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Halt and Catch Fire: "1984" OAD 8/3/14 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 01:35 PM

A ghost haunts the season (or series) finale episode of "Halt and Catch Fire" reflected in the episode name "1984."

 

At the end Cameron, joined by Donna, becomes one of the creators of the future of the internet - really where the future is - the women characters aspiring to connect people, to create a company with no bosses and all will be winners if the company succeeds.

 

Meanwhile, the male characters are at the end. Joe seems to have burned his bridges and off to stargaze at a remote observatory - maybe more successfully than as a child when his mother let him fall off a building while looking at the stars.

 

Gordon sits at Cardiff having succeeded at making the better 1983 clone of the IBM which Cameron notes at best would be footnote in the history of computers. The reviews already point out could be better. He draws a blank on what will be the next product that will keep the company going and puzzles over the resemblance of Cameron to the person in that Apple commercial. About that ghost haunting "Halt and Catch Fire"....

 

On January 22, 1984,  77.62 million Americans were watching the Super Bowl XVIII and not one was watching to see the commercials. I am certain there are avid fans who remember the game between the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Raiders. But most remember the groundbreaking Apple commercial directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott that rocked the world of advertising.

 

As was noted by another writer in The Ultimate Brand Story: Launch of the Apple Mac “1984″ :

 

Every good brand story should -at least- 7 basic elements; the setting, the characters, the sequence of events, the exposition, the conflict, the climax, and the resolution.

 

...The essential characters of any good story are the protagonist and the antagonist; hero and villain.  In the case of Apple’s 60 second spot, the hero is Apple and the villain is IBM.  Simple.

 

Protagonist (the hero). The protagonist is the hero of the story, every good story has one.  In the case of Apple’s Mac launch, the Mac is the hero.  The Mac is portrayed as the underdog -athletic woman- (played by Anya Major)- who will liberate society from “Big Brother” (IBM).

 

Antagonist, (the villain). The villain’s role is to counteract the hero and provide the platform for the conflict (see below).  The 1984 ad cleverly portrays IBM as the villain (played by David Graham), although it does not go so far as to say that, all the insinuation point to this. Brilliant!

 

There was a lot of promise reflected in that commercial, but in a way it was over-promising. In the end, there is so much hope and so many failures reflected in Gordon's puzzlement and Cameron's plans symbolically  presented by that commercial:

 

H&CF-110-01.jpg

 

Maybe that is the truth about "Halt and Catch Fire" - it tells a story about characters caught up in a time of hope and change.

 

Cameron and Donna - the women - are about the new era just starting to unfold. The internet where, yes, the hardware has to be right, but it is in a supporting role.

 

Gordon, the traditional American male, is the old, unable to relate beyond the hardware and unaware that he will forever be relegated to a supporting role.

 

And while Joe, the male who grasps the concepts of the new, knows there is a future that cannot exist without the hardware - after all 30 years after 1984, "the cloud" is supported by advanced hardware. But what Joe understands is that in the future you cannot fear gazing at the stars even though you may fall.

 

As usual, there is much here to write about - Donna's choice to go with Cameron's new firm symbolically named "Mutiny" after the car-jacking incident is a story unto itself. And I may write more later.

 

But I'm satisfied with "Halt and Catch Fire" even if there isn't a second season. I do hope there will be a second season without being haunted by the specter of the Apple commercial that hung over this first season.


Edited by phrelin, 04 August 2014 - 01:36 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 03:29 PM

The series started out as a joining of misfits to attempt to make an indelible mark in history, often at great personal risk. The computer era of the early 80's was only the backdrop; it could have been any time, any place.

 

The writers wisely made it not so much about making a mark as they did about the personal journeys and growth (or lack of same) along the way. Rather than it being like The Bad News Bears where the viewer absolutely knows that the underdog team will prevail 5 minutes in, how successful they all were making this mark faded into the background. The procedural side of the story was there not so much to tell a story, but to get the viewer invested in the characters, and I think the writers were 100% successful in getting us to root for each of them.

 

It is interesting that the personal growth of Donna and Cameron outshines the growth of the male characters. Both ended up with significantly expanded consciousness, and newly-equipped to be very successful in business as well as in life. On the other hand, Joe, who's unpredictability became predictable when he burned the truck, since he has a history of acting out like this, may have found the spark of personal growth, and this Cardiff experience may lead to that, but we will need season two to find out how successful that might be. Gordon, who achieved his goal, still has a sour taste in his mouth due to how much of a pyrrhic victory that turned out to be. Boz, we must assume, is probably still wandering around the yard at his country club prison second-guessing whether his risk was really a good idea after all.

 

Cantwell and Rogers are quoted as having lots of ideas for season two, and they rationalize that many successful AMC shows started off slowly and built an audience over time, but that may be just wishful thinking. I would love to see a season two just because it would be really interesting to see how they entertwine these characters that we know and love, in another compelling story. I think it would be quite difficult to do that, but I would watch just the same.

 

But kudos to all, as I think the mark made here by Cantwell and Rogers and the cast is far greater than the mark any IBM compatible ever made on the computer industry. It was not a complete breakout, as far as shows go, comparable to the Macintosh, but still a really great ride. I will be looking forward to their next projects. Even if the show ended up being nothing more than a game-winning walk, everyone here hit a grand slam as far as showing us what abilities they have and what they are capable of.

 

 


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#3 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 08:31 PM

I am a little confused about the "Fiske Observatory" scene. The local was saying it was 20-some miles if Joe were to hike this particular direction and he could drive around to the other side to where the hike would be much shorter. Well, duh.

 

A current map puts the Fiske within a mile of three major hiways, and within half a kilometer from two of them, pretty much smack dab in the middle of Boulder. University and residential stuff seems to be everywhere. It appears that you can drive to within 100 ft of it. Joe would have to hike directly across major roadways to get there if he was starting some 20 miles out. I was in Boulder in '71 and even then it seemed pretty built up, with bumper to bumper 6-lane traffic to and from Denver on Hiway 39 which goes right by the Fiske, so I am puzzled how this became a major nature hike for Joe, in '83. Maybe someone more familiar with the area can weigh in and clear up my confusion.

 

And who is the mysterious woman? And what does it all mean? Some are saying "she" is Joe's mother.


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#4 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 04 August 2014 - 11:20 PM

The term "app" didn't come into vogue until after the iPhone. It was always "applications" in the Mac world, and "programs" in the PC world, IIRC> 


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#5 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 02:46 PM

Maybe, Captain Obvious, but many things languish for years before coming "into vogue", especially when it is a buzzword from a tech community. How do we think such things come "into vogue" in the first place? More likely over a long period from the people who deal with them all the time and less likely immediately from a single tweet from a 14-year old. The term "give me a hit of your frappacino" is relatively a new way of asking for a sip in the gen pop, but that concept languished for many years in the drug community before coming "into vogue". It is completely in the realm of possibility that "app" existed for a long time in the tech community before Apple's "app store" popularized the term. Maybe it is more precient than anachronistic to hear it in the context of hard-core techies in an earlier time.


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#6 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 03:05 PM

The term "app" didn't come into vogue until after the iPhone. It was always "applications" in the Mac world, and "programs" in the PC world, IIRC> 

 

I also noticed what I felt was the erroneous use of "app". For me in the 1983-84 MS-DOS world it was "software"  but that did come in purpose categories as described in Wikipedia:

 

 

Based on the goal, computer software can be divided into:

  • Application software uses the computer system to perform useful work or provide entertainment functions beyond the basic operation of the computer itself.
  • System software is designed to operate the computer hardware, to provide basic functionality, and to provide a platform for running application software.[3] System software includes:
    • Operating system, an essential collection of computer programs that manages resources and provides common services for other software. Supervisory programs, boot loaders, shells and window systems are core parts of operating systems. In practice, an operating system comes bundled with additional software (including application software) so that a user can potentially do some work with a computer that only has an operating system.
    • Device driver, a computer program that operates or controls a particular type of device that is attached to a computer. Each device needs at least one corresponding device driver; thus a computer needs more than one device driver.
    • Utilities, software designed to assist users in maintenance and care of their computers.

 

On occasion MS-DOS folks used "application" but "App" wasn't a term. Wikipedia refers you to two "app" possibilities:

  1. "web applications" about which it says: "In 1999, the "web application" concept was introduced in the Java language in the Servlet Specification version 2.2."
  2. "mobile app" about which it says: "Apps are usually available through application distribution platforms, which began appearing in 2008...."

In 1984, nobody said "app" to me or they would have gotten a really blank look. Even though I had  a phone modem and had used it for Compuserve, I wasn't involved in any way with the pioneering creation and use the internet which according to Wikipedia:
 

Access to the ARPANET was expanded in 1981 when the National Science Foundation (NSF) developed the Computer Science Network (CSNET). In 1982, the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized and the concept of a world-wide network of fully interconnected TCP/IP networks called the Internet was introduced.

 

Since Cameron founded "Mutiny" after working in the phone business where she was discussing with her boss a bunch of technical stuff that went right over my head, maybe there were folks who used "app" in the TCP/IP development world. But it would surprise me.


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#7 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:31 PM

I am a little confused about the "Fiske Observatory" scene. The local was saying it was 20-some miles if Joe were to hike this particular direction and he could drive around to the other side to where the hike would be much shorter. Well, duh.

 

A current map puts the Fiske within a mile of three major hiways, and within half a kilometer from two of them, pretty much smack dab in the middle of Boulder. University and residential stuff seems to be everywhere. It appears that you can drive to within 100 ft of it. Joe would have to hike directly across major roadways to get there if he was starting some 20 miles out. I was in Boulder in '71 and even then it seemed pretty built up, with bumper to bumper 6-lane traffic to and from Denver on Hiway 39 which goes right by the Fiske, so I am puzzled how this became a major nature hike for Joe, in '83. Maybe someone more familiar with the area can weigh in and clear up my confusion.

 

And who is the mysterious woman? And what does it all mean? Some are saying "she" is Joe's mother.

 

There's a reason you may be confused. The Fiske Planetarium at Boulder was built in 1971. The guy at the feed store said the observatory had been built "two years ago." And the Fiske facility at Boulder is not an observatory though they do have one with another name associated with it.

 

I don't know but I think the observatory may be a fictional creation of the writers for the show.  They may have just capitalized on the Fiske Planetarium name. But there is a Lennard Fisk who at the Johnson Space Center in Texas in the mid-1980's started turning around the NASA space telescope projects, getting funding for them, etc. He's a bit of a Joe type himself. And then there's this observatory:
 

The largest, most modern observatory in Utah is the BYU West Mountain Observatory (WMO). It is located one hour from the BYU Provo campus at the southern end of Utah Lake, atop a 6,850 foot mountain that is its namesake. The site itself is far enough to the west and south of the developed areas along the Wasatch Mountains to render the sky brightness comparable to that of Kitt Peak, while the seeing conditions tend to be as good or better.

 

The WMO was built in 1981 to house an aging 0.6m Tinsley reflector. This telescope was purchased in the 1950s and placed atop the BYU Eyring Science Center until local light pollution and encroaching buildings forced it to be moved. Realizing that the telescope was reaching the end of its useful life, BYU designed and built the WMO dome and building to house a one meter class telescope without requiring significant modifications to the facility itself. A home was built next to the observatory in 1982 where the resident astronomer lived until 1988.

 

Regarding the resident astronomer from 1982 to 1988, they don't say who "she" was. :grin:

 

However, there is an article about the current residents that tells us this:
 

WMO.jpg

 

There's the obvious isolation of their remote location. Much of the furniture they brought with them is still in storage as the small home can only accommodate so much. High winds rattle the swamp cooler on the roof, making sleep sometimes impossible. Spiders are prolific in the fall along with plenty of rattlesnakes. Water needs to be trucked up from the valley below. And then there's the road.

 

"The road is as un-magnificent as the view is magnificent," Gillene said.

 

The rough dirt road (much rougher this year after so much snow and rain), can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to drive depending on the season or time of day.


Edited by phrelin, 05 August 2014 - 04:34 PM.

"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

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#8 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 06:13 PM

The term "app" didn't come into vogue until after the iPhone. It was always "applications" in the Mac world, and "programs" in the PC world, IIRC> 

 

 

I could be wrong again,* but it seems like I recall the phrase "killer app" being

bandied about in the late '80s or early '90s with respect to Windows machines.

 

*I was wrong once before.


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#9 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 06:54 PM

There were no "killer apps" for any 'Doze machines.  Eeeeech!   !rolling

 

Are you sure it wasn't in a movie about the time? In any event, "app" used as a noun for "application" in 1983 is out of place. 


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#10 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 11:00 PM

Well, maybe i didn't move in the right circles in 1983-84. Looking around the web a bit more I found this from the folks at the Oxford English Dictionary:

 

But, unlike smartphones and tablets, app isn’t new. According to the OED‘s historical entry for the word, app as a shortening of application (as in application program) first found its way into print in the 1980s. Back then it was mainly a colloquial term used in computing circles: the OED‘s early quotations for it come from such computing trade publications as Info World and Dr. Dobb’s Journal. It often appeared not by itself but as part of the phrase killer app, meaning a software application which makes a new computing platform desirable or necessary. Later, it became part of webapp, meaning an application made available as a website, but as a word used on its own it remained relatively uncommon.

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#11 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 08:46 AM

I was wrong about being wrong...according to the above, I was right after all!

 

I win! :grin:


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#12 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:45 AM

I don't recall the term in use, but I wasn't everywhere at every time. I do know that the built-in utilities on the Mac and Lisa were called "applets" which was a play on "application" and "apple" at the same time.
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#13 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 12:40 PM

I don't recall the term in use, but I wasn't everywhere at every time. I do know that the built-in utilities on the Mac and Lisa were called "applets" which was a play on "application" and "apple" at the same time.

Yes, and the Mac had widgets which would now be called apps or mini-apps I suppose. They generally ran from the Desktop. 

 

But with the erudition shown above, I admit I wasn't perhaps in the right place to hear the word 'app' as we use it today. 


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#14 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 12:41 PM

I was wrong about being wrong...according to the above, I was right after all!

 

I win! :grin:

Uh, check the timing..... So you are wrong about being right about being wrong! 

 

:rotfl:


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#15 OFFLINE   David Ortiz

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 02:28 PM

Also referenced in the wiki article:

 

http://www.osnews.co..._the_Programmer



#16 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 11:34 PM

Also referenced in the wiki article:

 

http://www.osnews.co..._the_Programmer

 

Wow! How interesting! I love that it says this:

 

The interesting thing about this is that it automatically proves that 'app' was already a widespread term, since you can't use abbreviations your target audience doesn't understand (remember, no internet to easily look things up). For me, this means the term 'app' is way older than 1981 - we just don't have any tangible proof from before 1981 (as far as the web is concerned).

 

I never heard any one use the term in the 1980's but as I said, I apparently didn't move in the right circles for that jargon.


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#17 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 08:26 AM

Well, "app" as an abbreviation in a menu bar on a program or two in the very early days of home computing is hardly widespread use. IIRC, the author even says that elsewhere.


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#18 OFFLINE   David Ortiz

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:06 AM

Well, "app" as an abbreviation in a menu bar on a program or two in the very early days of home computing is hardly widespread use. IIRC, the author even says that elsewhere.

 

It was the job postings containing the abbreviation that was more telling than the program's menu bar.



#19 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 11:07 AM

Yes, but that's not "widespread use" by a long shot. 


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#20 OFFLINE   djlong

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Posted 09 August 2014 - 12:17 AM

I was all over the revolutions going on in computers at that time and "app" wasn't in general use.  There may have been SOME references in writing, but they weren't widespread.  The Wikipedia article notes two sources but there were DOZENS of magazines and the field was dominated by such publications as Byte, Creative Computing, Computerworld, Digital Review, Popular Computing and many, many others.






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