Computer history documentaries and dramas

I love watching and reading about the evolution and history of computers and the IT industry. It’s not just the developments in technology I find fascinating, it’s the characters involved and the business deals that turned out to be so pivotal in the how the future evolved, such as the IBM deal with Microsoft to produce PC-DOS for the first IBM PC and how things could have been so different if Gary Kildall agreed to license CP/M to IBM when he was approached before IBM later went to Microsoft.

I also find it interesting how product A vs product B battles in the industry were geographically based. While Apple created the home computer market in the US, in Europe the players were different, involving Sinclair (the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum), Commodore (VIC 20 and C64) and especially for education in the UK, the BBC Micro.

I spotted this story on The Register last week about a drama documenting the competition between Sinclair and Acorn (who made the BBC Micro), called Micro Men, made a few years back. I’m pretty sure this never made it across to TV in the States, but I just found a copy on YouTube so have this queued up in my ‘must watch list’.

It’s surprising how many other great documentary and old TV shows you can find on YouTube. Some of my favorites include:

  • Triumph of the Nerds – an amazing documentary including interviews with all the major players during the development of the personal computer, including Gates, Balmer, Allen, Jobs, Wozniak, plus many others. There was only 10 minutes of the interview with Jobs included in the final version, but apparently there was 70mins of film recorded from the interview originally, and  after Jobs death, this was released as a separate film, The Lost Interview
  • BBS – a documentary about the rise and fall of dial-up BBS systems
  • Once upon Atari
  • The Computer Programme – this show first aired in the UK in 1982 and heavily featured the BBC Micro. There was also an accompanying magazine sold at the same time… I remember diligently studying every copy…
  • In the US there was Computer Chronicles on PBS, hosted by none other than Gary Kildall. I’m pretty sure I never saw this in the UK, but it’s also available on YouTube, where there’s a dedicated channel collecting most of the episodes

Anyone know any others worth watching?

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