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Internet News : On The Edge Book Review
Posted by ssolie on 2007/1/11 21:42:37 (2202 reads) News by the same author
Internet News

I picked up my copy of "On The Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore" by Brian Bagnall at AmiWest on October 21, 2006. Funny thing is the book is published and manufactured in Canada by Variant Press out of Winnipeg so I probably could have picked it up at home just as easily. But this copy made its way over the pond to England then on to the USA and into my hands and finally returned to Canada from whence it came. AmigaKit was smart to bring the books with them which quickly sold out at the show. It was all worth it to get it signed by Carl Sassenrath though.

This is a thick hard cover book with more than 550 pages of information packed into it. I found the cover rather drab with the ubiquitous Commodore 64 on display. The binding took a lot of abuse as I slowly trudged my way through the book in many an airport and such. The author did an excellent job of taking a rather dry subject and presenting it in an entertaining yet historically accurate manner. I would have appreciated many more pictures in the book even though the length is already pushing it. Overall, this was one book that was hard to stop reading.

The Commodore story begins in 1974 and ends in 1994. Commodore started out basically as a calculator company, exploded with the VIC-20 and C64 computers and died with the Amiga and CD32. What a crazy ride it was! Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (now celebrities) swing in and out of Commodore's past at key points. It is interesting how Apple still tries to this day to revise computing history to their liking and how Microsoft got revenge when Commodore was forced to come back to them for an Amiga version of BASIC. I laughed out loud several times when reading about Bil Herd's exploits and many of the other Commodore engineers. I shook my head in dismay as Commodore's management made critical errors which ultimately led to the demise of the company.

Being an electronics engineer myself, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all the trouble the Commodore engineers got themselves into and the lengths they went to to get demos to run just enough. Unfortunately, I found Commodore's management woefully underrepresented in the book although the author tries hard to piece together management's side of the story. It doesn't help when the main man himself, Jack Tramiel, has a strict no Commodore interview policy. And as the book states in the Epilogue, "Irving Gould (Commodore Chairman and Financier) remained an enigma until the end" and that is it for the man behind the curtain who died in 2001. It seems to me that those in charge coveted the darker side of business and would rather not talk about it even though they did accomplish many impossible things.

I'm sure a few facts in this book will turn some heads. The author does a good job of referring to multiple personal accounts and plenty of reference materials from the appropriate time periods to back up his claims. There are some places where blanks are difficult to fill in but the author does his best to remain objective.

The Amiga is mentioned in the final few chapters. I think you could probably write a book on the Amiga's history itself but the author did a great job of squeezing in as much information as possible. It is very important to understand the history of Commodore prior to the Amiga acquisition to fully understand how Commodore failed to use the Amiga to their full advantage and why. Again, management versus engineering is a recurring theme and Commodore management is not as fully represented as they could be.

For more information about the book and even an extra chapter check out the book web site at www.commodorebook.com.

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Author Thread
Published: 2007/1/11 21:45  Updated: 2007/1/11 21:45
Quite a regular
Joined: 12/01/2006
From: Europe
Comments: 531
 Re: On The Edge Book Review
Thank you for the review!
Published: 2007/1/11 23:59  Updated: 2007/1/11 23:59
Not too shy to talk
Joined: 11/27/2006
Comments: 322
 Re: On The Edge Book Review
I got this book as a birthday present for myself back in april and was gripped.

I loved reading about some of the practical jokes and battles with management. There were some real characters at Commodore.
Published: 2007/1/12 9:10  Updated: 2007/1/12 9:10
Not too shy to talk
Joined: 11/27/2006
From: Somerset, UK
Comments: 357
 Re: On The Edge Book Review
@Rob Agreed. I'll like to see a followup.
Amiga after Commodore. Wasn't Petro going to write a book ?
Published: 2007/1/12 13:46  Updated: 2007/1/12 13:46
Just popping in
Joined: 12/01/2006
From: Odense, Denmark
Comments: 221
 Re: On The Edge Book Review
Petro did mention the chance of a book at some time. That would be extreme interesting!
Published: 2007/1/13 13:42  Updated: 2007/1/13 13:42
Not too shy to talk
Joined: 12/06/2006
From: Wellington
Comments: 299
 Re: On The Edge Book Review
It is a very good read! I agree the only disappointing thing is the (relatively) short Amiga history section.

However I would thoroughly recommend this book to all Commodore & Amiga enthusiasts.

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