Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy in Halt and Catch Fire. (AMC)
Culture

A Cyber Security Consultant Reviews the Premiere of AMC’s ‘Halt and Catch Fire’

AMC’s new summer drama neatly builds on the established zeitgeist of murky tech origin stories. Halt and Catch Fire, an amusing phrase originating from the early era of digital computing, refers to an invisible code and a series of commands that would overheat the CPU and cause it to cease all normal function. While the “Halt” was the code diverting all the commands to the main core processor, “Catch Fire” was simply the result of shutting down with an occasional bonus of smoking wires. With this in mind, we are dropped into the Texas circa 1983 and introduced to Joe MacMillan, an aggressive and scheming visionary who joins the cable network’s roster of commercially- successful anti-heroes. Lee Pace plays Macmillan with electricity that makes his questionable behavior very appealing. We are told early on of his master plan: To reverse engineer an IBM computer and use the boot code to eventually build a brand new one. Pace’s characterization of MacMillan is one part Noah Wyle’s Steve Jobs in Pirates of Silicon Valley and one part Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker in the The Social Network.

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