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Old 05-28-2014, 01:05 PM   #31
DeDondeEs
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I watched the "sneak preview" last night. One observation on the time-line:

Spoiler:
How are they going to stretch them making an IBM clone out to a whole season or show? They already reverse engineered it and are dealing with IBM legal?

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Old 05-28-2014, 01:49 PM   #32
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You mean the Compaq "portables" that weighed 28 pounds and cost $3000? With the 9" green screen monitor.

Ah, memories.

Anyone else here use the PC Jr? The biggest PC flop in IBM history.
My FIL had one of those and he gave it to me. The thing took forever to boot up. I always felt like I was carrying the codes to the nuclear arsenal when carrying that thing around.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:01 PM   #33
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Part of the show was filmed in the building where I work. They changed the atrium to be a restaurant of a Vegas hotel for CES in the 80's.
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Old 05-28-2014, 02:47 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by DeDondeEs View Post
I watched the "sneak preview" last night. One observation on the time-line:

Spoiler:
How are they going to stretch them making an IBM clone out to a whole season or show? They already reverse engineered it and are dealing with IBM legal?
Spoiler:
The show is about the "war" not just the event that started the war

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Old 06-02-2014, 07:06 AM   #35
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I knew an intense guy like MacMillian in the mid 1980s. I met him when I worked a summer at General Dynamics. A couple years later offered me a job at a company he was starting, but I turned him down. I think that's the zeitgeist the show's trying to capture.

BTW, binary 1101 is a hexadecimal 'D', not 'B'. He could have been reading it little-endian, but then 1110 would have been '7' instead of 'E'.
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Old 06-02-2014, 07:37 AM   #36
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Anyone watch yet? I have it tivo'd, but caught a lukewarm review of it yesterday in the paper:

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Chalk up much of this to the sheer amount of character introduction, exposition and set-up forced into the uneven series opener. Due to faulty programming, it's a mixed bag of delights and drawbacks.

The performances are exceptional. The dialogue is ham-fisted and stilted. The dark, grim tone is intriguing. The pace is choppy.

Will "Halt and Catch Fire" find itself and an audience once all this establishing stuff is out of the way? Will it gives us less programmed byte talk and more dramatic bite?
full review here:

http://www.cleveland.com/tv-blog/ind...arm_start.html
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:29 AM   #37
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I watched.

It seems show is set in Dallas, but I saw the capitol building in an opening scene. Was the blonde girl a student in Austin? Did they drive all the way from Dallas to Austin to pick her up and hire her to keep IBM at bay?
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:49 AM   #38
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Well, how was it smeek? Don't reverse smeek...
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:30 PM   #39
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AMC doing repeat cable showings 10PM tonight
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Old 06-02-2014, 12:54 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by jsmeeker View Post
I watched. It seems show is set in Dallas, but I saw the capitol building in an opening scene. Was the blonde girl a student in Austin? Did they drive all the way from Dallas to Austin to pick her up and hire her to keep IBM at bay?
I think that's exactly what happened. The opening scene was in Austin, but the rest of the episode was in Dallas.

I enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing how they legitimize what Joe and Gordon did.
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Old 06-02-2014, 01:53 PM   #41
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I enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing how they legitimize what Joe and Gordon did.
Being very familiar with the 'real' story made that portion of the episode hard to watch without laughing... But I'm willing to let it slide as they need to get "going" after the pilot. (Same problem I had with the pilot episode of 'Silicon Valley' - the stuff they created would belong 100% to their employer, but hey, you gotta get the show moving)

They'll legitimize it by actually DOING the reverse engineering. What was shown was them just COPYING the IBM BIOS - in a manner that was completely unnecessary and horribly complicated.

If you just wanted to copy the BIOS - you could have done that easily from within MS-DOS - using the "Debug" command worst case. No hunting around with a probe and a soldering iron for the "correct chip that contains the BIOS" - it's the one with the sticker on it that says "Copyright 1979-1981 IBM Corp."

You certainly didn't need to extract each byte by hand using LEDs, paper and pencil. And "running" the extracted code on a TRS-80 III wouldn't have worked, either...

What they'll hopefully show going forward is the newly hired Cameron Howe and a team crafting a work-alike version of the IBM BIOS from scratch using nothing but descriptions of the functionality. Truly reverse-engineered. The issue faced is one of Copyright - you can't copy the work. But you can make something that behaves the same way. Now, that doesn't solve any patent issues - but the number of "software patents" in those days probably wasn't the big concern - simple copyright was.

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Old 06-02-2014, 02:53 PM   #42
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Well, how was it smeek? Don't reverse smeek...
I thought it was OK. The sales engineer sure is moody. And what was up with the lead character (the hot shot ex-IBM sales guy) doing in his home? Hitting baseballs at his window? WTF?

$40k to start as a newbies engineer in 1980 is some pretty good scratch.

I know nothing of how exactly the IBM PC was cloned. I just know that clones emerged. I'm not that hard core about this sort of thing, so I will allow the show a fair amount of artistic license with the technical stuff.
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Old 06-02-2014, 03:12 PM   #43
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I know nothing of how exactly the IBM PC was cloned. I just know that clones emerged. I'm not that hard core about this sort of thing, so I will allow the show a fair amount of artistic license with the technical stuff.
Yeah, I had to "get over it" after watching - what bothered me more is folks reviewing the episode praising the technical accuracy.

Especially when they called what they did in the garage "reverse engineering". Now, the individual techniques they showed - probing pins, extracting ROM contents, etc. are all valid reverse engineering skills - they just don't apply to the 'cloning' of the BIOS... Especially since they even talk about those points in the dialog - that IBM used off-the-shelf parts and so forth. You don't need to probe pins to figure out how it works - call the manufacturer and get the datasheets and some free samples!

Now perhaps we'll see some of the 'real' work (just in summary, though, watching real engineering work would NOT make for good TV!). And I'm hoping they will show the sales guys demonstrating compatibility by running Flight Simulator! But I'll bet they call it a Microsoft product, not SubLOGIC... (yeah, yeah - it will make more sense for the modern audience)
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Old 06-02-2014, 05:19 PM   #44
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You certainly didn't need to extract each byte by hand using LEDs, paper and pencil. And "running" the extracted code on a TRS-80 III wouldn't have worked, either...
Also, you wouldn't use an oscilloscope to measure the pins on an IC when looking for +5 or 0 volts. Additionally the scope was displaying a sine wave when they were calling out either +5 or 0 volts. However, at least when they said +5 volts the sine wave was at the upper part of the scope while at 0 volts it was at the lower part. Had a chuckle about all of that!

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Old 06-02-2014, 06:02 PM   #45
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Gawd as a computer EE you guys are discouraging me from watching
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Old 06-02-2014, 06:06 PM   #46
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if you want it to be a technically accurate documentary on how the pc clone industry started, you probably should avoid it.
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Old 06-02-2014, 06:14 PM   #47
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The Z80 machine was used to disassemble the BIOS ROM to produce the print out, it didn't have to run it. The sine wave on the oscilliscope had a small amplitiude relative to the 5 volts they were measuring and could have been noise.
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Old 06-02-2014, 08:45 PM   #48
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My older brother, a computer engineer, was posting some of the same critiques on FB as you guys. I felt like telling him the program wasn't intended for him.
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Old 06-02-2014, 09:22 PM   #49
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The Z80 machine was used to disassemble the BIOS ROM to produce the print out, it didn't have to run it.
They ran it: "Hey, we got a prompt, that's a good sign".

Now, if two guys read 64K LED hex dumps, transcribed it verbally to paper and then typed in, all without any errors at least in the boot code to actually boot an OS, that would be impressive!

But they really should have used any machine with a ROM programmer to just read the contents of the BIOS directly. They would have gotten themselves "dirty" a heck of a lot faster and still made it out in time for pizza and beer!


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Old 06-02-2014, 09:27 PM   #50
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Gawd as a computer EE you guys are discouraging me from watching
It is just the first episode, and I had the same trouble with Silicon Valley's pilot - but that show is hysterical. I'll give them the legal/technical pass on the first episode - especially since they've set up for a real "clean room" reverse engineering plot to go from here.

And willing to forgive the army of IBM lawyers showing up already - get that scene out of the way...

I am sad, though, that we probably won't see them sketching out the industrial design for their PC on a House of Pies placemat...


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Old 06-02-2014, 10:14 PM   #51
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Watching HCF now...definitely not the most accurate story in reverse-engineering the IBM BIOS. Fun to see the antique hardware and sets though.
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:37 AM   #52
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Caught it last night. Liked it. As with most shows, don't get caught up in the technical inaccuracies and enjoy the story.

This is the golden age of 80s shows...The Americans...HCF.
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:59 AM   #53
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Recorded and on my TiVo to watch.
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Old 06-03-2014, 08:17 AM   #54
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Yeah, I had to "get over it" after watching - what bothered me more is folks reviewing the episode praising the technical accuracy.
Are we talking about reviews by technical people or TV critics? I'd wonder how TV critics would know about the technical accuracy.

Remember, they have to keep this interesting for us viewers who are not as technical as someone like you and make it somewhat accurate. I understood what they were trying to do without knowing much of the technical details around it. It seemed plausible. But I'm no engineer. I think that's enough to tell the story. But I KNEW that folks here who are intimate with the details would find reason to rip it apart.

Overall I liked it. It had a definite Mad Men vibe to it. It wasn't great, but definitely held my interest. I do wonder how they came up with the legal scheme to proceed and how it would stand up in court.
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Old 06-03-2014, 08:21 AM   #55
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My older brother, a computer engineer, was posting some of the same critiques on FB as you guys. I felt like telling him the program wasn't intended for him.
Yes and no. If you're not really any type of "computer person" and you saw that this show is about the beginning of cloning the original PC, you're probably saying "huh"? Thirty years down the road, only those of us who were interested at the time even know that it happened. So the story is going to interest first those who are familiar with it happening....but how do you make the topic interesting to the layman? This is a difficult topic to do that with.
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Old 06-03-2014, 08:22 AM   #56
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Caught it last night. Liked it. As with most shows, don't get caught up in the technical inaccuracies and enjoy the story.

This is the golden age of 80s shows...The Americans...HCF.
Also The Goldbergs
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Old 06-03-2014, 09:48 AM   #57
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Are we talking about reviews by technical people or TV critics? I'd wonder how TV critics would know about the technical accuracy.
Oh, "technical" folks from the tech-blogs. Yeah, certainly wouldn't expect non-tech critics to understand or care about the distinction. On screen, it "looked good"...

Quote:
Remember, they have to keep this interesting for us viewers who are not as technical as someone like you and make it somewhat accurate. I understood what they were trying to do without knowing much of the technical details around it. It seemed plausible. But I'm no engineer. I think that's enough to tell the story. But I KNEW that folks here who are intimate with the details would find reason to rip it apart.
Yeah, like I said, I'm willing to give them a pass to get the story started...

The engineer (having previously designed a computer) would have known exactly how to find and make a copy of the IBM BIOS in a matter of minutes. But the writers needed to explain to the viewers WHY that would bring the army of lawyers for copyright infringement. Which obviously a modern audience can appreciate (certainly more than the homebrew computer crowd of the day did). So the wrote the task (copying the BIOS) as a significant effort, so they could have the payoff of "You idiot, we're going to get sued! We have to start from SCRATCH!".


Quote:
Overall I liked it. It had a definite Mad Men vibe to it. It wasn't great, but definitely held my interest. I do wonder how they came up with the legal scheme to proceed and how it would stand up in court.
They'll create their own work-alike version of the software (BIOS), and while we'll probably see more IBM lawyers, if they do it correctly, it would stand up in court (and in reality - it didn't come to that).

As for the show, the history here is a very cool story - and I applaud them for attempting to bring it to the mainstream.


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Old 06-03-2014, 10:53 AM   #58
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I'm not sure the company history portion is that accurate either. What company is "Cardiff Electric" supposed to represent?

Compaq made the first 100% compatible clone. But that was started by 3 guys who left TI and then formed Compaq just to do that. (And I can't find any reference to them attempting it at TI first.) And TI made some (non IBM PC compatible) computers before that, but it doesn't sound like Cardiff is in that business. So Cardiff doesn't sound like a match for either and the whole sales-guy-forcing-people's-hands story is probably completely made up.

Is it all fiction or have I missed another clone/company?
Fiction... I expected the two guys would leave Cardiff to do their PC on their own, heading to Austin to set up shop. But looks like we're going to see them do it within Cardiff. Which means unfortunately we won't get a scene with the founders discussing whether they should start a PC company or a Mexican restaurant...
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Old 06-03-2014, 11:11 AM   #59
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Ah! You've already replied. I deleted my post because I started to doubt my assumptions: Wikipedia claims Columbia Data Products was the first clone (not 100%). Of course there were several companies trying to do the same, resulting in various levels of compatibility. So maybe we're not watching the winner.

I'm OK with fiction, but it seems like people who watch will take it for history. Fortunately not too many people watch AMC. Anyway, if the sales-guy-forcing-people's-hands story has any historical relationship, I'd like to know. It seems like somebody said: We need a Jobs-type, a maverick with a vision.
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Old 06-03-2014, 12:31 PM   #60
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I think Cardiff is supposed to represent Columbia Data Products...the first company to do a "clean-room" BIOS reverse engineering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Data_Products

And I was impressed on how HCF explained how the clean-room was supposed to work.

I was NOT impressed with all of the rigamarole they did to read the original BIOS chip contents. It's not like a) a BIOS PROM isn't easy to spot on an old motherboard and b) PROM readers were all over the place at that time. *Manually* reading 64K of machine code straight off of LED lights on a bread board *looked* cool but was completely implausible.
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