Triumph of the Nerds
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126 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2004
Triumph of the Nerds is still one of the best public level documentaries about the origins and development of personal computers from their beginnings in the mid-70's on through the IBM/Apple years and into the mid-90's with the launch of Windows 95. It is dated somewhat, especially at the end with the forecasts about the future growth of the internet and what it would mean to PC and Mac development and the world. Nothing was truer then than remains today, predicting the long-term future of the computer and internet industry is simply impossible.

What troubles me with this edition by Ambrose is that they have apparently sacrificed bits and pieces here and there for some unfathomable reason. The main points are all still there, but some of the side stories and flavors have been cut. Examples include Steve Wozniak's description of his early interest in electronics in finding an old AT&T phone company manual to learn to hack into the phone system to call the Pope. It cuts Steve Jobs' description of his early experiences with Bill Gates, saying that the original version of Word was "just terrible but they kept at it...", and someone whose name I can't remember describing the early mainframes and trying to use one as "you were lucky if your entire city had one mainframe, and, if your company had it, there would only be one." These are the ones I noticed right off, I'm sure there are others and they are minor things, but it's troubling that a company buys the rights to a show and edits it for whatever reason rather than simply giving us the whole deal.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2006
I am in agreement with several of the reviews that indicate the DVD version is editted. Sadly, so is the used VHS copy I purchased. Maybe it was once available on VHS uneditted but not anymore. Beyond the scenes already mentioned as missing, additional scenes include more background on the Mac team and Steve Job's recruitment for the team; early discussions at Apple to make the Mac open source; and an extended scene about the "Microserfs". By my count there are 21 edits (large and small) which add an additional 15 to 20 minutes. I see no reason for the edits since they could easily fit on a videotape or stereo DVD. I am guessing Bob thought he improved the pacing of this program by the edits and a few are more "politically correct." But I am still waiting for the full version. In the meantime, I will keep my old broadcast edition.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2000
And we have THEM to thank for all of this.
Your humble author can't help but wonder how Bob Cringely got the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen and others in front of the cameras for an honest look inside the slightly twisted minds that begat the personal computer.
At 3 hours in length, "Triumph of the Nerds" isn't just a PBS miniseries. On home video, it becomes an epic. And why shouldn't it be? The personal computer has an impact on our lives equal to that of the light bulb and the automobile. But in the case of the PC, most of the people responsible for its creation and worldwide influence are still alive. These are flesh and blood humans, not fading historical sketches like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
"Triumph of the Nerds" was originally produced as a 20-year retrospective on the personal computer. But the PC will be 25 years old in the year 2000. I can't wait to see Bob Cringely's follow up.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is the most interesting educational videotape that I have ever seen. It irreverently, but accurately, chronicles the rise of the PC as a force in the modern world. Quite naturally, much of the focus is on Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Paul Allen and Bill Gates, as they are the four most widely known individuals in the personal computer field. However, a great deal of time is also spent in explaining the role of others, so that it could be more accurately titled, "Triumph of Some of the Nerds." While the actions of Gates, Jobs and gang are important, some of the most significant events are those of others, who missed incredible opportunities.
It is astonishing to learn that the program that became MS-DOS was purchased for $50,000 with no residuals. This should become a story to rival the purchase of Manhattan for the fabled $... in beads. Representatives from IBM went to the creator of CPM, which was the best-selling microcomputer operating system at the time. Their goal was to obtain an operating system that could be used in their upcoming line of personal computers. Unbelievably, they were kept waiting and those representatives gave up and went back to Microsoft where they
signed the deal for MS-DOS.
The scientists at Xerox Palto Alto Research Center (PARC) created many of the modern principles of computing such as the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Steve Jobs is passionate in his description of his reaction when he saw it for the first time. However, Xerox gained nothing but prestige from their inventions. The last of these stories is that the creators of the spreadsheet receive no royalties at all from their invention.
Two very powerful personalities, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, have been instrumental in taking ideas from others and turning them into billion dollar products. While Gates keeps his intensity under wraps in public, not so with Steve Jobs. Towards the end of the tapes, he describes his feelings towards Microsoft. He does not complain about their business practices, but about their lack of vision and style. From his mannerisms, tone of voice and eye expressions, you see a man who cares deeply about the quality of human-machine interactions. It is a powerful piece of video.
This is a tape that should be in every library, from the small-town public to that of the biggest universities. In a few hours, you learn the history of how the personal computer was made personal. Cringely does a superb job in describing events that simply would never have occurred to a writer of fiction. It should be mandatory viewing in all computer science and introduction to business classes.
Published in Mathematics and Computer Education, reprinted with permission.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2009
There seems to be some misinformation going around about the various versions of this show. Many of the reviews give the impression that the VHS release was 100% complete (i.e. everything from the original broadcast,) and that only the DVD version is edited.

That's not the case. The VHS version and DVD version are identical as far as I can tell, almost certainly both cut from the same master. The VHS version was edited and omits all of the same segments listed in F. McSwiggan's review. The only 100% complete version of this show was the original PBS TV broadcast. There's no point in going out of your way to track down the VHS version on eBay... unless you don't own a DVD player or someone is selling a homemade VHS copy that they personally recorded of the broadcast.

All that aside, it's not as if the edited versions are butchered. They aren't missing that much content, relative to the big picture. They're still completely worthwhile. I say this as someone who saw the original broadcast and then bought both the VHS and DVD when they were released. I really, really love this show. At least once every year or two, I'll pop it in and watch one of the three chapters. Somehow it's become sort of like comfort food to me.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Call it the "E! True Hollywood Story" of the PC industry. Cringely takes a thorough (and thoroughly funny) look at the birth of the PC and the dogged determinism and wild coincidences that ushered in a new technological era. This is Big Business, Big Egos, and VERY Big Money, and the video is as much entertaining as informative. Lots of fun and captivating to watch. Far superior to the Nerds 2.0 follow-up, and immensely superior to the made-for-cable movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2000
If you ever wanted to know how the personal computer era got its start and who where the people behind it, this is the series you want. In this three tape set you get the begining of the personal computer, how the IBM PC was created, and then the creation of the GUI (Graphical User Interface) on the Mac and eventually on the PC with Windows.
Bob Cringley is an excelent presenter and has been reporting the computer industry for quite a while.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2007
Triumph Of The Nerds is perfectly placed as a 1996 release, well documenting everything leading up to that point. Over three chaptors, Robert Cringely explains (with authority) how Apple made computing easy, how IBM made computing corporate, and how Microsoft made money from both these companies.

Although an entertaining and attention-holding series of documentaries, you will need to put yourself 'back in time' to really appreciate it. This is not a documentary that timelines the development of the personal computer. Instead, as is clearly stated by the title, this DVD shows us how a bunch of young nerds rose up to become major players in the industry. If you're looking for insights from the people themselves, including big-players like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, then watch this. If you're looking for something that explains how people felt when the CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, internet and mobile computing were released, then this show isn't for you.

What it needs is a fourth edition of the series. At the end of the third part, Bob Cringely says he'll see us in ten years, and if only we could have another edition that covers this time period. While the third documentary covers the release of Windows 95 (the period of time when this show was produced), it would do well with another edition covering Windows 98, XP and Vista, the return by Steve Jobs to Apple, a progress on Larry Ellison, and how the Internet has changed software development.

But, if you are just a fan of early computing history, like myself, then you'll be more than happy with this title.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2008
There are plenty of well written reviews here on this excellent DVD so I'll just focus on its instructional value.

I purchased this DVD a year ago right here from Amazon.com because I remembered how excellent the program was when I watched it on PBS in 1996. I teach various technology and computer programming courses at the High School level and I thought this would be a good instructional aid in teaching students about the start of the personal computer industry. To further assist the teacher, Ambrose Video provides a good lesson plan outline (on their website) on how to approach the three parts contained within the DVD.

Overall, most students found the material presented in this video relevant and interesting. The only thing I would be cautious with is a scene in Volume 1, the "HOT TUB" scene. The majority of students were disturbed with it and I wouldn't have minded it if this was one of the scenes Ambrose chose to delete.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2008
Robert X. Cringely (aka Mark Stephens) is a self admitted Apple revisionist who not only loves to vilify Microsoft, but often overlooks the contributions of companies like Commodore, Atari, RadioShack, and Texas Instruments. Don't kid yourself -- these were major players, too.

That's not to say Cringely doesn't deserve kudos for his contributions to computer journalism. But one should approach his works with an open mind (i.e. open to sources aside from him), and a well-tuned B.S. meter.
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