Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Halt and Catch Fire

I just finished watching the first episode of the new AMC show called Halt and Catch Fire.  The name comes from an old computer instruction which would stop the machine immediately.  The show follows a small Texas company trying to build IBM PC Clones.  The company and the people are fictitious, but it seems to parallel a lot of what Compaq went through in the early 80s.

I’ve always been a sucker for computing history.  I enjoy movies like Pirates of Silicon Valley and The Social Network.  I like Triumph of the Nerds.  I am happy to say that I really enjoyed the pilot episode.  It does a good job with the technical aspects of the show.  There is a scene where they are reverse engineering the ROM chip and it appears quite authentic to the way this work would be done.  They do a good job explaining things without getting dull.  They went out of their way to be accurate.  This article in Wired points out the lengths they went to in order to be period authentic.  It shows. 

If you have any interest in computing history or just like techy tv shows, give Halt and Catch Fire a try.

1 comment:

  1. I wold say HCF is pretty damn good for a show, got me hooked and I lived that world in the late 80's working for PC software companies in L.A.  I remember the Compaq Portable 1 computer (and later Portable III) because I used it to learn C programming (borrowed it from my roommate's company, which I eventually went to work for).
    The feel and attitude of the show is very reminiscent of tech firms at that time.  You had this clash between Mainframe (Big Blue suits, by the book programmers) and PC (tee-shirts and jeans, cowboy programmers) people that could be very contentious.  I lived that at one place I worked at while on an OS/2 implementation (that in of itself could be a show with the insanity we had on that project).  We (the PC OS/2 people) had to deal with the old timers (Mainframer's) all the time about how to run the project.  Lots of head banging going on.
    The 80's to mid-90's was a very intersting world in the computer industry.  A lot of new companies popping up and either flaming out or being bought out by competitors.  I know, I survived 3 merger/acquisitions over a 8 year period.  I remember when Microsoft was just a mid-sized company in Seattle and MS-DOS was just a basic OS.  They only had a few applications at the time along with DOS, Windows wasn't a real OS yet, and Lotus & Ashton Tate were one of the big boys on the block with Microsoft of the PC world.
    Ah... the crazy old days.  I'm looking forward to this show and how it will develop.