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S01.E09: Up Helly Aa

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I hope Gordon didn't cancel that hotel reservation he made out of his own funds, it looks like they are going to need it.

 

ETA

Apparently not.

Edited by yuggapukka

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WOW. I have been liking the show since the beginning, and it was awesome last week and mind blowing this week. Poor Donna! Cannot wait to see where this all goes. Totally keyed into the Flock of Seagulls song in the background of the hotel scene. I love that song (Space Age Love Song) and have it on my iPod. 

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Another strong episode.

A bit heavy handed with the McIntosh reveal at the end, candles lit aorund it and all.

And their machine did not talk, did it? I don't think its exactly the same idea with their operating system.

Plus if they introduce the cheaper faster model they have and get it on the market and save the unique operating system for later, they have a perfect oppurunity for version 2.0 release.

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Whoever called it on last week's episode that Donna's boss may have been by her house because he was seeing their neighbor was right. Poor Donna, she can't win with the men in her life.

 

Totally keyed into the Flock of Seagulls song in the background of the hotel scene. I love that song

Me too, and it really captures that era.

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It's kind of implausible that two guys could get enough information on a project neither of them was on for the last few months, find a company willing to bankroll it and beat the head start Cardiff had all in time for that year's COMDEX. But hey, it's good TV.

 

I'm not sure how the story of this episode could have been anymore heavy handed. Gordon saves the day with his knowledge of the industry and his ability to "fix it" when something goes wrong. At the same time, he's the past with his "touchscreens are a fad" line and the fact that Apple is a hugely influential company despite not being one of the biggest technology companies. For the next 20 years after the Mac is introduced, IBM clones and Windows dominate the market.

 

Cameron is again cast in the role of being beyond her time. Intuitive controls and massive computer networks end up winning the day. Joe is somehow saddened by killing her dream, even though Cardiff could stand to make millions of dollars while Apple struggles for years.

 

I saw a scene for the next episode on Story Sync. I'm pretty sure Donna is trying to get herself fired from TI so she can join the band.

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Yowza!  That went pretty south for the gang real quick.  First, all the early stuff like struggling to find a hotel room and booth, but they got past all that.  But, nope.  The big bombshell was Hunt and Gordon's disgruntled neighbor had teamed up, and stole their idea, thanks to Donna accidentally giving too much info to Hunt.  All that leads to Gordon and Donna finally having a big blow-out, which, was probably needed, but who knows what their relationship will be now.  So, in order to survive, Gordon and Joe take out Cameron's program to make the Giant faster, which infuriates Cameron, and she's bailed.  Yep, I don't think anyone is happy at the moment.

 

It was dirty, but I did love how Gordon and Joe tricked those two brothers into giving them their spot.  Gordon's idea was crafty as hell, and Joe sold it like a champ.  And, I'm assuming using the pornstars was Donna's idea?  Donna knows what gets people's interest!

 

Real curious to see what the finale is going to be about.  Will something else suddenly mess it up, or will the Giant be a success, and the drama will be over how fractured the relationships are now?

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Strong episode but by the end, I felt like I'd been kicked out of a moving car. I'd (finally) bought into the idea of Cameron putting a personality in the machine, loved seeng Donna and Gordon in a good place and thought the team would find enough positive interest in the computer that they'd be able to get Cardiff back to being a viable company. The latter may still happen, but it's much less assured than it would have been without the Slingshot shenanigans. Donna and Gordon are back on very shakey ground, though at least Donna finally said some things that she needed to get off her chest. I'm kind of meh on the thing that made the Giant special being stripped out of it for financial reasons, I think it was an idea that was better utilized as a new feature in a second generation machine. On the other hand, Joe was confronted at the end with the Macintosh which managed to dazzle by being special in a different way after he'd made his machine more generic. From what I've read, the writers were taking some dramatic licence with that scene since the Macintosh was kept a secret until it was debuted in 1984. To anyone who knows better, do tell.

 

I loved to see Gordon stepping up during the booth presentation and carrying on successfully after Joe appeared to be losing his shit. 

 

Hunt seemed to know an awful lot about Joe that was of a decidedly personal nature and seemed to have unlikely amounts of cash to throw around. I wonder if he was recuited from TI by someone with deep pockets and a deeper grudge against Joe. My first guess would be LouLu, my second guess would be almost anyone who has ever met Joe. I wonder if they  bribed someone at Cardiff who has also been feeding them information? It could be that Brian has been sneaking into and going through Donna and Gordon's house while they are out during the day, but I don't know that he could get much information that way, since anything Gordon brought home with him would also likely return to the office when he went back out to work.  

Edited by yuggapukka
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How exactly did Donna's boss hook up with the fired neighbor? That seems a real stretch to me.

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I wanted to smack the smug face off Donna's boss. What a heel! "It's not personal." And you are a Class A cretin. At least he didn't sleep with her and add insult to injury. I was stunned when she charged him. Not used to seeing Donna lose her cool. I am glad, too, that she was able to give Gordon a piece of her mind. I don't feel his retorts that he had never given up on them made any sense at all, since I don't consider drifting along and hanging around to be taken care of like a child to be the equivalent of working on a marriage, especially since he so often fails to give Donna any real support or encouragement.

 

Poor Cameron and her OS. Hopefully they will revive it later, if there is a later. Looks like in the meantime, Gordon came through again. I was waiting for him to drink himself into oblivion. I felt sorry for all of them, especially Donna, when it looked like her opprobrious boss had picked every idea they ever had directly from her brain.

 

That deal made me momentarily forget how Joe deceived the poor printer dudes. That was a first class troll move as well.  "I'm not looking to screw you guys over." Ugh.

 

Really thought the mess Cameron threw together for the booth wouldn't have drawn anyone. Spray paint. Seriously? I also don't think the crowd would have been put off seeing the Giant in action for another day because Joe brought up porn stars.

 

I didn't catch during the show that Up Helly Aa is the name of the festival Joe was talking about. Gordon's consternation was amusing.

 

Did the Mac really talk? Poor Joe was ready to froth at the mouth.

 

The guy chatting Cameron up about moving to CA looks so familiar, but I can't figure out who he is. It's beginning to look like Joe actually has real feelings for Cameron.

Edited by renatae
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Another solid episode, easily the best of the season. I guess it's better to start weak and finish strong, than to start strong and peter out.

I call shenanigans on the blatant IP theft, and the idea that $2 million would buy off what would seem to me an open and shut lawsuit; either Cardiff wins in the marketplace for far more than that, or if they lose there, then they win in court, and I'm pretty sure the law would grant them most of whatever revenue TI or whomever earned in that time. I'm also unclear on whether the Slingshot was from TI, some TI funded offshoot, or a completely independent startup that Hunt somehow got millions in funding to spin up, all but instantaneously. In any case, how could some unknown team- in the same city, presumably- secretly mimic the Giant down to the nearly exact casing without word getting out, such as by any of various suppliers letting slip the similarity of orders? How could they have done work remotely on par without the talent, even with heavy handed full blown espionage, much less faster and cheaper? I get that we were supposed to understand the Slingshot as not as good as the Giant, such as the bit about how they solved the heatsink problem, but it still seems literally impossible for the Slingshot to have been made... although I'm not sure if we ever saw a functional demo, so maaaybe it's all vaporware: it's Hunt and the neighbor running a big con, fabricate up a minimally functional PC (at best) using the case mold from strip club guy and the general ideas of the Giant, lie about the actually stats (i.e. use the stats of the Giant but run something much weaker inside so it's not even espionage), and then try to get Cardiff to immediately sell their IP for $2 million. Boom, they've legally gotten the Giant all for themselves.

The conversation between Donna and Gordon was fantastically written and acted. It felt authentic, and the actors really inhabited it. They both had something to say, and reasons to gripe, even though the season plotline and balance of that scene leans towards Donna. I actually think that rather than widening the gap between them, this was healing; they each spoke honestly, and hopefully each came to understand that both really want the marriage to work, and it's only in their desperation that things are conflicted (okay, mostly Gordon's flailing there).

The booth demo scene was well written in a Sorkin-y way (i.e., I loved how it sounded, but no one actually talks like that), although pretty leaden in its "art vs. labor" dichotomy. I did enjoy the soliloquies, and the back and forth between "regret that we didn't keep the 'unique'" and "this is fast, cheap, and will sell, and we can dazzle them with v2". I also thought it was weird how aloof Joe was with the retailer guy; you go back to Cardiff with an order for 70,000 units at $900 a pop (were any computers of that time ever that cheap?) or the backup of Hunt's buyout offer, and I think the legal and funding issuss will be whisked away (except probably not for Bosworth, unless he gets a friendly plea deal). They'll probably all end up on their feet, personally and professionally.

But I guess the back and forth between art and labor was really to set up that practically religious ceremony for the Macintosh demo. Between that scene, and the movie "Sex Tape" being one long ad for Apple products, I'm wondering if this whole season isn't really some subtle ad promoting Apple's magnificence. As mentioned above, that scene would be a little poetic license but I guess Apple would love to reimagine there history as one long march towards empire; while Macs were a fixture in education, we all know that PCs reigned supreme for the next two decades, so if the fictional Cardiff gets a toehold in the market with the Giant, they can profitably evolve into the Windows world quite well after the credits roll. It's all ebbs and flows in the long run; heck, when "Pirates of Silicon Valley" was shot in 1999- almost the exact halfway point between this show's time and present day, the final scene was of Bill Gates' smirking face, looking down on basically a floundering Apple as Microsoft gifted the conpany a few hundred million to even keep the factory running.

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I, too, would like to know how the hell Shotgun Neighbor hooked up with Donna's boss? Anyhoo, I must be invested in the show because I was crestfallen when everything fell to shit. Took a while for me to warm up to the characters, but they reeled me in.

 

Was super bummed when they cut The Human League's "Fascination" before Phil Oakey had a chance to sing because Lee Pace kind of reminds me of him, and I needed to see him on screen with that voice at the same time. 

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It's kind of ironic that Cameron was being sought for Palo Alto when the most famous thing to come out of that group was the GUI which was shown at the end of this episode.

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but it still seems literally impossible for the Slingshot to have been made... although I'm not sure if we ever saw a functional demo, so maaaybe it's all vaporware: it's Hunt and the neighbor running a big con, fabricate up a minimally functional PC (at best) using the case mold from strip club guy and the general ideas of the Giant, lie about the actually stats (i.e. use the stats of the Giant but run something much weaker inside so it's not even espionage), and then try to get Cardiff to immediately sell their IP for $2 million. Boom, they've legally gotten the Giant all for themselves.

 

 

 

I hadn't considered that......a good thought. 

 

No idea how they the neighbor and her former boss go together, though it seems they all go back awhile and they are all in the same industry.  The neighbor/co-worder likely knew where Donna worked and who her boss was, he probably just was vindictive and contacted him with the idea. 

 

 . It's all ebbs and flows in the long run; heck, when "Pirates of Silicon Valley" was shot in 1999- almost the exact halfway point between this show's time and present day, the final scene was of Bill Gates' smirking face, looking down on basically a floundering Apple as Microsoft gifted the conpany a few hundred million to even keep the factory running

 

 

 

Maybe its just because I am a PC guy and not a MAC guy, at least from a computer level, but on the personal computing level, I don't know that they ever, even to this day, beat PC at that game.  Apple survived and become dominant by moving to the Ipad/ipod.  I guess you can argue the IPAD is the next generation beyond the laptop and now they have become the market leader in personal computing, but its still different than a PC/laptop in many ways.  At work, I still use a PC, not a MAC, always have. 

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The Xerox guy who invited Cameron out for pancakes is Lou Taylor Pucci from Thumbsucker! I don't see the credit on his imdb page, but my personal facial recognition software is state of the art.

 

Good casting on the guys whose suite got taken over. You could practically smell them.

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It was dirty, but I did love how Gordon and Joe tricked those two brothers into giving them their spot.

 

I know we were supposed to like that, but I couldn't. There but for a smooth talker goes the Cardiff Giant. But at least the brothers got their money back.

 

Did the Mac really talk? Poor Joe was ready to froth at the mouth.

 

I really liked that. Anything that takes the wind out of Joe's sails is good with me. I like him, but he can be such an asshole.

 

I, too, would like to know how the hell Shotgun Neighbor hooked up with Donna's boss?

 

it's got to be a pretty small tech world in Texas, and Shotgun Neighbor had a bone to pick with Gordon. I'm surprised Donna's boss went along with things, but maybe it was his way of dealing with his feelings for Donna.

Edited by dubbel zout
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I thought the printer the two guys they "tricked" seemed pretty crappy, so they may very well have been doing them a favor, even if the intent was bad.  At the very least their presentation sure was not impressing anyone.  And they had no confidence it seemed in their product by selling out so quickly.  I don't feel too bad for them.  Honestly they may truly have been better off taking the money and breaking even.  My guess is MANY of those products at that tech fair failed and breaking even if things seem unlikley to work isn't so bad.

 

Dishonest?  Yes.  It wasn't like they seemed to be destroying any dreams of a major developmental product or advancement though. 

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During the Apple-theosis scene at the end, Joe seemed more impressed by the "talking" computer than the real innovations, the GUI and the mouse.

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During the Apple-theosis scene at the end, Joe seemed more impressed by the "talking" computer than the real innovations, the GUI and the mouse.

Which were in actuality stolen by Apple from Xerox.  Apparently Xerox was, in the early 70s, in a position to inherit the world, and their list of their then-employees reads now like a Who's Who of tech billionaires.  And at some point a young buck named Steve Jobs got a glimpse of their GUI & Mouse box and saw his future.  

Edited by henripootel
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Good casting on the guys whose suite got taken over

I was watching it out of the corner of my eye, but it looked like one of them was Zoe's paramedic boyfriend from Nurse Jackie (who played a slob on that show too).

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During the Apple-theosis scene at the end, Joe seemed more impressed by the "talking" computer than the real innovations, the GUI and the mouse.

To me the mouse remains one of the most appreciated computer inventions ever. It makes using computers "comfortable" for me .

 

I felt so bad for Donna - to be betrayed like this by a guy she had trusted and crushed on to a certain extent.

 

Actually I felt really bad for all our main characters by the end.

 

I think maybe Cameron is going to make out the best knowing the future of computers. She is young and has the "right" kind of talent.

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Which were in actuality stolen by Apple from Xerox.  Apparently Xerox was, in the early 70s, in a position to inherit the world, and their list of their then-employees reads now like a Who's Who of tech billionaires.  And at some point a young buck named Steve Jobs got a glimpse of their GUI & Mouse box and saw his future.  

I heard at one point that Xerox was taking all the bright minds in computer science and putting them in one campus to keep them from bringing anything to market. Xerox was the copier company and a paperless office was the last thing they wanted. Of course, most businesses still kill a medium sized tree per day with all the papers flying around, even three decades later.

 

Apple's unofficial  motto must be "innovate or die" because they tend to represent the expensive, leading edge of technology integration rather than market penetration. The iPod was the king of portable music players when people still had such a thing. They have a very popular phone and tablet, but Android Samsung devices are closing in on them. At work, I have a Windows tablet. I like it because I can connect a mouse to the USB port. Xerox really kicked ass with the mouse.

Edited by ketose

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Apple's unofficial model must be "innovate or die" because they tend to represent the expensive, leading edge of technology integration rather than market penetration.

Yeah, but it's worth remembering that this strategy very nearly killed them.  Kinda got the feeling from the last scene that Joe just realized that he'd really seen the future when he saw the Apple, but that's not quite right.  The Apple II didn't talk or interact for one thing - the nearest thing I know that did that was Microsoft's (much later) horrible, horrible helpful paperclip thingy.  It sucked and everybody (I know) hated it.  So much for Cameron's vision on this.

 

Also, the first of the Apples were (as noted above) hugely overpriced, slow, and of limited utility.  It was well into the 90s and even beyond that they were called 'Macintoys' by serious computer folks.  My first use of them (and this dates me hugely) was to use the only one I had access to (at Kinkos) to make cover sheets for papers I was writing - it was super-easy to use fancy fonts for the title page, which I was sure would get me a better grade.

 

Even this barely saved Apple's bacon.  My understanding is that they survived the lean years (until the consumer market really picked up) merely because they had a strong following among universities, primarily because they offered academic discounts.  This is not a business model Joe should admire too much - even though it eventually panned out, Joe should live so long.

Edited by henripootel

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How exactly did Donna's boss hook up with the fired neighbor? That seems a real stretch to me.

 

 

I want an answer to that, It could be as simple as he asked personnel at TI to send him any resumes received from ex-Cardiff employees and Brian being the only one to survive the initial layoffs and work on the Giant put him at the top of Hunt's fishing list.

 

Possibly they were already acquainted with each other.  Hunt could have had a connection to Brian that was comparable to his prior connection to Donna, he knew Donna from High School and the Clarks seem to live reasonably close to her parents, perhaps Brian lives in that neighborhood because of similar ties, also they are both around the same age and work in the same industry, sometimes those factors can function like the connections within a small neighborhood contained in a larger city. They may also have been brought together by a third party with an axe to grind and a little research in their hands. No matter what, the lack of a working prototype and attempt to extort Joe into selling off the giant's technology cheap makes their operation look more like a con game than a viable business.

Edited by yuggapukka

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Yes, the original Mac could "talk", but it was never really a supported part of the OS. There was a text-to-speech program for Apple ][s, too, but was just a toy with a small set of words it could say.

 

If this is set before the 1984 Super Bowl commercial, nobody outside the company and maybe the ad agency would have seen a Mac. The one rule of Steve Jobs presentations is you do not spoil Steve Jobs presentations.

 

Yes, Xerox's attitude towards the Parc team who actually invented mice and GUIs (and Ethernet, and object oriented programming, which Steve also saw on that fateful visit, but those didn't make as much of an impression) was "so how does this sell paper"? The authors of this 1981 Byte article had stacks of letters saying "cool, when can we have one?!" but it went nowhere.

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When I wrote about Apple innovating, I didn't necessarily mean it was the best business strategy. It was an aspect of the fact that Jobs wanted to control every aspect of his computer, both hardware and software. Macs were stable because they could only use Mac hardware from Apple. It also made them expensive, which was a barrier to the market. They were popular in industry for computer graphics. I remember shows like Babylon 5 boasting about all their Mac-based CGI in the 90s.

 

This strategy works better with the iPod, IPad, IPhone because those devices are self-contained and upgrading usually means throwing the old one out for a bigger screen or faster processor. Those devices also have to "just work" because you can't just open it up, fiddle with the wires or reinstall the OS. Still, their products are at least 50% higher than competitors' prices and their sales have kind of plateaued.

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The thing that bugs me about Hunt and neighbor stealing the Giant idea is that there was no real build up to that.  We saw one scene early on when Hunt learned Donna suggested the dual sided motherboard, but there was no indication that Hunt was even thinking about leaving TI and doing his own PC at that time.  There was nothing shown of Hunt perhaps trying to convince TI to try the same idea and failing, or Hunt getting more info out of Donna.  There was nothing shown of any suspicious conduct by the neighbor.  It just totally came out of nowhere that suddenly from a tidbit of a motherboard/compact PC (did Donna even say portable or mobile PC?) they suddenly had a virtual replica of the Giant. 

 

Also, it appeared that the case design was an exact copy.  So we're left wondering how did they get the exact same type of case, or I guess that Joe's designer friend wasn't so special after all.

 

And boo hoo hoo to all the drama of Cameron's "personal" operating system having to get pulled in order to make the Giant a viable product for now.  She still gets credit for the bios, and the "personal" operating system can be sold as an upgrade or V2.0 later to make even more money.

 

Fence sitting on the printer brothers.  On the one hand, Joe and Gordon clearly set out to take advantage of them, but OTOH, the printer brothers were failing and no one was going to show up to their shrimp fest anyway.  Might as well give them something to show for it, breaking even - try again next year, and Cardiff gets to save their own bacon.  It was nice to see Joe do some great selling without Gordon messing it all up.

 

Why didn't Joe just check into the hotel as himself?  He was already scheduled to go to the convention, just check in as Joe and say John is coming later.  Then when he went to use his own credit card, they could have gotten their room back.  And what happened to the room Gordon paid for?  Or was that at a different hotel?

 

For the more computer literate, what was the deal with the computer not working and having to create a (non-static?) space with all the plastic?

 

I really wish my dad was still alive so I could ask him about Xerox back in the early 80s.  I know that even if Xerox never became a major computer player, they must have gotten some money out of it because my family suddenly went from summer vacation car trips visiting family to flying to Europe.

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It just totally came out of nowhere that suddenly from a tidbit of a motherboard/compact PC (did Donna even say portable or mobile PC?) they suddenly had a virtual replica of the Giant.

That was the point. If we'd seen the setup for the steal, the shock of it would have been spoiled. We were supposed to be as appalled as Joe and the gang. I thought it was very effective (if unrealistic for the time line/production reasons already mentioned).

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Even this barely saved Apple's bacon.  My understanding is that they survived the lean years (until the consumer market really picked up) merely because they had a strong following among universities, primarily because they offered academic discounts.  This is not a business model Joe should admire too much - even though it eventually panned out, Joe should live so long.

 

Cosign all the griping about this revisionist Apple history.  Apple spent 20 years being the education computer.  It was fine for K-12 and university, but before you graduated, you'd better darn well learn to use a PC, or no one would take you seriously in the business world.  And everything was the business world in the 80s -- you wouldn't dare jeopardize your career by insisting on using an Apple because you loved the GUI interface.

 

I know we are supposed to view Joe's speed and efficiency sales pitch as a step backward away from creativity, but that was exactly what sold computers in 1983.  In 1983, EVERYTHING in the computer world was slick and exciting, because we really hadn't had personal computers for more than 5 years at best.  People were starting to have the conversation about what a personal computer could really DO for you, and companies were scrambling to make the case that you could house your recipes or have your kids play educational games or something like that.  In reality, the spreadsheet was the only (IMO) fully-formed application that had demonstrated usefulness.  Many word processors still had limited font choices (even all caps instead of a true upper/lower case), DMPs meant that typing was still the best way to get a truly readable document, and the best graphics were in computer arcade games, not in your personal computer.  Manufacturers had to make the case that a PC, which according to the episode was a $900 investment (and that's about right, if I remember correctly), was something more than a cool beige box that hooked to your TV and entertained you before you got back to business as usual.  The Giant, with its speed, integrated screen, and true portability (as opposed to the 20 lb + "luggable" computers) had plenty of innovation without Cameron's OS slowing things down so you could have a chat with your machine.  

Edited by Boton
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Yes, the original Mac could "talk", but it was never really a supported part of the OS. There was a text-to-speech program for Apple ][s, too, but was just a toy with a small set of words it could say.

Fair point, but I was thinking more about an actual Cameronesque interface.  Far as I know there's never been one and probably won't be - the iPad doesn't have one, but it does have programming so simple that my 1-year-old can find her way around easily.  Now that's a friendly computer.  

 

I could also see why the guys back then would indeed have contempt for Cameron's talky computer.  My dad is a dyed-in-the-wool IBMer from way back, and we had one of the first desktop computers they made.  Huge thing, glowing green monitor, and cost thousands (IIRC).  I remember trying to figure out how to use the word processor (which may have been Wordstar or something even earlier) and getting frustrated that doing much of anything required knowing that you needed to move the cursor over to the spot (no mouse, arrow keys), and hold down control-alt-f5 or some such.  We had a printed card that sat on top the of the computer to remind you off all the commands.  It was ludicrous, and I asked my dad why they didn't just make this simpler.  He got indignant at the suggestion - anybody who needs a computer that simple is never gonna do anything worthwhile with it anyway, so if you don't want to learn to use it, stick to a type writer.  This was the IBM way, apparently.  My 1980s dad would have dismissed Cameron out of hand.  

I really wish my dad was still alive so I could ask him about Xerox back in the early 80s.

What little I know about it came from talking to the dad of an old friend, guy named John Warnock.  We've lost touch over the years and I wish I could remember better what he said but I got the impression things were really hopping back then.  Warnock started a small software company after leaving Xerox, which last I heard was doing okay.

Edited by henripootel
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I felt so bad for Donna - to be betrayed like this by a guy she had trusted and crushed on to a certain extent.

 

 

I had already posted the on the Hunt thread, but I find it refreshing that the writers have men use their good looks and charm to get what they want.  Usually in tv land only attractive women stoop to such behavior.

 

That being said, even if you took the flirting out the equation, Hunt was supposed to be an old family friend that Donna knew from high school.  Hunt was shrewd enough to figure out what a shitty husband Gordon was (probably all of Texas knows this by now) and gave Donna the validation that she craved. The betrayal had to hurt on many levels.

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I liked the surprise reveal of the stolen laptop concept.  I do think the signs were there in retrospect now that we know what happened, but never saw it coming this way.  It and the police showing up at the office last episode were the two big moemnts of this season that I think have made the show the most interesting.  I wouldn't like it as well if it had been hinted at more. 

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PCs weren't even all that great at spreadsheets. I used a few of them in the early 90s (the bookkeeping course was in the computer age... plus a big ass workbook). There were cells, but there were only so many and you could only see a certain number at a time. If you had some kind of monthly report and could plug in values to a set of formulas each time, it would probably seem like a miracle. Otherwise, it was kind of frustrating.

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Fence sitting on the printer brothers.  On the one hand, Joe and Gordon clearly set out to take advantage of them, but OTOH, the printer brothers were failing and no one was going to show up to their shrimp fest anyway.  

 

For 1983, their printer wasn't all that bad. 100 characters per second was pretty fast. The price tag was too high though. Around that time I ordered an off-brand dot-matrix printer (an Epson MX-80 was far beyond my high school budget) for I think $400. It worked great. The only catch... it took almost a year to arrive. That's how many of these operations worked. You'd see them demoing their wares at the West Coast Computer Fair and you would excitedly plunk down your money, then wait months for it to arrive.

 

In 1983, EVERYTHING in the computer world was slick and exciting, because we really hadn't had personal computers for more than 5 years at best.  People were starting to have the conversation about what a personal computer could really DO for you, and companies were scrambling to make the case that you could house your recipes or have your kids play educational games or something like that.  In reality, the spreadsheet was the only (IMO) fully-formed application that had demonstrated usefulness.  Many word processors still had limited font choices (even all caps instead of a true upper/lower case), DMPs meant that typing was still the best way to get a truly readable document, and the best graphics were in computer arcade games, not in your personal computer.  

 

There were more than dot-matrix and daisy wheel printers. I had a typewriter with a parallel printer interface and I used it for word processing. It didn't cost much more than a regular typewriter. You only needed fonts if you were going to publish something and many small publications were still literally cutting and pasting headings and graphics onto pages for printing. Even that was optional. I still have manuals from the 80's that are purely typewritten text. It didn't bother us.

 

The spreadsheet was definitely still the killer app for computers. The show brought up Lotus 1-2-3 which is about to be a revolutionary application. No word processing in it. Just a spreadsheet, a database, and the ability to make graphs. It was exactly what hundreds of thousands of people needed. It didn't run on the Mac and that helped keep the PC dominant.

 

I loved Joe's reaction to the (artistically licensed) Mac. It had a stylish design, weighed little more than the "Giant", had a graphical user interface with windows, drop down menus, and folders and was controlled by a mouse. What was Joe astonished by? "It talks!" Yes, the least significant feature of the Mac. I'm not sure if the show wanted me to laugh at him. 

 

I'm liking this show now that it's about computers again and not electrocuted bodies and digging graves.

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PCs weren't even all that great at spreadsheets. I used a few of them in the early 90s (the bookkeeping course was in the computer age... plus a big ass workbook). There were cells, but there were only so many and you could only see a certain number at a time.

 

Imagine changing a value and recalculating everything by hand instead. We gladly accepted these limitations to get quick answers. The reason spreadsheet applications are so powerful now is because these old limited spreadsheet applications already allowed people to make spreadsheets that would have been impossible to manage on paper. 

 

So wave goodbye to Cameron's friendly shell. Lotus 1-2-3 is going to need every last byte of memory.

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My dad is a dyed-in-the-wool IBMer from way back, and we had one of the first desktop computers they made.  Huge thing, glowing green monitor, and cost thousands (IIRC).  I remember trying to figure out how to use the word processor (which may have been Wordstar or something even earlier) and getting frustrated that doing much of anything required knowing that you needed to move the cursor over to the spot (no mouse, arrow keys), and hold down control-alt-f5 or some such.  We had a printed card that sat on top the of the computer to remind you off all the commands.

 

Was that WordPerfect? I remember at the time that card with the combination of shift, ctrl or alt with a function key was actually a big step forward for user-friendliness. Before that there was WordStar which, as I recall, was really indecipherable.

 

Back then, I thought wordprocessing was pretty useful. Unless you were a master typist, you had to deal with correction tape and correction fluid. I actually had a typewriter that literally let you make copies by remembering every keystroke you made and retyping it, right down to repeating your typos and typing over them with the correction tape.

 

Back then, it was amazing just to have your paper saved so you could revise it and print it again without having to retype the whole thing. And then came spell check (which just highlighted misspelled words and left you to figure out what you did wrong).

 

And even though Lotus 1-2-3 wasn't meant for it, a lot of people did use it as a wordprocessor. I never understood it, but for some people it was easier to learn how to make a spreadsheet format text a certain way than to learn another program.

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The 900 dollar price quoted by the one guy was a wholesale price not the retail price. Also about late 1984 everybody and their brother had an ibm clone running msdos.

so many differnet brands. Sears where my mother worked had about 8 different brands. I remember trying to save up 1200 dollars for a computer that looks a lot like the giant.

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Back then, I thought wordprocessing was pretty useful. Unless you were a master typist, you had to deal with correction tape and correction fluid.

Also worth remembering how quickly things changed then.  Quick story - not long after the time this episode was set, I worked for a summer for IBM myself.  Lots of interesting stories from that experience, but the most interesting for our present purposes was my first job for them: destroying typewriters.  These were high-end machines and brand new, and IBM cranked them out by the metric ton.  Our job (with an absolutely hilarious crew I remember to this day) was to efficiently unpack brand new machines, strip out the valuable metal components, and toss the bits into the recycle bin.  Things had changed so fast with the introduction of word processors that IBM was still wondering how much to scale back their production lines.  

 

This was also balanced by, I shit thee not, the fact that IBM made money on machines they manufactured and then destroyed immediately - they got a tax credit that not only covered the manufacturing cost but also showed a profit.  Not as much as selling the things but enough to not scale back the manufacturing as quickly as they might have, just to be sure.  This interregnum lasted about a year or two when it became clear that the typewriter would never again hold pride of place in the american office - 100 years of practice changed (proverbially) overnight.  

 

I'll give this show that much - they have managed to capture the whole 'history changing before your eyes' energy pretty well.  

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Which were in actuality stolen by Apple from Xerox.  Apparently Xerox was, in the early 70s, in a position to inherit the world, and their list of their then-employees reads now like a Who's Who of tech billionaires.  And at some point a young buck named Steve Jobs got a glimpse of their GUI & Mouse box and saw his future.  

 

Apple paid a million or a lot of stock just to get to visit PARC.

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Also worth remembering how quickly things changed then.  Quick story - not long after the time this episode was set, I worked for a summer for IBM myself.  Lots of interesting stories from that experience, but the most interesting for our present purposes was my first job for them: destroying typewriters.  These were high-end machines and brand new, and IBM cranked them out by the metric ton.  Our job (with an absolutely hilarious crew I remember to this day) was to efficiently unpack brand new machines, strip out the valuable metal components, and toss the bits into the recycle bin.  Things had changed so fast with the introduction of word processors that IBM was still wondering how much to scale back their production lines.

 

  That makes me think of the office space scene where they all get pissed and destroy the printer while "Damn it feels good to be a gangster" plays. 

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I don't know where to post this, so if anyone can tell me, please do:

 

I MISS THE CODER MONKEYS.

 

I posted a new topic thread with this title, but it got yanked off. So I don't know where else to put it. Can any of the tech experts talk about these guys (I didn't see any girls). What kind of job do they actually do and where do they usually end up career wise. 

 

I'll try to give the ELI5 version.  First, from what we know, no one is in the office right now; the place was shut down the previous episode by the cops because of the suspected embezzling; it's unclear what the other characters are thinking about this (Are we fired?  Is the PC division gone?  What's going on?) but the last episode and a half have just been Our Gang making a crazy trip to Vegas to try to sell the Giant anyway, hoping that in doing so they'll be able to go back to Cardiff dripping with success, and Nathan Cardiff will be impressed enough by actual sales orders to make any legal/funding/focus issues go away (except for Bosworth) and put more money into the PC division.

 

That said, we've only gone about 72 hours or so in show time past the point where the cops walked into and arrested Bosworth; they stole the Giant that night, headed to Vegas, and set up their pirated suite using some clever shenanigans.  If they're back in a couple of days with 100,000 in Giant orders (if they made even $50 in profit per model, they'd have made $5M on what was about $2M in PC division investment), Cardiff is sensible enough and business-savvy enough to return to business as usual and push to meet those sales in manufacturing... and that week off would have been just a tense vacation for the rank-and-file employees.

 

However, the Code Monkeys were all software guys.  Cameron wrote the BIOS, because that was the cornerstone of taking a generic 8086 processor chip and making an IBM-compatible clone out of it: the BIOS instructions would be the same as on an IBM machine.  That's why the very first episode had them doing the voltage check, over and over, on all permutations of inputs; they were cataloguing the full list of "if you send in 00110010, you get back this" after which Cameron, knowing *how* a BIOS works, has to reverse engineer one that behaves like IBM's but is optimally actually faster/better, without referencing the list that Joe/Gordon made.  In doing so she actually achieved something quite impressive, especially at her age and experience, and we've been hinted at with dialogue that she essentially "wowed" both IBM and other software companies, hence her being the "talk of the town" around the industry.  Whatever the fate of Cardiff, Joe, or Gordon & Donna... Cameron will be fine, and probably land at some hot startup and be a milliionaire at age 25.

 

That BIOS would then be a fully legal clone- so long as they maintained the two room approach- but allow businesses to still run their existing apps on the clone: now, instead of buying that IBM for $1800 or whatever, you buy a portable Cardiff for $1200, save $600 for various three martini lunches, and can still run all your same programs the same way.  From Wikipedia: "The BIOS additionally provides an abstraction layer for the hardware, i.e. a consistent way for application programs and operating systems to interact with the keyboard, display, and other input/output devices. Variations in the system hardware are hidden by the BIOS from programs that use BIOS services instead of directly accessing the hardware.".

 

After that and the hardware construction, you really just need some kind of OS- even just an MS-DOS clone, which is what they had made until Cameron wanted to make an "Adventure" like interface.  This OS should have file system support, basic utilities for managing the system, and basic drivers to support common devices generically like a video display, keyboards, or printers.  The Code Monkeys, along with Cameron, would have been responsible for generating this Operating System and its drivers/utilities in lieu of licensing MS-DOS from Microsoft- and presumably later crafting the Adventure-like interface, since YoYo had already made a modified version just for Cameron.  However, once their work was done- even assuming the place wasn't under investigation- they'd like have been let go or at least trimmed to necessary personal to focus on v2 work or bug maintenance.  In this time period, you wouldn't be rapidly evolving an OS like you did today, with constant patching and updates and new versions every 2-3 years; you'd be putting all your effort into minimizing hardware costs or improving speed/memory so the 1985 Giant is lighter, faster, and prettier... but probably still running a basic DOS shell.

 

Assuming this show has some kind of happy ending this season for our ragtag Cardiff team- which seems unlikely, what with the final episode being titled "1984" that says to me they'll build on the demo of the Apple ][* this episode... and assuming the show miraculously gets picked up for a second season with what appear to be poor ratings and critical snubbing... well, then maybe we'll see the Code Monkeys back to develop a more Mac-like interface, or an early pre-Windows GUI effort, etc.  But I suspect we have seen the last of the Code Monkeys in this show.

 

* by the way, belated mad props to Shriekingeel for the brilliant pun "Apple-theosis". :)

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Cameron wrote the BIOS, because that was the cornerstone of taking a generic 8086 processor chip and making an IBM-compatible clone out of it: the BIOS instructions would be the same as on an IBM machine.  That's why the very first episode had them doing the voltage check, over and over, on all permutations of inputs; they were cataloguing the full list of "if you send in 00110010, you get back this" after which Cameron, knowing *how* a BIOS works, has to reverse engineer one that behaves like IBM's but is optimally actually faster/better, without referencing the list that Joe/Gordon made.

I think the clean room approach means that Cameron could see the list that Joe and Gordon made, but she could not use or even get near an IBM with that BIOS chip. She had to write an algorithm or program that duplicated all the responses from all the inputs, but she had to write it in a way that would take up less space than just writing a bunch of "if this then that" statements. The thing that they treated like a hot potato in the early episode was IBM's specification book that essentially had all the BIOS information in it. If Cameron used that at all, IBM had a case for a lawsuit.

 

From what I understand now, this was not really the case. IBM had already published a lot of this information for manufacturers of peripherals and such.

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Another solid episode, easily the best of the season. I guess it's better to start weak and finish strong, than to start strong and peter out.

 

You lose your first game of the season, nbd. You lose in week #12? You might be out of the national championship. It took a little too long to get to these two episodes, but they were good.

 

Possibly they were already acquainted with each other. 

 

Gordon and Donna could have had her boss/HS friend over for a bbq where the neighbors came over too. It's not a huge stretch to me.

 

And boo hoo hoo to all the drama of Cameron's "personal" operating system having to get pulled in order to make the Giant a viable product for now.  She still gets credit for the bios, and the "personal" operating system can be sold as an upgrade or V2.0 later to make even more money.

 

 

Gordon made the right call and Joe sold it right, but she can be pissed if she wants. The one change they made was the one creative thing she did. I hope she can get over it and realize the machine works because of her BIOS. 

 

Why didn't Joe just check into the hotel as himself?  He was already scheduled to go to the convention, just check in as Joe and say John is coming later.  Then when he went to use his own credit card, they could have gotten their room back.

 

Maybe if he figured Bos' name was on the reservation and they might ask too many questions. But one thing I think is BS is that it's Las Vegas. Joe was right. I have a valid credit card; i.e., money. Who gives a fuck what my name is? That was little contrived, but I liked the scam they pulled. Very Vegas.

 

Despite the blow up with Donna, Gordon was pretty fucking effective. 

 

I'm not an Apple user so I wasn't awed at the end, especially since we all know that the pc did ok for itself. 

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I think they are coder monkeys because they are early in their career. What they are actually doing is writing the programs or code that lets the computer talk to various devices like printers and disk drives and other computers. It's the kind of thing that lots of people can do if they can write programs, but it is long and boring stuff that has to be done.

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This episode and the prior entry, The 214's have been the strongest episodes in the series by leaps and bounds. I don't think it's a matter of a lack of consistency, I think what made these episodes work so well is an adherence to consistency. I cant think of a thing that wasn't anticipated in a prior scene or seemed out of character and yet they were filled with surprises. I do think however that there was a definite difference in that the dilemmas faced in these episodes raised  genuine questions as to whether the Giant would be a success or even be manufactured at all. Before this there was a "lets put on a show kids(!)" quality to any drama attached to the making of the computer, it always seemed a foregone conclusion that at the end they would have a successful and fabulously groundbreaking product and the real story lay in the effects the process would have on the main characters. The way the it was amped up to where the stakes seemed too high, too binary so that the choices seemed be between utter failure or undeniable, possibly enormous success made it hard to completely invest in all the bumps along the way, because in no way did this seem to be a show about a failure. When there is only one acceptable outcome in order for the narrative to continue, the journey to that destination better be interesting but the central story arc was just a framework for the characters to inhabit rather than it's own compelling narrative until the past two episodes.  It also stopped being about either necessary success or unacceptable failure with a third possibility of just being good enough to survive surfacing as a possibility.

 

I think it's a hard show to enjoy on a superficial basis. None of three main characters are obviously likeable people, though I tend to find likeabilty is overrated when to comes to characters I actually enjoy watching outside of shorter entertainments like movies. A lot of the joy of both plot and character is in details that are easy to miss if a viewer keeps their attention on the main focus of a scene and tries to parse out anything that seems obviously symbolic. Yes there are things that are pretty obvious: Cardiff produces the Giant, upstart Whitwell takes aim at it with the Slingshot, but it's more satisfying to consider all the little breadcrumbs that something was off about Hunt Whitmarsh's behaviour and wonder at what point did he turn a bit of inappropriate flirtation with an old high-school friend into a venal act of industrial espionage? 

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I bailed on Mad Men after about the first (half) season. The hook they had was the knowing references to what life was like in the 60s. I still remember the bit about the kid playing with a plastic bag and the mom not worrying about him suffocating, but ruining a good dry cleaning bag. For me, the crazier subplots about Don and his weird secret life wore me down. 

 

This show is a little different. Sure, they have 80s clothes and hair, but the show is like a computer programmer, focused on what happens in the computer lab. The show is getting better for me, not worse. Joe is kind of a Don Draper here, but I think he is actually aware he can be replaced and the rest of them could get along.

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Joe is kind of a Don Draper here, but I think he is actually aware he can be replaced and the rest of them could get along.

 

 

I think Joe is in many ways opposite to Don Draper, in that Don always had the security of knowing he had undeniable talent at what he did whereas Joe is shown time and time again to be deeply insecure about his own stunted creativity. Joe fears that all he is, is an empty suit. 

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Fair point, but I was thinking more about an actual Cameronesque interface.

Ah, well, I still can't manage to actually watch this show, and the idea that Cameron is supposed to be more innovative than everyone at Xerox Parc combined is one of the reasons why.

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One of the major temptations of the show is putting words in the mouths of characters from 1983 that are a window into 30 years from then. We know what "computers" are now, but much of it was inconceivable back then, even by people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Home computers were a novelty at best. Modems connected small computers with slightly bigger computers and anyone on what we call the internet now was doing it with a hard line to a mainframe.

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I think it's a hard show to enjoy on a superficial basis. None of three main characters are obviously likeable people, though I tend to find likeabilty is overrated when to comes to characters I actually enjoy watching outside of shorter entertainments like movies.

 

I don't need to like any characters or 'root' for any in order to like a show. As long as I'm not bored by them and their realistic, then I'm fine. Honestly, most people irl aren't that likeable either. 

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