Spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2 are unmarked.
Joe MacMillan is a charismatic former IBM sales executive with a checkered past. Joe comes to Cardiff Electric with the intentions of creating a computer to topple the juggernaut that is IBM's Personal Computer. Joe's often risky and progressive East Coast corporate thinking puts him with odds with the more conservative higher-ups at Cardiff Electric.
After the launch of the Giant, he abruptly leaves Cardiff to go on another personal mission. In that time, he reconnects with an old college classmate of his, Sara Wheeler. However, it ultimately doesn't work out, and Joe goes to Silicon Valley to start his own company, MacMillian Utility.
- All for Nothing:
- Despite the Giant being a commercial success, Joe feels like the project was a failure since it wasn't the game-changing machine he wanted.
- His efforts to change the computer landscape definitely end up being all for nothing when Nathan Cardiff tears up his dividend check.
- His efforts to bring Westgroup Energy into tech fails after Cameron sabotages WestNet.
- Anti-Hero: Joe's ambitions are morally ambiguous at best to downright sociopathic at worst.
- Batman Gambit: Joe often relies on these to advance his goals; essentially, the Giant project is a series of these.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: In Gordon's gambit to secure Cardiff a suite at COMDEX, Joe poses as an IBM rep to back Gordon's bluff.
- Being Good Sucks: In Season 2, he tries to reinvent himself as a more authentic person; however, everything (e.g. his plans for Westgroup, his marriage to Sara, etc.) goes wrong for him, and he reverts back to his old slick, dangerous and highly-motivated self.
- Berserk Button:
COMDEX Attendee: What about IBM? I heard they might be coming out with a portable.
- Mentioning IBM during one of his sales pitches for the Giant.
Joe: I'm sick of hearing about IBM! IBM scraps more projects in a day than any of us attempt in a year!
- A business executive suggests to Joe that everyone would be better off if all gay people contracted AIDS. Joe is bisexual and has lost friends to AIDS. Joe barely controls his Tranquil Fury and gives the executive a The Reason You Suck speech while crushing the guy's hand.
- Mentioning Ryan in a bad light. Tom, Cameron's husband, found this out the hard way, when the two get into a physical altercation.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Lev tells Donna that the former Cardiff coders used to call Joe "Admiral Eyebrows".
- Bully and Wimp Pairing: Early on, Joe is the Bully to Gordon's Wimp.
- Burn Baby Burn:
- In "Close to the Metal", he burns the binder containing the source code he and Gordon compiled from their reverse engineering of the IBM PC BIOS after Cameron's own BIOS has surpassed the Dothery Threshold.
- In "1984", he torches the freight truck containing the first shipment of Giants.
- Cassandra Truth: Because of his lies and manipulation back at Cardiff Electric, Joe cannot catch a break when he tells the truth.
- In "Limbo", Joe finds out that his successor, Jesse Evans, had copied Mutiny and locked them out of Westgroup's network. He goes to the Mutiny house to tell them that he's not responsible; however, no one believes him. Jesse later tells Donna that Joe wasn't responsible for WestNet.
- In "Kali", Cameron sabotages WestNet during Westgroup's shareholders meeting by uploading Sonaris to the Westgroup mainframe, and Sara believes that Joe did it. Joe tells her that he was unaware of Cameron's actions; however, Sara doesn't believe him. In the following episode, the Westgroup board of directors also believe that Joe is responsible for Sonaris. Gordon, as Sonaris' creator, is the only one who knows Joe is not responsible.
- Cool Car: His Porsche 944; however, he had to sell it in order to finance Cardiff's trip to COMDEX.
- Consummate Liar: Joe lies to everyone about his intentions. Often, someone will call him out on a lie, and Joe will pacify him/her with another lie.
- Control Freak: In "The 214s", Gordon claims that Joe got everyone at Cardiff Electric to bend to his will.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: When Jacob offers him a job with Westgroup, Joe says he's not looking for charity. Jacob replies that he's not looking to give it either.
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- He spent the better part of two years in a hospital after he fell off a roof and onto a fence as a child.
- He left IBM under mysterious circumstances without giving formal notice.
- Entitled Bastard: Nathan Cardiff outright calls him this. Joe's own father even tells Cameron that he's like this, telling her that Joe got his promotions by taking them rather than earning them.
- Every Man Has His Price: Subverted. Joe's father offers him a chance to return to IBM, forgiving Joe's transgressions in the process. Joe initially accepts; however, Joe is convinced to see the Giant project through by Gordon and Cameron.
- Expy: Of Don Draper.
- Guile Hero: Lampshaded by Cameron in "Landfall".Cameron: You want a piece of advice, Joe?
Joe: Not really.
Cameron: Your whole thing, it attracts people, but it won't keep them around. Authenticity is what inspires people. If you want to lead people, you have to show them who you really are. Otherwise, you're just a thousand-dollar suit with nothing inside. No one gives a shit.
- Heel Realization:
- In Season 2, after Cameron agrees to sell Mutiny to Westgroup, Jacob reveals that he wants to cut games development from Mutiny. Joe realizes that this is not what he wanted for Mutiny, and he urges Cameron to pull out of the deal.
- In Season 3, Joe ends up saying to Ryan Ray, "I don't want to work with Joe MacMillan." As well, the warmth he exudes for PR in "Valley of the Heart's Delight" appears to have become genuine as he tells Cameron she was right to push him to admit stealing Sonaris, as it let him reconcile with Gordon and get to work on the new backbone project.
- Hidden Depths: Beneath his cool and charismatic exterior lies a very unstable man.
- Hot-Blooded: Zig-Zagged. Joe tries to keep a cool and calm demeanor; however, whenever he lets his emotions go, his outbursts are rather flamboyant.
- Humble Pie: Joe is offered a job by Sara's father Jacob. However, that job is as a low-level data entry technician.
- Hypocrite: Early on, he claims that mediocrity and making a project about one's self leads to the downfall of a company. However, his ego gets irrecoverably tied to any project he undertakes and he will abandon the project if he doesn't get the result he wanted or expected. Case in point, he destroys the first shipment of Giants and abruptly leaves Cardiff Electric.
- It's All About Me:
- Gordon believes that reverse engineering the IBM PC is solely for Joe's own benefit.
- When Joe hears of a rumor that IBM was developing a portable PC, he believes that his father planned it to spite him; however, Joe Sr. tells his son that the project was started by an independent IBM team who were likely unaware of Joe and Cardiff Electric.
- Jerkass: He manipulates his colleagues to get what he wants.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: When the remnants of Hurricane Alicia batter Dallas, Joe tries to comfort Haley and Joanie when they get scared of the storm.
- Karma Houdini: Played with. He flooded an IBM data center, causing over $2 million in damages. Joe never faces any repercussions for his actions even after his former boss Dale Butler catches up to him; Butler tells Joe that the insurance payout from the damages actually made money for IBM. Joe Sr. later tells his son that people at IBM have short memories. However, at Cardiff Electric, he doesn't get off scot-free for his actions.
- The Kirk: To Gordon's Spock and Cameron's McCoy. Joe is the ambitious and charismatic salesman who tries to unify Gordon's logic and Cameron's emotion to create a revolutionary IBM PC clone.
- Large Ham: Whenever he loses his cool demeanor, sometimes to the point of Chewing the Scenery.
- Laser-Guided Karma:
- He falls victim to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by two sheriff's deputies towards the end of "Close to the Metal". However, this incident was orchestrated by Bosworth to tell Joe that the former is still in charge at Cardiff Electric.
- It took over a year after the fact; however, Joe gets his comeuppance for his lies and manipulations at Cardiff Electric when Nathan tears up his dividend check, leaving Joe with nothing.
- And then, later on, Joe's caginess and Gordon's past experience with the way Joe operates gives Gordon the clues he needs to rip off Joe's plan to make money off becoming an Internet backbone provider. Only a last-minute blow-up at Mutiny gives Gordon the notion to let Joe stay on - otherwise Joe would have been rendered broke and unemployed while Gordon would reap the rewards.
- Manipulative Bastard: He often puts those he manipulates into situations where they can't or won't say "no" to him.
- Missing Mom: Joe's mother abandoned him as a child. Or rather, Joe Sr. sent her away because of her drug addiction and lied to his son about it.
- Missing Steps Plan: Beyond making it portable and twice the speed at half the cost of the IBM PC, Joe is unsure of what the Cardiff PC should be like and more importantly, how to convince people to buy it.
- New Job as the Plot Demands:
- Pre-series, he worked for IBM.
- In Season 1, he becomes a salesman for Cardiff Electric, eventually becoming co-President before abruptly leaving.
- In Season 2, he joined his future father-in-law's oil company, Westgroup Energy, before creating his own company, MacMillian Utility.
- In the season 3 finale, he becomes an independent consultant after his ousting from his namesake company, and eventually works with Gordon again.
- In Season 4, he is co-owner with Gordon of an internet service provider, CalNect, before transitioning to working on Comet.
- By the series' end, he becomes a humanities teacher at a prep school.
- No-Sell: Joe tries to sink a grossly unfair deal by giving an heiress and potential investor a rather scathing "Reason You Suck" Speech; however, she doesn't flinch. Joe then succeeds in breaking the deal by making out with the heiress' boyfriend.
- Not Me This Time: After the FBI shuts down Cardiff Electric for an embezzlement scandal, Gordon accuses Joe of setting up Bosworth in order to oust him. Cameron then admits that she did the hack job at Bosworth's behest.
- Occidental Otaku: Like any self-respecting yuppie in the '80s, he shows an interest in Japanese culture. His knowledge of how to conduct meetings with Japanese businessmen is crucial to obtaining a key component for the Giant. At MacMillan Utility, he serves green tea from a tetsubin teapot at business meetings.
- Only Friend: To Gordon.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Joe tells off potential investor LouLu Rutherford by stating that mediocrity and making businesses decisions about one's self are the two things that leads to a business's failure.
- He gives one to Gordon in front of his engineering team when Gordon's drunkenness very nearly cost them a critical supply deal with a Japanese electronics firm. However, Gordon reveals that he had already resolved the situation before Joe intervened.
- Joe is the recipient of one by Gordon, when the former states he plans to return to IBM when it looks like the Giant won't see the light of day. After Joe gets riled up, Gordon then gives a Rousing Speech to convince Joe to see the Giant project through.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to Gordon's Blue, and Blue to Cameron's Red.
- Refuge in Audacity: Joe telling IBM that he and Gordon reverse engineered the IBM PC as well as deliberately sabotaging Cameron's workstation for publicity.
- Rousing Speech: As a salesman, he often gives these; at COMDEX, when one of the convention goers says he sees nothing unique about the Giant, Joe gives a pretty convincing argument on why speed is more important than uniqueness.COMDEX Attendee: So, it's fast and it runs all the software, but besides portability, I'm not seeing a lot that's special. Nothing unique.
Joe: "Unique." Interesting word choice. What are you really asking for? Something special? Give me something warm, something fuzzy? This is a machine. It's not your friend; it's your employee! It works for you, and the way it should be evaluated is thus, how well and how fast does it do the things I ask? Answer, "Instantly"; anything less is a waste of your time. What is the margin of error? Answer, "Zero"; anything more and you've failed. Here's another word, one that's infinitely more important than "unique" will ever be... "speed". Let's cut through the bullshit and act like adults. You want speed, and this machine is the fastest one you'll find, period. You wanna play a game with your kid, join him for craft time at preschool. You want a buddy, buy a dog. You want to chase rainbows, tilt the room, walk outside. There are a hundred casinos out there built for delusional people like you who think their world is gonna change so easily. You wanna get something done, buy one of these!
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Played with.
- Subverted in "The 214s", when Joe was ready to walk out on the Giant and return to IBM, Gordon convinces him to see their project through.
- Played straight two episodes later in "1984" when Joe torches the first shipment of Giants and abruptly leaves Cardiff Electric.
- Sink-or-Swim Mentor: Joe often puts Gordon and Cameron into situations where they have to use all their potential to succeed while failure would ruin their lives.
- Small Name, Big Ego: As Gordon puts it in "The 214s", Joe can spin a good word, but Gordon claims that Joe is no visionary.
- The Sociopath:
- He torches the first shipment of Giants because it wasn't the game-changing machine he wanted to build.
- When meeting with venture capitalist Tim Bondham, Bondham claims that he had never met a "legitimate psychopath" before referring to Joe's supposed sabotage of Westgroup as well as his dramatic departure from Cardiff Electric.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: He is prone to doing this whenever he loses his cool.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Joe, Sr. tells Cameron that he gave his son the world, only to be spat in his face by Joe.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Cameron gives Joe a "demo disk" of Mutiny's new UI; however, he doesn't realize that it contains the Sonaris program, which wipes out WestNet.
- Was It Really Worth It?: After removing Cameron's ambitious OS from the Giant, Joe contemplates this during his sales pitch.
- What the Hell, Hero?: As a Manipulative Bastard, he has plenty of these moments.
- In "I/O", he deliberately tells IBM that he and Gordon reverse engineered the IBM PC BIOS in order to force Cardiff Electric into the PC business.
- In "Close to the Metal", to get publicity for the Cardiff PC in a major business journal, he destroys Cameron's workstation and convinces her that she degaussed her backup disks, all in the journalist's presence.
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Nathan Cardiff sees Joe as such, calling him a "rattlesnake".
Gordon Clark was a once promising hardware engineer and system builder; however, he suffered a very public humiliation at COMDEX '81 when the Symphonic, a computer he and his wife Donna built, failed to boot. Since the failure, he has resigned to take a job with Cardiff Electric as a low-level sales engineer to support his family. The resentment of said failure has led Gordon to drinking and subsequently neglecting his wife and two young daughters. When Joe approaches Gordon with the opportunity of reverse engineering the IBM PC, Gordon sees it (although not initially) as a second chance for greatness.
The Giant is a success, and Gordon becomes the Co-President of Cardiff Electric along with Joe; however, after Joe's abrupt departure, Gordon ends up becoming the sole President of the company. After Nathan Cardiff sells off Cardiff Electric and Gordon cashes out, he now has a lot of money and a lot of free time on his hands.
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: After a drunken indiscretion with Japanese businessmen, Gordon goes to his father-in-law, who brokered the meeting in the first place, to beg him to repair the damage Gordon has done.
- The Alcoholic:
Gordon: (seeing Haley and Joanie in the back seat) Come on. You didn't have to bring the kids.
- His Establishing Character Moment has Donna bailing him out of jail.
Donna: I think I did.
- His drunkenness in front of Japanese businessmen nearly costs Cardiff a critical supply deal for the PC project.
- Armor-Piercing Question: After learning that Hunt had copied the Giant, the first thing Gordon asks Donna: "Are you sleeping with him?".
- Awful Wedded Life:
Gordon: (to Donna) When I found out I was sick, I looked around for my marriage and it wasn't there. You weren't there. Maybe maybe this has been broken for a long time, and we're the only ones who don't know it.
- After the failure of the Symphonic, he neglects his wife and two young daughters.
- In "Heaven Is a Place", after Joanie runs away from home, Gordon and Donna finally admit that their marriage is very close to failing.
- Batman Gambit:
- In "The 214s", Gordon hastily disassembles the Giant prototype, figuring that the Feds would not seize "spare parts" as evidence. He later breaks into the office at night to steal the Giant's components and reassembles the machine at his garage.
- In "Up Helly Aa", Gordon deliberately sabotages another company's lackluster presentation to get Cardiff Electric a suite at COMDEX. During the presentation, Gordon goads the presenters into demoing their product, while Joe poses as an IBM representative to back up Gordon's bluff when Gordon claims that IBM is coming out with a similar product.
- Berserk Button: Early on, belittling the Symphonic; Gordon nearly snaps at one of his daughters when Donna called it silly.
- Boring, but Practical: Gordon was against the more radical changes to the Giant (e.g. Cameron's operating system, Simon Church's case design, etc). Gordon ultimately makes the Giant this by removing Cameron's OS and installing MS-DOS.
- Bully and Wimp Pairing: Early on, Gordon is the Wimp to Joe's Bully.
- Call-Back: In "I/O", Donna has to bail Gordon out of jail for public drunkenness. 10 years later, he has to bail Donna out of jail for drunk driving.
- Character Development: Gordon goes from a miserable drunk who hates his job and is reluctant to take any risks to someone who takes initiative when the chips are down.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Donna fears that he's becoming this after he reveals to her that he has brain damage.
- Creator Couple: In-universe with Donna.
- He and Donna created the Symphonic, and later the Giant.
- In "1984", he invites Donna to work as head engineer at Cardiff Electric; however, she declines his offer deciding to work with Cameron at Mutiny instead. Gordon eventually joins Mutiny at the behest of Donna.
- Determinator: At COMDEX, when Cardiff's efforts looked all for naught, he comes up with a plan to get a room and booth space.
- Dinner with the Boss: In "Landfall", Gordon invites Joe over for dinner; however, Gordon hasn't returned home from a doll hunting quest, so Joe has to put up with Gordon's two daughters as well as Donna's lobbying (on Gordon's behalf) for no further changes to the Cardiff PC.
- Disco Dan: In the first season, with his beard and his taste in music, Gordon's still very much stuck in the 70's. He even says everything went wrong for him after 1980 in the first episode. He starts getting with the times in later seasons, though.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Deconstructed. While Gordon started from the bottom and risen to the top, he was unsure of what to do next after Joe abruptly leaves Cardiff Electric.
- Endearingly Dorky: Gordon has those moments including his fascination for Star Wars, love of video games and camping. Not to mention his dating video in season 3.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Of the facial hair variety. In "1984", just before he and Donna leave for the Giant launch party, Gordon shaves his beard, signifying his rise to the top and him getting his life back together.
- Expy: Of Walter White.
- Five-Finger Discount: After being cheated out $80 for Cabbage Patch dolls, he resorts to breaking a toy store's front window and stealing two dolls from the display.
- Hypocrite: In "Up Helly Aa", he chews Donna out for having a supposed affair with her former boss Hunt; however, in "10Broad36", he has an affair himself with his brother's ex-high school girlfriend no less.
- I Coulda Been a Contender!: The failure of the Symphonic leads him to believe this. He drops this mentality when the Giant proves to be a success.
- I Did What I Had to Do: To make the Giant competitive at COMDEX, Gordon removes Cameron's OS from the machine.Gordon: We had a problem. Now we have a product.
- I Have a Family: Gordon is at first reluctant to reverse engineer the IBM PC with Joe, saying he has a wife, two young daughters, and a mortgage to think about.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: In "Goodwill", we see a flashback to what Gordon was like before he became an alcoholic, and it turns out that he was actually even more of an emotional wreck, prone to abandoning his family for days on end because he couldn't handle the stress of providing for them. It's implied that he started drinking as a replacement behavior.
- I Reject Your Reality: Throughout season 2, he refuses to come to terms with his brain damage; however, after breaking his leg in a parking garage stairwell, he finally admits to Donna that he needs help.
- It's All About Me: Gordon believes that he was the only one affected by the Symphonic's failure, not realizing that it affected Donna just as much.
- Jaded Washout: After the failure of the Symphonic and taking a job at Cardiff Electric below his skills, his favorite part of the work day was clocking out. He eventually sheds this after the Giant project proves to be successful.
- Killed Off for Real: Dies of a stroke in "Who Needs a Guy".
- Let's Have Another Baby: Towards the end of "Heaven Is a Place", he implies to Donna that they might have another child, and Donna excuses herself to cry because she has yet to tell Gordon about her abortion.
- The Load: In season 3, he has become convinced that everyone looks down on him because of his brain damage and because his contributions to Mutiny are largely financial.
- Lonely at the Top: At the end of Season 1, Gordon is unsure of how to move forward after Joe abruptly leaves Cardiff.
- Loose Lips:
- Gordon and Donna have been insulting Cameron in front of their two daughters.
- Gordon nearly blows a critical supply deal when he talks shit about his father-in-law's catalog company to Japanese electronic manufacturers.
- Gordon reveals that Joe was behind the sabotage of Cameron's BIOS work while ranting about how Joe comes out on top of Cardiff's crises.
- After getting angry with Cameron, he tells her fellow coders that she's been sleeping with Joe, and then falsely claims that this is the sole reason she has a job.
- In "Flipping the Switch", Gordon loses his temper and airs all of his and Donna's dirty laundry in front of Mutiny's staff.
- In "The Threshold", Gordon rushes to tell Cameron about Donna pushing with the IPO when Donna was probably leaning to working with Cameron to try and resolve their issues. The resulting blowup at Mutiny leaves bad feelings all around.
- My God, What Have I Done?: His Sonaris program unintentionally wipes out Mutiny's BBS software.
- My Greatest Failure: The Symphonic. However, when Gordon feels that the Giant will succeed, he destroys the Symphonic in front of Donna.
- My Greatest Second Chance: The Giant.
- New Job as the Plot Demands:
- In Season 1, while Gordon remains at Cardiff Electric, his role within the company changes a few times. At the start of the series, he is a low-level sales engineer. By the second episode, he gains his own office as the lead hardware engineer of the PC project.
- At the end of Season 1, he is the sole President of Cardiff Electric; however, he ends up stepping down at the start of Season 2 when the company is liquidated.
- At the end of Season 2, Gordon joins Mutiny at Donna's behest.
- At the start of the final season, he and Joe create an internet service provider, CalNet, and subsequently form the web indexing site Comet.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
- Gordon's drunken indiscretion with the Japanese nearly costs Cardiff a critical supply deal.
- His Sonaris nearly cripples Mutiny, although this was not Gordon's intention.
- Oh, Crap!:
- In "I/O", when Donna pulls into the garage after he and Joe had just finished decompiling the IBM PC BIOS source code.
- When Gordon and Donna come by Mutiny to assess the damage done to the network by malware, Gordon mutters "Oh, shit" under his breath when Tom tells everyone that the malware is Sonaris.
- Once Done, Never Forgotten: He's still remembered for the failed Symphonic demo.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gordon gives one to Joe in "The 214s" when Joe tells Gordon and Cameron that he is returning to IBM. Gordon calls Joe a coward for not seeing the Giant project through.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue to Joe's Red.
- Refuge in Audacity: Donna discovers that Gordon had stolen the Giant prototype from Cardiff Electric after the company had been shut down by the FBI.
- Rousing Speech: Just after giving Joe the aforementioned "Reason You Suck" Speech, Gordon gives a convincing argument on why Joe should stay with Cardiff, highlighting how Joe had changed the people he met.
- Sanity Slippage:
- In "Giant", after he tells the story of the Cardiff Giant to his daughters, he becomes obsessed with "finding the giant".
- In "Limbo", after seeing an ad for another custom PC builder in Byte magazine, he believes that his former colleague Stan had copied his idea, and he later believes that Donna is trying to sabotage him.
- In "Kali", Gordon has a mental breakdown after injuring his ankle and finally finding his car after the paramedics wheel him away on a gurney.
- In "Goodwill", it's hinted that Gordon was never on terribly firm emotional ground to begin with, as he was prone to disappearing for days on end back during the early years of his and Donna's marriage.
- Sarcasm Mode: When Joe says that the Cardiff PC needs to be portable, this is how Gordon responds.Joe: Portability! People need to be able to take it anywhere. It's going to have a handle.Gordon: A handle?! Oh, my God, Joe! I gotta give it to you. This changes everything! A handle; what a revolutionary idea!
- Serious Business: Early on, the Symphonic, and later the Giant, although the Giant is serious business for everyone involved since its failure would sink Cardiff Electric.
- Skewed Priorities: In "Up Helly Aa", he was more concerned with Donna having an extramarital affair than the Giant being plagiarized.
- The Spock: To Joe's Kirk and Cameron's McCoy. Gordon is the pragmatic and logical one of the trio.
- Take That!: He calls Steve Jobs a "megalomaniac who loves form over function", referring to the Apple Macintosh in the Season 1 finale, and later the NeXTcube in the Season 3 finale.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
- He deploys Sonaris without testing it first and without Donna's knowledge, causing massive damage to Mutiny.
- In "The Threshold", he tries to encourage Cameron to work with Donna and Diane, and accidentally convinces her that the two women are planning to take Mutiny away from her, precipitating the fight that results in Cameron leaving the company and Mutiny collapsing.
- Workaholic: He spends many sleepless nights working on the Giant.
Catherine "Cameron" Howe is a college dropout. However, she is a programming prodigy, which is why Joe recruits her for the Cardiff Electric PC project. Her rebellious and free-spirited nature often clash with the professional environment of Cardiff Electric.
After completing the Giant project, she leaves Cardiff to form her own tech startup Mutiny, taking several of Cardiff's software programmers with her.
- Abusive Parents: It's implied that her mother was one in her backstory. In Season 4 it's revealed that she was a Stage Mom, entering Cameron in beauty pageants.
- All Women Are Lustful: When Joe talks with Cameron at a dive bar, they have sex in the back room, with Cameron thinking it was necessary for her to get a job.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Towards the end of "Rules of Honorable Play", she asks Gordon when did he know that he was Cardiff Electric was about to go under, fearing that she's about to experience the same thing with Mutiny.
- Awesome, but Impractical:
- The query-based OS Cameron had developed for the Giant. While her OS was meant to be more user-friendly than the command line interface of MS-DOS, her OS required the full megabyte of RAM the 8088 could address and negatively affected the Giant's weight (only by a few ounces; however, Joe's design goal was 15 pounds or less), boot time, system response time, and IBM PC software compatibility.
- Mutiny, as she ran it. Because there's no clearly defined hierarchy, Cameron's workers bicker amongst one another, and Donna is left to sort the mess out.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Joe during Seasons 1 and 4 and Tom in Season 2.
- Berserk Button: Never, ever ask about her parents.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: During her time at Cardiff Electric, Cameron's methods are unorthodox to say the least.
- Instead of working in an office or a cubicle, she works out of a basement store room.
- In "Adventure", she uses Colossal Cave to weed out excess programmers.
- In "Up Helly Aa", she uses guerrilla marketing tactics to draw attention to the Giant at COMDEX.
- Remembering their first conversation back at Cardiff, she tells Bosworth that he can work at Mutiny, but cannot live at the Mutiny house.
- In "I/O", Cameron plays on a Centipede machine during her "job interview" with Joe. In the series' penultimate episode, Joe bribes Cameron with her own Centipede machine in exchange for obtaining a beta version of Netscape.
- Character Development: In the Season 3 finale, she matures considerably after Mutiny's downfall. She tries to be a team player instead of trying to force through her ideas.
- Cool Big Sis: When Cameron lived with the Clarks in California, Joanie and Haley viewed her as this.
- Control Freak: She wants to run Mutiny as she wishes to run it, even if her business decisions aren't the most sound.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Her father died when she was very little, and her mother was an alcoholic Stage Mom who forced her to compete in child beauty pageants and abused her when she failed to win.
- Deadpan Snarker: Given her rebellious nature, she often makes snide and sarcastic comments.
- Disappeared Dad: Her dad died in Vietnam when she was a little girl.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: After Gordon reveals that Donna was using her own money to pay Mutiny's bills, Cameron threatens to fire Donna if she does it again.
- Drunk with Power: Implied at the end of "Working for the Clampdown".Cameron: (to the Mutiny coders, in a rather blunt tone) Let me just make one thing clear. This is my company, and I'm not selling it.
- Endearingly Dorky: Whenever something manages to break through her tough, jaded exterior, she turns into a kid again. This is perhaps best demonstrated when she and Gordon discover the warp pipes in Super Mario Bros. and she jumps up and down in wide-eyed excitement.
- Every Man Has His Price:
- In "I/O", when Joe recruits her for the Cardiff PC project, he offered an annual salary of $20,000note , and Cameron tells him to double it. Gordon tells Cameron that his wife Donna, despite being a more experienced engineer, only makes $15,000 at TI.
- However, in the following episode, "FUD", this is averted when IBM tries to lure her away from Cardiff for triple her current salary and she refuses.
- Five-Finger Discount:
- She uses a Coin-on-a-String Trick to avoid having to pay for arcade games and shoplifts a stack of boys' t-shirts in a mall clothing store. Later, she is seen pilfering the desks of newly laid off Cardiff employees.
- In "SETI", she plugs in several extension cords from her house to her neighbor's to "solve" Mutiny's blackout problem. Later, she and Donna steal two genuine IBM XTs from a fence after he sold them two Chinese knockoffs.
- Gamer Chick:
- In "I/O", she plays a Centipede arcade machine for over an hour before getting kicked out, when the bar manager discovers her trick quarter.
- In "Adventure", she installs Colossal Cave Adventure on the company mainframe and nearly everyone gets hooked on the game, including Bosworth. She uses this as a test to find out which programmers are worth keeping.
- She starts Mutiny to host games over phone lines.
- Genius Slob: She's a programming prodigy; however, she's rude, unprofessional, and unkempt.
- Genius Sweet Tooth: She's frequently seen enjoying candy and soda.
- Heel Realization:
- After learning that Gordon and Donna insulted her in "Close to the Metal", Cameron takes Donna's purse and keys and drives to the Clark household with the intentions of vandalizing it. However, Gordon's neighbor and recently fired (by Gordon) co-worker Brian confronts her. When Brian insults the Cardiff PC project and encourages Cameron to carry out her vandalism, she realizes that she does care about the project and leaves the Clark household.
- In season 3, she nearly has an epiphany about how being a brat isn't really working out for her and is just harming her company, but just as she's starting to make amends, she learns that Donna lied to her and thus decides that her epiphany was just a result of Donna manipulating her.
- In season 4, with her marriage to Tom having fallen apart and her video-game design career having stalled, and both of these things having happened because of her own actions, she finally has a genuine epiphany that the way she's been doing things for ten years hasn't been working. Unfortunately, she's still working through the ensuing bout of self-loathing.
- Heroic BSoD:
- Cameron never learned how to deal with negative emotions as a kid, so she has a tendency to shut down when she gets upset.
- She suffers one in "Close to the Metal" when her computer is fried and, she believes that she degaussed her backup disks just as she is nearly finished writing the BIOS code. However, this was an engineered crisis orchestrated by Joe in order to get publicity for the Cardiff PC.
- She suffers another one in "Up Helly Aa" when Gordon removes Cameron's query-based operating system from the Giant. Cameron tries to convince Gordon and Joe to restore the OS; however, Joe sides with Gordon, saying that it was necessary in order for Cardiff to survive.
- She suffers from a panic attack in "The Way In" after Gordon unintentionally wipes out Mutiny's BBS with his untested Sonaris program.
- In "Yerba Buena", Bos takes her back to Texas to reunite with her mother, not realizing that Cameron's mother was abusive and controlling. After actually seeing her mother in the distance, Cameron freaks out, bursts out of the car she and Bos have rented and walks away. It's not until a week later that she suddenly reappears in California.
- On what was supposed to be a happy occasion celebrating her marriage to Tom, she suffers from a breakdown when everyone votes against her in delaying Mutiny's IPO.
- Hot-Blooded: She has little to no impulse control and often acts on her emotions.
- Hypocrite: She tells the Mutiny coders to never trust Joe MacMillan. However, when Joe advises Cameron to pull out of the Westgroup acquisition deal, she does so.
- I Did What I Had to Do: In "Kali", to keep Mutiny afloat in the wake of Westgroup's hostile takeover, she sells the rights to "Extract and Defend" to another video game company.
- I Warned You: In "The Threshold", she warns Donna that they're pursuing an IPO too fast and need to improve Mutiny's infrastructure before going public. After Mutiny's failed IPO and subsequent downward spiral, Cameron turned out to be right.
- Insult Backfire: When Donna comes to Cardiff to help recover Cameron's lost BIOS code, Cameron insults Donna by calling her somebody's mother. Donna retorts by saying she is indeed the mother of two young daughters, and tells Cameron that she looked like she needed a mother.
- It Will Never Catch On: In season 4, her career in video-game development stalls because she fails to anticipate that games like Mortal Kombat and Doom aren't just flashes in the pan.
- It's All About Me:
Cameron: I just want everyone to leave Mutiny alone. It's mine.
- For any project she undertakes, she would rather it fail in her own way than deviate from her vision, even if said deviation would bring success.
- At COMDEX, Cameron fails to see the big picture, claiming that Gordon and Joe betrayed her vision for the Giant after Gordon removes her OS from the machine. Bosworth a year later tells her that removing her OS was the right decision for Cardiff Electric from a strictly business standpoint, even if it didn't make sense from a creative standpoint.
- She is rather possessive of Mutiny and her vision for it. When Tom, Donna, and the coders wanted to sell Mutiny to Westgroup for financial stability, Cameron vetoes the sale.
- The Last DJ: She is absolutely unwilling to compromise her vision of Mutiny, even to the point of not kicking off subscribers who don't pay.
- The McCoy:
- In Season 1, she is the McCoy to Joe's Kirk and Gordon's Spock. Her rebellious and free-spirited nature often clashes with her more pragmatic co-workers, especially Gordon.
- In Seasons 2 and 3, despite being the CEO of Mutiny, she is still the McCoy, with Donna as Spock and Bosworth as Kirk.
- Meaningful Name:
- Cameron names the BIOS she wrote for the Giant Lovelace.Cameron: (after the engineers laugh about her name choice) Not Linda Lovelace, you pervs, Ada Lovelace. As in the first computer programmer ever.
- Mutiny, Cameron's new startup company, is so named because Cameron intends to break all the norms in the computer industry. Also, many of Mutiny's employees jumped ship from Joe MacMillan and Cardiff Electric.
- Cameron names the BIOS she wrote for the Giant Lovelace.
- Missing Steps Plan: While Cameron has the ambition, she lacks the discipline to make Mutiny viable for the long haul.
- New Job as the Plot Demands:
- In "1984", after leaving Cardiff Electric, she works for a phone company as a technician. However, this is short-lived as she starts her own company, Mutiny.
- At the end of Season 3, Cameron works for Atari after Mutiny folds. However, in Season 4, she leaves Atari after a disagreement over her latest game to become a freelance programmer.
- Not So Different: In "Kali", Tom claims that she is no different than Joe MacMillan after she sold the rights to Extract and Defend without consulting him first.
- Oh, Crap!: In what was supposed to be a private chat between her and Tom, he reveals that she publicly sent a rather scathing message about her opinion of Gordon.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Her real name is Catherine, and Cameron is her father's name. After he died, she started using her father's name.
- The Pig-Pen: Downplayed. She is certainly messy, especially in a professional environment like Cardiff Electric, but she does practice some hygiene. Donna lampshades this in "Close to the Metal", saying that "Cameron's sloppy, but not that sloppy" when she discovers that Joe intentionally destroyed Cameron's computer and convinced her that she degaussed her backup disks.
- Playful Hacker: The reason why Joe recruits her to write the BIOS for the Giant.
- Properly Paranoid: During Mutiny's lifetime, Cameron constantly worried about people taking away from her vision. With Mutiny's failed IPO, she turned out to be right.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red to Donna's Blue.
- Reluctant Fanservice Girl: A huge number of Cameron's issues stem from her mother forcing her to perform in child beauty pageants when she was still grieving her dad's death.
- Sanity Slippage:
- The near-collapse of Mutiny in season 2 drives Cameron into a Heroic BSoD on more than one occasion, and having Joe come back into her life adds fuel to the fire.
- In season 3, Donna tries to avert this, setting herself up as a surrogate mother figure to Cameron and inviting her to live with her and Gordon and the kids so that she can have something resembling a stable home life. Unfortunately, this comes at the same time that Cameron learns that her actual mother is threatening to sell off all of her old possessions in a bid to get her to come visit, and thus Cameron becomes edgy and paranoid about losing everything, convinced that Donna's efforts to help her are part of some nefarious plot to take Mutiny away from her.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In "The Threshold", she threatens to walk out if Mutiny's major shareholders vote against her in delaying their IPO. When everyone votes in favor of the IPO, she leaves the office in shock.
- She Cleans Up Nicely:
- In "Giant", she dresses more professionally at an art gallery to try and convince Simon Church, an industrial designer and an Old Flame of Joe's, to design the case for the Cardiff PC.
- In the Season 3 finale, she dresses more conservatively.
- Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Invoked and subverted multiple times. In the premiere, Joe tells Cameron that he will not hire her just because she had sex with him. This pisses Cameron off immensely because it was never her intent. Then Joe hires her anyway, in part because of her reaction to his comment. In a later episode Cameron wants to take over as the manager of the software team and Joe tells her that he cannot do favors for her just because they are sleeping together. She promptly breaks it off with him and later gets the job by proving to Joe that she is the right person for it.
- Still the Leader: At the end of "Working for the Clampdown", she bluntly tells the coders that Mutiny is her company.
- Take That!: She gives one to IBM's legal team, calling the IBM PC BIOS "garbage" without looking at it.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Four years after Mutiny's failed IPO, she is still resentful towards Donna.
- Tomboy: She feels more comfortable wearing boys' t-shirts and cargo pants than she does ladies' business wear. This may or may not stem from her past as a former unwilling contestant on the child-pageant circuit.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Frequently seen eating Good & Plenty candies. In Season 3, she gives them out for Halloween.
- Trauma Button: Cameron lost her father as a child since he was killed in action in Vietnam. When Joe MacMillan, Sr. asks about Cameron's father in "Adventure", she goes into another room to cry.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- The Mutiny coders find out that Cameron holds a 90% stake in Mutiny and call her out for not properly consulting them on the terms of the Westgroup buyout contract.
- Tom calls her out when she sells the rights to Extract and Defend without consulting him since the game was as much his as it was hers.
- White-Collar Crime: She hacks a bank mainframe in order to embezzle Cardiff's money in order to keep the PC project going after it runs out of money. However, Bosworth claims responsibility for Cameron's actions to keep her out of jail and save her career.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: She believes that a computer should be more than a glorified calculator.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Cameron thinks that Mutiny's customers are there for the games, while Community is the service's Killer App.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Donna tells Cameron that her BIOS code is "like music" after the former discovered that Joe had manipulated the latter into believing that she destroyed her own work.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: She learns that Joe and Gordon intended to fire her once her BIOS was complete and successfully tested.
Donna Clark (nee Emerson) is Gordon's wife, and the mother to two young daughters, Haley and Joanie. Donna is also an engineer; however, she worked at Texas Instruments. When Gordon gets wrapped up in Joe's project, not only does she have to help Gordon, she also has to balance her own career at TI and raising her and Gordon's two children.
In Season 2, she joins Cameron in Mutiny after severing her ties with TI to serve as its hardware engineer; however, Donna spends more time babysitting a bunch of Man Children rather than properly maintain the network's infrastructure.
- Almighty Mom: In "Close to the Metal" she tells off Gordon, Cameron, and Joe for various reasons. Gordon for breaking yet another promise to her, Cameron for insulting her when she came to assist in recovering the lost BIOS code, and Joe for deliberately sabotaging Cameron's workstation as a publicity stunt.
- Been There, Shaped History: In-universe, she was responsible for Texas Instruments discontinuing the 99/4A after she tells TI executives that there are no "once and for all" fixes to make their home computer competitive again, especially after Commodore's price war.
- Berserk Button: Never talk negatively about Gordon or her children behind her back.
- Big Secret: She has yet told Gordon that she was pregnant, and she aborted the pregnancy. Given their divorce before the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s, she likely never told Gordon.
- Childhood Friend Romance: With Hunt. While on a business trip to meet with senior TI executives, she kisses Hunt; however, he only came by to deliver a fax from Gordon, and she immediately regrets it.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: To some extent at Mutiny. Later, she offers to become this to Gordon when he reveals that he has brain damage; however, he tells her not to give up on her dream because of his condition.
- Experimented in College: Implied when she and Gordon are typing dirty messages into Cameron's OS. Gordon seems to be turned on by this revelation.
- Expy: Of Peggy Olson.
- Family Versus Career: Taken Up to Eleven to "Family Versus Own Career Versus Husband's Career". Not only does she have to help Gordon with the Giant, she also has balance her own career at TI and her domestic life. However, by "1984", she is fired from Texas Instruments, although she deliberately tanked her performance review.
- Freak Out: In "10Broad36", she verbally lashes out at Joe when he comes by to inform Mutiny about Westgroup's rate increase in their network rental terms.
- Generation Xerox: At a meta level, Kerry Bishé said that her character looks just like her own mother, who was also a working mom in the same time period.
- When Joe comes over to discuss Mutiny's network rental terms, Donna tells Cameron to keep her cool; however, Donna is the one who has an emotional meltdown mid-negotiation.
- In season 3, she prevents Cameron from firing two asshole programmers from SwapMeet because she thinks Cameron should learn how to play well with others. In "The Threshold", she chooses to have Cameron ousted from Mutiny rather than try and work around Cameron's conditions for launching an IPO. Later in "NeXT", she tries to convince Cameron to oust Joe from the World Wide Web project.
- I Warned You: In "SETI", she warns Lev and Cameron that the networking cabinets should be rewired. Donna's concern turns out to be true when the crew end up blacking out the whole block.Donna: (scoffing, after the power goes out) We blew a breaker, didn't we?Lev: We didn't blow the breaker; I think we blew the whole block.
- I'll Kill You!: When Donna discovers that her former boss Hunt was selling the Slingshot at COMDEX, she immediately lashes out at him, threatening to kill him.
- It's All About Me: Her resolve to take Mutiny public with or without Cameron ultimately leads to Mutiny's demise. Cameron also calls her out in the Season 3 finale for her willingness to get rid of "inconvenient" people.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In "A Connection is Made", she cruelly ousts Cecil from the Rover project, which he began, as part of a ploy to reverse-engineer Cameron's algorithm. When Diane finds out, she forces Donna to just buy the damned algorithm from Cameron, and then kicks her off of the Rover project.
- Loose Lips:
- She and Gordon had been insulting Cameron in front of their daughters.
- Donna tells her boss Hunt about the PC that Gordon is building at Cardiff Electric, and Hunt uses this information, plus inside information from Gordon's neighbor and ex-co-worker Brian Braswell to create the Slingshot.
- In "NeXT", she manages to ruin her reconciliation with Cameron by raising the possibility of kicking Joe off of the web browser project.
- Mama Bear: She's more upset that Cameron's message insulted her daughters more than it insulted Gordon.
- New Job as the Plot Demands: At the start of the series, she is an engineer for Texas Instruments. In the second and third seasons, she is the lead hardware engineer for Mutiny, and at the Season 3 Time Skip, she becomes a senior partner at Diane's venture capital firm.
- Not So Different: Just as Cameron does, she'll ram through her ideas of what she thinks are good for Mutiny above everything else. It doesn't end well for her or Mutiny.
- Only Sane Woman: At Mutiny.
- Rage Breaking Point: Donna's pent-up emotions, due to her unplanned pregnancy, are all let out when Joe tells Mutiny that Westgroup is increasing their network rental rate.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: She gives one to Gordon when he forgets to pick up their daughters from school, causing Donna to miss yet another deadline.Donna: I asked you to do one thing. You can't write it on your arm? You can't get an admin to remind you?
Gordon: Things got crazy, okay? I'm having kind of a day here.
Donna: Oh, you're having "kind of a day"? Now I'm gonna miss another deadline that I promised I'd make.
Gordon: Well, maybe the stakes are a little bit higher in my world, okay? I'm not just QA-ing calculators.
Donna: Excuse me?!
Gordon: I didn't...
Donna: Gordon, let me ask you something. When is the last time you cut their toenails? Or which one of your daughters is allergic to apricots? Do you even know their pediatrician's name? No, you don't because you don't have to. I make your world possible!
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Blue to Cameron's Red.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- In "1984", she deliberately tanks her performance review with Hunt's replacement, leading to her termination at TI.
- In "New Coke", she threatens to leave if Cameron continues to make brash, unilateral business decisions.
- In "The Threshold", she threatens to leave Mutiny again if they do not go forward with their IPO. Subverted when everyone else sides with her.
- The Spock: To Cameron's McCoy and Bosworth's Kirk at Mutiny. Donna spends most of her time at Mutiny bringing order to the workplace chaos.
- Team Mom: She (reluctantly) serves in this role at Mutiny, having to break up a fight between Lev and Yo-Yo at one point. Donna tells Cameron that she came to Mutiny to be a hardware engineer, not to be a babysitter to a bunch of childish code monkeys.
- This Is Unforgivable!: After seeing Hunt unveil the Slingshot at COMDEX, she immediately lashes out at him.
- Too Clever by Half: In season 3, she threatens to quit unless Mutiny moves forward on her plan to establish an IPO. While she ends up getting her way and manages to oust Cameron in the bargain, it quickly becomes clear that she didn't really have a plan for how to run Mutiny without Cameron, and it ends up collapsing a few years later.
- Women Are Wiser: Especially after the Symphonic failure. Donna attempts to maintain her composure since the failure while Gordon slipped into depression.
John Bosworth was the Senior Vice President of Cardiff Electric. Bosworth was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company as well as its finances. However, company owner and CEO Emeritus Nathan Cardiff is the one ultimately calling the shots.
After having Cameron assist him in embezzling Cardiff's money, Bosworth ends up spending 18 months in prison. After getting out, Cameron offers him the managerial position at Mutiny.
- Affectionate Nickname: Many of his co-workers and closest acquaintances refer to him as "Bos".
- Awful Truth: When Alan, Cardiff's accountant, tells him that the PC program is almost out of money and the deficit will take down the rest of the company by the close of the business week, Bosworth tells Alan to keep the news between them.
- Awful Wedded Life: John's wife, Ginny, files for divorce due to him being Married to the Job.
- Bad Boss: Zig-Zagged towards Joe, Gordon, and Cameron. After Cardiff Electric is thrown into the PC business, Bosworth initially intimidates the trio; however, over the course of the project, he eventually becomes more supportive of the trio, especially Cameron.Bosworth: Well, welcome to the tiniest, leakiest lifeboat you ever tried to paddle to shore in. I had some numbers run, looks like this PC business is gonna cost us upwards of a couple million dollars just to get in the door. So, in order to reach that perfect world where we actually start selling things rather than running from the bogeyman, there will be some rules. One, no bullshit!
Cameron: Sorry, what constitutes bull...
Bosworth: Whatever I damn say it is! Two, hours are now from when this meeting is done until when you die! And three, I know I can't fire any of you yet, but that also means you can't leave, so if I need to stomp on one of y'all's heads to feel better about my morning shave, whoa, you're gonna have to find a way to deal with that. Do you understand?
- Bank Robbery: In "The 214s", he has Cameron hack the bank's mainframe in order to embezzle money from Cardiff's account in order to keep the company afloat through COMDEX.
- Benevolent Boss: Bosworth only seems like a Bad Boss at times, because Joe came in from seemingly nowhere and jeopardized the livelihoods of his employees. Bosworth ultimately tries to do what is best for the company and his employees.
- Character Development: Bosworth starts off as a hard nosed, conservative Texas businessman who doesn't take kindly to Joe's bravado; however, by the end of the first season, he becomes the Giant project's biggest proponent.
- Cool Car: Drives a Mustang, which he gives to his son the night before he gets married.
- A Day in the Limelight: A good part of "The Way In" focuses on Bosworth and his fractured family life.
- Expy: He's a southern-fried Roger Sterling.
- Going Native: Bosworth is at first against the Giant and "President of the 'I Hate Joe MacMillan' Fan Club" as Gordon puts it; however, over the course of the project, he spends a good chunk of time studying the new technology and terminology and becomes its biggest proponent. By the home stretch, Bosworth was willing to put his own money on the line as well as risking prison time to see the project succeed.
- Good Ol' Boy: Bosworth is at first against Joe's risky East Coast thinking; however, Bosworth eventually stands up for Joe.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He assumes responsibility for hacking the bank's mainframe in order to keep Cameron out of jail and to keep her career intact.
- Hypocritical Humor: When Bosworth finds Cameron in the office after hours, he tells her that she can stay as late as she needed, but she can't live in the office. Apparently, he tells her this so she won't catch him doing exactly that.
- I Did What I Had to Do:
- With Mutiny's finances in dire straits, Bosworth kicks a delinquent, but loyal, customer off the BBS. When Cameron finds out, she berates him, saying what Bosworth did is not how Mutiny operates.
- When Cameron forces a vote on whether to go forward on Mutiny's IPO, he reluctantly sides with Donna, who's in favor, instead of Cameron, who's against it. As he makes his vote, Bos tells Cameron that she's "breaking his heart".
- Last-Name Basis: He is rarely referred to by his first name John.
- The Kirk: To Cameron's McCoy and Donna's Spock at Mutiny. Although he is not the boss, he serves as the peacekeeper between Cameron and Donna; in "10Broad36", he has to break up an argument between Cameron and Donna after Joe pulled the plug on their time-shared network.
- Married to the Job: Bosworth spent more time at work than at home, and this ultimately leads to Ginny divorcing him.
- Parental Substitute: He serves as a surrogate father figure to Cameron.
- Riches to Rags: He apparently walked away from the events of season 3 with a sizeable sum of money but after the Time Skip at the beginning of season 4, he is broke again. His pride would not let him accept the fact that his girlfriend was much richer than him so he invested in real estate deal that went sour. Desperate, he kept putting more money into the failing deal until all his savings were gone; he even sold his beloved boat in an attempt to keep the deal afloat.
- Rousing Speech: In "The 214s", he gives one of these to the marketing team on how to make the Giant stand out from the rest of the IBM PC clones just before he is arrested by the FBI.Bosworth: [You] want this machine to stand out from every other machine on the floor, you gotta stop talking about the machine, and you gotta start talking about the people that made it! They bled for this! The future's coming whether we like it or not, but it ain't written anywhere that it includes any of us! And getting there ain't free; there's a cost. People who put up the money, they like to take the credit, but the credit belongs to them that built it. This machine is the future; make them see that.
- Still the Leader: When Cardiff feels that Joe is gaining too much control at the company, Cardiff tells Bosworth that he needs to show Joe "who's working for who". To get the point across, Bosworth has a cop buddy of his stop Joe on the road, savagely beat him, and arrest him.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: He has to shout at Cameron and Donna to get them to stop arguing in "10Broad36".
- Taking the Heat: In "The 214s", he claims sole responsibility for hacking the bank's mainframe to keep Cameron out of prison.
- Team Dad: The Cardiff, now Mutiny, coders see Bosworth as this.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Just before IBM's legal team shows up at Cardiff Electric, Bosworth tells Joe that he's not going to forget what Joe has done.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: When his son James was younger, Bosworth missed several milestones due to work, such as James' first strikeout in Little League and his high school graduation.
- White-Collar Crime: Bosworth learns enough hacking terminology to convince the FBI that he was solely responsible for hacking the bank mainframe and embezzling Cardiff's money.
Haley and Joanie are Gordon and Donna's two daughters. Joanie is the older sister, and Haley is the younger sister.
- Affectionate Nickname:
- Early in the series, Donna refers to them as her "little monkeys".
- In season 4 Haley is referred to "Bug" by Gordon
- Ambiguous Disorder: In season 4, Haley suddenly starts having trouble with school, with it being implied that she is developing depression.
- The Beard: After being rejected by her crush, Haley tries to rebound with a boy. The relationship is obviously a sham, and her mother recognizes that she doesn't seem to even like him. Mercifully, it doesn't last.
- Big Little Sister: In season 4, Haley is noticeably taller than her older sister Joanie.
- Big Sister Worship: Joanie idolizes Cameron, and after the Time Skip at the end of season 3, she's shown to have taken on some of Cameron's less charming attributes. Haley, on the other hand, worships both Joanie and Cameron.
- Blanket Fort: When Joe visits the Clark household in "Landfall", he builds the girls one of these so he and Donna can talk.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Joanie becomes this in "Heaven Is a Place", and by the Season 3 finale, she evolves into a Bratty Teenage Daughter.Joanie: My Eggo's still cold in the middle.
Donna: Well, it's also drowning in syrup, so maybe that makes up for it.
(Joanie chucks her waffle in the trash)
Donna: (angry) Excuse me?! What kind of behavior is that?!
Joanie: Why can't Daddy make breakfast?! You suck at this!!
- Daddy's Girl: In Season 2, Joanie and Haley are more attached to their father than their mother.
- Endearingly Dorky: Haley is a pretty classic and realistic 90s geek. She's obsessed with comedy, Dr. Demento-style novelty music, They Might Be Giants, and Star Trek as well as a variety of nerdy interests, like chess, programming and model rockets.
- Friendless Background: It's strongly implied that Haley does not, in fact, have any friends at school.
- Hypocrite: In Season 3, Joanie lectures Gordon and his date about animal rights, only to swipe some bacon off his plate the next morning. She protests that she's not defined by a single label.
- Innocently Insensitive: In "Close to the Metal", Cameron learns from the two Clark girls that Gordon and Donna were insulting her behind her back.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite her brattiness, when Joanie sees Gordon having difficulty climbing the stairs, she offers to switch rooms with him so he's on the ground floor in Season 3.
- The Runaway: After seeing her parents fight about Gordon's affair, Joanie runs away from home. However, she simply goes into hiding in her backyard playhouse.
- Secret Keeper: Joanie tries to keep the fight between her dad and Uncle Henry a secret from her mom, so her parents would not fight; however, Haley unwittingly reveals that fight, and Gordon finally admits to Donna that he had an affair while in California.
- Smart People Play Chess: While skipping school, Haley plays chess with herself.
- Transparent Closet: Haley never officially comes out to anyone by the end. Even still, Joe, Donna and Cameron have figured it out.
The owner and CEO Emeritus of Cardiff Electric, the company started by his father. Despite being retired, he still calls shots at the company.
- Bring It: After he tears up Joe's dividend check, Cardiff actually welcomes a lawsuit from Joe, just so Cardiff can tell a jury how Joe effectively ruined Cardiff Electric.
- Good Ol' Boy: As a native Texan, he doesn't take kindly to Joe's East Coast thinking, more so than Bosworth.
- Implied Death Threat: Cardiff tells Joe that if he doesn't follow through on the PC project, there won't be a new job for him since no one would be able to find where he is buried.
- Know When to Fold 'Em:
- When developing the Giant is costing him and the company too much money, Cardiff's not only willing to cut his losses on the project, he is also ready to close down Cardiff Electric as a whole.
- Ultimately, Cardiff sells off the company to a large overseas corporation.
- The Man Behind the Man: Even though Cardiff and Bosworth aren't the villains of the series, they do openly antagonize Joe; however, Bosworth does eventually stand up for Joe and the Giant project. Bosworth oversees the day to day operations of Cardiff Electric; however, Cardiff, despite being retired, is the one ultimately making decisions at his father's namesake company.
- Put on a Bus: At the start of the second season, he sells off Cardiff Electric.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cardiff gives one to Joe in "SETI" for causing dozens of honest employees to lose their jobs and failing to deliver on his promise of leaving a legacy for Cardiff. To hammer the point home, Cardiff tears Joe's dividend check to shreds, telling him that he gets nothing for his efforts.
- This Is Unforgivable!: This is how Cardiff feels after Joe forces his company into the PC business. The feeling is especially strong in "SETI" as Cardiff Electric winds down its operations.
Hunt Whitmarsh is Donna's boss at Texas Instruments and an old high school classmate. Unlike Gordon, Hunt seems to be more supportive of Donna's efforts. However, Hunt was using Donna to get information about Cardiff's PC, so he could develop his own version.
- Big Bad: Hunt proves to be Cardiff's biggest threat, developing the Slingshot, an inferior but easier to market version of the Giant, and attempting to steal Cardiff's thunder at COMDEX.
- Do Well, but Not Perfect: Hunt points this out as the Fatal Flaw of the Giant. Hunt tells Joe the Giant tried to be good, and that the Slingshot just had to be good enough.
- Evil Counterpart: To Joe on a professional level and to Gordon on a personal level.
- Evil Knockoff: The Slingshot to the Giant.
- Good Ol' Boy: He speaks with a pronounced Texas accent.
- Nothing Personal: After Hunt rebuffs Joe's threat of legal action, he tells Joe to tell Donna that him creating the Slingshot was nothing personal.
- Put on a Bus: He hasn't been seen in the series since Season 1.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: After Joe successfully pitches the Giant, it is unknown what happened to Hunt and the Slingshot, although it is implied that he likely scrapped the Slingshot.
- White-Collar Crime: He plagiarizes Cardiff's designs of the Giant in order to create the Slingshot.
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Hunt at first seems to be more supportive of Donna than Gordon; however, Hunt was using her to get information about Cardiff's PC project.
Malcom "Lev" Levitan and Kenneth "Yo-Yo" Engberk are two of Cameron's fellow software programmers, responsible for writing peripheral drivers for the Giant. They were also Cameron's housemates and later join her in Mutiny.
- Awesome, but Impractical: Yo-Yo writes a color version of Backgammon for Mutiny; however, it takes up over half a megabyte of disk space for a game that supposed to be playable over phone lines and most C64 modems operated at 300 baud.
- Brutal Honesty: Yo-Yo tells Cameron he's leaving Mutiny because he thinks the shares may not be worth anything.
- Comically Missing the Point: After Yo-Yo ends up going through a stud with a circular saw, Lev complains that they just lost the security deposit on their house. However, Donna tells him that they said goodbye to that a long time ago.
- Food as Bribe: When Gordon sends his former colleague Stan to pick up Haley and Joanie from school, the school calls Donna at Mutiny, thinking Stan was kidnapping the girls. In exchange for keeping quiet about the incident, Gordon buys the Mutiny coders pizza and soda for a month.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: They are almost never referred to by their real names. Lampshaded by Lev in their first appearance in "Adventure".
- Playful Hacker: The two cheated in order to beat Colossal Cave Adventure, and Cameron felt they were the most valuable to Cardiff Electric.
- Put on a Bus: Although not explicitly stated, they likely went their separate ways after Mutiny's downfall.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When Donna and Cameron reveal that Mutiny can no longer afford to pay the coders' salaries, Yo-Yo is among those who leave; however, he eventually returns to the company.
- Straight Gay: Lev is outed when he flirts with a guy on Community. Unfortunately, the user turns out to be fake, and Lev is beaten up by a homophobic gang.
- Those Two Guys: They are rarely seen apart. However, Yo-Yo walked out on Mutiny when its future was in serious doubt.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: They typically get along; however, Lev and Yo-Yo get into an argument over Backgammon being too large, resulting in the latter putting the former into a headlock with Donna having to break them up.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Yo-Yo believes that having color in games is a good thing; however, Lev has to remind him of their system limitations.Yo-Yo: Color is good.
Lev: Hello! Our games have to run on phone lines! Not on a plastic cartridge with a crap-ton of memory.
Yo-Yo: Yeah, and that's why they keep sucking!
Sara Wheeler is a freelance writer and an old college classmate of Joe's. When Sara finds Joe at Fiske Observatory during an assignment, they start an relationship, and Joe moves in with Sara. Ultimately, Joe and Sara's marriage doesn't work out. After WestNet is sabotaged, Sara files for divorce.
- Advertised Extra: Aleksa Palladino was the only addition to the show's main cast across all four seasons. Despite appearing in most episodes of season 2 and her importance to Joe's arc, Sara didn't receive any more characterisation or agency than most of the recurring cast.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Implied. She says she "had a bad year" before reuniting with Joe, and her father makes sure to send her a pre-nup for the upcoming marriage. All we know is that she's been married before.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: While high on MDMA, she makes out with another woman in a nightclub.
- No Accounting for Taste: What Gordon and Donna think of Sara's relationship with Joe.
- Satellite Character: Besides being a journalist, Jacob's daughter, and Joe's fiance, nothing is really known about Sara.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: She accuses Joe of sabotaging WestNet and still holding feelings for Cameron. As a result, she files for divorce, signing the petition before Joe arrives at the attorney's office.
Jacob Wheeler is Sara's father and the head of Westgroup Energy, a large Texas oil company.
- Big Bad: Of Season 2. His status as such is revealed when Westgroup locks out Mutiny of the network and creates WestNet.
- Brutal Honesty: He outright tells Joe that he will have a hard time finding a job due to his checkered work history and abysmal references.
- Just Business: He tells Joe that he likes Cameron and Mutiny; however, Jacob wants to raise Mutiny's network rental rate from $3 to $5 per hour to set a precedent for Westgroup's time-sharing venture.
- Laser-Guided Karma: During Westgroup's annual shareholders' meeting, Cameron uploaded Sonaris to the WestNet mainframe, sabotaging its presentation and publicly humiliating Wheeler in the process. Jacob is later ousted as CEO of Westgroup due to the fallout.
- Overprotective Dad: Sara believes her father is being hard on Joe for her ex-husband's transgressions, which cost Jacob millions of dollars. He later mails Sara a prenup.
- Nepotism: He offers Joe a job at Westgroup because Joe was marrying his daughter.
- Properly Paranoid: Given that Sara's ex-husband wasted his money on business deals that never panned out and Joe's own checkered past, his harsh scrutiny of him is absolutely warranted.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Joe reveals to Jacob, earlier than he intended, that he was reconfiguring Westgroup's mainframe for time-sharing without Jacob's knowledge or approval. Instead of disciplining Joe, Jacob asks for a face-to-face with Joe's first client, Mutiny. Subverted when Westgroup steals Mutiny and creates WestNet.
- The Scapegoat: After the WestNet fiasco, Westgroup's board of directors agree that Joe is responsible for the sabotage, but they do not have enough evidence to prosecute him. Needing someone to shoulder the blame publicly, the board of directors oust Jacob as CEO of Westgroup.
- Self-Made Man: During their first meeting, Jacob tells Joe of his humble beginnings.
- A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: After Cameron agrees to sell Mutiny, the first thing Jacob planned to do was to cut game development. Joe saw this as a betrayal of his intentions, where Westgroup would provide Mutiny network infrastructure and capital to grow while Mutiny would maintain their autonomy and creative freedom. This is later affirmed when Westgroup outright steals Mutiny by cloning it and locking out the Mutiny coders from accessing the network.
Tom Rendon is a former IT head at a law firm. Later, he joins Mutiny and builds a relationship with Cameron. However, due to conflicting interests, the two breakup. The two reconcile and get married; however, things didn't pan out.
- Amicable Exes: He and Cameron reconcile and seemingly become this during the latter's brief return to Texas; however, they have actually tied the knot.
- Brutal Honesty: While QAing the latest chapter of "Parallax", Tom outright tells Cameron that it's a rehash of previous chapters.
- The Bus Came Back: When Cameron returns to Texas, she meets up with Tom.
- Dark and Troubled Past: He grew up in poverty. The cupcake and soda his mother bragged about giving him every day as a child was actually his dinner, as that was all she could afford.
- Fake Guest Star: Tom plays a significant role in Seasons 2 and 3, but Mark O'Brien doesn't receive main star status.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He harshly criticized the latest chapter of Parallax. However, when Cameron has a panic attack, he calms her down by having her describe an early chapter of Parallax.
- Mama's Boy: He's very close to his mother, inviting her to lunch with him and Cameron.
- Manipulative Bastard: Tom knows how to get multiple users on a single phone line, but refuses to tell Cameron how he did it unless she hires him.
- Only Sane Man: Besides Donna and Bosworth, Tom was the only other remotely mature employee at Mutiny.
- Open Secret: He tries to keep his relationship with Cameron concealed from the other coders, but they find out anyway.
- Playful Hacker: He cloned Parallax to get Cameron's and Donna's attention.
- Put on a Bus:
- Inverted in "Heaven is a Place". Cameron gives him a plane ticket for San Francisco with her and the rest of the Mutiny gang, but he doesn't show up.
- By the time Season 4 rolls around, he's left Cameron for another woman.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Savvy Guy to Cameron's Energetic Girl.
Ryan Ray was a young idealistic programmer in Silicon Valley. He initially worked for Mutiny; however, he became Joe's new protégé.
- Driven to Suicide: Both metaphorically and literally. When he feels he can no longer trust Joe, Ryan essentially commits career suicide by leaking copyrighted source code, and when the FBI catches up to him, Ryan jumps off Joe's balcony.
- Insufferable Genius: Ryan is a brilliant programmer, but his serious demeanor doesn't mesh well with Mutiny's relaxed atmosphere.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Ryan points out vulnerabilities in Mutiny's private chats, but he doesn't explain his findings very well and inadvertently insults Donna and Cameron's work.
- Killed Off for Real: He is the first major character to die.
- Principles Zealot: He takes Joe's speech about how "security should be free" to heart.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: According to him. He believes that he's fulfilling Joe's promise of security as a right by releasing the source code for Citadel to the public. In doing so, he violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
- Spurned into Suicide: Ryan felt that with Gordon coming onto the NSFNET project, Joe had rejected him. When Joe tells Ryan that he can never work with him again, Ryan ends his life.
- Take a Third Option: When the FBI is looking for Ryan, Joe gives him two options: either stay a fugitive and lose the regional network he created, or turn himself in for a chance at redemption. Ryan instead chooses to end his life.
- Walking Spoiler: From the second episode of Season 3 on.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Joe calls out Ryan on this after the latter released the source code for Citadel.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: After the board at MacMillan Utility decides to charge $14.95 for Citadel, the personal user version of MacMillan Utility's security software, Ryan insists to Joe that the software should be offered for free as Joe had promised.
Diane Gould is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who worked with Mutiny. Donna later becomes her protégé.
- Fake Guest Star: Debuts in the season 3 premiere, and barely misses an episode until the show's conclusion.
- Iron Lady: In a field dominated by men, she is one of a few successful female venture capitalists.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Although she did not necessarily agree with Cameron, Diane was prepared to let her fire the SwapMeet founders shortly after buying them out. Unfortunately, she left it to Donna to inform Cameron of this, and Donna instead lied and told Cameron that she had to retain the guys.
- Stating the Simple Solution: In "A Connection is Made", after everyone figures out that Cameron created the vital algorithm that made Rover viable, Donna attempts to have an outside programmer reverse engineer the algorithm so Cameron won't be able to prove that it's a rip-off. Diane tells Donna to just buy Cameron's source code legally.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "A Connection is Made", Diane gets tired of Donna's mismanagement of the Rover project and thus removes her from it, which puts Donna's future with the firm in jeopardy.
Joe MacMillan, Sr.
Joe MacMillan, Sr. is Joe's father and is implied to be a powerful executive within IBM.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: He does this to get into his son's apartment building.
- Bus Crash: In season 4, he is revealed to have died a year earlier.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Joe Sr. sends his wife away after she nearly killed their son.
- Manipulative Bastard: Like son, father tries to use Cameron's emotions to serve his means.
- Nepotism: His influence is big enough that, even after everything that his son has done, IBM is willing to hire Joe back if he just walks away from the Cardiff PC clone project.
Brian Braswell was Gordon's co-worker and next door neighbor.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Brian points out flaws in Gordon's proposals for the Cardiff PC, yet he doesn't come up with one solution.
- FaceHeel Turn: He joins Donna's former boss Hunt in creating the Slingshot.
- George Jetson Job Security: Gordon fires Brian when the former realized that the latter's naysaying was detrimental to the PC project.
- Never My Fault: When he and Gordon get into a fender bender, Brian blames everyone but himself, even though he ran a stop sign.
- Put on a Bus: In "1984", Gordon mentions that the Braswells moved out of their neighborhood.
Ed, Larry, and Stan
Ed, Larry, and Stan were part of Gordon's hardware engineering team at Cardiff Electric.
- All Men Are Perverts:
- In "Adventure", the engineers snicker when Cameron names her BIOS "Lovelace", thinking she named it after pornographic actress Linda Lovelace.
- In "New Coke", Gordon sends Stan to pick up Haley and Joanie from school; however, the school principal calls Donna at Mutiny, thinking that Stan was kidnapping the girls.
- The Bus Came Back: In "Working for the Clampdown", Gordon recruits Ed and Larry for a new venture, direct selling built-to-order IBM PC-compatible machines. He also offers to match the salaries of their respective employers. However, Ed and Larry walk out on Gordon's company when they question Gordon's mental health. Stan returns to Dallas when his plans in Silicon Valley didn't pan out.
- Nerds: An adult version.
- Porn Stache: Stan.
- Put on a Bus: Ed goes to work for EDS, and Larry goes to work for Tandy, while Stan plans to move to Silicon Valley after Cardiff Electric is sold.
- Recurring Extra: They were rarely seen outside the Cardiff Electric offices.
- Trekkie: Stan. He even suggests naming the Giant's BIOS "Khan".
Simon Church is an industrial designer and a former acquaintance of Joe. Joe tasks him with creating the case for the Cardiff Electric PC.
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Though not explicitly stated, Simon reveals to Joe that he has AIDS.
- Old Flame: To Joe.
Arki, Bodie, Carl, Frosty, and Wonderboy
Besides Donna, Lev, and Yo-Yo, Cameron employs several other coders at Mutiny, many of them her former colleagues from Cardiff Electric's Giant project.
- Asian and Nerdy: Wonderboy.
- Big Fun: Bodie. During a group photo shoot, he slides into the picture drunk and only in his skivvies. Bodie is also inclined to give Lev a hug after the latter is released from the hospital.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Instead of honestly porting Mutiny to Unix, they cobble together a fake demo, putting a Commodore 64 motherboard into the shell of an AT&T Unix PC and faking the online connection.Joe: (after finding out he had been deceived) Unix. You couldn't do it.
Cameron: Oh, it's not that we couldn't do it; we just thought it was a waste of time.
Joe: But you did have time to animate the games, gut the box, fake the data.
- Drinking on Duty: When Bosworth announces that they moved a high paying customer from "delinquent" status to "closed", Bodie shotguns a beer to celebrate while on the clock.
- Fat Comic Relief: Bodie. In the start of "SETI", he cracks dirty jokes.Carl: Why is everyone bad at chess?
Wonderboy: Chess is hard.
Bodie: I'm hard! (laughing)
- Funny Foreigner: Arki, who is Russian.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Frosty and Wonderboy.
- Manchild: Mutiny is ran more like Animal House than an actual business.
- Men Can't Keep House: The Mutiny house is littered in beer and soda cans and empty food containers; saying it's messy is an Understatement. Ants are seen in the kitchen sink at one point.
- Playful Hacker: Although they tend to spend more time playing games instead of actually making games.
- Put on a Bus:
- Though not explicitly stated, the coders likely went their separate ways after Mutiny folded.
- In the finale, it's mentioned that Bodie now has four kids and Wonderboy teaches at a college.
- Recurring Extra: They are usually not seen outside the Mutiny offices.
- Rule of Cool: While testing Community's new avatar-based user interface, Cameron asks Bodie why his avatar has a Skull for a Head, and he responds "'Cause it's wicked and awesome".
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Along with Yo-Yo, Frosty also leaves Mutiny, citing that he has student loans to pay. However, unlike Yo-Yo, Frosty never returns.
- Sell-Out: In "Working for the Clampdown", Cameron rallies the coders against Westgroup's offer of acquisition. However, when the curious coders piece the contract Cameron had shredded back together and discover its value, they pressure her into reconsidering the offer.
James Bosworth is John's adult son.
- Daddy Didn't Show: When James was younger, his dad missed his first strikeout in Little League as well as his high school graduation due to work.
- Nepotism: In "Limbo", James offers his father a job with his company. John is initially grateful for the job opportunity and the chance to work with his son, but he later feels remorseful for abandoning Mutiny.
- "Well Done, Dad!" Guy: John tries to reconcile with his son on the eve of the latter's wedding.
A mysterious financier who offers to fund Cameron's ventures after Pilgrim is shelved.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: She essentially wanted to buy Cameron's creativity. She didn't realize that she would also have to deal with the rest of Cameron.
- Not So Different: Alexa is basically who Cameron would have become if she had always gotten her way - a rich, impatient brat who's never had to learn how to work with other people.