August 14, 2020
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The thing that gets us to the thing. Nerds think that’s computers. More personal people think that’s other people. Loyal people think that’s family. Halt and Catch Fire managed to pack in a bunch of stuff into a show that was supposed to be about computers, but maybe that was the point. If only more people watched it.

The idealist inquisitive mind of the nerd often gets stereotyped, even these days when nerds are hip & cool. Halt and Catch fire actually beautifully highlights the life of a nerd, and not just any nerd. Various types of nerds. All different stereotypes that yet, never get properly portrayed on TV.

Neither does a topic that so engulfs our lives like technology and computers. Let alone the history of such things. Halt and Catch Fire did both and I must say that it’s series ending was one of the best endings to a TV show I have ever watched!

The show was criticized by fans because it often portrayed the same characters going out and “inventing,” every evolution of the computer from the 1980s-1990s, but their inventions were usually crap compared to whatever was out on the market. Sometimes you get a big break, but usually you just do enough to get by. That’s what the show highlighted and that was quite meta to do on the backdrop of the technological revolution. Where that big idea was just around the corner and all you needed to succeed was a modem. Or so you thought.

I like to think that if I was a bit older and I had an idea what a computer was back then, I would have easily created some dot com company and I would be a Billionaire now. Halt and Catch fire never really allowed their characters’ ideas to get too big or to be the next Google or Apple. Their grueling search building laptop computers, online gaming, internet commerce, and the World Wide Web ultimately managed to get beaten in the end.

Surely by the end of the series the search for the next big thing, kills one character and frustrates even the most adamant tech fiend. The grind grows stale and one by one they give in. They move on from the search. Three retire, and one seeks out her long-lost family.

Halt and Catch Fire’s namesake works on so many fulfilling levels. On one level it is an actual computer term. Referring to a computer machine code instruction that causes the computer’s central processing unit (CPU) to cease meaningful operation, typically requiring a restart of the computer. On a second level it perfectly highlights the way the technology world operates. Every five years or less things get completely rewritten and totally different technology emerges. The business adapts, dies, or the members restarts it with a new idea. On a third level in the Halt world, it highlights the relationship between the characters.

But what is the ultimate message that Halt and Catch Fire wanted to portray? If the start of the series was something idealistic, the end of the series was something of a forewarning. The creators’ own vision of the future perhaps and not just the future in the 1990s. It’s a warning to all of us who live in the here and and now. In 2017.

Halt and Catch Fire’s final pitch at first glance isn’t technology related. “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets you to the thing. You were the thing.” It seems like it’s one of the main characters telling how important his love interest was to him and yet it could also mean something much more darker.

As long as there are idealistic nerds out there, computers will be amazing tools for everyone to enjoy. Hopefully we as a society realizes that and we do not let computers destroy us or this country in the process of searching for the next great thing.


John J. Falco