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The Big Screen: AMC’s ‘Halt And Catch Fire’ Returns to 1980s Dallas And The Silicon Prairie

by Stephen Becker 29 May 2014 8:00 AM

This week, we talk to Chris Cantwell, the Plano native who created the series, about why stories of computers have entered the zeitgeist.


BigScreen_logoSMALLThe new television drama Halt and Catch Fire takes place in 1980s Dallas. It follows a former IBM executive, who teams up with an engineer to reverse engineer the first IBM PC, hoping to break into the soon-to-be lucrative home computer world. This week, we talk to Chris Cantwell, the Plano native who created the series.

We asked Cantwell why the now-obscure computing term was an apt title for his show.

“Halt and catch fire is a mnemonic code from the early days of computing. Essentially what it would do is send a machine into a race condition. In a race condition, all of the commands and tasks for a machine are competing for superiority at once. And if you believe the old stories of the punch-card machines, these things would actually stop, halt and catch fire,” he says. “In a way, it’s also a nice metaphor for our show, and the central characters of our show. Because once the pilot starts, they’re moving forward, and they can’t stop.”

Halt and Catch Fire debuts Sunday night at 9 on AMC.

Be sure to subscribe to The Big Screen on iTunes. Stream this week’s episode below or download it.