Cringely's _Accidental Empires_ comes to PBS ... in living color!

Rohit Khare (
Wed, 22 May 1996 11:01:52 -0400 (EDT)

from Jim Warren:--------------------------------------------------------

Computer nerds and nerd-alikes might wish to mark June 12th on their calendars.

PBS will air "Triumph of the Nerds" nationally on Wednesday, June 12th --
as a 3-hour special that they will be promoting as *the* PBS event for
June. The host is Infoworld's "Robt Cringely" (a pseudonym) and is based
mo'less on his book, _Accidental Empires_, that discloses how many personal
computing personalities stumbled into successes.

In the show, Cringely interviews a number of microcomputing's "pioneers" --
including Bill Gates ... and even li'l ol' me -- seeking candid insights
and tales about the early daze <sic> of personal computing.

The 3-hour premier show will include scenes that will *not* appear in later
re-airings by various PBS stations, in snipped-down one-hour segments, nor
will they be included in the "Nerds" videotapes that PBS will offer for

My understanding is that, among other things, the one-time-only showing
will include some comments about Gates' notorious mid-1970s letter to
editors accusing computer hobbyists of being thieves, pirating the
life-blood of his little software company (i.e., duplicating the
paper-tapes of Microsoft's first BASIC interpreter that -- if memory serves
- -- they were trying to sell for $350, for the MITS Altair 808-based
computer kit that cost $395). Donno what other morstels will be included.


Although the show was taped last fall, it follows a "tradition" latter
developed for pubic figures in the San Francisco Bay area:

* In December, shortly before San Francisco's mayorial election, ex-police
chief and then-Mayor Frank Jordan held a somewhat unusual photo-op. He was
featured on front pages and teevee doing a nude shower interview with two
local disk-jockeys. The shots were tastefully(?) clipped slightly above the
jockey-shorts that Jordon was obviously not wearing.

* Earlier this month, Stanford computer instructor and local
microprocessor consultant/author/wizard John Wharton gained national fame
as "Shower Man" when Dave Letterman chose him out of his Late Show audience
to send to the showers -- broadcasting Wharton continent-wide,
well-lathered in Letterman's shower where the show was produced during a
week's visit in San Francisco.

So ...

When the "Nerds" producers first interviewed me last year, planning what
they were going shoot with which of whom, I suggested doing the interview
in my [large] hot tub -- on my redwooded San Francisco Peninsula ridgetop,
overlooking about 100 miles of the Pacific.

I mean, after *all* -- we Silicon Valley / Californica <sic> types *do*
have our reputations to maintain.

(Actually, I had more in mind doing the initial *off*-camera interview with
the producer and very attractive assistant producer, who had properly
oooh'ed and ahhh'ed over the ho'tub and vistas, as I was showing them
around my mountaintop -- but that detracts from the story. :-)

They discussed the idea and came back saying that Cringely would just
*love* to do the ON-camera sually, smiled brightly, and pointed to the outgoing

[Back on topic] So with their "Nerds" camera rolling, Cringely and I began
chatting about ISDN versus Frame Relay ... and stripped to zip. Once in
the ho'tub, in place of coy camera angles, I turned on the bubbles for
strategic opacity ("Bubbles, Bob?", asked I :-).

You'll have to watch PBS on June 12th to, uh, see the rest.

Somehow, I suspect that Bellevue Bill's intervview was probably conducted
with more mundane "style" ... but who knows. Guess we'll just have to wait
for the movie.

And oh yes -- Cringely tells me:
>The shows have already run in England to great acclaim (our tub scene was
>especially popular). The series has also been sold to networks in Ireland,
>Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Holland, Czech & Slovak Reps, Croatia, Hong Kong,
>Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, South Africa, British Airways (inflight), and
>a couple of others I can't remember.

I guess this will sorta blow my cover. :-) But then again, I'm not
planning to run for office ... and I *am* a WYSIWYG sorta guy.

- --jim
Jim Warren, GovAccess list-owner/editor, advocate & columnist
345 Swett Rd., Woodside CA 94062; voice/415-851-7075; fax/<# upon request>

[puffery: John Dvorak Lifetime Achievement Award (1995); James Madison
Freedom-of-Information Award, Soc. of Prof. Journalists - Nor.Cal. (1994);
Hugh M. Hefner First-Amendment Award, Playboy Foundation (1994);
Pioneer Award, Electronic Frontier Foundation (its first year, 1992);
founded the Computers, Freedom & Privacy confs, InfoWorld; blah blah blah :-).]

Hmmm, I wonder if ex-Mayor Jordon would like to come to my next nude party
- -- now that Willie Brown is Mayor. (Come to think of it though, by
reputation, Willie would probably be the one more likely to attend. :-)