Hooked on “Halt and Catch Fire”

This summer I’ve been fascinated by not only the storyline of AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire,” but
the time period as well. The show centers around the main characters’ struggles with
engineering and selling what could be called the very first computer laptop. The “Giant,” as it is
named in the show, looks antiquated by today’s standards but in their world, in the 1980’s when
Cabbage Patch Kids were also the latest fad, they are thinking outside the box.
I was naturally attracted to the show both because it was on AMC--home of “The Walking
Dead,” which gave up its time slot to “HACF” until October--and because of the technological
elements. What I wasn’t prepared for was how invested I would become not only in the
characters but also their whole environment.
Most importantly, although the show is a drama it gives me a lot to think about in regards to the
evolution of computers, business, and technology. I was in elementary school around the same
time that the episodes take place, so I missed out. But, I feel a strong connection because I’ve
benefitted a lot from the engineers and inventors who came before me. My very first job after
college was in web design, so I was fortunate that the Internet was starting to grow in popularity
around that time.
For me, there are a lot of moments which remind me of my own career. One of my favorites is
when the lone programmer who was originally hired to write the operating system for the new
computer, Cameron, returns from a business trip to find that an entire team of programmers and
a new project manager have been hired. She has been demoted to being just another
programmer among many. She complains to the product manager, Joe, but he doesn’t budge.
She claims that she could save the company money and increase efficiency by cutting half the
programming team and more intelligently assigning programming tasks.
She out maneuvers both Joe and the project manager by screening out the programmers using
a test she set up inside the computer game that she had shown them. The programmers who
had been able to figure out all of the cheat codes were kept, and the rest were let go.
It’s fun to see plot developments like this because I realize that that kind of thing happens even
today. We like to think that things have changed a lot since the 1980’s, but really there are still a
lot of managers and corporations that are still thinking the same way.
I’ve never been very interested in the study of history, so I think this shows grabs me the most
because these events are taking place during a time period when I was alive. The characters
and company are fictional, of course, but engineers went through the same struggles and
decisions in real life.
Finally, I love watching the show because it feels a little like a reflection of what I do now. I’m not
an engineer who deals in hardware, or a programmer, but I spend a lot of time thinking outside
of the box and resolving problems. I haven’t thought much about how history will look back at

the work I’m doing now, but I’m sure it will be with as much amusement and fascination I
experience when I watch “Halt and Catch Fire.”

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