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PBS Boots Up Charlie Rose for Geeks

TV will get its first downloadable TV series this fall when PBS makes NerdTV available via the Internet beginning Sept. 6.

Hosted by author and PBS resident geek Robert X. Cringely, the hour-long interview format will give industry nerds like PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, original Macintosh programmer Andy Hertzfeld, and Sun Microsystems co-founder (and father of Berkeley UNIX) Bill Joy plenty of time to talk tech.

“These are people who have changed our lives whether we know it or not,” said Cringely in a statement. “Through NerdTV a broad audience of enthusiasts and students will gain a much greater understanding of these techies and the context of their lives and work.”

On the PBS site (, NerdTV will be posted in MP4 video format. Viewers will be encouraged to share downloaded shows and post them on their own Web sites. The show will be distributed under a Creative Commons license, a copyright that encourages users to redistribute creative work—ranging from software and programming code to music and video—in non-commercial form.

The content will be downloadable in three versions: the entire episode, a highlight for general audiences, and a highlight for techies. Audio-only versions will also be available in multiple formats.

Cindy Johanson, PBS’ senior VP for interactive learning, said NerdTV is “an extremely cost-effective production model” that could serve as an example for distributing other PBS shows in the future. “[Cringely] has produced the episodes in the cost range of several thousands of dollars per episode, which compared to traditional television is the other end of the spectrum.”

Johansen said NerdTV will debut without underwriters, though PBS hopes to secure sponsorship in the future.

Cringely is a public TV producer (Triumph of the Nerds, Nerds 2.0.1) who has written a weekly technology column on for eight years.

He is the author of the book Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date.