I was very excited about this new AMC show called Halt and Catch Fire
, but the number and extent of the technical errors make me cringe. As a big fan of AMC's Mad Men
, which has been extremely accurate in portraying the times
surrounding the show's fictional events, I found the first episode of Halt and Catch Fire to be very dissapointing. I was extremely involved in the computing industry at the time this show supposedly takes place, and the technical and historical errors make it hard for me to appreciate the show as a whole.
Halt and Catch Fire is a semi-fictional account of the development of IBM PC clones. The simplest technical error so far was the depiction of the size of the original IBM PC BIOS, which was 8K (8192 bytes), not 64K as depicted in the pilot. In addition, the bogus technology used to read the PC ROM and create "the binder" containing the source code was nonsense. Using the DOS DEBUG command the PC could literally save or print the BIOS code as necessary. Finally, there was no need to even do that as IBM fully documented the source code for the BIOS in the IBM PC Technical Reference Manual
. Every PC engineer at the time had a copy of this, I still have mine!
The main story at the outset seems to be the blind reverse engineering used to develop a compatible BIOS, which actually happened at Compaq, Phoenix and other companies at the time. This approach was key to the existance of PC clones as it was impervious to attack by IBM's legal department
Perhaps the most glaring error is the name of the show. PCs were based on Intel x86 processors and yet the name of the show refers to the Motorola CPU instruction "HCF
", which doesn't even *exist* in the Intel x86 processor instruction set. In the x86 world the equivelant instruction is simply HLT
OK, I understand that this is "entertainment" and that the show is a fictionalized account of one part of the early PC era. Unfortunately Halt and Catch Fire depicts much of the surrounding technical information and many of the historical events so inaccurately it makes it difficult for me to watch. Maybe they should have hired somebody who knows PC technology a bit more as a technical consultant? <g> Scott.