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The final book in the Commodore Amiga trilogy.  Detailed research and refined writing in a quality hardcover binding.
The final book in the Commodore Amiga trilogy. Detailed research and refined writing in a quality hardcover binding.
1,395 backers pledged CA$ 94,338 to help bring this project to life.

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Commodore: The Final Years book

CA$ 94,338

1,395

Welcome to my Kickstarter to produce the final book of the Commodore trilogy that started with Commodore: A Company on the Edge and continued with Commodore: The Amiga Years. This book recounts the history of the Commodore computer company and pays tribute to the incredible creativity and ingenuity of the employees who created some of the most iconic computers of the 80s and 90s.

Background

The previous book left off with the dramatic firing of Commodore’s president and CEO, Thomas Rattigan, who successfully steered the company out of several years of losses. Commodore: The Final Years rejoins the company as it is about to launch the highly successful Amiga 500 and Amiga 2000 computers. 

Thomas Rattigan image (right) Copyright 2018 Cloanto
Thomas Rattigan image (right) Copyright 2018 Cloanto

Follow Commodore through its golden years, starting in 1987 as the Amiga line finally achieves commercial success. Although Commodore had the lead with computer graphics going into this period, IBM and Apple began catching up as Commodore’s engineers struggled to advance the Amiga chipset technology.  

Commodore also attempted to hold onto the low-end market, which they owned with the C64. In 1987, the NES hit big in North America and Commodore looked for a way to recapture the computer gaming market. They devised the C65, a computer whose development was shrouded in mystery. The C65 is special because it was a definitive improvement of the C64 that actually had a VIC-III chip in it (a backward compatible evolution of the famous VIC-II in the C64) yet with Amiga-like graphics capabilities at a very affordable price.

Now this story will be uncovered in its entirety and we can finally know what happened to prevent this significant computer from receiving a commercial release. This 90’s era 8-bit computer is a huge curiosity to fans of the old C64 and recently auctioned on eBay for the startling amount of €81,450, making it the Holy Grail of Commodore retro collectors.  

Commodore was also able to penetrate into the North American video production market thanks to the groundbreaking Video Toaster. There were other revolutionary technologies entering the scene throughout this period, including hard drives, LAN networks, CD-ROM, and even the Internet. See how Commodore reacted to these new technologies in an attempt to keep up with the state of the art. Finally, the book will cover Commodore’s bittersweet demise as PC clones inevitably dominated both the workplace and home.

Take a trip back to 1987 with me, a time of immense creativity from engineers who began taking on “moonshot” projects like a CD-ROM living room appliance and game console. It was also among the funniest years due to sharp tongued engineers like Bryce Nesbitt and Joe “Auggie” Augenbraun who tussled with management regularly.

The Book

This book will be similar in appearance and size to the previous two books in this trilogy, Commodore: A Company on the Edge and Commodore: The Amiga Years. The big difference between this Kickstarter and the previous one is that the book is mostly written and mainly requires editing and polishing to make it publication ready. I have been working on that throughout the first part of this year, with eight chapters (out of perhaps 40) currently polished and being edited by reviewers. I will continue working on the book throughout the duration of this month-long Kickstarter. If the schedule proceeds similar to The Amiga Years, expect The Final Years to be released and in your hands by the end of this year.  

As with the previous two books in this series, the new book will be 500-600 pages long and 6 by 9 inches. The hardcover will be covered by a glossy 4-color dust jacket with 3.5 inch flaps. Interior is black and white ink on 50 lb. white paper, sent to a local printer and printed on a high quality press. The content includes two period photographs per chapter culled from the hundreds of photographs provided by Commodore insiders. A full index is provided so you can revisit your favorite subject at a moment’s glance.  

As the title suggests, the last of the Amiga-based machines will be covered, including A500, A2000, A3000, A2500UX, A600, A4000, A1200 and lots of variants that were never released. There’s also the game consoles: C64GS, CDTV and CD32. The aforementioned C65 features prominently, along with some info on the C128 and C64 which continued to sell throughout this period.   

Funding    

I’m seeking a goal of $25,000 for this project, the minimum amount needed to print the book. Kickstarter takes 10% off the top, the government takes its share of taxes on everything, a large percentage of the Kickstarter revenue is earmarked for shipping, there's also packaging costs for the mailers, and additional expenses designing and producing the stretch goals should this project achieve those. The biggest expenses come with printing thousands of books, designing covers, and layout. The money collected also has to fund the development and printing of Commodore: The Early Years about the typewriters and calculators, which has separate expenses for editing, layout, cover design, printing and shipping. Then there are living expenses for the development time. These funds disappear quickly and I need your help to keep the ball rolling.

Copyright 2018 Thomas Koch
Copyright 2018 Thomas Koch

Contributors  

Detailed interviews with the participants have been completed so you can hear firsthand accounts of the successes, monumental mistakes, and even a few troubling scandals that plagued Commodore in its final years.

Some Commodore employees whose names start with 'D'
Some Commodore employees whose names start with 'D'
  • Andy Finkel (Amiga OS)
  • Bill Gardei (VIC-III chip, C65)
  • Bob Welland (A500, Amiga Unix)
  • Bryce Nesbitt (Amiga OS)
  • Carl Sassenrath (Amiga OS, CDTV OS)
  • Clive Smith (General Manager of New Products)
  • Colin Proudfoot  (Chief Financial Officer/GM Commodore UK)
  • Dale Luck (Amiga OS Graphics)
  • Dave Haynie (A3000, A4000)
  • David Pleasance (General Manager Commodore UK)
  • Don Gilbreath (CDTV)
  • Ed Hepler (Amiga AGA Chipset, Hombre)
  • Eric Cotton (Amiga OS)
  • Gerard Bucas (GVP founder)
  • Glenn Keller (Amiga chipset)
  • Greg Berlin (A3000, A4000)
  • Hedley Davis (Hedley Hires, A3000, CDTV-CR)
  • Jeff Porter (Director of System Engineering)
  • Joe Augenbraun (Amiga 2200 - cancelled)
  • Michael Sinz (Amiga OS)
  • Paul Lassa (C65, Amiga 4000T)

And more! 

Perk It Up!

Perks are bonus items you can add by upping your pledge the appropriate amount--I will calculate your perk based on Total Pledge - [Reward Level + Shipping] in a spreadsheet. You can choose as many perks below as you like. These are available to eBook backers too (with the exception of the $5 perk) because items are shipped separately.

Amiga Years Swag - Missed out on the Kickstarter for the Amiga Years or want a second helping? This perk includes an Agnus poster, two bookmarks, and two replica Amiga business cards. Not available to eBook backers. - Add $5 to your pledge

Personalized Edition - With this perk the author will inscribe a personal message at the front of the book of up to 256 characters, or write a custom request such as a one of a kind Commodore haiku. It's all up to you. - Add $10 to your pledge

Box of Business Cards - Want more personalized Commodore business cards to hand out at hacker fests and retro gatherings? These authentic recreations can be customized with your own eMail address, phone number and mock job title. Be as creative or outrageous as you want! - Add $20 to your pledge (includes shipping cost)

Full Sized Wall Poster of Agnus Plot - Receive an A0 84 x 119 cm color poster of the Fat Agnus chip plot. The poster art is highly detailed and period accurate, allowing you to see every component of the Agnus up close. The cost of printing posters is quite high, along with a mailing tube and even more expensive shipping, but this is all included in one convenient amount. - Add $50 to your pledge (includes shipping cost)

S-t-r-e-t-c-h Goals

Metallic Foil Stamp on Spine - The cloth binding will have a foil stamped title on the spine, allowing you to identify the book on a shelf easily without the dust jacket. If you are going to use one book-trigger in your bookshelf to open the door to your secret lair, let it be this one. - $40,000 goal

Sewn Binding - Having the binding sewed instead of glued greatly adds to the durability and functionality of the book, allowing it to lay flat. You will be able to literally smell the quality that went into the book! - $50,000 goal

8 Pages of Color Photos - This stretch goal allows about two dozen color photos to be inserted on glossy paper right in the book. All SFW. - $60,000 goal

Collectible Pen - What could be more perfect than a collectible pen to write down your daily thoughts? May or may not contain actual blue squid ink. - $70,000 goal  

Embossed Title on Front Cover - What can I say? A 3D embossed title on the cover makes the book look great. Some might even say professional. - $80,000 goal

16 Pages of Color Photos - An additional 8 pages on top of the previous pages, allowing a total of around 50 color photos in the book. Mostly SFW. - $90,000 goal

Foil Stamped Front Cover - An artful object on the front cover will have foil glued to the image, making it stand out. It just might be gold because this book deals with Commodore’s golden years. - $100,000 goal

Hedley Davis Memorial Disk Drive - * Google it. The infamous HDMDD recreated on a poster to hang on your wall. I will seek feedback from backers to see if you want just the memorial, or if you want a spoof of one of those 80s Successories posters. Either way, it will have a photo of a real disk drive embedded in drywall with a tasteful frame surrounding it and a plaque reading “Hedley Davis Memorial Disk Drive”. - $110,000 goal

Audio Book - Listen to Commodore history while in a plane in the rain, on the plains on a train, travelling through Spain riding a crane, but absolutely no other places or situations other than those three. - $120,000 goal

Reward Highlights

Signature Edition - For the true collector, receive a book hand signed and dated on the inside title page. This reward is included for all physical reward levels of $50 and above. Copies of other Commodore books will also be signed.   

Personalized Business Cards - You know in your heart you're practically a Commodore employee. Take that next step down the rabbit hole with these period accurate replica business cards! Business cards are from circa 1990 and include an eMail address field. These items were a big hit with backers from the previous Kickstarter project. Now customize your cards with your name, eMail, phone number and crazy job title. Show your credentials as a card-carrying fan or use it as a bookmark.  

The Dedicated Backer - In honor of the final 8-bit machine by Commodore, be one of only 128 people to have your name immortalized by the printing press! Your name will appear on a special dedication page in Commodore: The Final Years (digital and hardcover). Plus receive everything at the $72 level.  

Multiple books - If you want to back at one of the higher reward levels but have already read books in this series, there are substitutes available. Choose from any combination of Commodore: The Early Years, Commodore: The Amiga Years, or Sophistication & Simplicity. A survey will allow you to choose which books you want. Multiple duplicates are allowed. * NOTE: Commodore: A Company on the Edge is available in limited quantities and is offered as a separate reward tier.   

Commodore: The Early Years (paperback) - Take the journey of legendary Commodore founder Jack Tramiel. Travel through two decades from 1954 through 1974 and find out what it took for him to rise from humble beginnings to an industry titan. * Expected delivery date: 2019  

Sophistication & Simplicity - Steven Weyhrich, the author of this lovely Apple II book, has kindly allowed his 20 year labor of love to be offered here. I've read lots of computer history books about Apple, but this is the first to cover the 8-bit Apple II history exclusively. This exciting book explores two decades of the scene, and as a Commodore junkie, it was eye opening.  

The Rare Collector - Commodore: A Company on the Edge was released in 2010, telling the complete story of Commodore computers from its purchase of MOS Technology in 1976 through to the release of the KIM-1, PET, VIC-20, C64, and Plus/4, followed by Jack Tramiel's sudden departure from the company in 1984. Numerous interviews were conducted, including Chuck Peddle (6502 and PET), Bill Mensch (6502 and 65816), Bill Seiler (PET), John Feagens (PET), Bob Russell (VIC-20), Bob Yannes (SID chip), Al Charpentier (VIC chips), Kit Spencer (marketing), Michael Tomczyk (marketing), and many more. Now out of print with a street price of around $100 from online book sellers.  

Shipping and VAT

Shipping from North America to Europe is expensive, costing $20 for surface or $40 for airmail. Instead this project will ship your books using a method called zone skipping. This is a technique developed for the previous book in which all the books are bulk shipped to Europe and deposited into the regional mail system.

This took a lot of work, but now all the contacts have been established and the systems perfected in order to do this effectively. Zone skipping is both faster and cheaper, and the savings are passed onto you. This time I'm looking to deliver the books at least a month before others can get them from traditional retail and online by holding all remaining books in storage until the books are shipped to you.

NOTE: Countries in the European Union (excluding UK) collect 7% VAT on books. This tax ($2.80 for one book) must be paid for by EU backers as it would not be fair to pass those costs onto backers from other countries. VAT is collected during checkout.

Comments for Commodore: The Amiga Years

This book was well written and a joy to read. ... I look forward to reading the last book when it comes out next year. - Brian Monette

Awesome book about the history of the Amiga, highly recommended! - Jeffery Styles

Brian Bagnall once again tackles, in detail and with respect, a topic few in the realm of computing history have the knowledge or passion to examine. I haven't been able to put this book down since receiving it. - J. Cassara

I have just read two chapters and I can tell you that the story is extremely interesting. - Rudy Vissers

I'm an Atari guy from way back when and I bought "On the Edge" kind of as a challenge - "Let's see whether there actually was anything worth my time about these computers and the company that made them...". And by gosh, that book was *riveting*, and I've enjoyed the ones since then just as much. - John Gruver

All in all, I would recommend it to any enthusiast. - M. B. Clarke

...print quality is really good, the hard cover and sleeve where great quality and vibrant and the book itself is supposedly very interesting to those who are fans of computing history - Ally Scott

Fantastic book, Brian. I loved it as much as On The Edge. Looking forward to your next! - Steve Knox

Summary

Commodore was awesome and now it’s time to finish telling this story. There's a lot of hard work to do in order to preserve the history of this company for the ages. As with the previous book, I will use your feedback to make this history the best it can be. I bring over a decade of writing experience in computers and programming and have an enduring passion for Commodore. Together we can make it happen. Thank you for taking the time to check out my project!

Risks and challenges

This book will be done. I have been writing about Commodore since the early 2000's and have consistently been a finisher. As mentioned above, this book is mostly written and now requires extensive editing and polish. The wait will be nothing like the previous book because of the finished state of the text. However, there is a chance it will not be delivered by Christmas 2018 if there are any issues that slow down development, including unexpected illness and unforeseen issues with completing the book. If 2018 is missed, the book will almost certainly be delivered in Q1 2019, given how similar the schedule is to the 2017 schedule for The Amiga Years.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 5 or more About US$ 4

    MEGA THANKS

    Receive a personal THANK YOU from me! You also receive access to Kickstarter project updates.

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    DIGITAL EBOOK Commodore: The Final Years

    The eBook comes in your choice of Kindle Mobi, ePub or PDF. All versions are DRM-free.

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    HARDCOVER Commodore: The Final Years

    A HARDCOVER BOOK, the EBOOK edition, and personalized business cards (see Reward Highlights for more information). This is your ticket to Commodore circa 1990.

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    TWO DIGITAL EBOOKS

    Includes your choice of two DRM-free eBooks. After the Kickstarter ends a personal survey will be sent and you can select two eBooks from the following:
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Commodore: A Company on the Edge
    5. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    The HARDCOVER SIGNATURE EDITION

    For the collector in you. The inside title page will be signed and dated by the author. Also includes the eBook edition and personalized business cards. (see Reward Highlights for more information)

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    MIXED MEDIA Hardcover and eBook

    Receive HARDCOVER and EBOOK editions of Commodore: The Final Years plus one of the following eBooks (your choice via a personal survey after the Kickstarter ends). * For signature edition, top up your pledge by $10:
    1. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    2. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    3. Commodore: A Company on the Edge
    4. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    Pledge CA$ 60 or more About US$ 45

    DIGITAL COLLECTION of THREE eBooks

    Includes your choice of three DRM-free eBooks. After the Kickstarter ends a personal survey will be sent and you can select three eBooks from the following:
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Commodore: A Company on the Edge
    5. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    Pledge CA$ 72 or more About $54

    TWO HARDCOVER BOOKS

    Receive two physical books from the following (duplicates allowed):
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Also includes the eBook editions and personalized business cards. (see Reward Highlights for more information)
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    Pledge CA$ 74 or more About $56

    MIXED MEDIA Hardcover and Two eBooks

    Receive HARDCOVER and EBOOK editions of Commodore: The Final Years plus TWO of the following EBOOKS (your choice via a personal survey after the Kickstarter ends). * For signature edition, top up your pledge by $10:
    1. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    2. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    3. Commodore: A Company on the Edge
    4. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    Pledge CA$ 80 or more About US$ 60

    DIGITAL COLLECTION of FOUR eBooks

    Includes your choice of four DRM-free eBooks. After the Kickstarter ends a personal survey will be sent and you can select four eBooks from the following:
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Commodore: A Company on the Edge
    5. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    FULL DIGITAL

    All five DRM-free eBooks:
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Commodore: A Company on the Edge
    5. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    DEDICATED BACKER

    Be one of only 128 people to have your name immortalized in the book! Your name will appear on a special DEDICATION page in Commodore: The Final Years (digital and hardcover). Plus receive everything at the $72 level.

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    THREE PHYSICAL BOOKS

    Receive three physical books from the following (duplicates allowed):
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Also includes the eBook editions and personalized business cards. (see Rewards Highlights section below)
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    Pledge CA$ 140 or more About $105

    FOUR PHYSICAL BOOKS

    Receive four physical books from the following (duplicates allowed):
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Also includes the eBook editions and personalized business cards. (see Rewards Highlights section below)
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    13 backers
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    Pledge CA$ 150 or more About $113

    RARE Edition Collection

    There are only 8 new copies of "Commodore: A Company on the Edge" remaining and then they are completely gone. You will receive one of these copies signed plus three physical books from the following (duplicates allowed) plus your name immortalized in a special section of the dedication page:
    1. Commodore: The Final Years
    2. Commodore: The Amiga Years
    3. Commodore: The Early Years (1954 - 1975)
    4. Sophistication & Simplicity: The Life and Times of the Apple II
    Also includes the eBook editions and personalized business cards. (see Rewards Highlights section below)
    Note: The Early Years will be delivered separately. Estimated completion date in 2019.

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    Pledge CA$ 450 or more About $338

    Defender of Commodore

    A rare copy of Defender of the Crown 2 for CDTV/CD32 signed by its creator, Jim Sachs. Also includes everything at the $108 level (three hardcover books) plus a special dedication in the book naming you “Defender of Commodore”.

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Funding period

- (27 days)