Because the title of this episode is a term that stirs memories of great anger and frustration in me, I'm going to let Wikipedia handle the explanation:
Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is a tactic used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda.
FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information. An individual firm, for example, might use FUD to invite unfavorable opinions and speculation about a competitor's product; to increase the general estimation of switching costs among current customers; or to maintain leverage over a current business partner who could potentially become a rival.
The term originated to describe disinformation tactics in the computer hardware industry but has since been used more broadly. FUD is a manifestation of the appeal to fear.
...FUD was first defined with its specific current meaning by Gene Amdahl the same year, 1975, after he left IBM to found his own company, Amdahl Corp.: "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering Amdahl products." The term has also been attributed to veteran Morgan Stanley computer analyst Ulrich Weil. As Eric S. Raymond writes:
“The idea, of course, was to persuade buyers to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software. After 1991 the term has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.”
By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of less well known products, an established company can discourage decision-makers from choosing those products over its own, regardless of the relative technical merits. This is a recognized phenomenon, epitomized by the traditional axiom of purchasing agents that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment". The result is that many companies' IT departments buy software that they know to be technically inferior because upper management is more likely to recognize the brand.
To further put this in context in 1983 the majority of the "IT departments" in this country were found in large companies or companies that specialized in data intensive business activities. The life of an IT manager was framed in fear of failure because most, if not all, of the suits in the executive suite (or investors if your company was in a data intensive business) had never touched a computer and resented the investment required to effectively become "computerized." Everyone knew "it" was inevitable, but few understood and even fewer liked "it" (note how "it" is a play on the term "IT").
When the microcomputer began to look like the future of computing, the initial large market for microcomputers was precisely the firms that already had an IT department. Those in the IT department were more likely to have been trained on IBM mainframes and/or minicomputers. Many had a love/hate relationship with IBM and many had tried to break free by buying "other" brands of mainframes or minicomputers. But many of those "other" brands had trouble delivering, lacking the depth of personnel that IBM could throw at a problem. Fear of failure was the basic emotion of an IT manager.
When IBM created the "PC", they were late entering a microcomputer market dominated by others. But the others had not yet made headway with most corporate IT departments. While there may have been a few people playing with Tandy, Commodore, Apple, etc., purchase orders for a couple of hundred microcomputers were not being issued. Until IBM started successfully marketing its "PC" to its mainframe customers.
I mentioned this in a previous post, but I remember reading in the San Francisco Chronicle an article indicating that IBM had sold a hundred PC's to California's largest "investor owned" utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). At that point, I recognized that our (my wife and my) investment in Tandy equipment became instantly a questionable choice. For while the early IBM PC was a poor imitation of the others created from "off-the-shelf" parts supported by a third party "look alike" OS (Microsoft), once IBM sold a few thousand of these microcomputers to IT departments across the country, business software developers would have no choice but to orient their future business plan to the PC. A large army of IBM blue suits were already out there using FUD to eliminate the competition.
Episode 2 of "Halt and Catch Fire" was all about fear, uncertainty, and doubt created by IBM both in Cardiff Electric's customers and in those who put their faith in Joe, who we learn may have more than a bit of "the crazy" in his makeup. This leads to Gordon ranting at Joe using John Lennon as a reference point:
You were just pretending. You're like one of those guys who goes out and reads The Catcher in the Rye too many times and then decides to shoot a Beatle — only in this story, I'm the Beatle.
And, of course, Cameron has already dismissed Joe as "just a salesman" and at the end calls him on his latest pitch about the 1958 Superbowl and Sputnik (much like IBM, Joe depends upon the ignorance of others).
About Cameron. We shouldn't let this episode go by without noting the recent spate of headlines, columns and posts about Google's release last week of demographic data on its employees. Yep, they are predominate male with only 17% of tech jobs held by women.
But in this show we have Cameron, a lead character. We know she's a bit of a computing genius who constantly thinks about where the technology should go and, in addition to dismissing Joe as a saleman, dismisses his idea of a competitive "open architecture" microcomputer as just another "lawn mower or microwave." And she sees Gordon as another old guy who needs to get out of the way though he flares back with:
That’s the problem with you entitled school kids – you ‘ve got a lot of fancy theories but you have actually never been close to the metal.
We learn more about Cameron who sleeps at the office. Gordon, in a scene that seemed too contrived even if necessary, goes through her backpack possibly discovering the life of a street kid, maybe even a violent one as symbolized by a butterfly knife (now illegal to carry in the U.S. and many other countries).
We also watch her in a mall trying on 1983 women's clothing before shoplifting some men's shirts to go with her army pants.
Cameron also becomes the focus of a bit of drama between Gordon and his wife Donna (who is also an employed techie) when Gordon can't tell Donna that Cameron is a woman. While that whole story arc creates a degree of intimacy and a demonstration of couple's power dynamics, it is also a reminder that defining relationships in the workplace can create unconscious confusion.
We end up with more questions about Cameron than at the beginning of the episode despite what we learn.
And that is the reality for us with Joe. We get a lot of information but no clear answers. He obviously can go berserk. Is he really just a motivated salesman, or is there really more than money and salesman-of-the-year awards behind his weirdness. Is he really trying to get revenge on IBM? Or dear old dad? He seems to have scars, literally and psychologically, but we know he lied about his Sputnik fixation so was he really a nerd? As the guy from IBM says:
Let’s see what happens when they find out what you really are.
Is Joe really the guy who says to Gordon and Cameron:
We’re all unreasonable people and progress depends on our changing the world to fit us, not the other way around.
This was the second episode and it redefined everything we knew at the end of the first episode. Probably the most significant redefinition seemed to be going on in the background.
We see Joe's boss John Bosworth attempt to "make it work" by formally introducing Joe as the new senior product manager (the new product being a microcomputer). This gives Joe the chance to give an inspiring talk plagiarizing Steve Jobs in the process.
Then everything falls apart as IBM does a successful FUD attack to destroy Cardiff by stealing their long term clients.
In the pilot, Bosworth (played by Toby Huss) was presented as a caricature of a Texas good ol' boy crude oil salesman, an unimaginative obstacle in a business that has moved on. Except that in episode 2 the writers smoothly create an admirable businessman who won't lie to IBM because its wrong, who cares about the employees that Joe's tunnel vision have put at risk, and who becomes so distraught at the lack of loyalty shown by his long time customers he loses it by yelling at them, calling them names.
Gordon and his wife Donna were characters clearly drawn as recognizable people by the end of the pilot. Bosworth joined them by the end of this second episode.
Many strong scenes occurred in this episode. To write meaningfully about all of them would be a major job. Not every scene, not every story arc, in this episode could be described as perfectly created.
Obviously the most challenging scenes involve Joe MacMillan (played by Lee Pace). At times he comes off as simply bipolar. But at other times when the writers have others crush his spirit (and his sophistry) we see what may be the anger of a sociopath or what may be well-justified anger in a man who was deliberately mistreated by his father and misled by the Big Blue environment. We don't know which he is yet.
It's easy to find fault when a complicated character is being created and it's too easy to criticize at the end of the second episode. I like the portrayal of all the characters. And the story is sufficient to support the drama.
Of course when you write about "history" that is a part of the lives of so many of the viewers, we get the nit-picking over details. For example in 1983 it was easier to think in front of a whiteboard than in front of a clunky computer. I'm not sure if what was on the whiteboard accurately reflected what was being portrayed. As a plot device it worked.
As a final historical note for this review, those appear to be Zenith terminals (sans label) we're seeing:
Here's what you probably don't need to know, from Wikipedia:
Zenith Data Systems (ZDS) was a division of Zenith Electronics founded in 1979 after Zenith acquired Heathkit, which had, in 1977, entered the personal computer market. Headquartered in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Zenith sold personal computers under both the Heath/Zenith and Zenith Data Systems names. Zenith was an early partner with Microsoft, licensing all Microsoft languages for the Heath/Zenith 8-bit computers. Conversely, Microsoft programmers of the early 1980s did much of their work using Zenith Z-19 and Z-29 CRT display terminals hooked to central mainframe computers.
Edited by phrelin, 09 June 2014 - 11:11 AM.