My name is Steven Fletcher and I’m a documentary film maker but most of my working life I’ve been a computer programmer For me the love affair of the computer started at the age of 14 when I got my first computer the VIC-20 closely followed by the Commodore
64 and then of course the Amiga Now 35 years later I want to take you on a journey back to the birth of the home computer by following the Commodore story discovering the origins and what lead up to the Commodore 64 being the best ever selling computer in history It’s remarkable that in my lifetime technology has advanced so much from computers once the size of a room to mobile phones that fit in your pocket You don’t have to go back too many years and computers just didn’t exist but now we find computers filling every aspect of our lives We will be travelling around Europe and across America interviewing many legends from Commodore and Amiga A half a million dollars March 7th 1984 You invented something that changed my life And there’s a bunch of Z8000 programmers you know looking like I just shot a sheep or something On the other side rather than panicking because your ball grid array or something was inverted and there’s nothing you can do about it A meeting with Jack Tramiel was often called a Jack attack Do you ever get a jump where it’s ten times better these days – no Welcome to R J Mical’s house of construction
We will also be attending Commodore and Amiga events plus retro shows to see how alive the Commodore and Amiga scene is in today’s modern world
Just arriving in San Francisco We’re going to be doing the Commodore Story documentary and the first thing we see is from a museum and it’s all about the typewriter and potentially the first chapter; the first part of the documentary we are going to call ‘The Typewriter Man’ because it’s all about Jack Tramiel and where he came from And here we are
My name’s Leonard Tramiel and I was involved in the personal computer industry for quite sometime I was on the team that developed the Commodore PET and then actually went off to graduate school and didn’t have any direct involvement in the VIC-20 or Commodore 64 Had some indirect work with some of the engineers and marketing folk and of course with my dad The way Commodore got into the computer business was completely by accident So let’s let’s take a couple of historical steps back My father when he left the US army had a some had some experience repairing typewriters; he was trained So let’s let’s take a couple of historical steps back My father when he left the US army had a some had some experience repairing typewriters; he was trained to do that in the army and one of his first jobs after leaving was he got the contract to continue doing the typewriter repair for the army base And his business went from repairing typewriters to importing and selling typewriters and then from typewriters into other office equipment like adding machines and then from adding And his business went from repairing typewriters to importing and selling typewriters and then from typewriters into other office equipment like adding machines and then from adding machines to electronic calculators This is where Commodore started; Jack Tramiel made these things and made his money with it Interesting story about this piece of equipment, everybody knows that jack Tramiel didn’t have really a lot of interest in the computer business; he wanted to sell calculators like this one And a lot of people will recognise this specific chiclet keyboard And it was Chuck Peddle who engineered the first computer for Commodore but because real keyboards were really expensive at the time chiclet keyboard And it was Chuck Peddle who engineered the first computer for Commodore but because real keyboards were really expensive at the time Jack Tramiel designed it as this keyboard should be used Virtually every calculator was designed around a calculator chip produced by Texas Instruments and our friends at TI decided that they wanted to get into the calculator business so they produced calculators and sold them for roughly the cost that they were selling the calculator and our friends at TI decided that they wanted to get into the calculator business so they produced calculators and sold them for roughly the cost that they were selling the calculator chip for, which drove everybody out of business My father said; so he told this story a couple of times; he said that in his in his mind his reaction was ‘well they can die but I’m not going to die that easily’ Being a holocaust survivor survival was an of times; he said that in his in his mind his reaction was ‘well they can die but I’m not going to die that easily’ Being a holocaust survivor survival was an important thing for him So he found a calculator chip company or a company that made calculator chips and it turned out they were not doing all that well financially and bought them So he found a calculator chip company or a company that made calculator chips and it turned out they were not doing all that well financially and bought them And one of the projects that this company was involved in was a little thing that he knew nothing about called the microprocessor the MOS technology 6502, which was probably the most used microprocessor of all time All the Commodore machines in that series, the PET, the VIC-20 and Commodore 64, all of those, all of the Apple 8-bit machines, all of the Atari 8-bit machines, including the Atari video entertainment system and the Nintendo machine all use that same chip, which is really quite amazing all of the Atari 8-bit machines, including the Atari video entertainment system and the Nintendo machine all use that same chip, which is really quite amazing How do you make it work? You’ve got to have some programming going along with it; needs to have some memory; needs to have some I/O so Chuck designed the KIM which Keyboard Interface Module if I remember correctly along with it; needs to have some memory; needs to have some I/O so Chuck designed the KIM which Keyboard Interface Module if I remember correctly And it had a 16-button keyboard that allowed you to enter commands, program the thing in in Assembly language, or actually in binary in hexadecimal code Lots of fun because that’s the way all programming should be done And that was the first personal computer I ever used, I had a KIM in my bedroom MOS Technology was in in Norristown and I’d actually visited MOS Technology when I was in high school and met Chuck Peddle and bought a KIM 1 directly from the factory so Commodore, since they owned MOS technology, I figured that was a you know be a perfect fit for me So when Neil gave me a call I applied and got a job with the VIC-20 team, headed by Michael Tomczyk So when Neil gave me a call I applied and got a job with the VIC-20 team, headed by Michael Tomczyk Chuck had designed the chip as a first step in a process where he wanted to make; and this is going to sound pretty funny, he wanted to make household robots a thing Chuck had designed the chip as a first step in a process where he wanted to make; and this is going to sound pretty funny, he wanted to make household robots a thing So the first thing he needed was a really inexpensive microprocessor and he met with my dad and said “I’m going to make this computer, if you want Commodore to make this computer I’ll work for you and Commodore will make this computer” Dad said, “Ok, let me think about it” and he came home and spoke to me and said, “I have no idea what he’s talking about” “Come meet this guy, talk to him about it and tell me what you think” So this you know punk kid at twenty goes to meet the designer of what is probably one of most influential pieces of technology ever;
Chuck Peddle the designer of the 6502 And Chuck and I sit down in a booth at an embedded computer system fair and they had as an example of a marvellous thing that you can build with this; a pinball machine And Chuck and I sit down to talk about computers and we spent most of the time talking about science fiction A science fiction story by Robert Heinlein called ‘The Door Into Summer’; which is all about a world full of personal computers and Chuck wanted to live in that world So if no one else was going to make that world he was going to build it and the first step was the PET So after the meeting talked to dad and I said, So if no one else was going to make that world he was going to build it and the first step was the PET So after the meeting talked to dad and I said, “this guy knows what he’s talking about” and Commodore went into the computer business
I joined Commodore in 1981 in the United Kingdom despite this American accent My first computer was the Commodore VIC-20 I was six years old when I got that I managed to augment my meagre savings and we went out and bought a second hand Commodore
64 for my birthday I got my first computer, home computer, which was the Commodore 64 My first computer started with the Commodore 64 I remember Christmas morning 1988; I think it was I unwrapped a Commodore Plus/4 For me my brand spanking new Commodore 64 computer, eager to go downstairs and play on it in the lounge, unfortunately being Christmas Day there was a James Bond film on in the afternoon and because we were a one TV family I had to wait until that had that had finished We are here in Atlanta, Georgia and my first computer was the Commodore 64 I’ve wrote a lot of music on the C64 back in the 80’s I had a real synthesizer sound chip, the SID chip I was like beside myself I had to have one I had a real synthesizer sound chip, the SID chip I was like beside myself I had to have one I’m from that little window of people that worked for Jack Tramiel and then worked there after Jack Tramiel left so I call this a Commodore Greek tragedy in three acts and I’m from act two, right in the middle of it Jack’s past was known in the company but not in great detail at least not generally People knew he’d been through a tough time in Germany Got his start in Toronto and so on but it wasn’t a topic of general conversation His experiences in the Second World War were rather horrific So he he often told the story of, I guess it was September 1st 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland He remembers seeing these squadrons of airplanes So he he often told the story of, I guess it was September 1st 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland He remembers seeing these squadrons of airplanes flying over, he thought that was really cool and he you know went outside and saluted it He didn’t think all that highly of them after they after they came into town Lodz was very close to the border in fact so close that they wound up annexing that part of Poland into Germany All the Jews were rounded up and sent to live in one particular section of the city called the Ghetto conveniently not too far from the Jewish cemetery and they were basically slave labour in one particular section of the city called the Ghetto conveniently not too far from the Jewish cemetery and they were basically slave labour I don’t actually remember what dad did during the ghetto years but it would have been you know odd jobs and manual labour of some sort because he was pretty young And then the the Lodz ghetto was one of the last if not the last ghetto in Poland to be know odd jobs and manual labour of some sort because he was pretty young And then the the Lodz ghetto was one of the last if not the last ghetto in Poland to be liquidated and sent have all its; we’ll call them inhabitants sent to Birkenau, a huge camp part of the Auschwitz complex where people were sorted out into those who could work and those that couldn’t and those that couldn’t were rapidly dispatched He wound up going with his dad to a work camp named Ahlem just outside of Hannover And it’s funny he he said that he remembers trying to never talk about this as we were He wound up going with his dad to a work camp named Ahlem just outside of Hannover And it’s funny he he said that he remembers trying to never talk about this as we were growing up so as far as he was concerned he never mentioned it As far as us kids were concerned they talked about it all the damn time because; and there’s growing up so as far as he was concerned he never mentioned it As far as us kids were concerned they talked about it all the damn time because; and there’s nothing inconsistent about that because there’s there’s not a lot of story of that level that a kid can tolerate and compared to what was bubbling in his mind I’m sure he said nothing Very emotional, really hard to get through but at the end of the war he was deathly ill, too weak to move So as the Americans were advancing into Germany, the Germans said “OK they’re coming in, they’re going to kill everyone so if you want to live come with us” And everyone that could move got up and left, went with the Germans and when they were out of town they were all shot And the so dad told the story that he remembers; and it’s almost certainly not true but he and when they were out of town they were all shot And the so dad told the story that he remembers; and it’s almost certainly not true but he remembers this black American soldier, who he thought was about seven and a half feet tall came in and you know just you know busted busted down the door, looked around to see what was going on and quickly got everything going came in and you know just you know busted busted down the door, looked around to see what was going on and quickly got everything going People in the in that squadron said there were no blacks Memory is a funny thing And very quickly you know medical attention People in the in that squadron said there were no blacks Memory is a funny thing And very quickly you know medical attention was given, the people were taken care of They wound up, there were a large number of what were called DPs, or displaced persons camps where people were rejuvenated and and allowed to heal and come back to some semblance of their humanity And my father decided; my parents were married by this point decided he wanted to come to the US So the guy asked him “how old are you?” to which my father responded “how old do I need to be?” and he said “eighteen” the US So the guy asked him “how old are you?” to which my father responded “how old do I need to be?” and he said “eighteen” he said, “good I’m eighteen” He was seventeen So you may find an interesting one-year discrepancy in the year of my father’s birth whether it’s 1927 or 1928 On all those papers his birth date was 1927 because that made him eighteen at the time, in fact he was born in 1928 So he arranged to come to the US, joined the US army My mother came to the US Worked in the army mostly because he wanted to learn about the country, learn about the people and wanted to learn English You mentioned Ahlem? A soldier from Sioux Falls, Iowa; if I remember correctly, by the name of Vernon Tott took pictures of the camp that day A survivor, who lived across the bay in Oakland, when he retired said “you know I’m going to find these guys” and from memory drew the patch that he remembered on their shoulder and sent it off to the Pentagon and said what group is this?
He found out, sent a letter to the that squadron and said does anyone have any memories, any and sent it off to the Pentagon and said what group is this?
He found out, sent a letter to the that squadron and said does anyone have any memories, any recollection about this? And Vernon read the the newsletter from his squadron and said, “You know I think I still have those pictures” So there’s a documentary called the ‘Angel of Ahlem’ about that which is pretty amazing Yeah we we met Vernon in Germany I did, my parents had met of course before but there was a ceremony for; I think it was the, lets see, would have been the 60th anniversary of the clearing of the Warsaw, of the Lodz Ghetto and Vernon was in the process of dying of cancer but he came to Germany and participated with us in this Really quite moving
[Interviewer] “Lets focus on ‘business is war’”
“Right” don’t you want to speak about sex?”
“OK” My father, for him, business was his life On the other hand it was very important for him that family be supported and be involved in, he was he was quite keen on the idea of his sons working for him him that family be supported and be involved in, he was he was quite keen on the idea of his sons working for him And I went to see him and I walked into his office and Jack was this short, rotund, bald, swarthy, sort of had large, protruding eyes and a deep booming voice that actually make the walls vibrate it was so baritone and he was very intimidating I don’t know of many other people that could run things quite the way he did The most surprising thing when you look at the way companies are structured between the lowest level person and the top there’s two or three levels and that’s it and no one’s that far away and and this wound up with an enormous number of people that reported directly to my father He hired me and he said “but your job will not be to assist me, your job will be to follow me around and learn the religion” Jack’s philosophy of business, he called He hired me and he said “but your job will not be to assist me, your job will be to follow me around and learn the religion” Jack’s philosophy of business, he called it the religion There are lots of ways to run a business and if you are going to run a business where the CEO is this warm, gentle, encouraging, mentoring person who leads people through a path of There are lots of ways to run a business and if you are going to run a business where the CEO is this warm, gentle, encouraging, mentoring person who leads people through a path of internal and emotional development while they generate a wonderful life-changing product
– great And I’m sure there are companies that do very well under that model, that wouldn’t work with my dad as CEO In my personal job was not to tell them how good they are but to tell them what they are doing wrong so they can improve We live today in a different world It’s such a good job – my God I went to the CES show, Jack Tramiel was on the stand, he was barking orders to everybody, was quite aggressive I had about thirty seconds with him, I just said “hello I’m Dave from the UK” he shook my hand and then dismissed me with his eyes My father was put in touch with a financier in Toronto by the name of Irving Gould who I think at that time got twenty percent of the company Very bluntly asked him one day I said “Irving I know you’re a wealthy man, obviously you invested heavily into Commodore and other companies Very bluntly asked him one day I said “Irving I know you’re a wealthy man, obviously you invested heavily into Commodore and other companies Would you mind telling me how you made your money?” And I thought he was just going to throw me out but he didn’t, he said “yes I’ll tell you” And I’ll tell you exactly the words he used He said, “David I took the best piss of my life”
“And I’m just just stood at the urinal and a young man came in and the young man is going ‘so well these guys have invented a system of twenty foot and forty foot containers that can get picked up and carried on lorries and they can get put onto special container ships, cargo ships’ And he said ‘and I just brought to my company to the table the opportunity to have the rights for North America for the containers and they’ve just turned it down’ and Irving just said “you’ve just found your man” to the table the opportunity to have the rights for North America for the containers and they’ve just turned it down’ and Irving just said “you’ve just found your man” Commodore programmers put together a game called ‘Jack attack’ and they named it after Jack Commodore programmers put together a game called ‘Jack attack’ and they named it after Jack You know at Commodore we have something that’s sort of urban legend and yet has it’s basis in truth and it’s called a ‘Jack attack’ And ‘Jack attacks’ can actually occur one on one, right Where you you might say, “I just can’t work this way ”you know You’d be the president of Commodore and say “I can’t work this way” and Jack would say, “Well then don’t” That meant you’re fired you’re just out We lost an entire office one time because they wanted royalties I went to lunch, came back, I looked at the twelve offices and they were all empty I went up to the receptionist and I said, “Where’s the marketing department?” And she’s looking she’s looking down and writing on a yellow notepad and I and she said “oh they’re gone, Jack came and fired them just before lunch” The ‘Jack attack’ I’ve know idea where the term came from The term the first time I heard it was long after Commodore ceased to be but as as I said when my father was ‘displeased’ he made made no secret of it There were I remember as early as the times I was working in the warehouse that I would when my father was ‘displeased’ he made made no secret of it There were I remember as early as the times I was working in the warehouse that I would be you know in the warehouse you know moving pallets around and I could hear dad yelling in his office And I knew someone was, someone had not done exactly what he wanted Jack was thought of as being ruthless sometimes because he held you to your word A young engineering manager once promised to deliver something to him and he wanted six months to do it So he built up a staff of thirty people and he started working on it Six months later to the day Jack showed up and said, “Is it done?” The engineer said, “no, we had some complications, we won’t have it done for another six months” Jack fired everybody and closed down the operation immediately Later that afternoon I was in Jack’s office when one of the engineers came in, storming in He was in his twenties And he said “I been here for five years, I’m not leaving, I helped build this company, I’m going to sit in the hallway if I have to I’m not being fired” And Jack said, “fine, go find yourself another job” I’m not leaving, I helped build this company, I’m going to sit in the hallway if I have to I’m not being fired” And Jack said, “fine, go find yourself another job” And you know what if the twenty-nine other people in that group were smart enough to come and do that they would still have their jobs If he thought you were giving him nonsense he would let you know at usually fairly high volume levels So along with percussion on the nearest horizontal surface So and and when he was displeased it was it was obvious If you were emotionally resilient enough to handle that and to realize that the that the criticism what not criticism of you as a person but criticism of the job you had done and could grow and learn from it then you wind up with a group of people that will work very well under those circumstances My best Jack story happened in Germany I had one of the Mercedes for the show and my job was to chauffeur Jack and Sig around They’d spend a lot of time talking, spend a lot of time touring the show, spent a lot of time in bars So one time they’d both gotten really drunk They were both sitting in the back seat singing German songs; they were having a great time And Jack told the story of how he built this road that we were on because he was a prisoner of war in Germany Everyone talks about him designing all these machines, which he neither designed nor actually knew how to use The first computer that he was actually comfortable using was an I-pad and when he got comfortable using it he just took to it immediately but he never learned to program, never was interested in doing any of that stuff using was an I-pad and when he got comfortable using it he just took to it immediately but he never learned to program, never was interested in doing any of that stuff He knew it wasn’t magic but assumed that if he needed any expertise he would just hire it or he had a son that could do it for him so it was fine
My dad brought home, in 1977, a Commodore PET 2001 Much like the gamers today that spend all of their time in their bedrooms That’s what I did with a PET My first computer was a Commodore PET 4032 My first experience of computers was the Commodore PET
The Commodore PET has certain characteristic sounds when you get to know it First of all there’s the sound and the feel of your fingers on the keyboard A sort of crunching sound, a comforting sound really once once you get used to it not like keyboards today or anything God forbid flat, glass screens that make no sound, where you have to put a synthesized sound in place The actual touch from the touch-typing was an important feedback mechanism for the machine It was as I think about quite nostalgically it was a very comfortable way Chuck moved out to California, assembled a small team of people to work on the PET He did an awful lot of the work himself but there were a few incredibly talented engineers involved, Chuck and me Chuck knew that it needed to come with a programming language that you could use it fresh out of the box and the the best one available at involved, Chuck and me Chuck knew that it needed to come with a programming language that you could use it fresh out of the box and the the best one available at the time, to some extent the only one, was Microsoft BASIC You know Gates comes in and says he wants a dollar a machine and my father’s response was “I’m already married” So he offered Bill what at the time must have seemed like an enormous amount of money - $50,000, which he took Couple of years later Bill is walking around with this entourage of Japanese businessmen And he comes up to the Commodore booth If you typed WAIT6502 the next number would Couple of years later Bill is walking around with this entourage of Japanese businessmen And he comes up to the Commodore booth If you typed WAIT6502 the next number would be the number of times the word Microsoft was printed on the screen And that’s what he expected to happen, instead the machine just hung And I leaned over to Bill and said “you know there’s nothing at that address, it’s And that’s what he expected to happen, instead the machine just hung And I leaned over to Bill and said “you know there’s nothing at that address, it’s just going to hang there’’ and he gave me the if looks could kill look And then I realised what he was doing and said, “Your BASIC has been incredibly important to the to the success of this machine It’s a great product and I’m really glad we have it in our computers” and as a result he let me live You may remember the first thing one of these machines did would say COMMODORE BASIC with so many bytes free; so we had the we loaded the program that would read the number of bytes free off of the screen, decode that If it wasn’t the right number it meant that the memory had failed its online power test So the the very first PETs actually self-diagnosed, bytes free off of the screen, decode that If it wasn’t the right number it meant that the memory had failed its online power test So the the very first PETs actually self-diagnosed, which was pretty remarkable The first model PET had this little or as they called it chiclet keyboard with the little plastic things that came off on your fingers and a cassette tape The next model had a larger full typewriter spacing keyboard and then you would use an external cassette drive My main sort of single contribution to the system was the graphics character set and the only instruction I got from Chuck was four of those images have to be hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs because I want to play blackjack I think the goal was to have the machine running for the winter CES, Consumer Electronics Show, which didn’t work We eventually figured out what was wrong, I think the goal was to have the machine running for the winter CES, Consumer Electronics Show, which didn’t work We eventually figured out what was wrong, there was a resistor missing on the main circuit board otherwise everything worked perfectly but we didn’t know that until a couple of weeks later So enormous amounts of work went into meeting the deadline of these shows Yes so there was a lot of pressure at that first Hannover fair so I guess that would have been spring of 1977 It was my job to take the PET It got it’s own seat on the airplane next to me, which was lots of fun Then we had to go through German customs “What do you mean this is a computer? Computers are ten of millions of dollars and they’re the size of a room No it can’t be a computer, what are you talking about?” It went back and forth a couple of times In the meantime we had missed the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Hannover So we rented a VW microbus and drove from Frankfurt to Hannover Took the PET, popped it down on the table, plugged it in and it didn’t work So on the phone we had to diagnose what was going on and repair the machine Got it working and that was a lot of fun VIC-20 with 8K expansion probably could have got away with it at the time so that was all good Fat graphics – yes we like the fat graphics
20 was it 20, 20, 22? 22, 22 yes Yes it was, I mean the difference between the VIC and the Commodore’s graphics, yes the Commodore was better but sometimes the VIC version is better Oh look at that!
Commodore was a very international company We were the third largest personal computer company in the world but we were we were number three in the US but were number one in Europe So as a result of having sold the Commodore PET computer which was very popular especially in schools So here we were at this meeting and it was a large room with about twenty-five people seated around a square table that was open in the centre So Jack came in and the engineers they wanted to do a colour computer like an Apple and Jack said “I want a small introductory computer, I want a small computer that plays games and for for the masses not the classes” And as soon as he said that the whole room erupted and everybody said, “no we have to do a business computer, we have to compete with Apple, we have to do a personal computer, we have to do larger computers not smaller” And Jack said, “I want the small computer but you talk about it and I’ll come back tomorrow, I have some business” so he left Dad calls and he says the engineers have come up with a new machine I’d like you to come and take a look and see what you think of it Go to Chicago go to the the Commodore booth So there’s this little machine in a rectangular box hooked up to a TV showing all sorts of PET graphics you know character sets stuff but in colour And that was the birth of the of the VIC-20 And that became the first generation of home computers The first million-seller of home computers that seeded the market I came on as part of the VIC commando team, which was the VIC-20 product launch team So we launched the VIC-20 at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1981 It was a hit It actually went on to become the first million-seller home computer; it’s the first microcomputer of any kind to sell one million units When we first got the VIC-20 I had to share it with my brother It was actually my parents bought it for me and my brother; he’s three years older than me And we we didn’t have anything else; we just had the computer and the TV So we didn’t have any games for it, we didn’t have any software for it, all we had was the computer and the manual And so we started playing around trying to figure out how to program in BASIC using the, you know they had some example programs in the manual and it would teach you how to do things And then you know once I learned that I started making my own programs The VIC could be programmed but it only had 5K of RAM memory When you turned it on the 5K shrunk down to 3.5K
3.5K is basically one sheet of typing papers worth of memory Today we have gigabytes The fat graphics really added to some of the shooters They were just chunky but fun Yes and the sort of sound effects were just sort of raucous and just Well you’re firing everything out the sound chip Why isn’t it blowing up?
But it was it was that good The sound’s massively loud through the speakers thinking is this real? Is this going to really happen?
But that was how it was you know it got your attention Some massive overly loud zapping sound, that’ll draw you straight in you know Ooh playing this then You would always have to be wary of the fact of ‘oh can this game run on unexpanded VIC or do I need 8K or 16K expansion?’ And thankfully a lot of games companies realised that you didn’t want to take a chance with the game and realise it doesn’t work so they’d always put ‘Unexpanded VIC-20’ in nice big bold letters on the cover We wired up the memory externally to the VIC-20 and that gave us a full 8k of RAM to develop cartridges Once we got that we could actually start developing more significant cartridges, more complicated games like Omega Race, Gorf, Sargon II Chess, the adventure games and things like that Couldn’t do those on 3.5K but 8K was bare enough Some of our family members gave us some Christmas presents that were VIC-20 cartridge games We got Omega Race, some kind of Sea Battle or something like that Omega Race was definitely the best one I still have that cartridge The real winner of course was the Commodore 64 Yes so the Commodore 64, which was the natural outgrowth of the VIC The same people that designed that VIC chip designed the VIC-II, which is what powered the Commodore 64 And then it had an absolute brilliant sound chip
And the Commodore with it’s Sound Interface Device or the SID chip, as it’s affectionately known really bundled up a hardware synthesizer inside a home computer And I knew then that that was a computer that I just had to get my hands on A lot of the music on the games at that time in the very early eighties was just really awful And he did a couple of VIC-20 things then we kind of went on to the 64 really, which was indeed obviously the SID chip [sings]
The Commodore 64 sound chip it was it was it was a decade ahead of everything else So even to the stage of where the Amiga came out the Amiga couldn’t do the sounds that the Commodore 64 was doing It was that good I just had to choose the C64 because of the 64K memory and the fact that it had a sound chip where none of the others did Hearing a piece of Rob’s I think it was his arrangement of English Country Gardens for was it for Hover Bother or something like that?
You know yum de da dum da da dum but it’s a lovely arrangement and had some lovely little sounds, little twiddles in it The 64 was a huge eye-opener and it was also a bit of an equalizer at home in terms of the different age groups getting people together and playing a game You know where the youngest in the family could beat the oldest or something you know You know there was no Internet at the time There was no easy way, even getting to the library was difficult It was hard for your parents to haul five kids to the library but you know there was these gems of resources that we would find just on trips to the grocery store I knew there was a big store that was nearby, bring a pad and paper and actually write the machine code myself, copying it because I couldn’t buy the book And so I would sit there while my mom was shopping or while she was doing her thing I would come home and have a piece of it, bring it to my Commodore 64 and have that stored and I would have to wait another week to go by to get that next little piece First Commodore 64 for I think three to fours years and bearing in mind it was second-hand anyway but it got to the point where it would only load games if the cassette deck was upside down And sometimes I had to bang the computer on the desk to get it to work And I guess I was seating the chips back in their sockets but as a as a twelve/thirteen year old I had no idea about that sort of thing I’ve been a Commodore 64 fan since 1985 and in that time I’ve been involved in programming, composing music, running a disc magazine and have also written a book about Commodore 64 games Commodore 64 was an amazing machine My best friend Shaun at school, he had a Commodore 64 and I was sort of envious because it was actually one of the newer ones that came out the little you know sleek-looking white ones Joe Blade was a brilliant game on the Commodore 64 It was actually set in like you know the far distant future in the year 1997 when London had been taken over by thugs It was actually set in like you know the far distant future in the year 1997 when London had been taken over by thugs And we got really far in that game and I remember we actually left this Commodore 64 on for about a week because you know we didn’t want to lose our high score And when I got the Commodore the technology of the sound chip meant that I could explore musical ideas that perhaps lay just beyond my technical playing ability I was really, really in to Ragtime for example and I heard a couple of Ragtime-y kind of tracks in Rob Hubbard’s soundtrack to Action Biker and then Martin Galway’s soundtrack to Kong Strikes Back And that was the point really when I realised that the Commodore 64 could be a vehicle for exploring composition and performance in a way that didn’t necessarily rely on instrumental technique I love music and you know we wanted to do something different with music And I remember seeing this advertisement in one of the computer magazines from this guy Rob Hubbard who basically was you know ‘I’ll write games I’ll write music for your games’ and and I think he even posted us a cassette to say you know ‘here’s some of the stuff I've done Eventually it clicked as to you know as to how it worked and what it was actually doing And then once you get, once you get that stuff working without the computer crashing then basically it was like Pandora’s box opening up I was thinking much more about the about the SID chip It kind of became like a popularity contest really the more games you had the cooler you were at school And if you were that kid that would come in with that you know new game that had just come out in the shop on Monday morning that every kid in school was asking for you’d be the most popular kid in school that week Commodore gaming was promoted through the use of clubs Whoever had the faster ability of doing…tap, tap, tap, click… or click, click, click… or this - would obviously be the winner Whoever got the most points we used to buy prizes as opposed to sweets, obviously the Greek element would be buying a pile of souvlaki At school there were lots of people with different machines I had a friend who had a Spectrum and I had friends who had the Commodore 64 as well and we would occasionally swap games to try something out I remember one lunch time running home from school with Ghostbusters, the tie in to the film and playing that for about half an hour instead of having lunch There was a real awful sample that was used on the Ghostbusters, so it became apparent that you could do samples [Ghostbusters- haha haha]
What I wanted to do was try to find a way to got the be able to play a sample not just a little speech sample with nothing else going on but to get a musical, get something integrated in the music so distorted rock guitar was an obvious choice What could I do sound you know with the technology to get more out of the sound chip And one of the things that I developed was sampling I realised you can play the the SID voices, the three voices whilst the sampling plays over it And that was a revelation and they did it with the volume register The Commodore 64 now was the one that myself and my brother we we sort of saved up our money We worked overtime, we heard this machine was coming out and it was going to be the greatest, most wonderful new thing and we we saved up our money and we, as teenagers, and bought a Commodore 64 And my goodness we were very happy with it, an absolutely amazing machine What was the the culture like at Commodore UK?
Was was it hard work? Was it a lot of partying?
What went on?
There was always partying We, we really I guess supported the the the idea that ‘you work hard, you play hard’ Soon as David joined, I met David Pleasance when he first joined the company in sales I was already there and David was a master of creating interesting bundles for retail Great, great program that was developed was, while I was there, was International Soccer I walked past a computer store and I saw a game playing in the window and it was International Soccer on the Commodore 64 And there was colour, there was sound, there was animation, there was graphics I just had to have that machine This game was unbelievable and it was only possible because the 64 had sprites No other computer had these programmable, movable objects
So the SID station was a project at Chalmers University of Technology where a couple of guys had this course to make something that involved programmable logic And they had two ideas; one was like a MIDI CD converter and the other was something called SIDomania And SIDomania was a synthesizer based on the SID chip The SID station is a tabletop synthesizer module So it’s got a few direct controls that control sound parameters It’s got a few things for entering tables and stuff that you would do on a on a regular Commodore 64 and a tracker but in a hardware box Hey, there’s this company called Commodore hiring Yes I need to get out of here So without really knowing; I was saving my money for an Atari 400, I couldn’t even afford an 800 back then So I I didn’t know much about Commodore and I was about to become an Atari fan but that stopped the day I got to Commodore We brought this Commodore 64 and it totally amazing because we had a PDP 23 I think it was And the boss was very “Oh you know you have to be very careful around the PDP 23” And here’s Bil with this Commodore 64 and you can type in ‘LOAD, $8, 8’ or whatever but you know it would do a disc drive in a directory and all these things And that was like you know ‘working on computers seems a little bit more interesting than building scales’ So I go to interview with Bob Russell who you know worked on parts of the VIC-20 and C64 And you know it’s going OK and stuff but then at one point he said “why am I LOADX immediate 02?” and I’d go “8502” And you know it’s going OK and stuff but then at one point he said “why am I LOADX immediate 02?” and I’d go “8502” And he looks at me and he goes “then I’d store immediate” and I’m like “8D109” I’m muttering the opcodes that I know from having worked on the 6502 so closely And I saw his body language change you know He’s like “Ok we’ll have you down to the plant type thing” Well he he phrased it so nonchalantly, just swing by the plant I thought I was going for burgers or something right So I don’t even bring my resume and I’m in like corduroys or something when I swing by And first thing I do is when I go to interview with Shiraz Shivji who’s the guy who’s either going to hire me or not He had his desk turned around the wrong way and I didn’t know so I run I walk in and pop myself in his chair And he walks in and has to like “excuse me, you are in my chair” Oh right And then goes “where’s your resume?” I’m going “I didn’t bring one” And it’s over, the interview is over at that point but now Frank Hughes stops by; the guy who did work he goes “oh Shiraz I got it” So he brings it in and I’m starting to you know kind of hit my stride, talking and stuff And I just happen to mention a the K-Tron the vibrating wire technology, I know its one of our competitors, but I went into the detail you know if you if you say you’re a satellite, you know satellite, you better be able to talk satellite Well I’m weighing instrumentation so I better talk it And what I did there was I said, “it uses a reference weight verses a regular weight and it can even work on the moon” And Shiraz looked at me and said “you meant mass” and I was hired because he got to correct me I was early enough when I joined Commodore where we were still up in the MOS building And so it’s these tiny rooms painted psychotic blue and there was three engineers in there and you didn’t need the door you could’ve put a forth engineer in there And none of cared because like there’s a chip fab right below our feet and stuff So that’s where I did what became known as the TED series of computers I did that while working at the MOS building And then after we moved down to Westchester into that huge facility there, we got got Hedley and a guy named Terry Fisher ‘Fish’ who joined us and he did all the PC boards So we had like the cream of the crop of the skill company was now down here One of the very first tasks I was given, well it came from a guy named Andy Finkel And he told me to re-write the cassette loader code for the C128 to make it run faster and run better than the code that was used on the C64 But he put this one perverse constraint ‘you cannot move any labels’ So every label in the assembly code had to stay in exactly the same place because Andy was of the opinion that programmers would randomly jump to any label that had gotten out there and they were all public So it was a very odd thing to have to do but that’s what I ended up doing The John Lennon looking guy from the from the outside was there and that was Bil Herd And he proceeded to ask me some technical questions about about saturation limiting diodes on the input of op-amps and also about Laplace transforms, which he didn’t know how to do And it was like yes so I think we had a really good interview and sure enough a day or so later they called me in to visit Commodore on Monday and offered me a job on the spot I had the long hair going so I looked like Floyd the drummer of the Muppet Show, the way he walked and so you know So I was unlike most people you know because in California I might have been more normal but here out here on the East coast our engineers had actually turned into a pretty stodgy bunch and I was able to help turn it back into animal house And then we had fun A guy I used to work with was a guy named George Robbins He was a character I say we lived at Commodore, we worked at Commodore, we would go home at night and at least sleep in our bed, occasionally take as shower and show up the next day George lived at work George had two cubicles where the rest of us had one George had a nest George had managed to get caught once driving a car with no driver’s licence, an expired registration and no insurance I parked the truck against a telephone pole After the cops were done with me and I’d like take care of a little detail like call Hedley So he gave me a ride into Commodore you know not long after I became known as the resident Commodore person [laughing in background]
So George just decided he was going to live at Commodore Greg Berlin and I had discovered that down in the factory area up like in this weird sort of mid-floor area in the factory there was a place where they would stash stash all the Herman Miller furniture to improve our offices by putting up doorways and things that weren’t ever supposed to be there And George had done the same thing only even more so that he had kind of made himself a little room that he could close off, which we called his nest Yes well the, I was the one who coined the phrase ‘nesting’ You know whereas I had the air mattress and stuff George would sleep in bubble wrap And then he’d get up and he’d be walking around and he’d have these red rings, blinking his eyes and stuff but he’d have these little impressions all over his face from the bubble wrap And when you went to look for George, because he didn’t always sleep in the same place, you’d look under something see like a foot And when you went to look for George, because he didn’t always sleep in the same place, you’d look under something see like a foot sticking out of bubble wrap – found him You know it was literally like a mouse nest at that part, so we called it nesting I kept a sleeping bag I could sleep under my desk when I needed to but I wasn’t planning to live there full-time but George kind of was And he’d also take, he’d also take sort of sponge baths in the, in the bathroom We didn’t have a shower and so yes he was kind of a character, that’s just part of it George got paid in cash, he didn’t have direct deposit and at some point they found out that he had like six months of un-cashed George got paid in cash, he didn’t have direct deposit and at some point they found out that he had like six months of un-cashed pay cheques in his drawer, in his office because he was never leaving and you know maybe to eat he’d drive you know, I mean all of us would had cars and we’d go out And you know we are all in our twenties and thirties and we’re getting paid good money we think and you know we’re doing okay And George has decided he needs money And he reaches into his pocket and he pulls out six months worth of pay cheques What that George? He said, “Oh I need to cash out some” Because he needs a deposit, because he didn’t spend any money, because he didn’t have any expenses, he lived in the building you know So he had this huge pile He filled out six months of pay cheques and of course I’m sitting there going “oh man what I could” you know we are all like
“wow that’s a, that’s a chunk of change” So he was forced by personnel to open an account with direct deposit because I guess they didn’t like the idea of cheques not being cashed Yes it was funny, that’s a, I mean there’s, you could you could come up with a lot of different George stories if you thought about it Yes George, George was, he was a character We worked to go to CES and George was an engineer, a key engineer on the product, actually it might have been when the A500 came out and the mandate came down that everybody going to CES had to wear a suit So you had to have a tie and a suit and you had to look good And all of George’s attire were were you know blue jeans with battery acid holes in them and ripped T-shirts just because he didn’t feel that dressing up was sort of his thing But he wanted to go to CES and so he needed to get a suit So he goes out and he buys this, this synthetic material, polyester suit, sort of tan coloured right and he’s got the suit So now we are in the labs and we have to figure out how to get to CES So the rest of us have this thing called luggage that we put our clothes in but George doesn’t possess any of this so he’s not sure exactly what he’s going to do So literally he takes a grocery bag and he jams his suit in the grocery bag He rolls the grocery bag over and he puts duct tape on the outside of the bag and this is his luggage So he takes this thing and I’ll never forget sitting there in Las Vegas waiting for the luggage to come down and it’s coming down and here comes rolling George’s bag So then what happened?
Well it’s a polyester suit and it’s been all scrunched up and compressed So he puts the suit on and now the sleeves are like up to here and he’s got this wrinkly suit on And he shows up and so management finally said “George you don’t have to work the booth, you know, you don’t have to wear the suit, you know, go see CES” and and they never really fought him on that again One of the best engineers I ever worked with It took a few years to get around this and now I have my own car and my own house and I don’t live at Commodore anymore but I love it anyway Commodore stock went through the ceiling, the Commodore stock went up and split a couple of times In fact Jack and his three sons had a tradition that whenever the stock went up ten points they would all stop and share a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne And I I’m privileged to say I was with them several times when they did that That was pretty cool and it’s a, it’s a kind of an interesting symbol of the growth we were achieving We were not just growing the market We weren’t just giving millions of people a computer that couldn’t afford before We were also making a lot of money for investors and showing that this was a profitable enterprise Jack Tramiel done his Apple killer and it was the Commodore 64 He was done with Apple We used to say Apple who?
I mean that’s just that was it, they were, they were cooked in our book And like it’s true and we did twenty-seven million C64’s where as Apple 2 might have sold five and a half million or something So we didn’t need another games machine what, what, what Jack wanted was Sir Clive Sinclair’s spot now you know And he had the little Spectrum and things and he’s like I want him next, right, I want that And so the, the C116 if you saw when Shiraz pulled it out and showed it to me It was this big; it was the Raspberry Pi of the day It was supposed to cost $49 and it had chiclet keys but it had 121 colours, had built in sound, all in one chips, basically a chip with a computer built around it Which back then it used to be lots of chips right As the company got more and more successful and more and more perks came up like, as my father called it the PET jet Although it probably should have been called the Commodore 64 jet but that didn’t sound as good Irving would demand use of the PET jet whenever he could and dad didn’t like this, it did not fit with his you know morals of what the right thing for a company asset to be used for Then there was the one with the full size keyboard and TED meant text display It was supposed to be a business machine You want to play games get a 64 In a matter of fact the price is completely different right but we’re not, we’re not trying to compete with ourselves So Jack had that, had that focus that he knew what, what he wanted to do with the market I think both Commodore and Apple had in 1983, so the CES was in January of 1984, had just each cost a billions dollars in annual sales As I like to point out Commodore doing it with machines that cost a tenth as much as the Apple machines So a few more machines being sold An argument going on between Jack and Irving upstairs in the booth and I was there and suddenly I got this, I was demonstrating and suddenly I got, somebody came over and said you got to come up and explain you know the plus/4 to them So I went up and I I didn’t really know Irving I know Jack a lot better and so I went through my spiel you know explaining what, what it was, what are, what we wanted it to do How it was going to prop up the price of the C64 and you know they both, the people in the room listened and then I was dismissed There was a celebration for Commodore’s; I guess it was 25th anniversary at the time or the 30th, if I do the math quickly
And dad gave Irving an ultimatum and said, “You can’t use company assets as if they’re your own As long as I’m president you can’t, you have to stop So either you stop doing it or I quit” To which Irving said “goodbye” and dad quit Just you know left the room and quit Walked by my wife on the, in the hall and looking rather stern and upset She was kind of shocked and that’s, he just quit There are allsorts of stories I think the official Commodore story is that there was a board meeting in New York a couple of weeks later where they fired him I’m pretty sure he wasn’t at the meeting When Jack leaves and he leaves literally at a CES Jack has a disagreement with Irving Gould, they part ways literally at the CES show and at that point TED literally died because now there is nobody to focus all those things The new generation Corvettes So the three of us got together and bought him one of these Corvettes at that same Consumer Electronics Show So Sam and Garry drove it down to Las Vegas for that same show and unbeknownst to us that you know this whole quitting Commodore thing was going to happen we were going to give him this this fun present So Garry arranges to have the car parked in the front of the hotel and then they went outside just on some pretence And dad walks out and sees the car and goes “that’s it, that’s the car, that’s what I want” And he walks up to it and he goes “it’s the right colour and it’s got all the right you know it’s got the right, right wheels and the right interior and the right everything and this is perfect” And Garry reaches into his pocket, pulls out the keys and says, “it’s yours” Yes and then a couple of days later he quits and hops in the car and drives home I didn’t really know him I you know, I’d seen him a couple of times but Jack was still there, he didn’t leave until after Consumer Electronics Show that January Couple of weeks after that is when he left so yes so I was there basically for the tail end of the Jack Tramiel era It didn’t, didn’t really have an impact A lot of the people who had made the Commodore 64 had left a long time ago
But the, but without Jack around the sheep started multiplying without a wolf right and pretty soon we’re stepping in sheep shit everywhere right So and, and meanwhile you know we go from a core of about twelve people, eight to twelve people doing all the work The department blooms up to fifteen and it’s So and, and meanwhile you know we go from a core of about twelve people, eight to twelve people doing all the work The department blooms up to fifteen and it’s still the same core of eight to twelve of us doing all the work They didn’t know the new computer you have to start over again Get developers on board And this is more than marketing that that dropped the ball Anybody that had only been there a couple Get developers on board And this is more than marketing that that dropped the ball Anybody that had only been there a couple of years thought that C64’s sell themselves They sure acted like they did we sold 27 million But then they upped the price for the TED series and called it the Plus/4 and it became
$300 Well it was designed to be $79 But then they upped the price for the TED series and called it the Plus/4 and it became
$300 Well it was designed to be $79 So, so that thing now dies on the vine but what that shows then is you know with, with Jack we had a focus He didn’t think a distributor should make any money off hardware and he didn’t think we should make too much money off hardware He thinks, he thinks you should have, have a good price for a good product but not overcharge And distributors like “oh we want to make nice” no you’ll make that on the software but, but you don’t make it on my hardware So that, he would, he would enforce that so And distributors like “oh we want to make nice” no you’ll make that on the software but, but you don’t make it on my hardware So that, he would, he would enforce that so you know without him doing that then you know here’s a $300 thing, why is that?
So he gets a hundred, he gets a hundred and he gets a hundred Fifty top executives, engineers and marketeers at Commodore all walked out of the company in one week It’s as if we set our time clock six months, we never talked to each other The six-month point came, we weren’t happy with what we saw at the company We weren’t being allowed to develop the new computers that we had in mind Had a lot of new, new stuff and prototypes in development, so we all walked out Greg Pratt the president of Commodore USA, me, all the VIC Commandoes, many of the engineers, the whole infrastructure just walked out in one week I jumped ship to what had be called the D128 and, and there’s a story with the day that happened But the, we ended up in engineering deciding to do the C128 because no one stopped us This wasn’t from on high, this wasn’t
“there’s our project to plan for this year” Couple of engineers, I sat down at a table, I, I drew, I threw away the old guy’s design because it just wasn’t going to go anywhere used their little grid paper and hand drew a schematic that became the C128
And as, we show it to management when we’d get a certain distance and they’re like
“ this is great, I had a great idea” we’re like “I need another guy on my team “yes you’ve got it” you know And so we marched it down field by building up resources and things but it’s like we told them it’s now called the C128 you know because we decided, it was us that decided to make it Commodore compatible to the Commodore 64 And we hadn’t said a hundred percent compatible, that was marketing once again drifting through the picture like they, like they were in a drunken haze “oh it’s a hundred percent compatible” well no, never said that but we’ll try Yes I, I, it’s hard to say, I think a lot of people are just like the idea it’s bigger, better, faster, more but is also runs my old programs so I don’t have to keep the Commodore
64 around you know, which is, that’s a significant thing The 128 was there to fill a gap right We needed something for CES and we know the Amiga’s coming I’m actually one of the people they brought and I looked at the spec and said, “Why are there tanks instead of business icons?” So we saw the 128 as just basically if, if the main thrust of the allied forces was, was the Amiga it was me and my crew went up to the mountains and held the mountain pass for the winter you know that how I kind of look at it And so the 128 was only meant to sell one year And Yes I know we sold I know six or seven million of them at least and that was, it worked more than most people, you know most companies were selling as far as a single model of the computer It didn’t, you know it didn’t match the, you know the twenty-something million of the, of the C64 but nobody else did either There was supposed to a C128D and that was my favourite computer It was supposed to come out at the exact same time And that’s the one with the built-in drive, the keyboard clipped under it and it didn’t get made And I didn’t know it didn’t get produced until after I’d quit because I kind of wandered off after and I was burnt I was just fried, I, I, I, I had used a lot of me up in a very short period of time Do you know the hole-in-the-wall story? Have you heard the hole-in-the-wall story?
No tell us it then Ok, so the hole-in-the-wall story We, we, as you know, we were working very hard and didn’t need delays that we didn’t need to be there in the first place and Commodore found a new way to throw one in front of us And I’d moved in to this one room with, where I had this big emulator and on the weekends they would turn off the, the air conditioner So I would wear a headband and no shirt and I would have to keep washing it off about every twenty minutes with spray because I‘d dripped sweat on it But none the less it was my room and that’s where I did my work Then one day I show up and the door’s locked on the weekend
“Oh this is inconvenient” So I climb up over the ceiling and I get that white crap all over me and I open the door, right And we put up a sign that says ‘don’t lock this door, there is no key for it’ because you know it was a brand new facility for us and they’d never ever turned the key over we figured Well the security guards can’t resist a door than can be locked and locked it again Climb up over, get the white crap all over me again, put a sign that says ‘no don’t lock this door, there’s no key for it’ I may have said assholes or something So finally it’s locked again They said I could punch through the wall in one punch It was actually two, one for the inside layer, one for the outside layer to where I could reach in and unlock the door right So by the time I’ve got it open, then I got the white crap all over my arm now instead of me And there’s a bunch of Z8000 programmers you know looking like I just shot a sheep or something and the next day they locked the door again So I had to put a sign up that said ‘look assholes there’s a f****ing hole in the wall, stop locking the door’ That’s the hole-in-the-wall story
You don’t get to bark We’re doing something important here where no barking is important Are we rolling?
Welcome to RJ Mical’s house of construction, ha-ha ha-ha You know you probably won’t be able to get to show any of the house, will you?
Don’t worry I can see it right now Yes, oh good, ok well
I’m RJ Mical and I was one of the original engineers that invented the Amiga computer a long time ago and since then I’ve done a lot with my life I’ve done a lot with my career and managed to go a lot of places But I got to tell you that Amiga thing stands out as, as one of the most precious and and special periods of my life and I think the thing I’ve created that I’m most delighted about
When I first got into Amiga I was I was a very young kid and this was a fantastic escape and that machine I absolutely loved The sound on the Amiga was a bit of a game changer so for the first time video game music and computer music began to sound like production music And when I saw the specs of the Amiga and some demos and stuff like that I was like this is this is the next level you know My love is the Amiga 500 and the CD32 And I got an Amiga 1000 and I was I was probably mostly known for doing the Budbrain mega demos 1 and 2
The first time I played the Amiga was when my cousin had it My cousin was four years older than me so he had this Amiga and we were going up to his house and there was just like this magic I’m at the University of Illinois and I’m an English major I’m I’m studying to to get an English degree, not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it, literature maybe, you know writing for newspapers or magazines or something like that But I didn’t want to do literature; I didn’t want to write for magazines I wanted to write books; I wanted to do my own my own creation But I was afraid of being a starving artist and then I was going to go out into the real world and be unable to be really successful and and have a you know have a great income and so on All the things I’d been taught that I really wanted which turned out to be not true but I was scared to go out and and get out into the real world with an English degree And I had this amazing fateful afternoon that I’m sitting in the computer lab and I’m about to graduate and I’m worried what am I going to do out there in the real world with an English language degree?
And I’m sitting there in the computer lab worrying what am I going to do? What am I going to do? And then I take a break from my worrying to play some computer, some of my computer game; the Star Trek game that I played And I play the game for a while, then I’d stop and worry what am I going to do with my life? What am I going to do with my life? Then I’d play the game and I’d worry what am I going to do with my life? And finally hey I know: I could do this stuff And, and realised all of instant in one afternoon that that really my calling was to go off and and to do software engineering In roughly December of 1982 Dave Morris convinced me that I should you know come work with him at at initial Amiga actually it was still Hi-Toro at the time; it was named Amiga I think a few months after I got there When I got there I was the first technical employee of any kind there Dave had eight other marketing and sales people working on the game controller and other things to prep the channel Jay Miner officially couldn’t be there because part of the deal was that he would stay at ZyMOS and finish the pacemaker So I arrived there by myself and then later on Jay and Joe Decuir would stop by And the team of the three of us were given a room with three very large wall-sized white boards to come up with a product
Not only was working at Williams Electronics an amazing experience because it gave me this opportunity to really express myself as a computer scientist but also as an artist I’m a storyteller; I love creating music; I love creating graphics and special effects and it was a job that allowed me to tie all of that together and do something But even better than that I met a fellow there that got connected shortly after that with this new company out in California called Amiga Computer Dave Morris basically told us what the channel was and what he wanted to put in the channel and we were given a pretty much a clean slate to do it He wanted something that could produce animation more like the cartoons kids saw on TV And so we started on the whiteboard just drawing boxes and one of us would throw up an idea and you know Jay would shake his head and say “no feasible” Of course the forth person in the room was Mitchy Jay’s dog who would actually sit there watching You know the stories are that we would look at Mitchy and Mitchy would either nod or fall asleep and we would use that as a cue to the design And the original Amiga that I saw in the block diagram had game controller ports as part of its design And, and all of that it checked out as, as a proper game system but it also had these extra capabilities And it was that more than anything else that inspired me to join the company because the games stuff was interesting to me and to create a game platform I probably would have said yes if it was just that The Amiga is sort of the child of Commodore and Apple and Atari Jay and Joe Decuir had worked on Atari and of course they knew about the sprite engines that were in the Atari VCS The chips they had worked with were the 6502, which had come from Commodore of course; Chuck Peddle’s chip and then I had worked at Apple and learned the tricks that Woz and Burrell Smith used in the Apple 2 and the Mackintosh and of course the work that Lisa had reinvented from the Xerox Alto So we sort of combined ideas from that whole ecosystem of computers that had come before And I think that was one of the reasons the Amiga turned out so well, the cross-pollination of ideas from multiple predecessor designs What I saw more than anything else was the the quality, the strength of the people that were putting together the company And, and yes the engineering staff was superb and I was easily convinced by people like Dale and and Dale Luck and Ron Nicholson and of course Jay Miner But the but the business people really believed and and were extremely well experienced and had the right know how and and the right enthusiasm to be able to make the thing happen and so I said yes to joining Amiga Computer I am the chairman of the Dutch Commodore User Group Our club is more than 35 years old and still alive and kicking I like to collect old computers mainly Commodores We have almost four hundred members Our club meetings are visited by I think so about fifty to till hundred visitors every time and six times a year we are here in Maarssen in the Netherlands It’s a very nice place to be because we have a lot to do with innovation
Somehow Dave Needle got introduced to us as a consultant who possibly could help with some of the general hardware design, logic design and chip design He came to interview actually they didn’t like him at the first interview and sent him away He sort of begged his way back in basically because he had seen the whiteboard and decided that whiteboard was better than anything else that he’d seen to work on When I joined Amiga I originally joined with the graphics staff, there’s a fellow named Dale Luck who was in charge of the graphics development for the Amiga and I joined to work for him and to work on graphics and it worked out well But as time went on and as the company continued to grow and to develop I ended up taking on more and more responsibilities for running the team with, with my boss at the time The technology these days is to put billions of transistors on a chip, few decades ago it was millions Back when we were designing the Amiga putting several thousand transistors on a chip was a very difficult task In retrospect we were trying to do a project that was nearly impossible for the team size that we had All computers at that point were switching to being user interface oriented It was, it was no longer good enough to have a computer where the user had to type cryptic text into a text window and command the computer to do things by knowing the right instructions to give The new world was one where it was a graphical user interface and you interacted with it with you hands and and it was a much more rich and enriching sort of environment that needed to be created and the Amiga had everything except that, the Amiga did not have a graphical user interface capability And so at that point in my career I quit being the director of software engineering for the Amiga Computers Company and instead I went back to work being an engineer and and I spent about seven months developing the user interface for the Amiga that I called intuition We’d have these big wall sized pieces of plastic that were essentially the layout for the chip and we were trying to put several tens of thousands of transistors down by hand and get it correct An engineer nowadays would say without design tools that is impossible; you will never succeed; it will never work So if you believe them the Amiga chipset is an impossibility that we managed to successfully create Now we also had to do this in a reasonable amount of time, several thousand transistors; a start-up company has a certain amount of funds
It all came down to the trade shows and in particular the CES The Consumer Electronics Show where it was make or break time for Amiga We had all these other interesting little novelties going but the truth was that we either delivered or we were going to run out of money The money that we had going was good seed money that would get us to the point that we had something working but we had to go further, we had to find additional investors and turn it into a real system And the way to get additional investors was to show people that what we had thought we could get working was actually working And the place to do that was at CES, at the trade show And so it, it became one of those deadlines for us The CES was all-important; that that it became make or break for us That we knew that the investors, that the companies that would be interested in this And would show enough interest and it would inspire the investors to give us the money that we needed; that we had to have a good showing at CES And at the same time the company really was starting to run out of money, seriously starting to run out of money And I had already started to become part of more of the executive half of the company at that point, so I was privy to a lot of the conversations they were having about how desperate thing really were and how tight money was becoming But in general this wasn’t being discussed with the employees because we didn’t want people to feel panicky and nervous and and not work as well as they might or start looking for other jobs or something like that if they thought the company was going to fail And so they kept it low-key, they didn't talk a lot about how important these trade shows were but we all sort of knew And and and and I wasn't all that comfortable with keeping stuff from the employees and so I kind of told a lot of people some of to some extent what we're up against and why we needed to deliver Dave Morris had a trade show he went to target and so we rushed ahead with the design And as we were coming up to one of the early trade shows and and we were both realising how how desperate everything was and that we really needed to get our best foot forward But also that we were so close and with just a little extra work there were so many cool things we could show then we ended up just working all night long We often worked all night long and and Dale and I got into this thing where we would start playing rock music real loud in the middle of the night to help keep ourselves awake And when you had to do something like cue up a five-minute compile instead of sitting there and potentially falling asleep you would stand up and dance And the two of us would take turns standing up and dancing three, four, five o'clock in the morning in the software lab to keep ourselves awake while we did our work And the Led Zeppelin was blaring loud and we're dancing And finally the day came that that we lost track of time and our co-workers start showing up to the office and and there's this loud music blaring out of the software lab And they go back there to look to see what's going on and there's Dale and me dancing and dancing We got the reputation then for being the dancing fools that's where we got that nickname Dale and I we were known as the dancing fools at Amiga because of that What we did at Amiga was unprecedented they the strange hardware rig that we put together to create the effect of the Amiga computer We got lots of little parts that were individual NAND gates and registers wire wrapped them together and try to get them running in order to find out if the logic circuits that we had drawn in paper actually work Something as simple as an electrostatic shock would wipe them out And so they had them set up on this workbench in the software lab but they put chairs that forced you before you could approach the chips to walk along a certain corridor where you would step on the this electrostatic pad that we had on the ground that would take electro static electricity away from you so that you wouldn't zap the chips And anyone that got anywhere near the chips had to step over this pad to get to the chip So we had this little corridor like a like an aisle down the centre of a church going to the chips at the end And even better than that these chips the output of the chips we needed to make available to everyone that was in the software lab where we were And so we had these massive cables that were the the graphics and audio output of these chips and we ran them up into the air and then they draped across where the the electrostatic pad was and went off to the rest of the the software lab But where they draped across the walkway it kind of they draped down because it was loose and it was made you kind of stoop a little bit And so as you would approach these Amiga stacks that were one day would be the Amiga computer you were obliged to walk down this one corridor and just as you got up to the stacks you had to bow You had to bow your head in order to get under the wires and it was like this this religious experience that you would go through to approach the hardware And little did we know at the time that it was in fact quite a religious experience that we were creating not only for ourselves but for millions of people out there in the real world My part in that was I actually hand wired the original two motherboards for the Amiga I did get one working and that was the one they use primarily to test the first set of breadboard emulators for the chipset and that was the one that we took down to one of the major trade shows the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Everyone in the company worked their their hearts out to get us to these trade shows and to have not just the technology but the best marketing presentation we could make And oh the geniuses were there, the booth we put together for CES was just remarkable it was an amazing thing that had enough goodness on the outside to inspire everyone But if you were lucky enough to get an invitation into the inner sanctum of where the actual Amiga demo was going on then you were in for a real treat because man that Amiga demo was so cool A lot of people who who saw the demo thought that we must have a fairly large mini computer or IBM mainframe in the next room emulating the output they saw because they said you can't do this and anything that would you know fit inside a personal computer Our sales and marketing team at at Amiga were just overjoyed with the success that we had and they decided they're going to take us out and give us this amazing dinner for for to celebrate the the fact that we have had such an awesome first day at the Consumer Electronics Show And we did we eat a lot of spaghetti and drink a lot of Chianti I suppose But then after that Dale and I were talking on our way back from the dinner and we realised there was still so much more we could do And that if the first day was a success the second day could be even better if only we worked a little bit harder And so the two of us instead of going back to our hotel rooms we went back to the CES tradeshow and we talked the guards into letting us get back into the booth And the two of us sat down in that booth and we stayed up all night long drinking warm beer and working on the demos to make the demos better so that on day two not only were they great but there are even a little bit greater than great I mean added just a little bit more extra pizzazz and wonder wonderment to them Towards the end of the chips being fabricated I think we actually got the chips back and they all worked Money was not available any more Stories that later came out that both Dave Morris and Jay miner took out mortgages in there on their house I had only heard that later I was actually still working on 64 and plus/4 things and I was working with various companies like Infocomm to help them port their stuff to the C64 and the plus/4 and that they all they all seemed to have a secret project going with some unnamed computer company Who you know the locked room type stuff and while I was there hanging out with them there were things that they would not talk about Atari was in the process of losing two million dollars a working day And they I don't know how contacted dad somewhere in the in his trip; I think he was in Singapore or something like that And said “please come to New York we want to talk to you about buying Atari” And Sam said “we just bought Atari come home, come home now” And that was an interesting transition; graduate student in physics; honeymooner; vice president of software for a fortune 500 company I hate to say it but I've never pulled this punch before the way that Atari did business back then was miserable I never abided by that way of thinking about business That way of cutthroat making money and and throw people to the side, nothing matters more than being successful at making money I hated that But they originally gave Amiga Computer money as a cheque It was not a great deal but it was an okay deal and we were facing doom Everyone was finally resigning themselves to the fate that Atari was going to get it our baby from us and then that we would all be out of jobs and that that this thing that we have dreamed of for all of those years was was failing And at the last moment when it seemed that there was no hope left suddenly out of the blue came Commodore to the rescue And and Commodore found out what Atari was offering us for the company and and Commodore said “oh we can do much better than that” they said And they proposed a very nice rich dollar amount for the company that sounded great to all of us It was this awesome moment of negotiation where they they offered us you know I think it was four four dollars or four and a quarter or something I don’t remember the exact number now But they Dave Morris our fearless leader turned to all of us and said “you know okay well here's the offer do you accept it's better than zero, it's better than Atari” and everyone that reported to him said “yes sounds good accept this deal’ And then he turned back to Commodore and said, “no not quite enough we're going to have to pass on your offer” And it’s like ‘Oh my goodness’ To have the courage to be to have a gun pointed to your head like that and still say no to the best offer you'd heard so far But they offered him I think it was originally four and they offered him four and a quarter or something like that he said “okay” and we and and the rest was history Commodore bought the company and and and Atari’s attempt to get their hands on the technology was foiled and and and Dave Morris returned the cheque to Atari I've heard recently that Atari still has that cheque
[laughs] I would like the cheque but even just a photocopy would be lovely [laughs]
So I guess we have from we have Amiga Corporation’s account number on the back there So yeah half a million dollars March 7th 1984 to Amiga from Atari So I guess we have from we have Amiga Corporation’s account number on the back there So yeah half a million dollars March 7th 1984 to Amiga from Atari I discovered that it was the Amiga and Commodore had just bought them Folk at Atari; oh and this is presumption I don't they didn't certainly didn't tell me thought alright we'll fund these guys and they'll make a nice machine except they’re not be going to able to pay back So if they don't pay us within six months we own the technology And Commodore infused our company with cash and suddenly overnight we were productive citizens We had powerful, big computers that we could use And we had mag tape drives built into the citizens We had powerful, big computers that we could use And we had mag tape drives built into the computer so we could back up our work on a nightly basis And all this like miracle stuff happened that made us more productive computer so we could back up our work on a nightly basis And all this like miracle stuff happened that made us more productive Right after the purchase happened within less than a month my group was actually sent out to California to work with the Amiga guys to get it ready for launch Right after the purchase happened within less than a month my group was actually sent out to California to work with the Amiga guys to get it ready for launch We were doing things like printer drivers, device drivers, application software, just generally filling in where they were they were light on people They themselves embrace the Amiga as the next generation that that Commodore needed to go in And so was this match made in heaven where
‘oh it was great, the business was great, the hardware was great, our development environments became great You had the development team in Los Gatos who had created a product that they thought would be a game machine They could not produce it the price that it would take to compete in the games market And Commodore acquired the company because they needed to move quickly into the next generation of computers and you had all these sales and marketing people on the East Coast with totally different ideas And it was quite a bit of friction Amiga in California had this amazing technology that just needed to have a little bit of the low cost computer from Commodore and the high tech technology from Amiga and put that together to really come up with an amazing combination Everybody in Los Gatos got to go to the launch as a reward We had this last-minute substitution of Graphicraft Graphicraft Hat was a very early edition had some bugs and one of the bugs that still wasn’t being tracked down was the flood fill You could start a flood fill and it would flood; you can fill the screen and then keep going and fill the whole of the memory and so it crashed the computer And so you know during the demo was during the training when Pariseau trained Andy Warhol don't don't do the flood fill And naturally during the demo, the live demo he does the flood fill And the rows of engineers we were all sitting together you know we're right we were ‘oh no’ because we we knew this couldn't work but somehow it did It did not crash the machine and that's just one of those miracles that happen
My first job was to make the PAL version of the Amiga 1000 and so I had to I was the token guy from Commodore in Westchester, Pennsylvania They had to go talk to all the guys in Los Gatos and say alright we got to make a PAL video output from this computer because the first Amiga was only NTSC But revolutionary at the time was its multitasking of the whole A lot of the internal concepts, libraries, devices and so on were just much more advanced than most home computers had at that time I'd heard about the the Amiga coming out and I was like you've got the Developer Docs and a photocopier I have to have them The 128 was it was launched that summer and then Amiga in the fall but I wanted to find out about it And you there were these green books you could sign out you had to put your name on them And yet they were had serial numbers and everything because they didn't want this information getting out And Bil Herd got one and I think the the night or maybe the night after Bil Herd got his I stayed late and photocopied the whole thing so I could learn it
Keep it going This is awesome
Right, oh my god
Look at that
The waterfall right there in the corner We live we have a little house in the town This is not ready to be lived in yet I see what you’re saying, Okay So I did everything you see, every single surface
Elevator goes down all three floors, if I ever build the thing
Deal with the plans they said just you know it it's too complicated so I said okay I'll build a model and you can go by that so I did I built a model of whole thing and they took the measurements during the quarter inch equals a foot Everything in the model is actually to scale and then I had it there in the house and a bear got in before I had this door and destroyed it So this was a bear that did that He didn’t like the design, I don’t know Yes but I did ‘Defender of the Crown’ on this, sitting in there We made cedar boxes there either side of the screen
And cold, so it heats and air conditions and then it flows down into the lot with underground five feet down where it’s always fifty-five degrees So heat and cool just for the price of the electricity
So I flew to Commodore headquarters in Westchester, Pennsylvania and grabbed one of the executives and and I had a copy of my Saucer Tag game which looked pretty pretty professional you know I'd nice packaging and stuff On the basis of that they gave me a developer status on the Amiga I still had to buy one, they didn't give me an Amiga but they gave me all of the tools that RJ and all the Dale Luck and everybody had written in order to allow people to program on the Amiga And went home and and immediately started doing graphics that neither I or anybody else had ever seen before I saw ‘Defender of the Crown’ it was as I remember it a full-colour spread of the castle scene with a catapult of Defender of the Crown and it blew my socks off It was a complete game changer to see something so beautiful, so artistic and almost photographic from a computer was something that I had never seen before It was a complete game changer to see something so beautiful, so artistic and almost photographic from a computer was something that I had never seen before My mind was made up then I obviously needed an Amiga Defender of the Crown was was the scenario was written by Kellyn Beck and he was he approached Bob Jacob who was a producer at the time with the idea of doing one of the first Amiga games as a cinematic game based on the movie Ivanhoe At that launch of the Amiga 1000 in Europe was pretty amazing and that really started it all And because of those relationships I had both with the factories and the vendors in the Far East, the engineers in Westchester, Pennsylvania, the engineers in Los Gatos, California and all the customers for the Amiga in Europe That's what brought me to the alignment of the planets that got the Amiga 500 to say
‘okay let me see if I can get this to a point where we can dramatically make a difference in terms of the cost of this product and make it available to a lot more people’
Now I couldn't afford an Amiga 1000 but fortunately Commodore did then a wonderful thing they introduced the Amiga 500; which allowed my mum to buy me one in 1987 I think it was And what a wonderful machine the Amiga 500 was it brought the power of the Amiga to the masses It really did create a software market; a hardware market and brought wonderful technology to the average person Batman of course set the set the whole barometer because it was a movie that was anticipated probably like never before and probably never since as that as that one particularly was And I've got the most amazing respect for ocean software having the guts to go along with that idea but that's where that's where the I mean the whole idea the concept is correct something which is bigger than the sum of the parts with that idea but that's where that's where the I mean the whole idea the concept is correct something which is bigger than the sum of the parts And and we specifically had the Amiga as a very small ‘oh by the way there's an Amiga in the Box’ It wasn't about selling; if you remember I came up with a concept ‘from now on we don't sell computers we sell dreams’ and that's what we did and everything we’d produce was a dream We had Dale luck come to Westchester we had Bart Whitebook come to Westchester so you know we didn't want to lose the software guys but unfortunately couldn’t help it some people moved on There’s a lot more to do on the on the Amiga 2000 because nothing had been done really the the 500 I think at that point was pretty close to finished The lightning storm in Texas; the Lightning came through the phone line and zapped my
128D Fortunately I had insurance so with the the insurance money I purchased my first Amiga, it was Amiga 2000 So you could see my progression to Amiga was actually an act of God or at least that's what it said in the insurance policy No they did the sidecar for the A1000 but they wanted to they wanted to make an Amiga that would just take a regular PC card and use slots that were like IBM slots So they came up with this idea of the Amiga 2000, which at that time was really just the A1000 design with the expansion board from the Zorro added on to it At the same time that I was working on the Amiga 500 there was a team in Braunschweig Germany building an Amiga 2000 Because really the 1000 was it was trying to service two markets with one computer in it it couldn't really do that too well You know it's too expensive for the home and not expandable enough for the for a serious user So you ended up with a 500 and 2000 and that was really a pivotal step in the Amiga to make that successful user So you ended up with a 500 and 2000 and that was really a pivotal step in the Amiga to make that successful So you had people like NewTek that made the Video Toaster in the United States they could do amazing things with a 2000 because now they can plug a card in And you had you know high school and college kids that could afford to buy an Amiga and get into programming or graphic design where they couldn't do that before I ended up getting getting a job at the Commodore working for Andy Finkel initially I had thought about cutting my hair before that because I had long hair at the time It's like you know ‘I think I'm just going to go down and see if they accept me as I am’ and they did and so I I and Bryce Nesbitt both started around the same time It's like you know ‘I think I'm just going to go down and see if they accept me as I am’ and they did and so I I and Bryce Nesbitt both started around the same time When the 600 was introduced; by the way it was supposed to be called the A300 because it was supposed to cost less And it turns out that the team of engineers that they put on designing this cost reducing the 600 couldn't out cost reduce Jeff’s
500 so they ended up having to call that a 600 because it actually cost more that they put on designing this cost reducing the 600 couldn't out cost reduce Jeff’s
500 so they ended up having to call that a 600 because it actually cost more So and they still went into production with it but so now you've got two computers that are pretty much pretty similar right and how do you how do you market that And so the Germans saw this and they said “well why do we need a 600 when the 500 is cheaper and does at least as good a job?
When Mehdi made the decision that probably put the final nail in the coffin of Commodore, which was to launch the the 1200 with double A but but not commit to enough chips to make the entire production for Christmas be the 1200 Instead he built like 300,000 old chips at five hundreds and most of which stayed in the entire production for Christmas be the 1200 Instead he built like 300,000 old chips at five hundreds and most of which stayed in the warehouse because who wants to buy the old machine when you can get the brand-new machine with more colours and faster processor and everything else The 1200 wasn't actually available in volume until like December and so you pretty much missed the Christmas season So if you introduced the 1200 in November and you only had a limited supply you're only going to frustrate people at Christmastime that they can't buy the computer that they really want to buy A lot of things that were going wrong at all at the same time in those days and it was pretty it was pretty obvious to us all It's just you know you're technology people and you've sort of gotten along thinking that every problem is solved by technology and it's certainly not in that you know The idea was that when we launched the CD32, which was planned for the late spring early summer of the following year they would have had games that were written specifically for CD32 And then he comes to me says “I want to launch the CD32 for Christmas” and I fought and fought and fought against it said “are you mad?’ He said “what's wrong with you?
I said “first of all you're going to kill the 1200”
“No don't be silly this is a completely different product”
“You’re going to kill it” I said “but not only that you're asking us to launch something when there was no software written for it and that is not good for us that wouldn't that's crazy let's just keep it as we planned” “I we need the money, we're in big financial trouble, we need the extra sales” And I kept saying to him “they're not going that's crazy let's just keep it as we planned” “I we need the money, we're in big financial trouble, we need the extra sales” And I kept saying to him “they're not going to be extra sales; they may replace 1200 sales but they're not going to be extra sales” he wouldn't listen So Commodore had this nasty habit of announcing bad news after the close of business on Friday And in you know and so they announced their bankruptcy after the close of business on Friday while a good portion of us were at Mike Sinz’ wedding and did not know that You got to Randell's house and they had a news article taped on the door so everyone who went in would notice that you know note that comma had gone out of business the night before We got a copy of the of the announcement that was made to the worldwide press that's how significant we weren't We just got a copy the same as everybody else did ‘Commodore announces liquidation and so on And they hadn’t even got the guts to pick up the phone and say ‘thanks for all your help but you know it didn't work we you know we're declaring bankruptcy’ But there again you see I'm not surprised about that I didn't have any regard for the management I said apart from I had a fair fondness for Irving Gould but I had no regard for for the management side of Commodore International And so I'm not surprised at how they handled things I left before the end I was lucky I got out whilst there were still severance money; my stock options still had some value and not only that but I left and went without paying admission to the Software Publicists Association meeting And I went into a multimedia conference and I was sitting in the audience; having been multimedia personality the year in the UK a few years before And there's this panel discussion and that moderator at the end of the panel says “Gail, we have the mother of multimedia application sitting in the audience, Gail is there anything you would like to say?” and I thought ‘oh’ So I took a deep breath did one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life I stood up and said “yes I'd like to say I'm looking for a job” and I got one We were able to create a machine that was low cost, so very powerful Took the industry by storm for the longest time was the video editing platform of the world And that's what we wanted we wanted to create a machine that anyone could use and that anyone could afford; that anyone could understand But it I didn't know that we would be as successful as we were and how many millions of lives we ended up touching with the thing that we had created And I often get emails from people who say something like you know ‘hi just wanted we ended up touching with the thing that we had created And I often get emails from people who say something like you know ‘hi just wanted to drop in and thank you for that Amiga computer thing that you did; it would inspired me to get a job in computer graphics or it inspired me to get a job in commercial development or game development And I get these wonderful letters from people that each and every one of them is like gold to me It's it validates what we believed from the beginning that we could create a machine that would open up people to new capabilities that they they had And to reveal to themselves the sorts of things they might be able to do with their lives And and and we were so successful at that I'm delighted to say I'm I'm proud to say that that that part of our mission we were able to accomplish And and and we were so successful at that I'm delighted to say I'm I'm proud to say that that that part of our mission we were able to accomplish I'm at Amiga 32 Germany and just bloody look at it How many people are here? It’s it's just absolutely crazy They are still showing brand-new software they are writing for a computer that I developed
34 years ago that I thought would merely be a museum piece And the gaming industry and the Amiga fans have kept it alive in a way that I could have never imagined I think that that 8-bit sound is the musical equivalent of candy It speaks of childhood but it speaks of something more It speaks of a kind of uplifting, joyous celebration of everything that childhood represents It is safety, it is warmth and above all it's fun Yes there has been quite a nice retro revival over the last few years There's constantly games being released and you know like Steam and other platforms and that recreate the vibe of the old days Yes I some times look back and think if I’d have known this stuff was going to last this long I'd probably have been taking it a bit more seriously This crazy room with 500 plus people here in Germany Thirty years later celebrating that amazing computer and the technology that went into it You'll have this purple, throbbing Amiga monster in all your houses controlling everything to get rid of these Macintoshes and these PCs and and I-Pads and all that Let's go back to the roots of Amiga We started a YouTube channel called the ‘Guru Meditation’ named after the famous guru meditation error you get when your Amiga crashes and we have a sense of humour My name is Mark Cale I’m from system 3 What does Commodore mean to me? Well it means passion and it was a life changer for us all our best games came from the Commodore 64 and the Amiga
And they can look back and say ‘oh I had one of those’ or ‘I wanted something like that' so it's it's really fun for me to be able to share what I have with everybody here My name's Andy Spencer and I’m Dean Payne and we are the Retro Computer Museum Next year March 2018 the home computer museum will be open in Helmond, The Netherlands Me and some friends even visiting the Amiga 30 in Mountain View California; because why not?
And then to England, Germany and everywhere it was like crazy I’m that passionate about Commodore and Amiga that I engraved my iPhone with the Amiga logo We’re currently in Cardiff in Wales attending the A-EON DEVCON 2017 I'm hopeful of the work we're doing and the work the community is doing as a whole will ensure the future of the Amiga you know for the next 10, 20, 30 years and I'm going to make sure that my grandson knows about Amiga and and actually will have his own I'm here at revival 2017 the Rivals with Dave Perry from Gamesmaster on stage behind me I went onto the television shows and began doing TV and to this day the Commodore Amiga is still my favourite gaming machine My time with the Commodore 64 was usually at my friend's house I used to go over there every day, every weekend play some games There was this lovely shiny, beige bread bin sitting on the table with a few games How little they knew what was going to happen for the next thirty years hence This is the 1541 ultimate II what you can do with this is you can connect an SD card or a USB flash drive to load Commodore 64 games Yes I think right now we're looking at about four thousand ultimate ultimate tools that are now in the field so that's quite quite many They wanted to spend their fifty-pences and two pounds and three pounds whatever I can't remember how much these games were And they they were they wanted to make this device do something you know so that doesn't exist today I got my first Commodore 64 and it was the first release of the 64C So I had the slim line model and to begin with that slim line model I still have and it still works to this day
64 bytes is a series of short videos released weekly that introduce a various aspect of programming Commodore 64 I keep the actual C64 here for occasional testing even though I do most of my development on the modern computer And I keep this old TV here because it actually has a really blurry picture and so it's actually helped me redefine some of the graphics a little bit to make them a little easier to view This is where mega comes in This is the original C65 as mentioned; the one where Zed Yago demo was coded on
And this is what we have made it's basically the same Hi everybody Zach Weddington here; director of Viva Amiga and I am on the set of the Commodore story
‘Billion to nothing and just about three that's a strange kind of genius that Mehdi Ali’ Because that was a billion dollar company; three years down the tubes to nothing a strange kind of genius that Mehdi Ali’ Because that was a billion dollar company; three years down the tubes to nothing We are looking back on the retro scene from technology of 30 years ago but even today the technology of tomorrow is being developed And they're using the Amiga technology And yes I’m sat here with my Amiga PI, which I built It just shows you that what they did really was truly something very special Don’t want some you know person walking down the street with an Atari t-shirt and you know breaking out into a fight with some of the Commodore t-shirt that would be bad
‘Jack Buster's who ya gonna call’ is an original Amiga t-shirt; very rare This is actually from workbench 2.0 Computer people at that time were you know had a bad sense of humour This is the famous ‘Commodore supports its floppy’s’
So that trip that I mentioned, the 60th anniversary of the clearing of the Lodz Ghetto So there were my parents, my aunt and uncle, my mother's sister's husband and a bunch of that generations kids and then that generations kids And there's a wonderful picture of us taken in Birkenau at the end of the railway line I am here at the National Museum of Computing, which is located in the historic Block H of Bletchley Park So behind me is the Harwell Dekatron - it's original name It is now the world's oldest working computer I'll be building a computer museum in my office In the second story of my office there's a platform that will have a Commodore 64 running those games and several Amigas I still have the original Amiga 1000 that I did all the graphics for ‘Defender of the Crown’ on and it still works fine and it's all the monitors and everything that go with it I've got CD32s; I've got CDTVs; I've got Amiga 4000 Amiga 2000s, just everything And so those will be lined up with all of their monitors running in my little computer museum I can, anytime I want a bit of nostalgia, I can just go up to the second story and look at that Commodore indeed was a pioneering company and changed many, many lives including mine The retro scene over the last few years seems to be growing and growing And you know all I want to say is you should embrace your inner 8-bit and 16-bit passion and continue on the retro ride
I'd like to dedicate this to my mom, without her I wouldn't be here today