The first season of Halt and Catch Fire essentially told the story of how Compaq developed the first portable IBM PC clone. The show took obvious liberties with history beyond the company in the series being called Cardiff Electric rather than Compaq, but it was a good fictionalized account of how the first portable IBM clone was developed. One of the liberties the series took was in the crossover of employees from Texas Instruments (TI). Compaq was founded by former TI employees who used ideas that were initially developed at TI in developing their “suitcase computer.’ However, in Halt and Catch Fire a TI employee stole the plans for the portable from Cardiff when he inadvertently received a fax of the plans that Gordon sent to Donna. However, the main “liberty” the show took was that the fictional Cardiff Electric developed the first portable computer approximately one year after the factual Compaq developed the first real portable computer. Compaq debuted its portable at COMDEX in November 1982, and the first units went on sale in January 1983. However, in Halt and Catch Fire, Cardiff Electric debuted its portable at COMDEX in November 1983, and the first units went on sale in January 1984—at the same time that Apple debuted its award-winning “1984” ad during Super Bowl 18. In other words, the fictional company in the series was a year behind what happened IRL (in real life). However, with the second season, the events in Halt and Catch Fire have been either close to being chronologically correct or slightly ahead of what occurred IRL. Now, with episode 2.04, “Play with Friends,” the series has revealed just how cutting edge Cameron and her online gaming company Mutiny actually are. The fictional company’s online games and development of online chatrooms is roughly accurate within the second season’s 1985 timeframe. To some extent, the fictional Mutiny is a hybrid of two early- to mid-1980s computer innovations: MUD2 and Control Video Corporation (which eventually evolved into America Online). In this episode, the company takes a jump into the 1990s while still being set in 1985, as Cameron gets the idea of developing an Internet-based, first-person shooter game after she and her employees use toy guns in a real-world war game. In real life (IRL), the initial first-person shooter games were developed in the 1970s—Maze War in 1973 (approximately) and Spasim in 1974—but both of those computer-based games were played on a local network rather than over phone lines. Atari then developed MIDI Maze in 1987 as a game that could be played on multiple Atari consoles that were physically linked together—you know, so that all the kids in the neighborhood could gather in someone’s house, link all their Atari ST consoles together, and then shoot at each other in the virtual world rather than use toy guns to shoot at each other IRL. However, the concept that Cameron and Tom discuss while pointing their toy guns at each other as they hide in a closet in the Mutiny House is a revolutionary first-person shooter game that sounds more like Wolfenstein 3D, and which wouldn’t become a reality IRL until the early- to mid-1990s. Thus, Cameron and Mutiny are really ahead of the time, and it will be interesting to see if the series actually has Mutiny develop this revolutionary gaming concept approximately 10 years before it was really developed. As much as I love the computer tech history the series presents (albeit fictionalized versions of history), I must confess that what really keeps the series near the top of my TV-watching priority list are the beautiful women on the show—particularly Mackenzie Davis playing Cameron Howe and Kerry Bishé playing Donna Clark. Cameron and Donna are the co-owners of Mutiny. Actually, with this episode, all of the employees who decided to stay with the company are now co-owners as well. Following the events of the previous episode in which Donna’s husband, Gordon, inadvertently launched a malware program that erased all of the data on Mutiny’s servers, and on their subscribers’ computers, Mutiny is essentially broke. Cameron and Donna failed to secure financing from a sexist investment capitalist, and now most of the couple of hundred subscribers they had have cancelled their subscriptions. Thus, there is no money to pay Mutiny’s employees, so several of them left—including Yo-Yo, who seems to be heading to either Atari or Nintendo to work on cartridge games (he probably has an eight-track deck in his car and watches recorded shows on a Betamax system as well). Those Mutiny employees who remained were given shares in the company in lieu of pay. One of the employees, John Bosworth has literally been going door-to-door to entice former big-spending subscribers to renew their subscriptions. Of course, most of the “subscribers” are teenage boys who were spending their parents’ money by playing Mutiny’s online video games. The mother of one such teenage boy bemoaned the fact that her son spent so much time playing games on the computer rather than interacting with actual people in the real world: Bosworth: Have any of these Mutiny users become friends of yours? Teen-Age Boy: Oh, yeah, like 32. Well, that I talk to regularly. Maybe six or seven that just want to play against me, which is also fun. Mother: I don’t understand how you’re talking to all these people. I never hear a peep out of you when you’re down there. Teen-Age Boy: (To Bosworth) My mother’s a Luddite. (To his mother) We type messages to each other. That’s how you talk online. Bosworth: Ma’am, you and I are too Old School to understand this, but to your son here and his friends, Mutiny is the church. It’s where they find community. Sometimes that’s the only place. This exchange between Bosworth, the teen-age boy, and the mother also revealed another way in which the characters in this show are ahead of their time. In speaking to the boy’s mother, Bosworth used the phrase “Old School” to describe her and himself. However, Old School (or Old Skool) was just gaining popularity as a slang term around that time (1985) as a distinction between older hip-hop music and newer hip-hop music. Bosworth must be listening to more than Johnny Cash if he’s hep on that jive jargon, you dig? Or perhaps Bosworth is merely a Presbyterian who knows the history of his particular branch of the Calvinist church, and he is innovatively using “Old School” as a parallel form of slang rather than through any knowledge he has of the hip-hop music scene. After all, he did refer to Mutiny as the church where online gamers find a sense of community. This sense of community is Donna’s brainchild at Mutiny where she has set up online chatrooms that are separate from the online messaging that takes place within the games. The number of chatrooms Mutiny is hosting has grown to 18, and without any graphics to maintain on the server, the money paid by the users of these chatrooms is nearly 100% profit for the company. Nevertheless, in her efforts to streamline the company and free up server space, Cameron has ordered the chatrooms to be deleted—an order that causes Donna, Cameron’s supposed partner in the company, to question her continued involvement with Mutiny. The tension between Cameron and Donna had been building throughout the first three episodes, and it nearly comes to the breaking point in this episode—and this tension over the possible death of the chatrooms then led to my favorite scene. My longtime dream for this series that I didn’t even know I had until I actually saw it on my screen finally came true! This episode gave us a long-lasting camera shot of the incomparably beautiful Kerry Bishé (Donna) lying in a bathtub without any strategically placed soap suds covering her beautiful body! Unfortunately, she was also fully clothed in blue jeans and a long-sleeved flannel shirt. Ah well, it was still a great scene. If it seems that Donna’s depression over Cameron’s decision to cancel Mutiny’s chatrooms seems to be a bit over-the-top, there is a good reason for her overly emotional reaction. However, we don’t discover the cause of her deep funk about the chatrooms until the end of the episode when she is once again sitting in the bathroom of her house—this time on the edge of the bathtub. At the end of the episode, Donna has an over-the-counter pregnancy test in front of her, and she is looking at the results with a bit of despair on her face. We aren’t actually told what the result of the test is, but I think it’s safe to assume what it is. Having a third child with Gordon is not something Donna seems to desire. During the first season, I never had the sense that she regretted having her children. She seemed to regret being married to Gordon for a few episodes, as she flirted with her boss at Texas Instruments and was ready to have an affair with him until he stopped her. He didn’t stop her on moral or ethical grounds; he was actually not attracted to her (what an idiot he was). He merely played her so that he could steal Gordon’s work for the portable computer. So, no, I never had a sense during the first season that Donna regretted having her children with Gordon—and then all the money he made from Cardiff seemed to remove any regrets she had of being married to him. However, in this current season Donna was told by a potential investor that he wouldn’t invest money in a company run by women because women are likely to get pregnant and make their children their priorities. Significantly, earlier in this episode, while lying fully clothed in the bathtub, Donna referred to the Mutiny chatrooms as her children—which means Cameron’s decision to cancel the chatrooms is equivalent to killing Donna’s children, or equivalent to performing an abortion on Donna while she argues to allow her children to live. These issues of children, chatrooms, and tension with Cameron all come together when Cameron agrees to use a chatroom one time before ordering Donna’s cyber-children to be deleted from the server. It is during her exchange of text messages with Tom in a private chatroom that Cameron makes a mistake that then caused the tension with Donna to come its closest yet to snapping. In her text exchange with Tom, Cameron typed: “No. Gordon = The guy who hung two kids on her and now she’s trappeD!” (sic). Tom immediately becomes concerned when he sees what Cameron typed, and he leaves his desk to walk into her office: Tom: Um, that went to everyone. Cameron: What do you. . . . Tom: Everyone. I know this isn’t the best time to tell you this, but for future reference, the letter d plus the shift key plus exclamation mark means “direct to all.” Okay, first of all it’s odd that computer whiz-kid Cameron, who knows more about coding than just about anyone on the planet (at least that’s how she was presented to us last season), isn’t aware of the shortcut keystrokes and has to be told by Tom that “D!” sends her message to all subscribers (does it really do that?). However, what’s really odd is that Cameron would type an uppercase D at the end of her sentence at all. I hate it when writers of television shows (or movies, or novels, or short stories, et cetera) must contrive this type of entirely unrealistic scenario. A particular irksome offense was when the character MacKenzie McHale on HBO’s The Newsroom sent an embarrassingly personal e-mail to the entire news staff by typing *S in the “To:” box in her e-mail program. Yes, there are definitely real-life examples of people hitting “Reply All” on an e-mail or text message that should have only been sent to one person, but those real-life cases are different from having characters in stories type weird things on their computers that are shortcut keystrokes that end up becoming embarrassing blunders that help move the plots along. Still, despite the overly contrived way in which we got there, we are getting closer to the major confrontation between Cameron and Donna that the series seems to be building toward. This one contrivance hasn’t ruined the show for me. I mean, I stuck through all three seasons of The Newsroom despite Aaron Sorkin’s penchant for contrived coincidences to move his plots along. I’ll definitely be staying with Halt and Catch Fire for as long as AMC carries it—especially since this second season is actually superior to the first season. No, the above picture has nothing to do with my review of this episode; I just wanted to include another picture of Kerry Bishé in the bathtub. In fact, I’m going to include multiple pictures of Kerry Bishé in my reviews from now on—regardless of whether they have anything to do with what I’m writing about. However, instead of the above picture of Kerry Bishé, I could have ended this review with the following image of Donna’s husband, Gordon, whom I mistakenly thought was going to be presented as having leukemia this season as a way of developing a health problem that would eat up the hundreds of thousands of dollars he made from the sale of Cardiff Electric: No, he’s not sleeping. He passed out while working on the mainframe computer at Joe’s place of employment. In the previous episode, Gordon had difficulty opening a can of soda and unplugging cords from a computer, so I’m now thinking my assumption of him having a health problem was correct after all—but it’s not leukemia. What condition would cause a diminishment of fine motor skills AND sporadic episodes of loss of consciousness? Can multiple sclerosis result in sporadic loss of consciousness? Parkinson’s disease? I guess we’ll find out in the coming episodes. In the meantime: Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.