Micro Men, working title Syntax Era is a 2009 one-off BBC drama television programme set in the late 1970s and the early-mid 1980s, about the rise of the British home computer market. It focuses on the rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair (played by Alexander Armstrong), who developed the ZX Spectrum, and Chris Curry (played by Martin Freeman), the man behind the BBC Micro.
Micro Men title card.
|Created by||Andrea Cornwell|
|Written by||Tony Saint|
|Directed by||Saul Metzstein|
|Theme music composer||Vangelis|
|Opening theme||"Pulstar" by Vangelis|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Executive producers||Elinor Day|
|Running time||84 mins|
|Original network||BBC Four|
|Original release||8 October 2009|
The drama is centred on two of the leading players and their respective companies in the home computer market of the late 1970s and early 1980s focusing on the race to win a grant from the BBC to become the provider of a home computer for the BBC's programming for schools. Certain parts of the drama are based on historical fact while others are dramatisation and a version of events at the time.
The main characters are ZX Spectrum creator Clive Sinclair and BBC Micro creators Chris Curry, Sophie Wilson, Steve Furber and Hermann Hauser. (The real-life Wilson also makes a brief cameo as a barmaid.)
- Alexander Armstrong as Clive Sinclair
- Martin Freeman as Chris Curry
- Edward Baker-Duly as Hermann Hauser
- Sam Phillips as Steve Furber
- Derek Riddell as Nigel Searle
- Colin Michael Carmichael as Jim Westwood
The programme was created by independent production company Darlow Smithson and was written by Tony Saint, directed by Saul Metzstein and produced by Andrea Cornwell. It was produced as a BBC Drama, shot in the UK, with some scenes shot in and around the colleges of Cambridge on 15 July 2009. Computers were supplied by The Centre for Computing History, then in Haverhill. They also supplied other technical props, including the Sinclair C5, and Jason Fitzpatrick, director of the museum, played the part of David Johnson-Davies.
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The soundtrack is notable for its use of early 1980s electronica, which was considered futuristic-sounding at the time:
- "Pulstar" - Vangelis (opening title) (from the 1976 album Albedo 0.39)
- "Planet Earth" - Duran Duran
- Computer World - Kraftwerk (2009 remaster)
- Pocket Calculator - Kraftwerk (2009 remaster)
- "A Fifth of Beethoven" - Walter Murphy (from Saturday Night Fever)
- "Title" from The Carpetbaggers - Jimmy Smith
- Zoolookologie - Jean Michel Jarre
- "Wouldn't It Be Good" - Nik Kershaw
- "Two Tribes" - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
- "99 Red Balloons" - Nena
- Computer World 2 - Kraftwerk (2009 remaster)
- "Pipes of Peace" - Paul McCartney
- "Oxygene Part 4" - Jean Michel Jarre (closing sequence/credits)
It was first shown on BBC Four on 8 October 2009.
When asked about the programme in an interview for The Independent - despite being involved in the production - Sinclair himself stated: "It was a travesty of the truth. It just had no bearing on the truth. It was terrible."
- Teeman, Tim (9 October 2009). "Last Night's TV". The Times. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
- Sam Wollaston (9 October 2009). "Micro Men". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
- Arnott, Jack (8 October 2009). "Micro Men preview". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Lyle, Peter (7 October 2009). "Micro Men: Sir Clive Sinclair and the heyday of British computing". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- "Museum-piece computers programmed into TV show". Haverhill Weekly News. Cambridge Newspapers. 7 October 2009. Archived from the original on 15 May 2012. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- "Syntax Era / Micro Men Trailer". Centre for Computing History. Centre for Computing History. 21 August 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "British Comedy Guide: Micro Men". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- "Sir Clive Sinclair: Down but never out, the eternal optimist is back". The Independent. 10 January 2010.
- Micro Men at BBC Programmes
- Micro Men on the British Comedy Guide
- Micro Men on IMDb
- The Guardian: Battle between ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro to be BBC4 comedy drama
- TechRadar article
- BitterWallet blog entry by Andy Dawson (09.10.2009, just a day after Micro Men was broadcast first)
- The Jitty: Interview with the British IBM