In this post I present a short list of documentary movies about famous software developers and software companies founders. It includes: “Pirates of Silicon Valley”, “Revolution OS” and “Aardvark’d – 12 Weeks With Geeks”. So, let’s tell a few words about them.

Pirates of Silicon Valley

This is a film about early years of Microsoft and Apple, about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, they’re not playing themselves, I guess they had no time for this ;)Apple Pirate Flag

The title “pirates” addresses two ideas. The first is that Bill and Steve explored new areas of computer business and simultaneously made money on seizing profits of their enemies (IBM, for example), just like pirates of middle centuries. So, they obviously had fun but also didn’t forget about gains.

Xerox GUIThe second is that Microsoft had “pirated” Apple’s graphical user interface, which in turn they stolen from Xerox PARC. As Pablo Picasso said, Bad artists copy. Great artists steal.”

This movie is the most interesting in my list. It is very humorous and actors play really well.

Revolution OS

TLinushis film is about the rebel forces of software development: Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative. It features Richard Stallman, Linus Torwalds, Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens as themselves. With this movie you have a great chance to learn about motives that led to the creation of GNU/Linux operating system and free software directly from its authors.

Linux Install FestThe movie also includes many documentary materials, e.g. about the first GNU startup (Electronics Research Lab at Stanford University), Linux Install Fests, LinuxWorld Conference and IPOs of first Linux-based companies.

RMSAnd in the end, we hear great words from Richard Stallman: “The whole GNU project is really one big hack, it’s one big act of subversive playful cleverness to change society for the better.” I think, it reflects the main reason why many of us do programming–because it’s fun to build useful things!

Aardvark’d – 12 Weeks With Geeks

SpolskyThis movie was shot by Fog Creek Software company and tells the story of creating their Copilot product. It features four interns, Joel Spolsky, Michael Pryor (Fog Creek co-founder) and (surprise!) Paul Graham as themselves. The film tries to capture an atmosphere of software development process in a smart company. It also shows that every project, even successfully looking from outside, has serious challenges and moments of uncertainty.

Two monitorsPity that the movie is not so fun as it could be. The foreground is given to interns, who really are not very charismatic. I think, making more emphasis on conversations with Joel and capturing best practices of development process (like described here) could make the movie more interesting.

Do you know any more movies?

If you know any other interesting software development documentaries, please don’t hesitate to post about them. But please don’t post about “near computer” and “security cracking” movies: “Office Space” and “The IT Crowd” are great, but they  teach nothing about software development, as well as “AntiTrust”, “Hackers” and “TakeDown”.

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