The AMC television series Halt and Catch Fire, now in its third season, explores the personal computer revolution in the 1980s, but it’s far from the only TV show or movie to explore the tech industry and its culture.
But why is Hollywood—and its audience—so interested? Because we want to know how today’s world, technologically speaking, came to be.
“There’s really a question of, ‘How did we get here?'” said the show’s co-creator, Christopher Cantwell, on Monday at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. “Who did this to us, and why?”
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Modern technology has become so entrenched in our society that it’s impossible to escape or undo, he said. “It’s become so pervasive,” he said. “There’s no off switch to the Internet. There’s no going back.”
And so we are fascinated by how things used to be. Halt and Catch Fire depicts the rise of a fictional Texas technology company 30 years ago, at the beginning of what became known as Silicon Prairie. The 1980s were the onset of the personal computer revolution—but they were also a time before the Internet, connected devices, and virtual reality.
An examination of history is important, said executive producer Melissa Bernstein. “It may provide some insight into where we’re headed and why,” she said.
For example, the role of women in the technology industry. The stories of women who helped push tech forward are largely untold, relative to those of men, but they exist. Halt and Catch Fire’s focus on two female startup founders can offer a window into women’s challenges then, and how little they’ve melted away since.
“It was a period piece,” Bernstein said, reflecting on when she first considered working on the show, “but it felt so relevant.”