Maybe not about a lot, but 30 years ago in a speech introducing the new Macintosh, it was clear that the late Apple co-founder thought the personal-computer race came down to his company and IBM. Both had revenues of more than a billion dollars in 1983, he said, while all the other computing firms had losses totaling more than that.
Set in 1983, the new AMC series "Halt and Catch Fire," beginning Sunday, tells a different story. Starring
"This show is about a moment in our history that is completely unexplored," says Pace. "I didn't know how significant this turning point was."
He's not alone. Few people know much about the Wild West of the 1980s PC revolution. In "Halt and Catch Fire," he plays former IBM executive
What IBM did was take easily available parts to build a PC, except for the BIOS chip -- the software that ran the operating system. That they owned. The loophole was that anybody who figured out what was on that chip could then find someone else to separately re-create it.
"This is a gray area in the law that a lot of people exploited," says
"There were no rules. People were literally ripping each other off back then," adds the series' other creator,
"At the time it may not have seemed sexy, but it certainly changed our lives," says Rogers. "People didn't know how important it was when it was happening."
Not sexy, maybe, but not without sex, which happens between Joe and a punk-rock-computer genius named
Cantwell, whose father moved the family to
There have already been comparisons between Pace's
At 34, Pace -- like Rogers and Cantwell -- is from the last generation who remembers life at home without a computer. The
Appropriately, Cantwell and Rogers first connected with Pace on the Internet over
Pace notes that his "generation is synced up to the evolution of technology," which has grown exponentially in his lifetime. He remembers playing video games and doing high school papers on a PC. Then digital cameras and cellphones came along.
"Now, younger people have no idea what it's like to be without the ubiquity of technology," says Cantwell, who says that in the few years they were working on the show, people have moved from
Rogers and Cantwell recently screened the first episode of "Halt and Catch Fire" for a startup tech company in
The term "halt and catch fire" (HCF) was "an early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition... and control of the computer could not be regained."
Rogers and Cantwell see that as a metaphor for those who were involved in the PC computer race back then.
Today, both the specs and the price for a 1984 PC would seem ludicrous. An IBM XT went for between
"In our show we're looking at the watershed moment of how we got here," says Rogers. "By looking back you realize there is no going back. There is no turning it off. The switch is permanently stuck in the 'on' position."
So far, the techies who have seen "Halt and Catch Fire" have been positive about it, both today's and those who were part of the era. In fact, Apple's other co-founder,
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