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AMC HCF – Period Television at its Best

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AMC HCF (Halt and Catch Fire) is a great television series many people missed. Time to catch it on Netflix. You won’t be sorry that you did. 

Let me start by asking a question. How do you promote a television series without providing spoilers? That’s my goal and you can judge how well I achieve it. Here’s the first season trailer.

Halt and Catch Fire is a period drama focusing on the birth and growth of the personal computer industry, and later the Internet. The show takes place between 1985-1995 and brings this time period to life, similar to the way Mad Men did for the 1960’s. It ran on AMC for four seasons starting in 2014. Over the holidays, I binge watched AMC HCF on Netflix.

In many ways, season one is the Compaq story – the creation of a 100% compatible IBM PC clone. Geographically, Halt and Catch Fire starts in North Texas Silicon Prairie and then moves to Silicon Valley. Along the way, the plot moves through clones, video games online gaming and community bulletin boards, packet switching and the arrival of ISP’s, anti-virus utilities, the world wide web and search. Several characters also use ham radio for a time.

Although never a big hit, AMC HFC ratings improved over its four seasons. In my opinion, the series title detracted from its marketing. Halt and Catch Fire was an early hacker catch phrase referring to code that could brick (render useless) a computer. Kind of arcane, it was a lousy title for an otherwise stellar series. On the other hand, I guess you could argue that, during the period, if you halted innovation you would brick your business.

AMC HCF Does Everything Well

Great stories, great characters, great acting. Halt and Catch Fire follows the technical and business journeys of discovery lived by four or five main characters. As someone who lived vicariously through the early digital revolution, it really hits home. Even more appealing, while the companies created are fictional, the situations are real, as are the competitors of the era.

Tensions between hardware and software, relationships, start-ups and competitive failures, financing, visionaries versus pragmatists, coders versus engineers. AMC HCF has it all. There is a perfect balance between tech, business and relationships. If I had to sum it up in one word, that would be: compelling.

Halt and Catch Fire is a modern history lesson. Watch it. Worst case, you can enjoy forty episodes with Canadian Actress Mackenzie Davis.

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