Due to computer errors—such as my computed dying—I have spent the last two weeks trying to fix my old computer, buying a new computer, restoring files from the backup of the dead computer to the new computer, and installing all of the programs (or “apps” as they are called nowadays). Thus, I have fallen behind on my reviews for Psycho Drive-In. However, now that I’m connected to you through the Internet, it is time to try to catch up on my backlog of work. The second episode of the second season of Halt and Catch Fire is set in April 1985, and it is titled “New Coke.” Coincidentally, the Coca-Cola Company introduced its reformulation of Coca-Cola on April 23, 1985. Colloquially (but never officially), Coca-Cola’s reformulation was named “New Coke.” Officially, “New Coke” was simply called “Coca-Cola” or “Coke” until it was officially re-named “Coke II” sometime in 1990. It now officially no longer exists. New Coke is infamous for arguably being the biggest marketing mistake in history, as public response to the reformulated product caused the company to bring back the original formula (albeit with high fructose corn syrup in lieu of cane sugar) a mere 79 days after New Coke debuted—leading many to speculate that the reformulation was actually a ploy to increase interest (and sales) in the original product due to the short time the original formula was not available (keeping in mind that some of the original product would have still been on store shelves well into May. However, the company denies that New Coke was a marketing gimmick that was solely intended to increase interest in the original product; the company line is that New Coke was intended to be the permanent reformulation of the product, and even though I am a natural skeptic whenever corporations are concerned, I tend to believe the company’s declaration that New Coke was meant to be the permanent formula. Of course, on its Web page regarding the history of the company, Coca-Cola’s official version of the New Coke fiasco has taken a revisionist approach: The return of original formula Coca-Cola on July 11, 1985, put the cap on 79 days that revolutionized the soft-drink industry, transformed The Coca-Cola Company and stands today as testimony to the power of taking intelligent risks, even when they don’t quite work as intended. (http://www.coca-colacompany.com/history/the-real-story-of-new-coke) So, what does this history of a failed soft drink product have to do with the second episode of the second season of Halt and Catch Fire? Well . . . a couple of things were “reformulated” in this episode. Due to his limited prospects after being denied his portion of the sale of Cardiff Electric (hundreds of thousands of dollars that he planned to use to start a company in California’s Silicon Valley), Joe agrees to work for his fiancée’s father, Jacob Wheeler (played by the always great James Cromwell), who is the owner of Westgroup Energy—a large oil company headquartered in Dallas. Initially, Joe did not want to accept the job offer due to his interest in working in the computer tech industry. However, after admitting to his fiancée, Sara, that his prospects are limited, Joe agreed to work for her father. Due to his experience in computer technology, Joe assumed he would be helping to develop the type of programs that contemporary oil company’s now use to locate oil and to monitor all aspects of their drilling operations. Unfortunately, heading up software development was not the task he was assigned when he started his new job. Joe thought he was “reformulating” himself from a marketing man for a computer tech company into a computer tech man for an oil company. Instead, his father-in-law-to-be has reformulated Joe into a data-entry grunt—a person whose job involves scanning thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of files into a computer with an OCR program. Of course, anyone familiar with the quality of optical character recognition programs in 1985 knows that such a scan will be filled with errors that need to be corrected by typing the corrections by hand. This type of a low-level, data-entry job is something that is more appropriate for recent graduates of “secretarial schools” (or “business colleges”). Thus, as a reformulated product, Joe looks to be a type of “New Coke” in that he is being set up to be humiliated by his future father-in-law. However, don’t count Joe out; he seems to have a plan on how to reformulate Wheeler’s reformulation of him. Meanwhile, back at Mutiny, Cameron and Donna are unable to get funding from an investment capitalist because he believes two women running a company won’t succeed because their priorities will be on raising children rather than growing their business. Fortunately for Cameron and Donna several problems at Mutiny have the effect of reformulating the company into one that might actually be able to get funding. First, and not really a problem, Donna figured out that some users of their games continue to remain online after the game is over so that they can continue to “chat” with the other player—which causes Donna to create a “chat room” for the community. The first customer who wandered into the chat room quickly left once he figured out it wasn’t a game. While the first public, online chat room was created by CompuServe five years earlier in 1980, it seems that Donna’s new service that branches off from Mutiny’s gaming service is very similar to the way America Online (AOL) began in 1985. The other changes that occurred at Mutiny due to problems that arose also seem to tie into Mutiny being reformulated into something akin to AOL. One of Mutiny’s subscribers hacked into their games as a way of demonstrating to Cameron what can be done to improve the games and lower their overhead through the way he has rewritten the code of one of their games and the private branch exchange (PBX) software that he has developed that would allow multiple modems to use the same phone line. Cameron ends up hiring the hacker, much to Donna’s displeasure as she had been working on the legal actions they were going to take against him. The final reformulation in the episode is Gordon, Donna’s husband, who was experiencing nosebleeds in the first episode of this second season. I assumed it was an indication of Gordon developing a health problem that was going to eat up the nearly one million dollars he made from the sale of Cardiff Electric. Instead, we learn his nosebleeds were caused by his use of cocaine that he was snorting because of how bored he was sitting at home with nothing to do. However, he found something to do when he learned of private branch exchange (PBX) software that Cameron’s new hire had created. Gordon realized that multiple modems connecting through a single phone line could be used to map the Internet through some process that I didn’t quite understand. He then ran out to the work station he set up in his garage to develop the tracking program that will map the Internet—which would then give Donna leverage the next time she is seeking funding from an investment capitalist. So, yes, there were some “reformulations” going on in this episode—and there were several other memorable moments (such as the jerk at Mutiny who read aloud Bosworth’s last letter from prison that he sent to Cameron before being released). Overall, “New Coke” was a very good installment in this series. I just wish we had actually seen one of Bill Cosby’s commercials for New Coke that aired on television at the time. Perhaps Cosby’s recent sexual misconduct allegations caused the creators to shy away from showing the commercial—or perhaps Cosby’s problems caused Coca-Cola to refuse to allow the commercial to be shown—or perhaps the commercial was going to be shown but ended up being cut due to time constraints. Whatever the reason, an episode titled “New Coke” should have had the commercial play somewhere in the episode, so here it is—enjoy: Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.