AMC’s computer tech/hot people drama “Halt and Catch Fire” is set in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a great drama, and also set in the fascinating and generally not seen subgenre of period-piece computer tech. The soundtracks alone make the show worth watching. I love that show, and its iconic line: “Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets you to the thing.” I’ve been online for about 25 years, and the gutsin that quote resonated deeply with me. As an artsy, quiet kid, what I loved the most about messing around with tech was the sense of possibility. I also made some friends along the way I otherwise wouldn’t have met. Driven by wanting to learn more about the real people in the world of Halt, I stumbled upon some book recommendations on reddit. Wizards is one of the books I grabbed.
As I found out in the book, it turns out there was a guy more than 50 years ago, Licklader, who basically wrote what Halt quoted. Back when computers were room sized and their use wasn’t obvious,he foresaw the ability to connect ideas and people. It was awesome to read about Licklader and others who just blazed a trail and forged tech as they saw fit, just because they could. This book was a great followup to Dava Sobel’s Longitude, which covers events that transpired centuries before but held the same spirit.
This book was kind of a slow burn for me, although I did enjoy reading it. If you’re curious where the internet came from, it’s worth checking out from your library. The book was published in 1996, so it does feel incomplete given the prevalence of high-speed internet, streaming, and smartphones. I would love a volume two of this!