And the Correct Answer is… Computer Bowl!

by Davis Freeberg, Contributing Writer

One of the great things about the long tail is that you never really know what’s going to show up. One of my favorite televion genres is the game show. Maybe it was watching Richard Dawson kiss all of those wives at a young and impressionable age, but for better or worse I’m a game show junkie. And while I haven’t had any luck finding an indie version of Survivor, Contender or The Real World (or at least none that are safe for work), I did recently stumble upon an interesting piece of tech history on the Internet Archive – that great bastion of micro content for the long tail warrior. Ladies and geeks, may I reacquaint you with Computer Bowl.

No matter what’s at stake, I find game shows exciting — so imagine my joy when scouring through the Internet Archive, I managed to stumble onto this great marriage of tech and game shows from yesteryear staring none other than our poster boy himself, Bill Gates. Talk about a brilliant gem of micro content (a brilliant gem if you’re a super geek that it is.)

Computerbowl is an entire series of computer trivia game shows, with Bill Gates co-hosting two shows and playing as a contestant in two more. Bill is in full force on the shows and revels in full geek glory. The game shows were shot in the late 80’s and 90’s and featured some of the smartest minds in technology at the time.
Basically contestants face off in an East / West showdown, trying to answer questions about super computers, strange acronyms and an occasional reference to pop culture. After watching a couple of the shows, I was really surprised at how competitive the geek community is. If you ever had any doubt that Bill Gates wants to dominate the world you should just see his formidable Computer Bowl play.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of computer bowl is that throughout the entire series, the participants prove to be real sticklers for the rules. There is even one point, in Computer Bowl 4, where Bill Gates’ co-host, Stewart Cheifet, actually has the crowds booing and hostile over an accidental slip on a wrong answer. Pure geekdom. Gates does a good job of stepping in and rescuing poor Stu, but lets just say that I was a little surprised to see him again in Computer Bowl 5.

While I won’t even pretend that I understood even 10% of the questions or the answers on computer bowl (maybe I need to read my Slashdot more regularly), I found the series as Bill might say, “super” educational. With history as a lense, Computer Bowl does a good job of framing what the computer industry was like at that time and it’s progression over a decade.

Although I can’t see the majority of the public clamoring for Computer Bowl on pay per view, I guess that’s the great part about the long tail, you don’t need the masses in order to find compelling content, just a niche.

For a review of last year’s Computer Bowl, check out Renee Blodgett’s coverage. Last’s years contestants included Stewart Alsop, Rob Glaser, Mary Meeker, Mitch Kapor, Mitchell Kertzman, Eric Schmidt, Bill Gates and Esther Dyson.