The ideas that dominate the tech industry and our day to day lives were born at a secretive Silicon Valley start-up named 'General Magic', which spun out of Apple in 1990 to create the first handheld personal communicator (or "smartphone").
The ideas that dominate the tech industry and our day to day lives were born at a secretive Silicon Valley start-up called 'General Magic', which spun out of Apple in 1990 to create the first handheld personal communicator (or "smartphone"). The film combines rare archival footage with powerful honesty from the "Magicians" today, reflecting on the most influential Silicon Valley Company no one has ever heard of. Featuring legendary members of the original Macintosh team, along with the creators of the iPod, iPhone, Android and eBay.Written by
"General Magic" (2018 release; 95 min.) is a documentary about the Silicon Valley start-up company of the same name. As the movie opens, a voice-over reminds us that "Failure isn't the end, it's the beginning. Was General Magic a failure?" We then go back in time, to 1984, the year Apple introduces the Macintosh, when a Detroit kid named Tony Fadell recounts his geeky 16 yr; old self, dreaming of bigger things to come. We then get to know Mark Porat, who recounts how in 1989 he came up with the concept of what we know these days as a smart phone. He shows us his 1989 drawings, which look remarkably like the iPhone of today. It's not long before he starts a company called General Magic, funded by 16 major investors including Apple, AT&T, Sony, and other big names... At this point we are 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this documentary is co-written and co-directed by Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude. Kerruish was invited by General Magic in 1992 to come and take a look at how a tech start-up functions, and film for posterity. As a result, we are treated to lots of archive footage from those times, and what a treasure trove that turns out to be! Aside from the footage, the story itself of General Magic is of course a fabulous one, and truly a case of a company ahead of its time. As Fadell explains, the 90s was a time of one failure after another (leading to the tech bubble burst in the early 00s), but that lots was learned along the way, Still, it blows the mind that certain people like Porat had the bold vision to foresee mobile computing, "a device you will always want to have with you", per Porat, almost 2 decades before that became a reality.
"General Magic" premiered at the 2018 Tribeca film festival to positive acclaim, and found its way onto Showtime in 2019. I recently caught it on SHO On Demand, and enjoyed it. How is it possible that the name General Magic isn't known better by the public at large these days for its true pioneering vision of how interwoven our lives would become with our smart phone. If you have any interest in business in general, or the history of technology, I'd readily suggest you check this out on VOD or on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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