The Deconstruction of the Construction of the Computer, or, Halt and Catch Fire: The Series Premiere

Flock of Seagulls in the house.

Flock of Seagulls in the house.

Maybe it’s youth talking, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that a different type of person is making history these days. Where my high school textbooks detailed the exploits of military and political savants today it seems like the biggest force of change in America is technology.

I’d wager a guess that folks are more likely to know Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg than their representative congressman or senator. And why not? While the political theater has showcased a staggering inability to overcome any sort of stalemate technology has pressed ever onward, affecting how we live and interact in a very real way.

AMC’s newest show, Halt and Catch Fire, which premieres Sunday, June 1st, traces this away in history-maker back to a sort of computer arms race in the early 1980s. Usually I take my 80s-themes, synth-driven entertainment steeped in art house hyperviolence, but Halt and Catch Fire makes due with corporate espionage and Legolas’ dad, Ronan the Accuser. Both of which provide the pilot with enough momentum to pique my interest in a second episode.

As someone who uses a computer everyday to write and blog, deep down I don’t really trust them. In fact, in a perverse way I might even hate them. They’re cold and mysterious and they disconnect people from each other and connect them to BuzzFeed lists, said the pot to the kettle.

The singularity is going to be a long day for me.

But much like David Fincher’s The Social Network, Halt and Catch Fire focuses on the human element behind a technological force on the cusp of world domination. Unlike The Social Network, however, you won’t detest every character on the screen.

And then I was like 'whatevs' and let Smaug commit genocide.

“And then I was like ‘whatevs’ and pretty much let Smaug commit genocide.”

In a way, Legolas’ dad and his friends strip the computer of a bit of that chill and mystery and show it for what it is – a machine. A machine that shaped the modern world, but a machine no less. Halt and Catch Fire Humbles the computer, grounding it in a world of personal ambition and corporate treachery that those among us without an extensive knowledge of what exactly happens between our keyboards and our screens can still understand.

The Halt and Catch Fire pilot isn’t perfect. There sex for the sake of sex and a few inevitable developments that have to be unfolded, but the show is unique and proof positive that as Breaking Bad and Mad Men wrap up AMC isn’t content to coast on the staling Walking Dead.

Halt and Catch Fire is a story that sets the foundation for how I’m able to watch a new cable television show before it premiers, then express my thoughts on it to a potentially innumerable audience immediately thereafter.

On my phone.

It’s a story that in one small way or another is relevant to each of us and it’s definitely worth a viewing.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. Am I the only one who thought IBM was a bank (i.e. It’s a Bank, Man)?

2. How long will it take for Halt and Catch Fire to give us what we really want: a subplot involving the founding of a little way of life called Bon Jovi?

3. Thorin and Legolas’ dad: frenemies or just straight up enemies?

 

For more on AMC check out my posts on the end of Breaking Bad and the aforementioned staling of The Walking Dead.

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