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Technology is fascinating, and people love to learn. One of the best ways to lose an evening (or productive morning) is to combine the two in video form. Over the last two decades the Internet has grown from an exclusive cluster of early adopters to a ubiquitous communication tool that’s essential for living in the modern world we have created.
This has resulted in a huge number of documentary films exploring everything from consumer electronics to the financial, ethical and practical implications of our technology habit.
Today we bring you the mother lode of documentaries about the Internet, hackers, startups, computers and the cyberculture spawned as a result.
Triumph of the Nerds (1996)
Featuring interviews with Steve Jobs and plenty of washed-out 90s 4:3 charm, this early 1996 takes a look at the early triumphs of the offline revolution, at a time when widespread Internet adoption was just around the corner.
Code Rush (2000)
Essentially the story of how Netscape became Firefox, Code Rush takes a look at life at Netscape between 1998 and 2000 at a time when the company was struggling to stay alive.
Revolution OS (2001)
Revolution OS is all about the open source movement, which was growing rapidly at the time of the documentary’s release in 2001. The documentary outlines what makes the open source movement different to that started by Apple and Microsoft, and features interviews with Linus Torvalds, Eric Raymond and Richard M. Stallman.
Welcome to Macintosh (2008)
An honest, critical and at the same time fondly-remembered look at the history of Apple, released in 2008. There are no interviews with Jobs himself (he appears in archive footage form) and a lot has changed since then, including the appointment of Tim Cook as CEO.
Startups & Business
At the turn of the millenium, the Internet held promise for many. While there was money to be made, there were also huge losses to be suffered – E-Dreams takes a look at both sides of the metaphorical USB cable, pausing to see what happens when things don’t quite fit as they should.
Much like E-Dreams, Startup.com is a documentary that takes a look at the birth, life and eventual death of a new media company at the turn of the millenium.
Many of the tech world’s brightest starts only get their big breaks when they accept internships. Aardvark’d: 12 Weeks With Geeks is a documentary that follows this process from the perspective of four students tasked with designing, developing and shipping an ambitious product in a tight timeframe.
Something Ventured (2011)
A “venture capitalist” is now anyone with some spare money and a hope to invest in the next big thing, but the original venture capitalists took their chances long before the term was coined. This documentary takes a step back and looks at some of the most important, innovative and influential companies of the information age.
Steal This Film (2006)
The aptly named Steal This Film made waves when it was released for free via Bit Torrent in 2006. It’s the first in a series of films that takes a look at a movement to stifle file sharing, even in countries where the practice is technically illegal. This is the re-released edition, produced after the 2009 Pirate Bay trial.
Steal This Film II (2007)
The second part in the series, Steal This Film II takes a closer look how organisations define copyright theft, how easy it is to fall afoul of these rules and the methods being used to enforce the law.
TPB AFK (2014)
“The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard” is another documentary focusing on file-sharing, with specific focus on Swedish filesharing site The Pirate Bay. Much like Steal This Film, TPB AFK was released for free under a Creative Commons license.
Freedom Downtime (2001)
In 1999 Kevin Mitnick was arrested by the FBI for computer hacking conducted over a two and a half year period. He spent five years in prison before being released including 8 months in solitary confinement, leading many to criticise the handling of the case.
Hackers Are People Too (2008)
There are many preconceived notions of what a computer hacker is, does, wears and even looks like. This documentary, produced by the hacker community, attempts to dispel long-held beliefs about those who get a kick out of security and remind us that hackers are people too.
Hackers Wanted (2008)
In 2003 a production company happened to be interviewing Adrian Lamo, the hacker who eventually turned Bradley Manning in to US authorities for his part in leaking sensitive documents. A member of the crew asked him what would happen if the authorities came for him – he laughed. 90 minutes later he got a phone call informing him he was a wanted fugitive.
The hacker collective known as Anonymous are known for their reactionary attacks on those who cross their path. Many people will tell you that the group doesn’t really exist by its very definition, but the movement, DDoSing and Guy Fawkes masks are all real.
Do you have any favourite documentaries about the Internet, hacking, startups, file sharing or technology?