This is an extensively researched work which is told in a very compelling fashion.
The book is primarily made up of quotes from Commodore employees, articles of the time, and other sources, which are woven together in a lucid chronological format. It was very interesting to find out the details and reasoning behind aspects of popular computers such as the VIC-20 and, especially the C64.
The technical details (chip manufacturing, software device drivers, etc) may be of more benefit to someone with a technical background, but anyone can enjoy all aspects of this book. As a software developer, I found much of the "behind the scenes" detail extremely rewarding.
It was also surprising to see how much Commodore did accomplish in such a dysfunctional environment, which began with the volatile founder and CEO, Jack Tramiel, at the top.
This book starts at the beginning of Commodore, which was created in 1958 in Toronto, Canada as a calculator company, and went public in 1962. It stops coverage in June 1984, shortly after the Plus/4 came out. There is an announcement in the back of the book, stating that a book titled "Commodore: The Amiga Years" will be arriving in 2012, which will likely pick up where this one left off.
Think "Chuck Peddle" - not "Steve Wozniak"...
I also found it very interesting to learn that Commodore was far more the innovator during the late 70s and early 80s than was Apple, or other personal computer companies of the day. Apple is a benefactor of receiving a lot of revisionist press from the likes of Robert X. Cringely (whose real name is Mark Stephens and was an employee of Apple) and others who like to perpetuate the myth of the two Steves being the most innovative during that era.
Here are just a few facts of that era...
- Chuck Peddle (Commodore engineer) created the 6502 microprocessor, which was used by Wozniak to create the Apple II (and used by scores of others in their computers, including Atari)
- The Commodore 64 is the best selling computer model of all time, as specified in the Guinness Book of World Records
- The Commodore VIC-20 was the first computer to sell a million units
- The Commodore PET was a fully functioning home computer, and came out far before the Apple II
- Byte magazine states "More than any other person, Chuck Peddle deserves to be called the founder of the personal computer industry"
Steve Wozniak built the Apple II by piecing together parts created by others. Chuck Peddle built his machines staring with raw sand.
Sadly, barely anyone knows the name of Chuck Peddle, although everyone can name the two Steves. Perhaps if Commodore were around today, this might be different.
With the current popularity of Apple, it's easy to be fooled by the Apple-focused coverage of that time. But, do yourself a favor and find out the truth of that era, by reading this book and others surrounding that time, such as the one about Xerox PARC (the company who created the original GUI which was lifted by Apple later).
All in all, this is the most well-written and thoroughly detailed book of any that I've read from this era. Brian Bagnall is truly gifted in the art of bringing those magical days of old to life once again. I look forward with great anticipation to his forthcoming book on the Amiga Years.