Culture Crash: Exploring the Tech Show “Halt and Catch Fire”


“Over the course of four seasons, the show uses its characters and perspective to highlight the development of a computer itself, of an online gaming startup, search engines and more. Audiences can see the copyright-skirting, reverse-engineering bonanza that was, and in many ways still is, the wild west of the internet.


A fictional TV drama about the development of personal computing in the 1980s and 1990s may not sound like the most compelling thing, but Halt and Catch Fire, an AMC show that ran from 2014 to 2017, proves otherwise.

The show primarily focuses on four individuals, two women and two men, as they navigate the tech landscape right as personal computing started to, well, catch fire. Over the course of four seasons, the show uses its characters and perspective to highlight the development of a computer itself, of an online gaming startup, search engines and more. Audiences can see the copyright-skirting, reverse-engineering bonanza that was, and in many ways still is, the wild west of the internet.

Of course, like all good shows, what starts as a premise pitch: this is a show about the development of technology, quickly reveals itself to be about the human beings at the heart of the story. Cam, Donna, Joe and Gordon, the show’s four main characters, navigate a decade’s worth of life and career advances over the shows 40-episode timeframe, which begins in 1983 and lasts into the mid-90s. Joe is a big picture man, always selling audiences on the future. Gordon is a hardware engineer, putting in the long hours to make Joe’s ideas possible. Cam is a genius coder ensuring Gordon’s machines can function, and Donna begins her journey as Gordon’s wife, but she slowly becomes as critical to the entire enterprise as any of the others.

Halt and Catch Fire was, for a long time, a show I had heard of and meant to get around to, but never did. Then, I finally took the dive and clicked play. In just two weeks, I had devoured the entire show, and become one of its biggest fans. If you like tech, or just the portrayal of fully human, ultra-compelling characters, Halt and Catch Fire might just be your next binge-watch.

All four seasons of Halt and Catch Fire are available to stream on Netflix.

I’m Evan Rook.

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