The One/s That Got Away – Commodore, Amiga , MorphOS
Brief History of Commodore and Amiga
A Sum Up History of Commodore International
- Founded by Jack Tramiel a Polish-Jewish immigrant in Toronto , Ontario Canada in 1954
- Started out as a Typewriter manufacturer after signing a deal with a Czechoslovakian company to manufacture under their license/design
- By the late 1950s Japanese machines (typewriters) forced North American Typewriter companies to cease business but Tramiel instead turned to adding machines
- In 1962 Commodore went public in the NYSE under the name Commodore International Limited
- In 1960 history repeats itself when Japanese firms start producing and exporting adding machines
- The Company´s main investor Irving Gould suggested to Tramiel to travel to Japan to learn how to compete. Instead Tramiel returned with the new idea to produce electronic calculators which were just coming on the market
- By the early 1970s Commodore had a profitable calculator line and was one of the more popular brands producing both consumer and scientific/programmable calculators
- In 1975 Texas Instruments the main supplier of calculator parts entered the market directly and put out a line of machines priced at less than Commodore´s cost for the parts
- In the beginning of 1976 Commodore to compete used an infusion of cash from its main investor Irving Gould to purchase several second-source chip suppliers includinf MOS Technology Inc. in order to assure his supply.
The condition to this purchase was that its chip designer Chuck Peddle join Commodore directly as head of engineering.
*+ Interesting fact that through the 1970s Commodore also produced numerous peripherials and consumer electronic products such as the Chessmate ,a chess computer based around a MOS 6504 Chip released in 1978
- After Chuck Peddle took over as head of engineering at Commodore, He convinced Tramiel that calculators were already a dead end and they should turn their attention to home computers.
- Peddle packaged his single board computer design in a metal case initially using calculator keys (later using full qwerty keyboard) monochrome monitor and a tape recorder for program and data storage to produce the Commodore PET.
- From the Commodore PET´s 1977 debut Commodore would be a computer company
- In 1980 Commodore launched production for European market in Braunschweig (Germany)
- By 1980 Commodore was one of the three largest microcomputer companies and the largest in the Common Market.
- However by mid 1981 its US Market share was less than 5% and US computer magazines rarely discussed Commodore products.BYTE stated of the business computer market that “the lack of a marketing strategy by Commodore, as well as its past nonchalant (cool as a cucumber/unconcerned) attitude
toward the encouragement and development of good software has hurt its credibility especially in comparison to the other systems on the market”
- Also CMB (Commodore Business Machines) were widely recognized to be unhelpful .. stated by the author of the book Programming the PET/CBM (1982)
- Commodore reemphasized the US market with the VIC-20. The PET computer line was used primarily in schools where its tough all metal construction and ability to share printers and disk drives on a simple local area network were an advantage but they did not compete well on the home setting where graphics and sound were important
This was addressed by the VIC-20 in 1981
- VIC-20 cost of US $299 and sold in retail stores and Commodore ran an aggressive advertisement campaign featuring WIlliam Shatner asking consumers ,, Why buy just a video game?”
- The strategy worked and VIC-20 became the first computer to ship in more than a million units. a total of 2,5 million units were sold over the machines lifetime.
- In another promotion aimed at schools (and as a way of getting rid of unsold inventory) some PET models labeled “Teacher´s PET” were given away as a part of a “buy 2 get 1 free” promotion
- In 1982 Commodore introduced the Commodore 64 as the successor of the VIC-20.It has posessed remarkable sound and graphics for its time and often credited for starting the computer demo scene
- The C64s initial price was US $595 which was compared to the VIC-20 was high but was still much less expensive than any other 64K computer on the market
- In 1983 Tramiel decided to focus on market share and cut the price of the VIC-20 and C64 dramatically starting what would be called the ,,Home Computer war”
- Other manufacturers such as TI, Atari and every other except Apple responded and there was an all out price war
- By the end of this conflict Commodore had shipped somewhere around 22 million C64s making it the best selling computer of all times
- Commodore boards of directors were as impacted as anyone else by the price spiral and decided they wanted out. An internal power struggle resulted in January 1984 Tramiel resigned due to intense disagrement of the chairman of the board
and Irving Gould replaced Tramiel with Marshal F. Smith a steel executive who had no experience in computers or consumer marketing.
- Tramiel founded a new company Tramel Technology and hired away a number of Commodore engineer to begin work on a next generation computer design
- In February 1984 Commodore purchased a small company called Amiga Corporation for $25 Million which became a subsidiary of Commodore called Commodore-Amiga Inc.
Commodore brought this new 32-bit computer design ( initially codenamed Lorraine) from 1979 ( and had been called High Toro from 1980 to 1981 then later dubbed the Amiga)
under Amiga Inc. in early 1982
- There were three unsuccessfull attempts to release the Amiga by Jay Miner and company. 1982, 1983 and one more after Commodore bought Amiga in 1984, after which it was released only to the local public.
Then in 1985 Commodore re’released it to the world. The cost was $1000 – $1300
- Tramiel had beaten Commodore to the punch. His design was 95% completed by June 1984. In July 1984 he bought the consumer side of Atari Inc. from Warner Communications which allowed him to strike back and
release the Atari ST earlier in 1985 for about $800. The Atari was technology wise almost out however the Amiga was out sooner
- Throughout the life of the ST and Amiga platforms, a ferocious Atari-Commodore rivalry raged.While this rivalry was in many ways a holdover from the days when the Commodore 64 had first challenged the Atari 800 (among others)
in a series of scathing television commercials, the events leading to the launch of the ST and Amiga only served to further alienate fans of each computer, who fought vitriolic holy wars on the question of which platform was superior.
- This was reflected in sales numbers for the two platforms until the release of the Amiga 500 in 1987, which led the Amiga sales to exceed the ST by about 1.5 to 1 despite reaching the market later.
- However, the battle was in vain, as neither platform captured a significant share of the world computer market and only the Apple Macintosh would survive the industry-wide shift to Microsoft Windows running on PC clones.
- There were horror stories in the industry about Commodore´s dealing with dealers and customers alike.Having issues with poor treatment was not helped by the fact that new models were introduced which were incompatible with existing ones.
- In 1987 the Amiga 2000 is introduced and Commodore started to favour authorized dealers compared to previous toy stores and discount outlets
- Software developers also disliked the Commodore platform, at 1987 Comdex an informal Infoworld survey found that none of the developers present planned to write for Commodore platforms.
This of course did not help Commodore´s plans to try and establish Amiga as a business platform as it was their plan/intention.
- Commodore faced problems when marketing the Amiga as a serious business computer as they were still seen as a company making cheap computers like the C64 and VIC-20
- By the late 1980s the personal computer market had become dominated by the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh platforms
- As early as 1986 the mainstream press was predicting Commodore´s demise
- Commodore failed to update the Amiga to keep pace as the PC platform advanced.PCs fitted with high color VGA graphics cards and Sound Blaster sound cards had finally caught up with Amiga´s performance and Commodore began to fade from the
- Although the Amiga was originally conceived as a gaming machine, Commodore had always emphasized the Amiga’s potential for professional applications.But the Amiga’s high-performance sound and graphics were irrelevant for most of the day’s MS-DOS-based routine business word-processing and data-processing requirements
and the machine could not successfully compete with PCs in a business market that was rapidly undergoing commoditization.Commodore introduced a range of PC compatible systems designed by its German division, and while the Commodore name was better known in the US than some of its competition, the systems’ price and specs were only average
- In 1992, the A600 replaced the A500. It removed the numeric keypad, Zorro expansion slot, and other functionality, but added IDE, PCMCIA and a theoretically cost-reduced design. Designed as the Amiga 300, a nonexpandable model to sell for less than the Amiga 500, the 600 was forced to become a replacement for the 500 due to the unexpected higher cost of manufacture. Productivity developers increasingly moved to PC and Macintosh, while the console wars took over the gaming market. David Pleasance, managing director of Commodore UK,described the A600 as a ‘complete and utter screw-up’.
- In 1992, Commodore released the Amiga 1200 and Amiga 4000 computers, which featured an improved graphics chipset, the AGA. The advent of PC games using 3D graphics such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D spelled the end of Amiga as a gaming platform, due to mismanagement.
- By 1994, only the operations in Germany and the United Kingdom were still profitable. Commodore declared bankruptcy on April 29, 1994, and ceased to exist
Interesting Note for those interested You can read more about the Top Secret Deal Amiga and Atari had before Commodore purchased Amiga in 1984 following the links in the shownotes
End of Part I.
Models of Commodore Computers
For A More Complete History on Commodore’s below is a 7 video playlist from the Youtube channel The 8 bit Guy
Commodore BASIC, also known as PET BASIC or CBM-BASIC, is the dialect of the BASIC programming language used in Commodore International‘s 8-bit home computer line, stretching from the PET of 1977 to the C128 of 1985.
The core is based on 6502 Microsoft BASIC, and as such it shares many characteristics with other 6502 BASICs of the time, such as Applesoft BASIC. Commodore licensed BASIC from Microsoft in 1977 on a “pay once, no royalties” basis after Jack Tramiel turned down Bill Gates‘ offer of a $3 per unit fee, stating, “I’m already married,” and would pay no more than $25,000 for a perpetual license.
The original PET version was very similar to the original Microsoft implementation with few modifications. BASIC 2.0 on the C64 was also similar, and was also seen on some C128s and other models. Later PETs featured BASIC 4.0, similar to the original but added a number of commands for working with floppy disks. BASIC 3.5 was the first to really deviate, adding a number of commands for graphics and sound support on the C16 and Plus/4. Several later versions were based on 3.5, but saw little use. The last, BASIC 10.0, was part of the unreleased Commodore 65.
Commodore took the source code of the flat-fee BASIC and further developed it internally for all their other 8-bit home computers. It was not until the Commodore 128 (with V7.0) that a Microsoft copyright notice was displayed. However, Microsoft had built an easter egg into the version 2 or “upgrade” Commodore Basic that proved its provenance: typing the (obscure) command
WAIT 6502, 1 would result in
Microsoft! appearing on the screen. (The easter egg was well-obfuscated—the message did not show up in any disassembly of the interpreter.)
The popular Commodore 64 came with BASIC v2.0 in ROM despite the computer being released after the PET/CBM series that had version 4.0 because the 64 was intended as a home computer, while the PET/CBM series were targeted at business and educational use where their built-in programming language was presumed to be more heavily used. This saved manufacturing costs, as the V2 fit into smaller ROMs.
AmigaOS is a family of proprietary native operating systems of the Amiga and AmigaOne personal computers. It was developed first by Commodore International and introduced with the launch of the first Amiga, the Amiga 1000, in 1985. Early versions of AmigaOS required the Motorola 68000 series of 16-bit and 32-bit microprocessors. Later versions were developed by Haage & Partner (AmigaOS 3.5 and 3.9) and then Hyperion Entertainment (AmigaOS 4.0-4.1). A PowerPC microprocessor is required for the most recent release, AmigaOS 4.
AmigaOS is a single-user operating system based on a preemptive multitasking kernel, called Exec.
It includes an abstraction of the Amiga’s hardware, a disk operating system called AmigaDOS, a windowing system API called Intuition and a desktop file manager called Workbench.
The Amiga intellectual property is fragmented between Amiga Inc., Cloanto, and Hyperion Entertainment. The copyrights for works created up to 1993 are owned by Cloanto.In 2001, Amiga Inc. contracted AmigaOS 4 development to Hyperion Entertainment and, in 2009 they granted Hyperion an exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to AmigaOS 3.1 in order to develop and market AmigaOS 4 and subsequent versions.
On December 29, 2015, the AmigaOS 3.1 source code leaked to the web; this was confirmed by the rights holder, Hyperion Entertainment.
Influence on Other Operating Systems
AROS Research Operating System (AROS) implements the AmigaOS API in a portable open-source operating system. Although not binary-compatible with AmigaOS (unless running on 68k), users have reported it to be highly source-code-compatible.
MorphOS is a PowerPC native operating system which also runs on some Amiga hardware. It implements AmigaOS API and provides binary compatibility with “OS-friendly” AmigaOS applications (that is, those applications which do not access any native, legacy Amiga hardware directly just as AmigaOS 4.x unless it’s executed on real Amiga models).
pOS was a multiplatform closed-source operating system with source code-level compatibility with existing Amiga software.
BeOS features also a centralized datatype structure similar to MacOS Easy Open after old Amiga developers requested Be to adopt Amiga datatype service. It allows the entire OS to recognize all kinds of files (text, music, videos, documents, etc.) with standard file descriptors. The datatype system provides the entire system and any productivity tools with standard loaders and savers for these files, without the need to embed multiple file-loading capabilities into any single program.
AtheOS was inspired by AmigaOS, and originally intended to be a clone of AmigaOS. Syllable is a fork of AtheOS, and includes some AmigaOS- and BeOS-like qualities.
FriendUP is a cloud based meta operating system. It has many former Commodore and Amiga developers and employees working on the project. The operating system retains several AmigaOS-like features, including DOS Drivers, mount lists, a TRIPOS based CLI and screen dragging.
Finally, the operating system of the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer bore a very strong resemblance to AmigaOS and was developed by RJ Mical, the creator of the Amiga’s Intuition user interface.
Bundled with the Amiga 3000UX, Commodore’s Unix was one of the first ports of SVR4 to the 68k architecture. The Amiga A3000UX model even got the attention of Sun Microsystems, though ultimately nothing came of it.
Unlike Apple’s A/UX, Amiga Unix contained no compatibility layer to allow AmigaOS applications to run under Unix. With few native applications available to take advantage of the Amiga’s significant multimedia capabilities, it failed to find a niche in the quite-competitive Unix workstation market of the early 1990s. The A3000UX’s price tag of $4,998 (equivalent to $9,382 in 2019) was also not very attractive compared to other Unix workstations at the time, such as the NeXTstation ($5,000 for a base system, with a full API and many times the number of applications available), the SGI Indigo (starting at $8,000), or the Personal DECstation 5000 Model 25 (starting at $5,000). Sun, HP, and IBM had similarly priced systems. The A3000UX’s 68030 was noticeably underpowered compared to most of its RISC-based competitors.
Unlike typical commercial Unix distributions of the time, Amiga Unix included the source code to the vendor-specific enhancements and platform-dependent device drivers (essentially any part that wasn’t owned by AT&T), allowing interested users to study or enhance those parts of the system. However this source code was subject to the same license terms as the binary part of the system – it was not free software. Amiga Unix also incorporated and depended upon many open source components, such as the GNU C Compiler and X Window System, and included their source code.
Like many other proprietary Unix variants with small market shares, Amiga Unix vanished into the mists of computer history when its vendor, Commodore, went out of business. Today, Unix-like operating systems such as Minix, NetBSD, and Linux are available for the Amiga platform.
Emulation Options for Commodore
Lot of options when it comes to emulating Commodore 64, 128 VIC20 platforms
From Options to Emulate a Commodore 64 and derivatives Online to Running it on a Raspberry Pi or the platform of Your choice there are tons of options out there.
- VICE is available for nearly every platform out there. Emulates the following:
C64, the C64DTV, the C128, the VIC20, practically all PET models, the PLUS4 and the CBM-II (aka C610/C510). An extra emulator is provided for C64 expanded with the CMD SuperCPU
- Hoxs64 (Windows Only)
Emulation Options for Amiga
Cloanto Amiga Forever
I was able to run AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update 6 Classic with Cloanto Amiga Forever emulating an Amiga 4000. Networking and Sound working fine.
FS-UAE – WinUAE
can run it even on a Raspberry Pi
Hardware Compatibility (complete link in the Shownoters)
- AmigaOne 500
- AmigaOne X50001
- Apple eMac2
- Apple iBook G4
- Apple Mac Mini G4
- Apple PowerBook G43
- Apple PowerMac Cube4
- Apple PowerMac G45
- Apple PowerMac G56
- Genesi Efika Open Client
- Genesi Open Desktop Workstation
- ACube Sam460cr
- ACube Sam460ex
- A-EON X5000
- bplan Pegasos I
- bplan Pegasos II
- bplan Efika
The World´s First Multimedia PC
MorphOS 3,12 on a G4 Powerbook
Amiga OS 4.1 Final Edition for Classic Computers
SAM 460ex FlexATX Motherboard w/ SoC AMCC 460ex CPU
AmigaOne X5000 (MorphOS and AmigaOS 4.1 with Enhancer Software)
MorphOS Hardware Compatibility
Amiga OS 3.1.4
Amiga OS 4.1 FE
AmigaOS Version History
Amiga Unix Files for FS-UAE / WinUAE
Hoxs64 (Windows Only)