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Hi all,

 

I recently wrote a piece on Jack Tramiel and the battle over Amiga between Atari and Commodore. There's a huge amount of Commodore material from that era. Books, sites, talks, interviews, the lot. I really struggled to find much on the Atari side of the story. There's documentation about the ST's architecture and a really good video from the 1985 CES where the 130ST was introduced. I'm more interested in the story behind the people, the fights, the arguments, blood, sweat and tears that led to the Atari ST's release in 1985.

 

Does anyone have any recommended books or sources they'd recommend?

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On 7/31/2020 at 9:48 PM, Steve Lord said:

I'm more interested in the story behind the people, the fights, the arguments, blood, sweat and tears that led to the Atari ST's release in 1985.

 

Does anyone have any recommended books or sources they'd recommend?

There's not much, a little bit of that is here (part 1, there are multiple parts):

https://dadhacker-125488.ingress-alpha.easywp.com/the-atari-st-part-1/

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On 7/31/2020 at 2:48 PM, Steve Lord said:

Hi all,

 

I recently wrote a piece on Jack Tramiel and the battle over Amiga between Atari and Commodore. There's a huge amount of Commodore material from that era. Books, sites, talks, interviews, the lot. I really struggled to find much on the Atari side of the story. There's documentation about the ST's architecture and a really good video from the 1985 CES where the 130ST was introduced. I'm more interested in the story behind the people, the fights, the arguments, blood, sweat and tears that led to the Atari ST's release in 1985.

 

Does anyone have any recommended books or sources they'd recommend?

I read your piece.  I thought it was really good and informative.  Definitely if Atari had acquired the Amiga, Commodore would have (almost) surely had been done for.  However, as a result of not getting it, Tramiel did get his revenge in some way as Commodore eventually went under due to (some) of Atari's efforts to undermine them.

 

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On 7/31/2020 at 2:48 PM, Steve Lord said:

Hi all,

 

I recently wrote a piece on Jack Tramiel and the battle over Amiga between Atari and Commodore. There's a huge amount of Commodore material from that era. Books, sites, talks, interviews, the lot. I really struggled to find much on the Atari side of the story. There's documentation about the ST's architecture and a really good video from the 1985 CES where the 130ST was introduced. I'm more interested in the story behind the people, the fights, the arguments, blood, sweat and tears that led to the Atari ST's release in 1985.

 

Does anyone have any recommended books or sources they'd recommend?

BTW, the Nostalgia Nerd did a pretty good video on the Atari ST.  I don't know what all information he was able to find and/or have access to, but you might want to reach out to him privately and see what he says, if anything.  Also, I know that the guys at The Retro Hour podcast have had guest(s) on that discussed the Atari ST.  You might want to reach out to those guests as well.  Just some thoughts.  Take care and best of luck.

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Source of information: 

 

 

... this is out of my head.

Edited by calimero
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On 7/31/2020 at 9:48 PM, Steve Lord said:

Hi all,

 

I recently wrote a piece on Jack Tramiel ...

 

Uh,

I just start to read your article and some thing are wrong. e.g. "Micro-Soft agreed to be paid per PET once delivered." - https://youtu.be/NBvbsPNBIyk?t=1981 

 

EDIT

Can you share where you find quote by Bill Gates:

 

"I will never deal with them. We’re not even going to talk about MS-DOS until you dismiss the lawsuit and then we’ll talk about terms for that."? - can you share link? And links about Microsoft / Commodore lawsuit...

 

///

 

"Amiga CEO Dave Morse put forward an initial $3 per share offer. Every time he tried to negotiate the Tramiels’ counter-offer dropped. Eventually the Tramiels’ offer dropped below $1 and talks disintegrated." - this is lay that R J Mical and Dave Needle spread.

 

"Shivji's team started work on the project, RBP (short for Rock Bottom Price) based on Motorola’s 68000 CPU." - National Semiconductor CPU was first choice for RBP...

 

How you come to conclusion that "Silicon Graphics, Sony, Hewlett Packard and even Apple hearing the same concerns. Nobody wanted anything that wasn’t IBM compatible." - ??

 

"The Amiga and Commodore teams bonded over their shared love of not being owned by Jack Tramiel" what Commodore teams? Dozens of Commodore employees DID WANTED Jack Tramiel as a boss since they leave Commodore and follow Jack to Tramel Technology and later to Atari Corp.

 

Can you provide reference to Jack Tramiel quote: “When somebody hands you a check for $500,000 you take it. You get it into the bank quickly.”? Tramiels did not know for Amiga Corp - Atari Inc. deal until moths after Commodore accusation.

 

How "Commodore started 1984 as a billion dollar stock market darling but by now was crashing hard." in 1984.? It was best year for Commodore!

 

"Gould was on board and after tight negotiations struck a deal at $4.25 per share, only 4x Tramiel’s final offer." - again R J Mical lay.

 

"Tramiel fired nearly everyone involved in the 8-bit product lines to focus on the RBP." - Jack Tramiel never fired anyone from Atari since he did not get any employees from Warnner Atari. But he did hire some of Atari employees into new Atari Corp.

 

///

 

I will leave you here. I am quite tired. Please take a look at references (links), read, learn and improve your article. Mostly Amiga-Tramiel-Atari things are wrong.

Edited by calimero
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4 hours ago, calimero said:

How "Commodore started 1984 as a billion dollar stock market darling but by now was crashing hard." in 1984.? It was best year for Commodore!


I do recall listening to a FLOPPY DAYS PODCAST interview with Neil Harris (of Commodore, then Atari Corp) where he noted that Commodore cut the margins on peripherals dramatically, as 'peripheral margins' was the way Texas Instruments were able to balance their loss leading 99/4a's (and I presume the expected 99/8's).  The cutting of margins cut profit margins for Commodore by '84 when Jack Tramiel left.  I expect Jack Tramiel sold his portion of Commodore then, which affected the financial status of someone.

 

Back in '85, when the ST and Amiga were coming out, the impression I got from reading magazines was that both Atari Corp or Commodore were not in great financial shape.  (maybe that was exaggeration, dunno).

 

Thanks "Steve Lord" for your original write-up, much appreciated.  There is more to the Atari ST origins than "Amiga went to Commodore", but I have never been able to find much of the ST story beyond "it's not Amiga".

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks hwrd for pointing us to Floppy days podcast. 
 

Regarding Commodore financial shape in 1984., like I suggest in my prevoius post, you can search New York Times. Quick search reveal: https://www.nytimes.com/1985/09/25/business/commodore-posts-big-loss-in-quarter.html


For the year, the company posted a net loss of $113.9 million, a sharp drop from profits of $143.8 million, or $4.66 a share, in the fiscal year 1984. Sales for the year fell to $883.1 million, a 30 percent decline from $1.27 billion in 1984.”

 

 

Edited by calimero

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1 hour ago, calimero said:

Regarding Commodore financial shape in 1984., like I suggest in my prevoius post, you can search New York Times. Quick search reveal: https://www.nytimes.com/1985/09/25/business/commodore-posts-big-loss-in-quarter.html


For the year, the company posted a net loss of $113.9 million, a sharp drop from profits of $143.8 million, or $4.66 a share, in the fiscal year 1984. Sales for the year fell to $883.1 million, a 30 percent decline from $1.27 billion in 1984.”

 

 

thanks.  It is an interesting read.

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On 8/8/2020 at 4:46 PM, hwrd said:


I do recall listening to a FLOPPY DAYS PODCAST interview with Neil Harris (of Commodore, then Atari Corp) where he noted that Commodore cut the margins on peripherals dramatically, as 'peripheral margins' was the way Texas Instruments were able to balance their loss leading 99/4a's (and I presume the expected 99/8's).  The cutting of margins cut profit margins for Commodore by '84 when Jack Tramiel left.  I expect Jack Tramiel sold his portion of Commodore then, which affected the financial status of someone.

 

Back in '85, when the ST and Amiga were coming out, the impression I got from reading magazines was that both Atari Corp or Commodore were not in great financial shape.  (maybe that was exaggeration, dunno).

 

 

 

 

 

Correct hwrd.  Commodore cut the price of the Vic-20 and C64, and then cut the cost of peripherals too which was how TI was staying afloat selling the 99/4a at a loss.  Once Tramiel did that, it was game over for TI.  Also, Atari was pretty much dead in the water in 1984 and Commodore suffered huge losses in 1984 into 1985 once Tramiel and a how slew of engineers and upper level management left.  They only survived due to the success of the C64.  If they didn't have that to help balance things out in addition to the Amiga, they would have gone under way earlier than 1994.

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Quote

I just start to read your article and some thing are wrong. e.g. "Micro-Soft agreed to be paid per PET once delivered." - https://youtu.be/NBvbsPNBIyk?t=1981 

 

Wow. I watched that interview and missed this. For some reason I don't have a source for the pricing assertion in my notes. I was sure it was in Bagnall's The Amiga Years but it's not. My guess is it would be from a book, but not sure which one. I'm doing corrections and credits in my post going out today, so I'll make sure to add this in. I'll then update the original post later.

 

Quote

 

Can you share where you find quote by Bill Gates:

 

"I will never deal with them. We’re not even going to talk about MS-DOS until you dismiss the lawsuit and then we’ll talk about terms for that."? - can you share link? And links about Microsoft / Commodore lawsuit...

 

 

Chapter 1 of Bagnall's The Amiga Years references it.

 

Quote

"Shivji's team started work on the project, RBP (short for Rock Bottom Price) based on Motorola’s 68000 CPU." - National Semiconductor CPU was first choice for RBP...

 

Yes I am aware of that, but the NS CPU was ditched in favour of the 68k and I had limited space to write due to email size limits (the post goes out as a newsletter).

 

Quote

How you come to conclusion that "Silicon Graphics, Sony, Hewlett Packard and even Apple hearing the same concerns. Nobody wanted anything that wasn’t IBM compatible." - ??

 

Again this is a Bagnall reference. Bagnall's book is the only place I referenced single sources. I was a little concerned that I couldn't find a lot of other info but I suspect he interviewed people and wrote down what they told him, which may not be the same as what happened. From Chapter 11 of The Amiga Years:
 

Quote

 

Worried about the possibility of turning the Amiga chipset over to Atari, Morse worked tirelessly lining up potential suitors for Amiga. He gave presentations to Sony, Hewlett Packard, Philips, Apple, and Silicon Graphics. Unfortunately, most companies were concerned because the Lorraine was not IBM PC compatible. Steve Jobs of Apple even criticized the Lorraine architecture, saying there was too much hardware in the machine. It seemed like Amiga was destined to go to Atari.

Bagnall, Brian. Commodore (pp. 160-161). Variant Press. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Quote

"The Amiga and Commodore teams bonded over their shared love of not being owned by Jack Tramiel" what Commodore teams? Dozens of Commodore employees DID WANTED Jack Tramiel as a boss since they leave Commodore and follow Jack to Tramel Technology and later to Atari Corp.

 

This is a reference to multiple discussions between people like Dave Morse, Nicholas LeFevre, Michael Tomczyk, Marshall Smith, Bil Herd and Dale Luck. None of those guys went to Commodore. There's a particular session that was supposed to have taken place involving Marshall Smith and a boozy night with some of the Amiga team, and at a CES I think the engineers went out on a heavy drinking session with Bil.

 

Quote

Can you provide reference to Jack Tramiel quote: “When somebody hands you a check for $500,000 you take it. You get it into the bank quickly.”? Tramiels did not know for Amiga Corp - Atari Inc. deal until moths after Commodore accusation.

 

It was definitely a video interview with Jack Tramiel, but I don't know which one as I saw so many, lots of them are quite long and I don't have the time to watch them all again before getting back to you. It was definitely he himself saying it, and it was long after all of this. From what I've seen of Tramiel's interviews online, I get the impression his later memory of events doesn't necessarily match events at the time. I also had that impression with RJ Mical and to a lesser extent Dale Luck and Bil Herd.

 

Quote

How "Commodore started 1984 as a billion dollar stock market darling but by now was crashing hard." in 1984.? It was best year for Commodore!

 

Others have pointed out that yes, Commodore started well but shot itself in the foot by shredding margins. I don't have anything to add to that.

 

Quote

"Gould was on board and after tight negotiations struck a deal at $4.25 per share, only 4x Tramiel’s final offer." - again R J Mical lay.

 

Yup. I'm not going to call RJ Mical a straight up liar, but to hear it from him it's almost as though he built the Amiga and Commodore single handed standing on his head.

 

Quote

"Tramiel fired nearly everyone involved in the 8-bit product lines to focus on the RBP." - Jack Tramiel never fired anyone from Atari since he did not get any employees from Warnner Atari. But he did hire some of Atari employees into new Atari Corp.

 

Yes he only brought across specific people from the Warner Atari company but this is a reference to a later round of firing people on the 8-bit computer line at the new Atari Corp, again from the Bagnall book but I can't find exactly where.

 

Quote

I will leave you here. I am quite tired. Please take a look at references (links), read, learn and improve your article. Mostly Amiga-Tramiel-Atari things are wrong.

I suspected a lot of this would be the case due to RJ Mical's stories bleeding in, and I was concerned about Bagnall's reliability, which you've confirmed for me was questionable. I've not been able to answer all of your questions as this would require me to go off and spend considerable time hunting down specifics. That's on me and for that I can only apologise. But thanks for your links. I've put corrections into today's post so that'll go out via email and I'll update the main post this weekend.

Edited by Steve Lord
Fixed quoting
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Thank you for detail answer Steve!

 

- First and foremost, I need to read that Brian Bagnall books! I see that price on Amazon is low now.

 

Quote

"How you come to conclusion that "Silicon Graphics, Sony, Hewlett Packard and even Apple hearing the same concerns. Nobody wanted anything that wasn’t IBM compatible." - ??"

 

Again this is a Bagnall reference. Bagnall's book is the only place I referenced single sources. I was a little concerned that I couldn't find a lot of other info but I suspect he interviewed people and wrote down what they told him, which may not be the same as what happened. From Chapter 11 of The Amiga Years:
 

 

in mean time I also found another reference that support claim "Nobody wanted anything that wasn’t IBM compatible" - from Amiga investor Bill Hart. Talk from 2015. (almost same as quote from Dave Morse in B.B. book ) :

 

 

 

Quote

This is a reference to multiple discussions between people like Dave Morse, Nicholas LeFevre, Michael Tomczyk, Marshall Smith, Bil Herd and Dale Luck. None of those guys went to Commodore. There's a particular session that was supposed to have taken place involving Marshall Smith and a boozy night with some of the Amiga team, and at a CES I think the engineers went out on a heavy drinking session with Bil.

 

My reference was that many followed Jack Tramiel from Commodore. You have list of people at: https://mcurrent.name/atarihistory/tramel_technology.html

 

Quote

It was definitely a video interview with Jack Tramiel, but I don't know which one as I saw so many, lots of them are quite long and I don't have the time to watch them all again before getting back to you. It was definitely he himself saying it, and it was long after all of this. From what I've seen of Tramiel's interviews online, I get the impression his later memory of events doesn't necessarily match events at the time. I also had that impression with RJ Mical and to a lesser extent Dale Luck and Bil Herd.

 

Yes, memory get fuzzy over time. 

Most obviously is the story that Jack told about naming the company "Commodore". In interview he told that he see Opel Commodore car in germany but Opel Commodore is 20 years younger that his Commodore company :D

 

Anyway, Atari - Amiga 500.000 loan and deal is very well documented with hardcopy of contracts. You can find them at: http://www.atarimuseum.com/articles/mickey.html so Jack Tramiel never financed Amiga Corp.

 

RJ Mical also lately change tone of his FALSE story that Jack was bidding (or loan money) for Amiga: in "The Commodore Story" movie from 2018. he did not mention Jack.

 

Details about how this story of Jack investing and loan money to Amiga come into life can be found on Wikipedia talk page about Jack Tramiel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Jack_Tramiel messages by --Marty Goldberg.

 

btw

can you share a list of Jack video interviews? I found very little interviews with him and all are quite short (except "25th Commodore 64 anniversary" and "8bit generation" interview with Jack)!

 

Quote

Yup. I'm not going to call RJ Mical a straight up liar, but to hear it from him it's almost as though he built the Amiga and Commodore single handed standing on his head.

I call him a liar because he manage to do quite some damages to Jack Tramiels name.

 

It is nice to hear that people start to see him as a "overblowing" story teller.

 

Quote

I suspected a lot of this would be the case due to RJ Mical's stories bleeding in, and I was concerned about Bagnall's reliability, which you've confirmed for me was questionable. I've not been able to answer all of your questions as this would require me to go off and spend considerable time hunting down specifics. That's on me and for that I can only apologise. But thanks for your links. I've put corrections into today's post so that'll go out via email and I'll update the main post this weekend.

 

Thanks again for replaying and for your time. It gave a new lights on your writings (clear some things).

...and I see that I had to read Bagnall books for sure! :)

 

Take a look at NY Times archives, there are lots of articles from 80s about Warner, Atari, Amiga, Jack and Commodore. 

 

cu

Edited by calimero
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On 7/31/2020 at 12:48 PM, Steve Lord said:

Hi all,

 

I recently wrote a piece on Jack Tramiel and the battle over Amiga between Atari and Commodore. There's a huge amount of Commodore material from that era. Books, sites, talks, interviews, the lot. I really struggled to find much on the Atari side of the story. There's documentation about the ST's architecture and a really good video from the 1985 CES where the 130ST was introduced. I'm more interested in the story behind the people, the fights, the arguments, blood, sweat and tears that led to the Atari ST's release in 1985.

 

Does anyone have any recommended books or sources they'd recommend?

If you check out the interviews and editorials in the Atari ST magazines on Archive.org, you can find out A LOT. There is no good book out about this yet, but a couple people are working on at least one. 

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2 hours ago, jefffulton said:

If you check out the interviews and editorials in the Atari ST magazines on Archive.org, you can find out A LOT. There is no good book out about this yet, but a couple people are working on at least one. 

I actually won a whole load of ST magazines recently on eBay 🤓 

 

I'll have a look through in the next few days to see if there's any interesting articles on Tramiel.

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I'd suggest checking out www.stcarchiv.de which is a (mostly) Atari magazine archive for German-language ST magazines. Articles are in HTML so you can use any online translation tool.

 

Old articles can be a useful source but still need to be checked obviously...

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