The Rear-View Mirror: Halt and Catch Fire (2014)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Whenever there is something technical to be done about this site, it’s not me. I don’t have it in me, and I need constant technical advice and supervision. So the joke is probably on me when I tell you that I really like the first season of Halt and Catch Fire, an AMC series that started in 2014 and ended last year with its 4th season. HaCF is about a small Texas computer hardware company called Cardiff Electronics in the 1980s, where three employees go rogue and secretly want to beat giant blue chip IBM in building a better, affordable computer.

I have no clue if the series has any claim in reality, or if the computer-talk is any kind of realistic. For me, the series’ mystery is if those three very different personalities will be able to work together and produce something concrete and useful. While Joe MacMillan is their smarmy but edgy leader with a hidden agenda, Gordon Clark has the dogged patience to reverse-engineer an IBM operating system in his garage, but it’s Cameron Howe who is the recalcitrant idea woman in the group – a rogue among rogues, so to speak. They are played by Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis, and they’re my favorite TV ensemble these days.

Some critics say that it’s MacMillans shady past that’s the driving force in HaCF. I respectfully disagree: there are many movies and TV series bringing us brilliant minds in theory, but if you look for characters who actually do something practical with their intellect, the field is thinning. Imagine engineer Howard Wolowitz taking centre stage in The Big Bang Theory, pushing theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper to the sidelines. If nervous introvert Gordon and free-spirited street-waif Cameron can find a way to sit down and build a portable computer, then the world is theirs.

The Rear-View Mirror will return every Friday, looking further and further into the past. Fasten your seatbelts: it may just be a bumpy ride.

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