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Micro Men

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Just finished watching Micro Men on iplayer, and I was enthralled from start to finish.  Armstrong’s portrayal of a schoolboy trapped inside the supremely imperious body of Clive Sinclair was brilliant, and Freeman cut a tragi-comic Mr. Acorn running his startup from a knife-edge of flaky Cambridge supernerds and creative bank background references, driven by his malignant, mutually destructive rivalry with Sinclair, making all the running and reaching an improbable supremacy, before discovering that his claimed high ground wasn’t even on the battlefield during the overextension and unravelling of his business.  The dramatisation had the guts to stick with it’s themes and not throttle-back on the absurdity of the two protagonists’ bitter feud or the pitifully spiky immaturities and rages of Sinclair.  Awesome stuff delivered with rich period blinky-blonkiness and  real-life television footage.

I know exactly why it had me gripped – aside from it’s dynamic energy and well-constructed narrative, it also captured the spirit of the age for my generation.  I was watching it being constructed.  While the Amiga range was where I cut my teeth, the Speccy and the Beebs that were unreplaced in my school until the early-to-mid ninetees – by Acorn Arcs and only much later with PC – were like keystone lumps of my heritage I guess.  I was reading Your Sinclair magazine way beyond my use of the machine – where loading from tape was as tricky as Ray Mears would find nursing a campfire into maturity at the bottom of a lake.  The Sinclair was already becomming an anachronism even as I really got into it, and Your Sinclair really encapsulated the whole Speccy worldview.  In the later stages of it’s run the magazine had less and less Spectrum content and more freestyle articles, growing fully into an eccentric hodge-podge motivated by the collective gallows humour of a obsolescent community.  The indigenous British hardware industry was going to seed just as much in the mid-eighties and this was a central theme of Micro Men as the real new talents swung almost instinctivly from nuts and bolts hardware into cottage-industry software development as the destined global industrial superpowers emerged and dwarfed the tiny empires of the Micro Men.

The authenticity of this film is typified by the gilt-edged science-fiction flights of fancy of the day that manifest themselves as today’s indisputable reality, the plausible, pragmatic enterprises of the industry at the time swamped and rendered obsolete over the space of single weeks and months by the freewheeling headlong rush of the age.  This historical context lent Micro Men a weighty heft.

Clever, well-made, well-written and well-acted.  Great stuff!