New AMC Drama Explores '80s Wild West of Tech

While HBO pokes fun at modern day tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, AMC’s newest drama gives viewers a look at the early-1980s “Silicon Prairie” with Halt and Catch Fire.

While HBO pokes fun at modern day tech start-ups in Silicon Valley, AMC’s newest drama gives viewers a look at the early-1980s “Silicon Prairie” with Halt and Catch Fire (Series Premiere, 10 p.m. Sunday, AMC).

North Texas was a hotbed of early computer innovation in the ’80s, a setting referred to as the Wild West of computer science. The “cowboys” exploring this new digital terrain in the series are Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a visionary and former IBM executive; Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a once successful engineer with lofty dreams of a revolutionary invention; and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a young programming prodigy. The three each put their futures on the line as they go rogue to put their stamp on the burgeoning world of computers.

Halt and Catch Fire takes place a year after the debut of the game-changing IBM PC. No longer employed by the company, Joe decides to get his new company, Cardiff Electric, into the personal computer game by reverse-engineering the IBM. He calls in help from Gordon and Cameron and the trio embarks on a mission to top IBM, marked with greed, egos and the possibility of legal repercussions. 

The show’s title comes from a self-destruct code — the phrase is used to describe coding instructions that cripple a computer’s hardware. 

If AMC’s handling of Mad Men is any indication, viewers can expect an intriguing, authentic look at the era — complete with plenty of ’80s fashion, music and cultural references.

AMC premiered Halt on Tumblr (integrated with, where the first episode is still available through Saturday. Halt is the first TV series to debut on the social networking platform, a noteworthy decision for a series about the ever-evolving landscape of technology.


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CONTACT JAC KERN: [email protected] or @jackern