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Passing of a computer pirate

October 23, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

It was Herman who brought up this subject, by reminding me what we lost with the passing of Steve Jobs. He's been trying to get me to watch the 1999 made-for-TV movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" for at least two years, and when Jobs made the cover of my "must read" magazine, "People," I decided it was time to see it. The cover story in "People" was really pretty comprehensive.

Noah Wylie, who I liked in "ER," plays the role of Jobs in the TV movie and Anthony Michael Hall plays Bill Gates. The two digital giants started out in separate quests involving personal computer development, and later competed and even stole from each other to further their own computer empires.

At one point in the movie, Wylie as Jobs quotes Picasso as saying, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." The audacity of that statement pretty much sums up how arrogant and full of ego both Gates and Jobs are portrayed as they began the computer revolution in the 1970s.

I know when I first began writing this column almost 17 years ago, I was using a Brother word processor, not a computer, and I used to fax the copy into the paper and someone there had to retype it. Today, I can copy and paste the copy from my computer into an email or onto the newspaper's website so no one has to redo the typing (although they may have to edit it somewhat for typos and spacing).

I have used PCs with Microsoft programs as well as a voice activated software called "Dragon Dictate" until my voice weakened to the point the software had trouble distinguishing words. As I speak this, I am dictating to Herman who is typing on a Mac Powerbook, which will then email the column to my desktop PC and then to my out-of-town email list, the newspaper and my website at

All this seems very routine now, but without Jobs and Gates, how would any of this have developed differently? I must say, when I first started watching the film, it seemed very technical and uninteresting.

But then the human side of the two main characters, especially their flaws as well as their genius, came to the fore.

Starting out in garages, the two characters went up against huge corporations like IBM and somehow came out ahead. But in the meantime, Jobs fathered a child he didn't admit to for years named Lisa (which later became the name of one of Jobs' computer designs) and Gates is shown as basically robbing the DOS (Disk Operating System) that formed the basis of Microsoft for a fraction of its worth at $50,000.

We look back now at Jobs as a seminal figure in changing how we all live and at Gates as a great philanthropist, but that sure doesn't seem like how they started. I admit to being more of a PC person than a Mac, although Herman uses a Mac and is typing this out on a Mac as I speak.

It's hard to envision how our lives would all be different without the digital revolution these two guys started. And Jobs certainly takes the cake for beautifully designed products as well as functionality.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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