Silicon Cowboys (2016) Review

A great documentary for the history lover and the geek…and I just happen to be both!

by Martin Hafer

Silicon Cowboys is a new documentary from Jason Cohen and Steven Leckart and it’s about some modern history that most of us just take for granted. It’s all about the rise of the Compaq computer company as well as the death of IBM in the PC market…hardly the stuff to excite everyone. Most folks don’t really care about the history of computers—they just want their iPhones and PCs to work. But if you are like me, a bit of a geek as well as a retired history teacher, then seeing this film is a must.

The film begins in 1981. Three friends are all working for a computer industry giant at the time, Texas Instruments. The three would love to start their own company but they aren’t even sure what that company would sell! They’d talked about opening a Mexican restaurant but finally settled on going into the personal computer business. Little did they know that the world would drastically change based on this choice.


Silicon Cowboys
Directed by
Jason Cohen
Written by
Jason Cohen & Steven Leckart
Release Date
16 September 2016
Martin's Grade: A-

  • Barsuglia Photography

Up until this time, the IBM Corporation had near sole possession of the personal computer industry. While a few tiny companies sold computers for home use, all the computers used by companies were IBM mainframe, mini and microcomputers. So, the notion of this new company, Compaq, fighting to get into the microcomputer market must have seemed ludicrous. But somehow, these guys succeeded…even if their first ‘portable’ computer weighed as much and was larger than a sewing machine! How they then managed to eventually beat IBM is amazing and it’s just something you’ll have to learn when you see this engaging documentary.

Okay…I am a geeky history lover. But you, too, may well enjoy this film if you give it a chance—particularly if you are old enough to remember these old days of computing when many folks just thought the home PC would be a fad! The film is well made, always interesting but also works well because most of the people involved in creating Compaq were available to be interviewed and seemed to genuinely like talking about these times.

If you are interested in seeing the film, it just debuted on Netflix, though so far you can only watch it on disc and not their streaming service.

3 Week Diet

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