Watching 'Halt and Catch Fire' on Netflix

If you desire to watch a dramatic depiction of the birth of the computer age, you can do much worse than to binge on the series “Halt and Catch Fire,” now available on Netflix. Through the eyes of a group of fictional characters, the show ran from the dawn of personal computers in the early 1980s to the beginning of the Internet in the 1990s.

People living in the early 21th century have little idea what it was like just 35 years ago when personal computers were a curiosity, something that people bought as a hobby. People in those days could barely imagine the current world, where computers and other devices are joined together by a network that unites the world as never before yet, oddly enough as anyone who has used social media, knows, also divides us.

Joe the salesman, Gordon and Donna, the engineers, and Cameron, the tech genius, are archetypes of the geniuses and entrepreneurs who pushed the envelope for a couple of decades and pulled the rest of us pell-mell into a new world. Being people with human flaws and desires, albeit heightened by the dizzying series of great successes and crashing failures that characterized the early years of the computer revolution, Joe. Gordon, Donna, and Cameron live interesting lives in interesting times. From working for a company that strangely resembles Compaq in Texas, to living in the tech bubble of Silicon Valley in the early days, the characters are as much shaped by their times as they endeavor to shape them.

“Halt and Catch Fire” is the greatest depiction of innovation ever to be shown on the small screen. The series is like nothing that has been shown on television before or since. As a window into history, it is certainly one of the more binge watchable to be offered by Netflix.

The series contains a number of scenes that depict history being turned, from the first working personal computer going on line, to the early search engines. A favorite happens toward the end of the first season when Joe sees a demonstration of the first Apple Macintosh. His awed reaction, knowing that here represents a machine that will change everything, is “It speaks!”

Not everyone makes it to the end of the series, replicating real life in a way rarely seen on television. However, the journey that Joe, Gordon, Donna, and Cameron, as well as a host of well-drawn supporting characters, take is well worth joining, if only vicariously.