Halt and Catch Fire: I/O
June 1, 2014 8:33 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The opener of a drama set during the 1980s computing boom and following the actions of an unlikely trio: a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy, all based in Texas' Silicon Prairie.
posted by pwally (18 comments total)
posted by homunculus at 9:00 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

What's the consensus on this, everybody? Worth a look? Silicon Valley lost me halfway through the first episode, I get that this is going for a different feel, though. Drama-techno-thriller type stuff? Tell me what my opinion should be on things.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:43 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

First episodes can be tough because they have to cover a lot of ground. I'm excited for this show just because I like computers.. and I like stickin it to the man! So I'll give it a healthy shot. turbid dahlia, you should check out more of Silicon Valley, the show gets super funny after the first show/premise is built.
posted by pwally at 11:16 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

homunculus: “Centipede!”
Indeed, but… who leaves so many mushrooms in the play area?

I'm cautiously optimistic about this show. I'm not sure how historically accurate it is, but it's an interesting look back at the time when Byte magazine might have been the most important periodical published on Planet Earth, and it had maybe a few tens of thousands of subscribers.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:48 PM on June 1, 2014

i'm kinda on the fence with this one. i'll definitely watch the next episode, but the brooding morose genius bit with Gordon is just so two dimensional and lame, and the manic don draper-type pitch by Joe was also pretty ugh.

I'm going to give it a chance though, because i was offput by the first episode of mad men too. A lot of decent shows have a shaky first episode.

Also, i'm probably one of the only people who noticed this, but i was annoyed that they dubbed porsche 911 flat six engine sounds over a porsche 944.

Silicon Valley lost me halfway through the first episode

you should really give it a chance. it gets pretty damn entertaining.
posted by emptythought at 1:15 AM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

We watched the pilot last week online so the details have faded a bit, but I recall finding it entertaining enough to stick around for another week or three to see how it settles in post-pilot, but not necessarily good enough for me to be all in for a full season. Cautious optimism.

However, I kind of think I cannot watch it with my partner anymore because the constant pausing to scrutinize the hardware and decide whether it is accurate may cause me to smother him with a pillow if this becomes a show we watch together.
posted by Stacey at 5:02 AM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Silicon Valley lost me halfway through the first episode

Yep, totally different. I LOVED Silicon Valley. I find it hilarious, with a lot of inside jokes. (Not that I'm inside, but inside to people who follow tech news and some of the personalities involved.)

Halt and Catch Fire.... I liked it enough to give it a few episodes, but some things bugged me, and I hope it smooths out and becomes more subtle now that the initial plot and theme are established.


I love Lee Pace, mostly for his starring role in The Fall. His portrayal of MacMillan was good overall, but there were a few times where the sly "I've got a secret and I'm smarter than all of you" look was off-putting.

Similarly with Howe's character, it was a little too "hey I'm a hacker and a rebel and I'm a GIRL" and reminded me too much of Angelia Jolie in the laugh-out-loud Hackers movie. Also, how do they portray her hacker cred? She spews out some trivial comment in the lecture hall, then shows how good she is at Centipede with a slug. If she's so good, she wouldn't need a slug. One quarter would last her all day. (Or is the point that she is NOT good at Centipede? There were lots of GAME OVER screens.)

I like Clark's character, possibly because it's easier to relate to. We all have goals and dreams that we set aside or trade entirely for "security" or to concentrate on other obligations. But, again, "the depressed genius who no longer believes in himself, and needs a brash guru figure to motivate him comes off as cliche as well."

This is all probably nit-picking. But like I said, I did like it enough to click the "record series" button on my DVR, and I'll give it a shot.
posted by The Deej at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with all of that stuff but I also double down on how annoying I found Gordon... he spends most of the episode being a TOTAL SHIT to his wife who seems to be asking even less than the bare minimum from him... then he makes one pot of soup and hotwires one Speak n Spell and all of a sudden it's Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture in a field of flowers.
posted by SharkParty at 6:23 AM on June 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

I was trying to figure out who the professor was... and a quick imdb search reveals it's Juliet Barnes' manager on Nashville.

Lee Pace's character rubbed me the wrong way in this episode because I have a visceral negative reaction to 80s era slick salespeople, but I'll definitely follow the show through the first season.
posted by drezdn at 6:50 AM on June 2, 2014

I also double down on how annoying I found Gordon

Good point! I actually laughed out loud at the shot of him making the soup.
posted by The Deej at 7:01 AM on June 2, 2014

Like others, I'll give it another chance but the pilot didn't really sell me. Also, it seems to be doing that thing where it shows computer stuff for people who don't know anything about computer stuff. I guess they have to do that, but I still find it annoying.

They were desoldering a chip and then showed them removing the chip from a socket. Stuff like that. Also, maybe it's been a long time since I've used an oscilloscope, but shouldn't those have been square waveforms coming from that chip?

I know these are nitpicky things, but if you're going to pride yourself on the details, get the details right.

And the characters are pretty much stock characters.
posted by bondcliff at 10:33 AM on June 2, 2014

> it shows computer stuff for people who don't know anything about computer stuff. I guess they have to do that

They have to do that.

Africa's not a country but Eno was right-- watching people do computer-y things (programming, composing music) is boring. Think of sparks and flux smoke as visualizations of what's going on in people's heads rather than the literal work they need to do.

But, yeah, sockets. Also, EPROM burners which could read a masked ROM or PROM were a thing in the early 80's. Reading the thing out one byte at a time? Well, it gets LEDs and solder less breadboards on screen. Something from way back when that's still relevant unlike the un-networked boat anchors of the day.

I'm looking forward to seeing how they handle the "Chinese wall" between the reverse engineers and engineers.
posted by morganw at 1:25 PM on June 2, 2014

It looks like HCF is going to be the (very) fictionalized story of how Compaq built the first PC Clone. It's not exactly "explain an entire decade," á la Mad Men, but it's an interesting area that nobody's really covered before.

However, didn't every IBM PC come with manuals which contained the source code of the BIOS ROM? Makes the reading-signals-with-an-oscilloscope sequence totally pointless. (It also made the whole task even harder: they had to find an engineer whom they could prove never saw the easily available IBM PC documentation.)

It's hard not to compare HCF to Mad Men. I just wish the former had characters who went beyond stock clichés straight out of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. So far it's Molly Millions, Patrick Bateman, Boss Hogg, and the Schlub Who Just Needs To Believe In Himself. Come on, AMC, give us the complexity we've come to expect from modern cable drama.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:58 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

lso, how do they portray her hacker cred? She spews out some trivial comment in the lecture hall, then shows how good she is at Centipede with a slug. If she's so good, she wouldn't need a slug. One quarter would last her all day. (Or is the point that she is NOT good at Centipede? There were lots of GAME OVER screens.)

The point is that she has access to the forbidden knowledge of how to use the slug to keep playing the game & the initiative to use it. It establishes her as someone with a transgressive attitude towards technological barriers without making her go all the way into hacking into a computer system, which would have distracted from the main narrative. It was a shibboleth if you will (pun entirely intended).
posted by scalefree at 11:19 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I was really hoping HCF was going to be better than what we saw on Sunday, I'm giving it a couple more episodes, unless it's this terrible on Sunday. Husbunny flat out left the room in disgust, "I think everyone on this show is an asshole and I can't relate to an asshole protagonist."

It seems loaded with cliches now, I rather wish they would have dramatized what really happened in that era with computing and networking and such. I worked in very early data communications in Silicon Valley in the eighties, so I was PRIMED for this, and the premiere was a complete let down.

I'll watch this upcoming week, but I have yet to be compelled to watch.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The fall 2015 season hasn't yielded any new shows I feel like watching immediately so I decided to try this one. Mainly because Alan Sepinwall proclaims that season 2 takes things to the next level so I figured this may be worth the slog through the mediocre to get to the great. Even though it was slightly before my time (born 1981) I have a rather intense nostalgia for the early PC days. I am now at episode 7, other than Donna I find the characters are either uninteresting, unlikable or both. The way they evoke the time and place is well done and the technology aspects are accurate enough that they don't take me out of the story.

My feelings are similar to Boardwalk Empire, the setting, historical details and performances are just enough to keep me watching, at least for the first couple of seasons, but I doubt I would revisit the show.
posted by Pong74LS at 10:20 PM on October 17, 2015

I've only watched this one episode, am planning on bingewatching all 40, liking what I saw enough to continue on for a few more.

One thing that I questioned was when the guy....the older mean guy who runs the company that Lee Pace works for (sorry don't know any character names yet) referred to a computer they were working on as "nextgen". Was that term really in use in the mid 80s? That jumped right out at me and punched me in the face.
posted by the webmistress at 10:23 AM on August 7, 2019

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