Triumph of the Nerds

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Triumph of the Nerds
Genre Documentary
Based on Accidental Empires (Book)
Written by Robert X. Cringely
Screenplay by Robert X. Cringely
Directed by Paul Sen[1]
Narrated by Robert X. Cringely
Theme music composer Nitin Sawhney
Country of origin United Kingdom/United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) John Gau and Stephen Segaller
Editor(s) Michael Duxbury[1]
Cinematography John Booth[1]
Running time 150 minutes
Production company(s) John Gau Productions for Channel 4 and Oregon Public Broadcasting
Distributor Channel 4/PBS
Original channel Channel 4/PBS
Original release 14 April 1996 (Channel 4)

Triumph of the Nerds is a 1996 British/American television documentary, produced by John Gau Productions and Oregon Public Broadcasting for Channel 4 and PBS. It explores the development of the personal computer in the United States from WWII to 1995. The title, Triumph of the Nerds, is a play on the 1984 comedy, Revenge of the Nerds.[2] It was first screened as three episodes between 14 and 28 April 1996 on Channel 4, and as a single programme on 16 December 1996 on PBS.

Triumph of the Nerds was written and hosted by Robert X. Cringely (Mark Stephens) and based on his 1992 book, Accidental Empires. The documentary is composed of numerous interviews with important figures connected with the personal computer including Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen, Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Ed Roberts, and Larry Ellison. It also includes archival footage of Gary Kildall and commentary from Douglas Adams, the author of the science fiction series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Cringely followed the series with Nerds 2.0.1 (Glory of the Geeks in the UK), a history of the Internet to 1998, when the series was made. In 2012, Cringely released the full interview that Steve Jobs gave in 1995 for Triumph of the Nerds as the film Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview.


As broadcast by Channel 4:

  • Impressing Their Friends (14 April 1996)
  • Riding the Bear (21 April 1996)
  • Great Artists Steal (28 April 1996)

Partial cast[edit]

Reception and influence[edit]

Triumph of the Nerds was a successful series and Cringely noted in a 1998 interview that it was "a stalwart of [PBS] pledge drives all across America."[3]

Steve Wozniak discussed the film on the letters portion of his official website stating: "I liked Triumph of the Nerds. It was one of the best shows ever created of that kind. Everyone has the same opinion, so why ask me? I'm not a history expert and couldn't tell you what it missed or got wrong, but it seemed extremely thorough and insightful."[4]

Actor Noah Wyle has also stated that after initially resisting the role, he finally agreed to portray Steve Jobs in the 1999 film, Pirates of Silicon Valley after viewing Triumph of the Nerds.[5]

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview[edit]

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview
Directed by Paul Sen
Produced by Paul Sen, John Gau, Stephen Segaller
Written by Robert X. Cringely
Starring Steve Jobs
Cinematography John Booth, Clayton Moore
Edited by Nic Stacey
Release dates
  • May 11, 2012 (2012-05-11)
Running time
70 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The original interview that Jobs gave to Cringely for Triumph of the Nerds lasted about 70 minutes. Of those 70 minutes, only about 10 were used in Triumph of the Nerds.[6] When Jobs gave this interview in 1995, he was still "two years away from retaking the Chief Executive role at Apple and beginning a run that would transform the Cupertino, Calif.-based Mac maker from loser to leader in the digital economy. At the time of the interview Jobs was one such loser himself: his company, NeXT was stumbling, and rival Bill Gates had taken Apple's ideas and used them to seize control of the personal computer industry."[7]

When Steve Jobs died in 2011, Triumph of the Nerds director Paul Sen searched for and found in his garage a discarded VHS copy of the original raw and unedited interview.[7] Sen informed Cringely that he found this VHS copy and discussed the possibility of releasing it as an independent film. Cringely then contacted Landmark Theatres co-owner Mark Cuban to see if a screening would be possible. Dubbed The Lost Interview, the 70 minute interview screened at 17 theaters around the United States and was later released on DVD in 2012.[6][8][9]

The Lost Interview received a 100% rating from Rotten Tomatoes (6 fresh reviews).[10] Robert Koehler of Variety describes it as Jobs at "40, and with an outlook of observing Apple from afar (he had been booted out of the company by Sculley a decade prior and had subsequently founded NeXT)." He is thus "able to bring a perspective he couldn’t have provided at a younger age. Moreover, this p.o.v. wouldn’t have been possible soon after the interview, since Jobs sold NeXT to Apple six months later and became Apple CEO a year after that."[11] Roger Ebert gave it three stars and noted that "it's raw material for a film, in the form of Jobs speaking in close-up. It's a tribute to the singular popularity of Steve Jobs that he's probably the only talking head people would pay to watch for more than an hour."[12]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


External links[edit]