The Rise of Commodore

I found an account of Commodore’s rise to prominence on a vintage computing forum. It’s interesting reading. Then again, I’m partial to anything about the rise of Commodore.

What I dislike most about it is that it doesn’t cite a lot of sources. Much of the story matches what I’ve read elsewhere before, so it certainly rings true, and at least it did cite a source for its allegation that Jack Tramiel was an unprincipled crook who escaped prosecution in Canada in 1965 only due to lack of hard evidence. That’s the most important part to get right.

Then again, there’s scant information about the period of time between Commodore’s founding in 1958 and the release of the VIC-20, which became the surprise runaway best-selling computer of 1982. Even this account treats the VIC-20 mostly as an experiment that lead to the blockbuster Commodore 64, but I was glad to read about the thought that went into it.

Is it perfect? No. Is any account of Commodore perfect? No–author Jimmy Maher’s criticisms of the Brian Bagnall books about Commodore are valid. I can’t comment on Michael Tomczyk’s mid-1980s book about Commodore because I haven’t read it yet, but of course that will read differently, because at the time he was writing about a company that was still near its peak.  And, as Tomczyk stated in the comments of that particular blog post, he was writing his story as an industry insider at the time just as much as he was writing the story of his employer.

Commodore’s fall is a bit more documented. The stories are all over the place. The numbers weren’t, so I collected those here.