AMC’s brand new series Halt and Catch Fire premieres tonight, this episode is called “I/O” and in tonight’s opener, the drama is set during the 1980s computing boom and following the actions of an unlikely trio: a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy, all based in Texas’s Silicon Prairie.
Halt and Catch Fire is an upcoming period drama television series created by Chris Cantwell and Chris Rogers. The series is set in the early 1980s, and depicts a fictionalized insider’s view of the personal computer revolution. The name is a reference to the machine code instruction Halt and Catch Fire which could cause a computer’s central processing unit to cease all meaningful function.
On tonight’s episode from AMC Studios, the series captures the rise of the PC era in the early 1980s, during which an unlikely trio – a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy – take personal and professional risks in the race to build a computer that will change the world as they know it.
Tonight’s Halt and Catch Fire Season 1 premiere is going to be a great show, and you won’t want to miss it. So be sure to tune in for our live coverage of Halt and Catch Fire— tonight at 10 PM EST! While you wait for our recap, hit the comments and let us know how excited you are about this new series, Halt and Catch Fire. Check out a sneak peek of tonight’s episode below!
Tonight’s episode begins now – Refresh Page for Updates
For foundation purposes, #HaltAndCatchFire is an actual computer term – known as HCF – which is essentially an old-school self-destruct command that sent the computer racing so that control of the device was lost. That’s what the intro tells us. Urban legend has it that computer wires can actually catch fire in the chaos. An armadillo crosses the road as a Porsche speeds toward it. Splat. The car screeches to a halt and the driver gets out and checks it out.
In a classroom, the same guy, Joseph MacMillan is introduced to a college class as being integral to the IBM computer development. He asks who wants to be involved in computer development. He asks what people want to do and when he gets to very large systems integration. Cameron laughs and says no one who knows what that is calls it that. He says VLSI. Then he asks the class to tell him something that will be true about computers in a decade.
One guy says something preposterous about computers and neurons and he shuts him down and then he asks Cameron. She says computers will be linked up together in a network. He asks her name and she tells him. Later they chat at a bar and he asks what she wants to do after graduation. She has a quarter on a string and scams the Caterpillar game. She says she wants to work on Reagan’s Star Wars and he says to give a straight answer.
She says no one pays attention to her and he says he is and she asks if this is a job interview. He says maybe. She says it doesn’t matter what she wants to do because the industry is all about everyone ripping everyone off and tells him IBM is the king of that. Joeseph says he doesn’t work for IBM. They drink and then end up in the basement of the bar making out and undressing. He’s rough with her.
He pushes her to her knees and takes her from behind. He tells her this doesn’t mean she gets the job. She pushes him away and says – you mean we’re not in love? He looks a little ashamed of his behavior (not much).
Gordon Clark sits on the lower bunk of a jail cell but is called out. He’s been bailed out and leaves. He finds an annoyed wife waiting on him and he’s annoyed that she brought the kids along. They leave. He tells her he had one too many drinks and it won’t happen again. Donna asks if he still has a job and he says of course but they could care less about him. He starts talking about the demo and how it wouldn’t turn on. She just wants him to stop it.
Donna says he needs to be at work in four hours. He says her dad said they can’t lend him anymore and he was in his kitchen looking at him, and he said – okay Gary. Donna tells him he’s drunk and to shut up.
John Bosworth tells Joe he knows what IBM is and isn’t. He says everything that ain’t IBM is better, faster, cheaper. He says Cardiff Electric won’t be one of those that IBM crushes. Joe says he’s done doing business like that and says he can be the heavy hitter that Cardiff needs. John says he needs someone to blow the balls off the sales numbers. Joe says he’s his guy. John says he reeks of East Coast corporate and he hates that.
John asks where his resume is. Joe opens a briefcase and hands him his W2. He says box one is his last pay from IBM and says it shows what 200% of quota pays like. John laughs and says he’s got it, but is dog shit until he makes his first sale. John says they’re married and calls him darling and says to go break his numbers.
Joe looks over the company flow chart that night and highlights Gordon’s name. Joe is in Gordon’s parking spot the next morning. He honks at him and waves his parking pass but hten gives up and parks elsewhere. He heads in and turns on his computer in his cubicle. Joe comes up calling for A16 (his spot number) and says he’s with him for a sales call.
Joe and Gordon are at a sales lunch. The guys says their price isn’t that much cheaper and it doesn’t come with the Big Blue guarantee. Joe says there is no such thing. He tells them that he worked at IBM for a long time. He says it was once the gold standard, but is no longer true. He tells them they can be more and asks don’t they want to be more. He says this is their chance and not about not losing – it’s about them having the confidence to walk out on the ledge and know they won’t fall.
The guy asks if this is still about systems software. Joe says he won’t apologize for caring about their business even if their own people don’t. He asks if they’re ready to be more. There’s a pause and Gordon starts talking about free install but Joe hushes him. The guy says he’ll think about it. Gordon tells Joe it’s better than a flat out no and tells them Applied Data hasn’t considered anything else in year. Joe tells him to shut up when he’s closing.
Donna comes home from work and gets kisses from the kids. Gordon is drinking but tells her it’s soda. The girls tell her the Speak and Spell won’t turn on. She tries to get Gordon interested but he just stands there until she starts to take it apart. He goes to the fridge and grabs another soda. She sends the girls out and tries to take the back off. She goes to work on it and pops it open.
She asks Gordon to take a look at it and he asks if they work on Speak and Spells at her office, because they don’t at his. She nags him to hand her the salt and he finally does. They have both had it with each other. Next day, Joe drops him off a Byte magazine and tells him to go to page 33. Gordon thinks he’s teasing him but Joe says it’s a treasure map that was written and if he sees that guy, he wants to talk to him about a project.
Gordon goes after him and Joe quotes him from the article and says computers aren’t the thing but the thing that gets them to the thing. Gordon looks at his own article about open architecture from the magazine.
Donna tells the girls what the parts of the Speak and Spell are and what they do. The phone rings and rings. Gordon doesn’t move. She shows her the microchip her company makes. She gives up and goes to get the phone – it’s Joe for Gordon but he waves it away and she tells Joe that they are headed out to the movies. Joanie asks her dad to fix it but he declines. Donna says Joe wanted to know if he’s thought about what he mentioned. Gordon says he had some ideas based on his article.
Joe shows up at the movies and tells Donna that Gordon is the best Systems Engineer he’s met and asks to talk to him. The girls and Donna leave and Joe asks him to reverse engineer an IBM PC with him – he says he wants to build something like no one has ever seen. Gordon says it’s a bad idea – he says it’s illegal, Cardiff could fire them and says Apple and IBM have locked that market up. He says they missed it – they all did.
Joe says that’s why they do it at Cardiff. He says they can force their hand. Gordon asks how and Joe says to let him worry about that part. He asks Joe if he has a family and tells him thanks, but no thanks. He walks away and gets in the car with his family. Donna asks about Joe. She tells him it’s crazy that he stalked them to the movies and asks what he wants. Gordon says he wants to build a computer and she asks what that has to do with him.
Donna says they can’t do this again and reminds him their credit cards are maxed out and says it’s a mistake they literally can’t afford to make. He says the Symphonic was the best thing he ever did but Donna tells the girls it was a computer they built that didn’t work. They head home.
Joe is frustrated with Gordon’s answer. Gordon can’t sleep and goes out into the garage to his work bench with the Speak and Spell and his soldering iron. Joe hits baseballs in his apartment and cracks his window. Next day, Joe pulls into the lot and finds Gordon there ahead of him in his spot and shows him a blue IBM box. He asks if he knows how much this costs.
He says his wife has gone for a three day weekend and he faked a fever. He tells Joe they need to turn this thing inside out. Joe is thrilled and smiles. They go to Gordon’s house and into his garage workshop. Gordon tells him that IBM doesn’t own anything inside the machine – it’s all parts they buy. The only thing they have is the ROM-BIOS which is copyrighted. Gordon says there is a way around it.
They go to work. Joe takes notes while Gordon works. They have an oscilloscope attached to the circuit board and are working chip by chip to figure it out. Gordon takes it apart piece by piece and then finds the chip they need with the BIOS on it. He has Joe take more notes. Gordon says these are the address contents that represent hex digits.
Gordon explains how he can translate it. He tells him they have to translate more than 65,530 of them. They keep working. He reads number after number to Joe who writes until his hand wears out. They have them done and Gordon tells him to fire up the monitor while he goes to make coffee. Gordon turns it on to see if they got it right. There’s a click, smoke from the monitor and the power goes off. They try again and get a prompt. They’ve done it. Joe tells him that he found a needle in a haystack but Gordon says they still have a lot to do.
Joe is snoozing in a chair when Gordon wakes him and says they have the entire ROM-BIOS assembly code. Joe says now they can do their own chip but Gordon is hesitant. They are happy but then the garage door opens and it’s Donna. He says he thought she wouldn’t be back until Monday and she says it is Monday. She chews him out for buying stuff and tells Joe to leave so she can speak to her husband privately.
Donna says he lies and he says this is what he wants to do with his life. She asks does he realize what he has now and what he’s risking. He tells her it’s not enough and she says it’s enough for her but she never have the burden of thinking she was a misunderstood genius. She walks away. John gets a call from IBM at the end of the day. It’s Dale Butler, Senior VP of Sales from IBM. He says he has one of his boys.
John says he’s interesting and Dale says he walked out on them last March and never came back. John says he doesn’t understand. Dale says he’s been missing for a year and even filed police reports. He tells John that he’s damaged goods and says he has their in-house legal counsel there. She says that there is a problem.
Joe and Gordon are sent to Joe’s office. He introduces Nathan – the company owner – and says he’s destroyed their company. Joe asks how Dale is doing and John says that IBM is going to liquidate them because two idiots decided to rip off their flagship product. Gordon says they did it on their own time. John says he tried to throw them under the bus, but it didn’t work. He says because Joe worked with IBM before and they both work for Cardiff, it’s a big legal mess and for better or worse, their project is now Cardiff’s project.
Gordon asks how IBM could have found out about what they were doing and Joe smiles and says he told them. Gordon runs after Joe and asks if this is how he was forcing their hand. He’s freaking out and Joe tells him to get angry and feel something. He says this is the only way for them to get what we want. Joe says he was at Comdex and saw Symphonic and says it was ahead of its time. He tells Gordon he’s a builder and he says he’s not any more.
Donna comes home and finds that Gordon has cleaned the house and fixed (and improved) the Speak and Spell to say his daughter’s name. She’s thrilled. His wife not so much. Gordon tells her he’s been awful and tells her he has stopped with the project. He says none of it matters without her. She takes him in her arms and holds him. She smiles and tells him to build whatever it is he’s dreaming of. She says she knows he can make it great but says if he wants to partner with Joe for that, partner with her in the family and Gordon says deal.
Nathan asks why he can’t fire Joe and Gordon and their lawyer Barry says they will lose the lawsuit. Barry says that they have to claim it was a project they had in the works all along. But they can’t let Gordon build it. They need someone who isn’t associated with them. John is outraged and says it’s a terrible idea he has but Barry says it was Joe’s idea. John calls Joe and SOB. He says he needed him to exhaust his options first.
Joe says they will make a little money selling systems software. Nathan yells at him and says not to act like he’s doing him a favor. Nathan basically threatens to kill Joe if he screws this up. They ask where they can get an engineer. Joe says they need time and Nathan asks who they have right now.
Cameron plays Centipede at the bar with her Walkman on, jamming to The Vandals. Another guy wants to play the machine and the owner comes over and sees her rigged quarter and throws her out. She calls him a fascist. Joe and Gordon are waiting outside. Gordon is not thrilled. They take her to a bar and she tells Gordon he screwed her. She asks who Gordon is and he says he’s the guy that got the boot code.
She tells them to go dangle their opportunity to someone else. Joe says he regrets what happened but says he was scouting her for this exact moment. He says it’s too important to get wrong and quotes her. She says she doesn’t need him. She says if it goes wrong, she’s a college dropout stuck repairing VCRs for minimum wage. She asks how much she’ll get and Joe says $20k. She says to double it and Gordon says his wife gets $15k at Texas Instruments. She says she feels sorry for her and asks Joe what it will be.
She’s on the bus and hops off at Cardiff. She puts on a more conservative sweater in the parking lot and heads in. The receptionist ignores hre but then Joe opens his door and welcomes her. She heads in with her duffel. She’s recorded in an interview for legal purposes. He asks if she has ever disassembled or reverse engineer any IBM equipment. She says she has not. He asks about microchips and hardware and she says she has not.
John looks at Joe, Cameron and Gordon and says this project is going to cost them a couple of million. He tells them no BS and he says work hours are from when this meeting is done until they die. He tells them to be prepared to deal with all of his shit. Cameron asks who her boss is and both Gordon and Joe say they are. The receptionist says IBM is there.
John says that he heard that IBM had Joe on a milk carton and says he didn’t vet him and that whatever he has done, John is on the hook for it. He tells Joe he has backed him into a corner of his own home and says he’s been at Cardiff 22 years. He says he will never forget that and tells Joe he’s going to be all over him.
Joe, Gordon and Cameron watch as the IBM folks are ushered in and welcomed by John. Rebecca and Dale are there with a seemingly unending line of lawyers behind them. Gordon asks Joe what he’s trying to prove with all this. Joe watches the line of corporate flunkies with a stone face.