Ten Documentaries Programmers Should Watch

I was motivated to post this list after talking to some young programmers. They had a number of questions about the lifestyle of programmers and how successful and unsuccessful we can be. Most of the advice I gave them were from the documentaries listed below and some from my personal experience. I added links to the ones available on the web. Others will have links to IMDB.

  1. Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires
    One of the best documentaries about the old days (70s-90s). It covers the stories of a couple major computer companies (software & hardware).
  2. Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet
    This is the follow up to Triumph of the Nerds. Some content is the same as the first but still worth watching.
  3. Tetris: From Russia with Love
    Video games is what got me into programming. I tried to write arcade games for my Tandy 1000EX. This documentary is about a talented Russian programmer and the crazy world of video game development in the 70s & 80s.
  4. Project Code Rush
    This is the story of the amazing rise and fall of Netscape. Need I say more?
  5. The Pixar Story
    A motivating look at how engineers and artists worked together to create one of the most successful tech entertainment companies ever.
  6. id Software – All Your History
    Not sure you can really classify this as a documentary but I had to add it. The programmers at id changed the gaming world with some clever code.
  7. E-Dreams
    Not every story has a good ending. Kozmo.com was a rushed and over funded startup. Not a bad idea though… Amazon is testing this model in a couple markets.
  8. Startup.com
    More from the bubble days. Learn this well… an idea and vc money does not equal solid business.
  9. The History of Hacking
    At the end of the day we are all hackers. Learn your history!
  10. Revolution OS
    I was a big fan of the Linux OS back in the days. Now I get my command line action from OS X but I still got love for the OS that had Micro$oft shaking.

I also have a list for some of the best programmer movies that are very different from whats already out there. Look out for that list coming soon.

If you have any feedback or want to debate this list then please leave a comment below.

It’s been a while since I thought about this list. Looking at it now I feel I need to add a couple new documentaries that I like. I don’t have enough for a new list so I’ll just mention them here…

  1. Indie Game: The Movie
    If I had to re-write this blog post then this would be my top documentary. This is a great view into the indie world of game programers and designers. I’d love to see a documentary like this for non-game programming. Might not be as popular but still… interesting.
  2. Downloaded
    Remember Napster? This documentary tells the story of the programmers behind the controversial app and the company they started. The thing I love about this story is the fact that a kid wrote a piece of software that forced a huge industry to change its ways. The change wasn’t complete until Apple came along with iTunes but Napster did the hard work and paid for it in the end.
  3. Atari: Game Over
    Awesome doc about the history of Atari and one if the most talked about crappy games made for the Atari 2600. The best part is the story about the programmer who wrote that game. It pretty much ended his career even though he made some of the biggest hits for Atari. Guess you’re only as good as your last project.
  4. Terms and Conditions May Apply
    Does anyone really read the terms and conditions for most of the software or web services they use? This one might scare you.
  5. Print The Legend
    Not really related to programming but a great insight into hacking of physical objects. I’m really interested in how this will allow programmers to build physical things from there computer in their office.

**UPDATE 2**
I posted my list of movies programmers should watch. Fifteen movies all together… check it out!

**UPDATE 3**
I posted my top 10 list of audiobooks programmers should listen to. Check it out and let me know what your list is.

4 thoughts on “Ten Documentaries Programmers Should Watch

  1. rain

    thanks for these recommendations. I have now seen 5 or 6 of them. most were very very good. my fav is startup.com. i learned a lot from that documentary.

  2. Sachin Tewari

    Loved this list of documentaries! Can you please make available the list of best programmer movies that you had intended to? I am looking forward to it!


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