Jul 28, 2018 - Technology

Flashback: General Magic was a failed 90s startup ahead of its time

Old Silicon Valley nostalgia descended upon a San Jose theater as "General Magic," a recently released documentary about a 90s startup by the same name, held its local premiere on Thursday (its initial debut was at the Tribeca Film Festival in April).

Why it matters: Though the company in the movie — an offshoot from Apple — ultimately failed, its original software product was a precursor to the PDA (personal digital assistant) and eventually the smartphone. It was also an assembly of some of Silicon Valley's future technology stars, including Tony Fadell (later co-creator of the iPod), Megan Smith (later Google exec and U.S. CTO), and Andy Rubin (later Android co-founder), among others.

Second act: As Fast Company's Harry McCracken notes, after its initial idea failed, General Magic worked on a virtual assistant, "the Siri of its time," he says. That didn't work out well either and the company shut officially down in 2002. The company also developed General Motors' OnStar in-car communications system, which still exists today.

Go deeper: Read CNET's overview of the premiere; Fast Company's take on lessons from General Magic

There is no wider release date for the movie yet.

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