This is a morning ceremony, and we guess most of you have shared it with us; before you start working on a new day, sit down for a cup of coffee and learn about the current technology news on Hackaday and other websites. Most of us don’t do many exciting things in our daily lives, so reading the coolest projects and the most fascinating new developments will bring us interest and motivation.Imagine that due to the turning point of your fate, you find yourself finding a job in the technology center that changes the world, producing objects of desire and breaking boundaries, where you will give anything Work.
This is the premise behind our Hackaday colleagues The autobiographical chronicle of Bil Herd while working at Commodore in the mid-1980s, The manufacturers of some of the most iconic home computers at the time. For the three years from 1983 to 1986, we followed him as the head of hardware for the “TED” series of computers, including Commodore 16 and Plus/4, and then Commodore 128. This is a dual-processor powerhouse, so to speak. The last one-the sale of 8-bit home computers.
This is a set of intertwined stories, full of personal anecdotes; a bit crazy high-pressure consumer video game and computing world, designing a series of fine details of 8-bit machines, and the culture of Commodore after the departure of its founder Jack Tramiel Fascinating insights into how the period has changed.
Jack Tramiel’s vision for low-cost computers
Looking at the 8-bit computers of the early 1980s from our high position in 2021, we can easily believe that all machines with similar processors are equivalent to each other and in direct competition, but in Bil’s description of Jack Tramiel’s environment I have imagined what will become a TED computer, which reminds us that the market is very layered. Processors such as MOS 6502 and Zilog Z80 may be the core of many machines at the time, but their market position depends more on the capabilities of their built-in video and sound hardware and other peripherals, rather than microprocessors. Commodore on Commodore 64 It has achieved great success as a high-end gaming computer with a higher price, but it lacks effective products to resist the threat of Sinclair Spectrum, which is much cheaper and has less clear specifications at the lower end.
Tramiel’s vision is to build a new architecture around 6502 that integrates weaker video and sound into TED. This is a cheaper single chip, which may be similar to Sinclair’s Ferranti ULA, while avoiding the competition of low-cost gaming hardware. And open up a new market for budget business computers. The TED machine will be available in three models, starting at $49, and can be upgraded up to a mature business desktop with a numeric keypad and a talking GUI.
Bil described Commodore’s early TED period as his “happy time.” Reading his description of a hardware engineer in his 20s, he jumped up and put a new Commodore computer into use. It’s not hard to see why. As Jack Tramiel’s corporate culture changed after his departure, the tone of this book has changed. For those of us who have witnessed the disastrous final years of the company through the lens of Amiga fans, this is a glimpse into the root cause of the company’s ultimate goal of recession. He looked at Jack Tramir’s management style frankly from the perspective of real people rather than through word of mouth, from which we learned how Commodore became its success story.
When reading this book, I have a feeling that we will never hear the real details about his departure from the company he founded and the subsequent trial of Atari, so students in the latter part of the home computer era will have to accept the disappointment. This book provides a personal perspective on how a company can get into trouble under the spell of its marketing department without the vision of the founder, and the TED computer has never appeared in the form or price it should be.
The last great 8-bit computer
The first half of this book takes us back to the origins of the TED computer from 1983 to 1984, and then a brief episode with the ill-fated LCD machine. The second half is the development of Commodore 128 until its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1985. This machine is the last new 8-bit mass-produced home computer platform released by major manufacturers, and its development story is particularly interesting, because although Bil and his colleagues have made breakthroughs in the possibility of 6502 derivative parts, he It is described in a way so that readers here in 2021 can easily understand it. In some cases, he was doing things that were relatively easy to use modern test equipment, but it became particularly difficult in the 1980s, such as when he used visual persistence and simulated “range” to find transient echoes on PCB lines. This feat resulted in the Bodge line decorated on every Commodore 128 board. The techniques shown in these pages when electronic engineers solve errors in custom chips should make this book a must-read for any electronics major except for the perspective of reverse computing.
Commodore 128 is equipped with two different microprocessors and three different operating environments. It is an engineer’s machine-design although The job of a marketer, not Because in. He quietly described that the request for a proprietary video connector that cannot be used with non-Commodore displays was not fulfilled because it would endanger the final machine, which was one of many battles to provide the best product. The idea of what might be is a theme that runs through Commodore fans, where we see engineers on the side of “us”, the customer, rather than those in the company who seem to know nothing about the end user. One of the saddest parts of the story is the number of machines that the company has developed but never released; we mentioned unreleased TED computers and LCD machines above, but he also mentioned a full range of commercial machines that have never appeared before. If more products are put on the market, Commodore’s story may still end in the 1990s, but making such a bad decision for such promising hardware is a huge waste.
Over the next ten years, when reading this book as someone with a background in the computer game industry, I immediately realized the combination of poor management, very smart teams, fanatical atmosphere, and extremely high pressure surrounding industry trade shows. For those who are not careful, the world can deliver a huge buzz at the cost of rapid burnout, and Bill’s comments on seeking adrenaline repair continue after he left Commodore in early 1986. I was fascinated by this book, and in the process of writing this article, I read it more than once. At Hackaday, I am not the only one who bought a copy as soon as it was published. I can only suggest that you also find a copy for yourself.
Back to the storm: Commodore computer stories of design engineers in the 1980s, by Bil Herd and Margaret Morabito, Can be found for sale through AmazonThe Kindle version is priced at $19.96, and the physical version is priced at $24.99.