Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Book Review: ON THE EDGE The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore

ON THE EDGE The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore is a must have for any retro-enthusiast's library. This book has become the definitive reference for Commodore 64 lovers seemingly overnight. The author, Brian Bagnall, has done a tremendous amount of research and collected many first hand interviews of the key developers and company officials from the eighties and nineties.

While numerous titles over the years have been dedicated to the early history of Apple Computer, Commodore has somehow missed out on the limelight. And this, despite the fact the the C64 remains the most popular personal computer model of all time in terms of total units sold.

The heart of the book is the many first hand accounts of the ups and down of the tumultuous C64 era, and the company's inability to successfully move its huge install base to a next generation Commodore product. There is even some new and interesting accounts of early encounters with Bill Gates licensing BASIC for the PET. Reading this 500+ page book was immensely enjoyable and informative.

While the post-C64 section focusing on the Amiga years was a little light on substance, I found the first section of the book most informative and enjoyable. This section starts by introducing the reader to the legendary Chuck Peddle, the creator of the 6502 processor which was the basis of many of the early personal computers (Apple 1, Apple II, Atari 400/800, Atari 2600 game console, Commodore PET, VIC-20, Commodore 64, KIM-1, SYM-1, Rockwell AIM 65, and many others).

Peddle's company, MOS Technology, was subsequently purchased by Commodore and became the genesis for most of the computers commodore produced in the early years. In fact, if I took away one thing from reading this book, it was a new found appreciation of just how influential a figure Chuck Peddle was to the birth of the computer revolution. This is a must read for all fans of 8bits!

Monday, September 11, 2006

The IBM PC at 25

Love it or hate it... this one changed the world. IBM has posted some historical information about the original IBM PC on their site. I still miss that green screen... it had the sharpest characters I have ever seen on a CRT (though not as good as modern LCD displays).

This was the Cadillac of PC's in the day. The $1,565 price bought a system unit with 16K of memory, a keyboard and a color/graphics capability. Options included a display, a printer, two diskette drives, extra memory, communications, game adapter and application packages — including one for text processing.