Category Archives: Commodore

Commodore Story documentary heads for stardom

The Blu-rayA new techno-nostalgia film production is headed for Kickstarter stardom – and is set to become an essential addition to the collections of fans of classic Commodore computers, games and software, including as it does, many of the charismatic creators and movers and shakers who feature in the dramatic tale of so much of that seminal computer industry and hobby community history.

The Commodore Story is a cram packed two hour documentary that will take us through American home and business computer company Commodore’s evolution from the 1970s to the 1990s, and from the PET, Vic20 and Commodore 64 to the Amiga and beyond, including many game makers and composers from the 80s and early 90s.

Well-supported already, the soon-to-be-classic crowd-funded flick has now broken its own latest £32,500 goal target and is rapidly heading for the next level – funding of £35,000 – meaning that it will hopefully be published as a double Blu-ray package alongside The Chiptune Story – Creating retro music 8-bits and 16-bits at a time.

Major Commodore collaboration
Steven Fletcher, Director - recording his Behind The Scenes Video Diary
Steven Fletcher, Director – recording his Behind The Scenes Video Diary

Produced by Wavem Studios, a feature and short film company based in London and Essex, The Commodore Story is helmed by Director Steven Fletcher, a passionate advocate for Commodore, and boasts an impressive number of 30+ collaborators, interviewees and contributors, including Commodore and Amiga Legends Leonard Tramiel, Dave Haynie, Michael Tomczyk, Greg Berlin, Randell Jesup, Hedley Davis, Ronald Nicholson and David John Pleasance with more to come as well as games programmers, 8-bit music composers, and Commodore book and magazine authors.

Pages of history
A 150 page companion book and a free copy of Wavem's DeVoid feature film are also options
A 150 page companion book and a free copy of Wavem’s DeVoid feature film are also options

Not only a documentary, the film, which will have special features and has a range of options for pledges from £10 (digital download) up to £1,850 (offering Executive Producer status, no less!) will also be published alongside a complementary full colour book. The book has its own separate starter pledge (ebook for a tenner) to upward of £25 for a printed book and ebook package.  There are also other pledge possibilities including limited-edition t-shirts, additional films, and London premiere and aftershow party tickets!

4K wahey!

4K

An earlier stretch goal now means that the production will be in 4K ultra HD definition video resolution, meaning that the highest quality will be maintained, with downloads in full resolution, and you might actually find yourself with something good to show on that expensive 4K telly you bought at last!

Come on, make your pledge

There’s just 15 days to go on Kickstarter with £33,402
pledged of the original £17,500 goal.  Why not join our editor, former Amiga User International writer Stuart Williams, and the other 855 backers in supporting the project now?

To make your own pledge and help push that top end stretch goal over £35,000, or to find out more information, beat a path to this exciting retro computing project’s Kickstarter page and get in on the act with the latest major contribution to recording the amazing boom and bust story of one of the world’s top, and it has to be said life-changing, computer companies ever.

Follow this link:  The Commodore Story

 

Images courtesy Wavem Studios

Viva Amiga – the Review

The Amiga Won't Die

ANDY WARHOL,  BUZZ ALDRIN, R.J. MICAL AND DAVE HAYNIE ALL IN ONE HOUR . WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK?

What can you say about a one hour (and 3 minutes!) documentary  film about a series of computers? One that takes you rushing down a wormhole into the days of your youth and then back to the future through a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that in turns exhilarate, sadden and maybe, just maybe inspire hope for the future?

Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine is a brand-new production from Director/Producer Zach Weddington and the FilmBuff/Rocksteady team in the USA. It was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and has now gone on to take the iTunes download charts by storm (other sources are available, see our news item here.)

Skilfully rendered, Amiga Bill meets Amiga designer Jay Miner.
Skilfully rendered, Amiga Bill meets Amiga designer Jay Miner.

If you’ve never heard of the Commodore Amiga (or, dare I say it, were an Atari ST enthusiast back in the day), you might wonder what all the fuss is about.  Hold on a moment, and rewind back to our feature celebrating the 30th birthday of the computer that ‘came from the future’, and in 1985 started today’s multimedia revolution: https://retrocomputingnews.com/2015/07/23/happy-30th-birthday-amiga/

Suffice to say that the Amiga range did things that no other computer could do for a decade. Things that we take for granted today, but which all started there with the Amiga 1000, and its successors, which revolutionised computer art, music, photography and video production. Until those glittering dreams shattered and came tumbling down, through no fault of the Amiga’s creators. But something wonderful had happened. The world had changed.

The film

Viva Amiga

Through insightful pieces to camera with many people who, it has to be said, are still legends in the Amiga community and surprisingly accessible thanks to Facebook (in fact, they’re part of that community) seamlessly wrapped up in slick graphics and nostalgic archive footage from past promo videos and adverts, location pictures plus more recent retro computing community-based events and music footage from around the world, Viva Amiga opens up a wormhole back to a time when what we now take for granted in computers was new, and fresh, and when the little guys with the brains, the big ideas and  the soaring imagination really could break through into the future.

The film, backed with a powerful electro soundtrack by Ben Warfield and Josh Culler takes us from the early 1980s inception of the Amiga (later bought out by Commodore) as the astonishing concept of a small band of inspired technologists who thought they could leapfrog the functional but not very inspiring computer technology of the day (and how!), via the initially remarkable worldwide success of the affordable but powerful Amiga as the post 8-bit next step for Commodore, to the years of corporate greed and management incompetence that caused Commodore’s collapse in the USA and the domino effect that collapsed their subsidiaries around the globe.

R. J. Mical, Amiga software engineer, is one of many powerful voices presented from among the Amiga creators.
R. J. Mical, Amiga software engineer, is one of many powerful voices presented from among the Amiga creators.

Then, on a rocky road from the post-Commodore phase of ever-shifting sands where the Amiga technology was sold off and was eventually broken up amongst a number of different European and American companies whose reach in some cases largely exceeded their grasp, to the present time when new concepts of Amiga in hardware and software are being revived for what is presently a niche hobby market. Finally, it also looks at something of the inspired global community of retro Amiga fans or ‘Amigans’ who still love to work and play with the machine that, to hijack a phrase from one-time competitors Apple, really was designed ‘for the rest of us’.

For Amiga users past and present, if you lived through those times then this is a powerful nostalgia piece which will take you back with a bang, courtesy of the often emotional voices of many of those behind the power of Amiga.  With remarkable music and powerful visuals, Viva Amiga will in turns exhilarate you and sadden you. It will make you laugh and it may even make you cry for what was lost. But that’s the essence of the story of the computer that wouldn’t die, that still lives on in hundreds, maybe thousand of homes around the world, and lurks in lofts and attics waiting to be rediscovered by a new generation. It serves to remind you, and most definitely me, that the Amiga was never only about the hardware and the software, it was, and remains, as much about the people who created it and who used it. In a strange way, the Amiga is a part of us and we are part of it, and while that may have faded somewhat with the years, this film brings that reality back into bright, colourful focus.

Conclusion
The late, great, much-missed Amiga engineer Dave Needle (in the hat), to whom the film is dedicated, with part of the Amiga team.
The late, great, much-missed Amiga engineer Dave Needle (in the hat), to whom the film is dedicated, with part of the Amiga team.

This is a film with heart. If you’re looking for the dry detail of a Discovery Channel epic in Zach Weddington’s rawly-emotional but nonetheless highly-polished Amigan opus, you’re not exactly going to find that here. That would take a whole series of films, there’s only so much you can do in an hour and I’m not entirely sure there’s quite the material or the market out there for it. I’d love to see a two hour version of Viva Amiga; although I didn’t feel the film was exactly too short (and it’s not bad value to buy as a download) I was left wanting more. The film made me want more. Maybe there could be follow-ups exploring more of the post-Commodore phase and taking a wider look at what people are doing with the Amiga today. Who knows. Zach is working on another exciting retro project at the moment.

What you do get in spades from Viva Amiga: The Story of A Beautiful Machine (and it WAS beautiful, in form and concept) is the essence of the spirit of the machine and its makers, and if you look carefully you will also see your own reflection in the TV screen, which seems entirely appropriate.

In conclusion, if you’re an Amiga fan, apart from the chance to see more of the story than has been widely shown before, and much more of the people who still inspire the community today, what you will really get from this fascinating film is a desperate yearning to be back in those heady days when the future was being re-written by a crazy, inspired gang of people who, let’s face it, you’d just love to party with like it’s 1985.

Stuart Williams

More info

For further information and ways of buying Viva Amiga, check out the filmmakers’ website: https://amigafilm.com/

And their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vivaamiga/

Images courtesy FilmBuff/Rocksteady

Amiga documentary rockets up the charts

Viva Amiga!
Viva Amiga!

A recently released documentary film about one of the most popular and innovative home and multimedia computers of the 1980s-90s, the legendary Commodore Amiga (launched 1985) is rocketing up the charts.

Aimed at retro computing fans and computer history enthusiasts alike, Viva Amiga – the story of a beautiful machine has become a worldwide hit in the iTunes top ten documentary downloads, clearly striking a chord with its core audiences and Amiga users past and present.

As of yesterday, it had reached number 2 in the UK and Italy plus number 1 in Poland, 2 in Germany, 8 in France, 9 in Greece, 4 in the Netherlands., and 5 in Spain.

What is Viva Amiga about?

Director/Producer Zach Weddington was able to raise funds in 2011 to make the documentary, and it’s now available to watch in 12 languages and several streaming formats (see below).

The filmmakers describe Viva Amiga as follows:

“In a world of green on black, they dared to dream in color.

1985: An upstart team of Silicon Valley mavericks created a miracle: the Amiga computer. A machine made for creativity. For games, for art, for expression. Breaking from the mold set by IBM and Apple, this was something new. Something to change what people believed computers could do.

2016: The future they saw isn’t the one we live in now. Or is it?

From the creation of the world’s first multimedia digital art powerhouse…

to a bankrupt shell sold and resold into obscurity…

to a post-punk spark revitalized by determined fans.

Viva Amiga is a look at a digital dream….

…and the freaks, geeks and geniuses who brought it to life.

And the Amiga is still alive.”

The film features, amongst others, a number of well-known figures connected with the Amiga past and present, including Amiga engineers R.J. Mical, Dave Haynie and the late Dave Needle, as well as Trevor Dickinson, co-founder of A-Eon Technology (who doubles up as  Executive Producer).

World premiere

The World Premiere of Viva Amiga took place on 7 January at MAGFest 2017 in Washington DC, USA, as part of MAGFest’s Games on Film.

The makers have been busy submitting the film to festivals all across the United States and Europe. A showing in California, birthplace of the Amiga, is also in the works.  After they make the rounds in the United States, they’ll be heading to Europe, where the Amiga was most popular. They’re lining up dates for a European tour in Summer 2017, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. Like their Facebook page for up-to-the-minute news.

Want to bring the film to your theatre or event in North America or Europe? Get in touch.

Where to get Viva Amiga

Viva Amiga is now available to watch worldwide. The film has been subtitled in Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish.

You can rent or buy a copy on the platform of your choice:

Check Facebook for options if you can’t connect with a download or copy in your country. The makers will be adding DVD & Blu-Ray options in February.
Retro Computing News will be reviewing Viva Amiga as soon as we can – watch this space!
More info

For further information, check out the filmmakers’ website: https://amigafilm.com/

And their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vivaamiga/

Images courtesy Viva Amiga

Happy Birthday Amiga 500

Amiga 500 computer system, with 1084S RGB monitor and second A1010 floppy disk drive. [Pic by Bill Bertram]
Amiga 500 computer system, with 1084S RGB monitor and second A1010 floppy disk drive. [Pic by Bill Bertram]
The ever-popular Commodore Amiga 500 home computer, a retro classic, enjoys a birthday of sorts this month, since its launch was announced in January 1987, thirty years ago. However, it did not arrive in European shops until April 1987 (in the Netherlands) and May for the rest of Europe. It did not cross the Atlantic to the USA until October of that year.

The Amiga 500, also known as the A500 (or its code name Rock Lobster), was the first low-end Commodore Amiga 16/32-bit multimedia home/personal computer. It was announced at the winter Consumer Electronics Show, with took place 8-11 January 1987 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA, together with the high-end Amiga 2000 – and was intended to compete directly against the Atari 520ST, which had beaten it to market in June 1985.

Before the Amiga 500 was shipped, Commodore suggested a list price of US$595.95 for the A500 without monitor. At US delivery in October 1987, Commodore announced that it would carry a US$699/£499 list price. In the Netherlands, the A500 was available from April 1987 for a list price of 1499 HFL.

The Amiga 500 represented a return to Commodore’s roots by being sold in the same mass retail outlets as the Commodore 64 – to which it was a spiritual successor – as opposed to the computer-store-only original Amiga 1000.

The Amiga 500 eventually proved to be Commodore’s best-selling Amiga model, enjoying particular success in Europe and the UK. Although popular with hobbyists, arguably its most widespread use was as a gaming machine, where its advanced graphics and sound were of significant benefit. Amiga 500 eventually sold 6 million units worldwide.

Picture courtesy Bill Bertram

Main source: Wikipedia

Former Commodore UK MD’s reunite over FriendUP

David Pleasance and Colin Proudfoot in Commodore days
David Pleasance and Colin Proudfoot in Commodore days

The former joint Managing Directors of Commodore UK have joined forces once again to support and work with a new platform inspired by the spirit of the Amiga – FriendUP – and already the Amiga community is buzzing with the news, released today in a video conversation presented by Dan Wood of kookytech.net

The ‘dynamic duo’ of David Pleasance and Colin Proudfoot are delighted to be working together on the exciting new project following David’s first meeting with the Friend Software Labs team at the fan-organised Amiga 30 celebration in Amsterdam and Colin’s meeting at the Mountain View, USA event.  Both of the highly-experienced former tech business leaders say they have been very impressed with the FriendUP project and have agreed to join the team as senior managers in the company. Colin has now come on board as Chief Financial Officer, with David taking the position of Director of International Sales and Marketing.

That’s what friends are for

Both of the highly-experienced former tech business leaders say they have been very impressed with the FriendUP project and have agreed to join the team as senior managers in the company. Colin has now come on board as Chief Financial Officer, with David taking the position of Director of International Sales and Marketing.

It’s well-known amongst Commodore fans and Amiga enthusiasts in the retro community that David and Colin were at one time front-runners to take over the Commodore business from the UK, including the Amiga tech, following the bankruptcy of the main company in the US back in 1994. Sadly, though it was a close-run thing, it was not to be.

Amazingly now, twenty-one years later, after all the excitement over the past year’s world-wide celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Amiga 1000, they are back in harness together for the first time since those heady days at Commodore. Continue reading Former Commodore UK MD’s reunite over FriendUP

The AUI Interview: Jay Miner – the father of the Amiga

JAY MINER 'The father of the Amiga'

The Commodore Amiga is a now-legendary series of home and business computers that had its origins in the fertile minds of some very inventive and creative people who got mixed up in the computer wars between Atari and Commodore back in the early 1980s.  The first of the line Amiga A1000 was years ahead of its time and was an important milestone and  pointer to the future of computing.  The Amiga remains one of the most popular hobbyist and creative computer systems ever, and is still beloved of thousands of retro-computing enthusiasts and hobbyists, occupying a proud place in the history of computing.  We enjoy its legacy today in many ways.

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

July 2015 sees the thirtieth birthday of the Amiga A1000 computer itself, and that will be loudly celebrated around the globe, but before that, a very special group of Amiga fans, organised through a Facebook group, decided last year to dedicate an annual day, International Amiga Day, to remembering and using their Amiga computers in memory and celebration of the late Jay Miner, the remarkable engineer who is generally honoured with the title ‘father of the Amiga’.

Our editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, is proud to have been a regular contributor to the now-defunct Amiga User International magazine ‘back in the day’, and we are therefore delighted to be able to re-publish this interview from the pages of AUI, both in tribute to Jay Miner and to the much-missed Amiga User International, in this thirtieth year of the Amiga.

Amiga User International masthead June 1988
Amiga User International masthead June 1988

Sadly, there is no indication in the June 1988 issue of Amiga User International, where this interview was first published, as to who conducted the interview.  Possibly it was the Managing Editor and Publisher Antony Jacobson, but credit was not given, and we would be glad to hear who it was if anyone out there knows.

Nonetheless, it stands today as one of the most interesting and insightful slices of computing history from the twentieth century.

THE AUI INTERVIEW

JAY MINER – ‘The father of the Amiga’

 

Jay Miner, 1988 (pic Amiga User International)
Jay Miner, 1988 (pic Amiga User International)

‘The father of the Amiga’ – the man most credited with its initial development gives AUI an exclusive interview in which he tells how the computer came into being, says some very tough things about how it nearly never happened, and predicts what may come next.

I completed six months of Electronics Technician School in the Coast Guard, and then I spent three years on Coast Guard in the North Atlantic Weather Patrol repairing radars, radios and also the Captain ‘s Hi-fi. That’s how my interest in electronics got started. After the service I studied engineering. I graduated in 1958, with a major in the Design of Generators and Servo Motors.

The first thing, however, that I was asked to do after graduation was to design a Computer Control Console with a Video Display, I had to teach myself transistor circuit design and logic design out of the few books which were then available. This was an advantage however since it was easy in those days to learn enough out of one book to become the company expert.

In 1964, I went to work for General Micro Electronics, the first spin off in Fairchild devoted exclusively to MOS chips. Again it was easy to become an expert in this field, because the field was so new. We designed sixty-four of their chip register chips and the world’s first MOS Calculator with twenty-three custom chips.

In 1974 after ten years of calculator, watch and computer chip design at a lot of different chip companies, Atari was just starting up and needed a chip designer. My friend Harold Lee was already there and he introduced me to Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari). Harold had done the chip for the first video game and Nolan Bushnell asked me to do a chip for the video game twenty six hundred system. You probably know how successful the twenty six hundred or the Video Computer system as it became called, was, so in 1977 they asked me to design the new Atari computer the 400 – 800 model. I directed the architecture and the chip designing of this new machine and this too was a huge success.

The year was 1979 and Atari was rolling in money. However, they made a decision to write off all of the development costs in that first year production. This allowed them to show just enough profit that year to not quite trigger the bonus payment they promised to the engineers and programmers. The chief programmer on the project’s name was Larry Caplin and a half a dozen of his team went off to start Activision.

Continue reading The AUI Interview: Jay Miner – the father of the Amiga

Commodore Meeting set for Vienna this Sunday

Picture courtesy Computer Collection Vienna
Picture courtesy Computer Collection Vienna

This year’s Commodore Meeting Vienna is all set to take place in the spectacular city of Vienna (Wien),  the world-famous capital of Austria, on Sunday, 17th May 2015.

The event provides an opportunity to meet each other in person , to exchange experiences and news and to work together with great machines or to play.

The event is aimed at users , fans and collectors of Commodore computers, say the organisers, Computer Collection Vienna.

Interested visitors who just want to take a look at cult computers, of course, are also welcome.

This meeting takes place annually , usually in the spring. Participation is free , but registration to attend the event is required.

The event is open between 4pm – 11pm.

The location is :

Wiener Freiheit

Schönbrunner Straße 25

1050 Wien

The Facebook event page is: https://www.facebook.com/events/734937869948377/