(Film Review) – A group of engineers, designers, and the like, worked to create something trascendental in the Silicon Valley of the 90’s. They had talent, insight, experience and more importantly, investors. There was synergy, camaraderie, focus and dedication. The product they were to invent was supposed to change people at a large scale. It was to be used by each person who would have a range of choices for a variety of tasks and after that, the possibilities for connection and interaction would be infinite. This product was basically a smartphone, many dreams before the iphone and other gadgets were presented to the world.
General Magic was the company created to make this new gadget possible. Under General Magic, the tech team developed an operating system called Magic Cap as well as other precursors to multimedia email, streaming TV, touch screen controllers, telescript and USB, just to name a few. It was all to be part of a mini computer, a small device for people to carry on and use it all the time. But for reasons outside their control the product failed, and that failure has become one of tech’s legendary tales. It also became the setback of a lifetime for some of the people who worked at General Magic –perhaps they didn’t realize the extent of their inventions and how they have impacted the world in the information era. It was a success even though the objective of General Magic -to market these products at a grand scale was not achieved. These tech heroes and visionaries were like magicians and oracles but couldn’t find the magic wand.
Directed by Matthew Maude and Sarah Kerruish, General Magic is the documentary that walks you through those years of incubation and anticipation, and introduces you to the key players, considered Silicon Valley’s heroes, as they were back then and in retrospect. Bill Anderson, Andy Hertzel and Marc Porat, are some of tech blazers shown in this documentary when they were young but also as they are now, years later.
The details, plots, unexpected events and other contributing factors for the magical device not raising to the highs it was supposed to raise are simple and well presented through this documentary. Some say that the company, General Magic, failed because the right product they produced came to existence and to the market at the wrong time -perhaps too early.
When the iphone was unveiled; it was a device very much made from the same concept as in the Magic Cap and other General Magic inventions.
Imagine what these visionaries felt when they saw the world celebrate the Iphone but they were not part of the party.
I don’t want to spoil the film for you. I don’t want to tell you in what order things unfolded. Go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.
General Magic opens on May 10 in theaters in Los Angeles, Chicago Houston, Portland and Orlando. It will be shown in other cities through June and hopefully in some of the film festivals around the world.
-Lupita Franco Peimbert