Last night the National Geographic Channel aired a great, new mini-series for lovers of American history. ′American Genius′ follows the story of competition between inventors, businessmen, scientists and even the United States against other world powers. On its premiere night, two episodes were aired back-to-back. The first focused on the battle between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. The second episode covered the fight for flight between the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss. Future episodes will include the struggles between Colt and Wesson, Edison and Tesla, as well as the Space Race.

Already quite familiar with these histories, I enjoyed the presentations. Most of the key points were made in each case. For example, in the world of personal computers, the NatGeo TV series hit the mark about how Bill Gates came to dominate the industry. Namely, his coup with IBM, providing their line of PCs with the operating system, which Gates bought from another small software company for $50,000. Then he got IBM to agree to allow Microsoft to freely sell DOS to whomever they wanted. Cha-ching! Cha-ching! The rivalry between Jobs and Gates began with them being somewhat friendly, as Gates helped Apple run business software. But things got ugly when Jobs accused Gates of stealing the Macintosh Graphics User Interface system, which, in all honesty, Jobs stole from Xerox. The end result was Windows dominating the PC world. But the world turns and changes and Jobs had the vision to adapt and develop new products, such as the iPod and the iPhone. Today, Apple is the wealthiest corporation on the planet.

In the early days of flying machines, while the Wright brothers were the first to succeed, Glenn Curtiss became the first to truly profit. Much like with the PC story, the Altair may have been first but it took the Apple II to become a successful, consumer product. Orville and Wilbur Wright actually wound up hurting themselves as they first tried to keep their technology a secret, then later again by trying to guard their patents, which quickly had become obsolete. Even while Curtiss was making headway on his own designs, after seeing a Wright Flyer in action, he realized that the boys from Ohio were way ahead of him. The rivalry grew bitter after the death of Thomas Selfridge, a personal friend of Glenn Curtiss, while Selfridge flew with Orville Wright during a demonstration flight for the US Army. The patent fight was so consuming that it drove Wilbur to an early grave.

The new, 4-week mini-series on the National Geographic Channel, ′American Genius′, began last night with a double-header victory. NatGeo-TV scored a pair of home runs with its two opening episodes, the first about the competition between Steve Jobs of Apple and Bill Gates of Microsoft. The second episode dealt with the battle between the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss during those early years of aviation. I am anxious to see the rest of the series, which airs on Monday nights.