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Old 11 August 2016, 11:48   #1
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Commodore sucks! (rant)

Sometimes, considering the history of Commodore and Amiga, I just wish I could see what happened back then in a parallel universe, where Amiga ruled over the PC and Apple until well into the 2000s, and only then the Amiga line ended with grace and dignity, unlike what happened in this universe.

This is just a rant against Commodore management, because I have to get a few things off my chest:

First of all, the CDTV - why? Potentially forward-thinking, but too early on, and a big mistake to distance it from the Amiga. Stupid Commdore.

The Amiga 600 - why? Why chop off the numeric keypad so that flight sim games could no longer run on it?? WHAT were you THINKING? Stupid Commodore.

AGA - why no audio improvements? And was Jay Miner consulted on this chipset? I was so disappointed when I heard about the flaws in this stop-gap of a chipset. Stupid Commodore.

Akiko as a CD32 afterthought - why? This is what really irks me about Commodore, that they considered the competition to be beneath them, that they didn't think the PC was a threat or they simply thought they were better (they were, but the PC was catching up fast). I mean, Wolfenstein 3D had already come out in 1991, and surely that was a warning sign for Commodore, but they figured bitplanes would always win out over chunky graphics. They should at least have had the Akiko chip built into the AGA chipset and not just the CD32, it would've opened the doors to more PC-style games, and the Amiga would've even possibly had an official version of Doom when it came out in 1993! But instead, Commodore failed to innovate and played it safe, and the CD32's Akiko was too little, too late, as practically no games supported Akiko, but would've done if it had been included in the AGA chipset. Stupid Commodore.

Star Trek: The Voyage Home - why did you charge Paramount for the Amiga, Commodore, WHY? You had the perfect opportunity to offer a free machine for the movie and you would've had lots of promotion as a result, and lots of potential sales thereafter. At least Apple had more nous than you, you stupid Commodore! And someone answer me once and for all - was that Amiga graphics in Spock's teaching computer on Vulcan?

And I think that's about it, for the stuff I'm aware of. In what other areas do you remember Commodore being stupid and lazy and stagnant? After all the rigmarole between Atari and Commodore, maybe it would've been better if Jack Tramiel had gotten the Amiga in the first place? Commodore was practically a joke, especially after Tramiel left! It's a MESS.
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Old 11 August 2016, 13:42   #2
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I also heard someone saying on The Retro Hour podcast they were increasing and decreasing the value so they could buy and sell stock. (Not sure if I used the right financial term).

What would an Amiga look like if Commodore made the right choices and it would have become the dominant platform? What do you think?
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Old 11 August 2016, 14:20   #3
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Commodore management were the equivalent of Donald Trump today - lies, deception, financial mismanagement, scandals, no idea whether they had any cash or were flat broke etc. I hope Irving Gould held onto his Commodore stock to the bitter end and lost a fortune as he was a big part of them failing imho.

I also agree about the AGA chipset. The blitter should have been sped up, more audio channels (but backwards compatible, so an A500 would hear the 4 channels, AGA would hear more), they shouldn't have released all those useless "upgrades" like the A500+/A600/CDTV and saved their cash for a gruntier A1200.

One article I remember in (I think) Amiga Format had some honcho of CBM saying they would probably raise the price of the base computer the next year - I can't think of any other hardware manufacturer that ever raised the price of technology and yet they intended to!

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Old 11 August 2016, 15:27   #4
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CDTV - The only issue I have with the CDTV is that it should have come with more RAM. It was Commodore's way of getting the Amiga platform into homes using multimedia etc. In a way it was a probably a good idea at the time and it had multiple uses as a CD home audio system then too (CD/tape/record players were the primary players of music back then so if people saw a system they could play games/multimedia/play their music it was a win-win situation).

The CDTV is a lovely piece of equipment - when I had one a couple of years ago the build quality is probably the best Commodore piece of hardware along with the 1000/3000. They're like an Amiga 500 with a cherry on top. There was an article in Amiga Format at the time with Donald Pleasance explaining the idea around it - I haven't a clue which issue.

The 600 - yes, I agree not sure why but was probably aimed at the 'young' gamer than a serious home user (hence the cheaper price at the time - I think it was 100 cheaper than the 500+)

AGA - yes, lots of missed opportunities here, corners cut... should/could have been much better! The prototype AGA systems were nicer than the 1200/4000 models we ended up with (3000+ etc)... but this was coming to the end I guess.

The CD32 was a poor CDTV - if only they had build quality of the CDTV

But come on this was over 20 years ago, Medhi Ali is still around though! I doubt C= could have survived past the year 2000 even if the going was good (look at Silicon Graphics who flew the roost in the early 2000s and they were big!), PC market kind of took the lead in the mid-1990s and then you had all the fancy consoles such as the PS1 etc which kind of changed everything.

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Old 11 August 2016, 15:29   #5
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Indeed, AGA could have been much better.

With the same memory bandwidth they could have included a blitter running at 4x speed (though it would have to fetch 64 pixels per go). Or allowed the processor to access chipmemory at twice the speed.

And don't get me started on AGA sprites. While 8x64 pixels@3 colours/4x64 pixels @15 colours was rather nice, they could have (again, in the same memory bandwidth) also given us 16/8x32 pixels or 32/16x16 pixel sprites. Which would have been much more useful for games.

Same with the sprite colours, they could've allowed a 16 colour pallete per sprite pair.
All things that could've been done using the same 1992 level technology they had.

Ah well, no sense in ranting over it I suppose - perhaps I should just be happy we got an upgrade to AGA at all. It's still better than nothing.
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Old 11 August 2016, 16:11   #6
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Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing, but a couple of things that spring to mind:

- No fast RAM socket in the A1200. Why on earth did they make a computer that could only add memory via a trap door card, which then meant you couldn't add any other expansion cards or peripherals? There was no shortage of space on the motherboard for a RAM socket and that alone IMO could have saved the A1200, especially in later years when Escom re-released it in 1995 with EXACTLY the same spec as the 1992 model. Imagine if they could have simply chucked in a 4 or 8MB RAM stick.

- No SCSI on the A4000D. It was done to save costs, why cut corners on your premium model? For the A1200 or A600 sure IDE makes sense, but releasing a professional computer with no SCSI in 1992 was a joke.

I often read old issues of Amiga Format and the Commodore management of the time literally had no idea what they were talking about, some things they said were either outright lies or technically impossible. Imagine Jony Ive standing up at an Apple expo and saying "the next generation iPhone will have an in built microwave and be able to cook food for you!" most of what they said was complete nonsense, I wasn't technical at the time so just took what they said as gospel, but I can imagine more savvy people reading the interviews and spitting their tea all over the floor.

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Old 11 August 2016, 16:29   #7
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In truth the only good Commodore did was to release the C64 and buy the Amiga chipset out of the hands of Atari, anything else they pretty much mucked up!
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Old 11 August 2016, 16:52   #8
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Lots of companies made huge mistakes, not only Commodore.

Bur for Commodore I would say the C64GS is the worse mistake...

And Atari, well maybe it is just a little envy from C= like: "No, Jack won't get Amiga..."
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Old 11 August 2016, 17:26   #9
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I think 500, 600, 1200 should be released with AMOS on floppy disks + instruction + examples and some music tracker. They should avoid awesomeness like Dangerous Streets.
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Old 11 August 2016, 17:35   #10
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Originally Posted by s2325 View Post
They should avoid awesomeness like Dangerous Streets.
Yeah, I mean honestly what morons chose some of the pack in games? They must have been people that had never played a computer game before. Imagine if the SNES had launched bundled with Wayne's World instead of Mario.
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Old 11 August 2016, 20:08   #11
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Talking about the packs and the software, I also feel this was a big letdown for them. I had the desktop dynamite (1200) bundle, looking at it today, it seemed to try to cover entertainment, home / small business and productivity right out of the box but with gaping holes in all areas, no spreadsheet or other 'office' packages other than a very slow word processor, graphics creation covered but not sound, questionable games quality (oscar, at least it looks pretty but dennis? - Amiga could do much better) just not sure who that was aimed at other than kids who had never played sonic or mario, kids don't have money, kids swap copied games at school... Most kids who got one of those probably never used wordsworth, maybe they drew some crude pics in deluxe paint but could have easily managed without them - i guess it was something to attract parents, some kind of homework angle... Wordsworth came on 5 disks i think? that could have been 5 more games.... You're paying for print manager software, but there's no printer, Bravo C=....

Maybe they should have targeted these areas more specifically - secured a full bundle of office software, like MS office or whatever, sold that with the machine (maybe even with a cheap printer) so it can home business on a budget straight out of the box, throw in Dennis so people have a couple of free save disks.

Complementing this a gaming package with a -ton- of games might have attracted a lot of attention from another specific audience, they could never compete with consoles on game quality, particularly with pack-ins or entry cost for the home machines because they didn't make their own games but they could have tried harder with a greater quantity of titles.

C= just painted themselves further into the corner with every decision, not capable of competing with the PC for a hundred reasons (they'd never beat PC in big business, but in small business area perhaps mainly a lack of killer business apps) and not able to compete with consoles on both the entry level cost and often (not always!) the quality of the games, plus they weren't making anything from game sales, unlike the console manufacturers who also had an edge and perceived coolness that C= clearly wanted but in the 90's at least never had. They seemed to have made poor hardware choices too, but perhaps it was the software that seemed to let it down the most and made it second fiddle to the PC and consoles for many consumers & businesses. That said and ultimately though, it was the move on in HW and peoples expectations that C= just couldn't keep up with, they couldn't spend enough to keep up with it i guess and lacked focus.
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Old 11 August 2016, 20:43   #12
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The computer that Scotty uses to show transparent aluminum was originally going to be an Amiga, but Commodore would only provide a computer if they bought that. Apple Computers was willing to loan them the Mac.
never heard about that. so silly ... :/

Originally Posted by StarQuake View Post
I also heard someone saying on The Retro Hour podcast they were increasing and decreasing the value so they could buy and sell stock. (Not sure if I used the right financial term).
Iim Sachs said so in that interview.

Originally Posted by Codetapper View Post
Commodore management were the equivalent of Donald Trump today - lies, deception, financial mismanagement, scandals
stop watching CNN & Co ...

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Old 12 August 2016, 14:49   #13
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My parents gave me the chance to "upgrade" to the 600 but I played a lot of Civilization at the time and needed a numeric pad.
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Old 12 August 2016, 17:15   #14
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But for Commodore I would say the C64GS is the worse mistake...
Indeed, making the C64GS is one of the strangest decisions ever made in computer history.

I really wish that the Amiga 500 would have had a game cartridge slot just like the C64. This would have made the A500 a 16-bit cartridge based console in 1987...one year ahead of Sega Megadrive that came out in 1988.

But no...C64, an old 8-bit computer gets a cartridge slot but a superior technology 16-bit machine is stuck with a floppy drive. And so Megadrive gets released and two years pass...and in 1990 Commodore decides that they too need a cartridge based game console. And so the C64GS is released to challenge the Megadrive and NES. But look: they just re-released the ages old C64 without the keyboard! And why? Because the C64 had the cartridge slot in it, and therefore it could be easily turned into a game console!

Or so they thought, because the C64GS was a massive failure...although theoretically it was a good idea, because the C64 had a massive game library, it had lots of good quality games, just like the NES had. But sadly most of those were in tape cassettes and floppy disks and totally incompatible with the cartridge based C64GS.

And then 3 years pass, and in 1993 Commodore finally decides that they need a game console based on Amiga technology, and so the CD32 is released. But soon after this the company goes bankrupt, so the CD32 never had a chance to shine.
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Old 12 August 2016, 17:55   #15
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There were article in some paper magazine about fake expansion to run and play Mega Drive games on classic Amiga.
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Old 12 August 2016, 22:47   #16
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Commodore wasn't the only company that mis-managed themselves. Look at the Hewlett Packard before they re-invented themselves as HP. You can't find products today like the old 48 series or the 200LX. They came close to going under but was able to recover but are not the same.
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Old 13 August 2016, 12:57   #17
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One thing that has also bugged me, is why Commodore themselves didn't publish or make any games for the Amiga?

A quick search in the Hall of Light shows only a handful of CDTV titles:

And only ONE game for the A500 : Mind Walker

And this is very strange, because for the C64 Commodore published many Bally Midway arcade conversions, like Gorf, Dragons Den, Lazarian, Satan's Hollow and Wizard of Wor, and others.

And all of those C64 games were of very high quality, the arcade conversions were almost 100% accurate, and I think most were primarily released on cartridges, with cool boxes and cover art. Back then, this almost turned the C64 into an "arcade machine at home", just put the cartridge in and play.

But why on earth Commodore didn't do this sort of thing on the Amiga?

They had to know, that back in 1987, the Amiga 500 hardware was superior in every possible way, and above every other machine on the market. Even many arcade coin-op hardware of 87 paled in comparison.

And yet, Commodore didn't use this potential at all. They had the money to negotiate deals with arcade pubishers and to hire the best programmers in the world. But yet, they did nothing, and left game creation and publishing to others. And this is just absurd: They clearly tried to compete in the gaming machine wars, but still didn't make or publish any games for the back then super-powerful Amiga 500?

Surely they knew what Sega and Nintendo were doing? Both of those companies hired good programmers, made high quality in-house games, and also made exclusive deals with 3rd party developing houses to publish good stuff on their consoles. This was the very reason why Sega and Nintendo were successful. But with the Amiga, Commodore didn't even try to do anything like this. It's just pure stupidity.

In 1988 the Megadrive was usually sold bundled with Altered Beast, which was an almost 100% arcade perfect Sega in-house conversion. Sonic wouldn't appear until many years later. But who needs Sonic when you have a 100% accurate conversion of a coin-op smash hit in your living room? The formula for success is often simple.

And in 1990, Commodore tries to challenge the Megadrive with the C64GS...did they seriously think that the ancient Commodore 64 would seize control of the console battlefield, if they just released it as a cartridge-only console...that the C64 would rise from the depths of history, and DEVOUR and CRUSH the competition like some ancient computer god with big teeth and tentacles?! That Lazarian and Wizard of Wor would become best sellers again? It's insane.


Luckily, the Amiga eventually started to get loads of great games, thanks to the legendary software houses of the 80's and 90's, who one after another pulled the sword out from the stone and used it, creating game libraries of pure gold...And so the Amiga was saved. But still, I have always had the feeling that Commodore themselves should have done more to support the gaming side of Amiga. At least they should have published good game programming books that told the best practices and methods on how to use all the custom chips to the fullest, so that the early programmers wouldn't have had to stumble in the dark. Or maybe they actually made such books? I don't know for sure, I'm just making a guess based on the quality of early Amiga games.

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Old 13 August 2016, 14:00   #18
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Ah, digging in the past we can not change it, even with all that knowledge we gather. It's so temptation to dream about those "what if" scenarios. I also think that Commodore was far from being perfect company and waste great chance that was amiga.
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Old 13 August 2016, 15:20   #19
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The CD32 was released earlier than planned so they probably had to take whatever games they could get but however desperate they were it's still no excuse to include Dangerous Streets.

The whole bundle just looked cheap. Two games per CD, terrible monochrome covers and no rear inlay.
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Old 20 August 2016, 12:52   #20
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CDTV: A typical product where they don't know what it's really for but they figure that it's exciting and people will find a way to make use of it. A common misjudgement.

A600: It was meant to be a cheaper A500. Commodore always tried to find ways to lower the price or production so they could lower the end price as well. They did it a lot with the A500. Sadly, for whatever reason, it turned out to be more expensive but since they had put money into that project they wanted to go through with it anyway. This was also a mistake of course, but not unheard of in computer business.

AGA: this was a stop gap as their AAA chip wasn't ready yet. It was supposed to be replaced by the AAA in the near future. This turned out to be a good idea as A1200 sold quite well. If a new Amiga with AAA, 16 bit sound a new processor with 68k emulation would have emerged in 1995 it could have been competible. But C= went bust before that.

Akiko: They added the Akiko because they knew 3D graphics was the future but the Amiga wasn't up to the task. The CD32 was a last ditch effort to save the company as the Amiga was known as a game machine. This made sense and the CD32 was moderately successfull in England and Germany. But it couldn't save Commodore in the end.

PC: Commodore was one of the biggest PC manufactures out there. They even stopped developing the Amiga in 1992 for a short while to concentrate on that. But they returned to the Amiga when they realised that they couldn't make enough PC's to make a good profit and that selling their own original hardware had better margins.

Star Trek: Giving away your merhandice does not necessary give more back as advertisement. The Amiga was a good video editing tool so it makes sense to charge money on the one big budget business where people are prepared to pay for it.

Tramiel: He was very disliked in the business as he bullied retailers to do what he wanted, even if it meant that they would lose money in the process. This eventually bit both Commore and Atari in the ass when retailers found other companies they prefered to do business with. Just read about what happened with the Atari Lynx.

You are too harsh on Commodore. They where screw ups, but not nearly as bad as many people think. A lot of computer companies went bust post 1985 and C= was one of the last to hold out (only Apple survived). They failed to see where the computer industry was heading, but they where not the only ones by a long shot. It's easy to judge in hindsight, but I think considering their poor economic situation and chaotic administration they did not half bad. They did give us the A500 after all.
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