995, the year before he would return to Apple through Apple’s purchase of NeXT. After a theatrical release last year and arriving on iTunes earlier this summer, it is now available on Netflix.  I’ve watched it twice and highly recommend it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”