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On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore
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On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  288 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Filled with first-hand accounts of ambition, greed, and inspired engineering, this history of the personal computer revolution takes readers inside the cutthroat world of Commodore. Before Apple, IBM, or Dell, Commodore was the first computer maker to market its machines to the public, selling an estimated 22 million Commodore 64s. These halcyon days were tumultuous, howev
Hardcover, 548 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Variant Press (first published September 14th 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Dec 02, 2007 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Herb
Shelves: computing, 2007_read
I liked this book quite a bit, but I have always had a soft spot for tech-story books, even the fantasy of the Apple story. The C64 was my first computer at around 9 and I loved it with all my heart. I wrote my college entry essays on it when my peecee broke and was accepted to all of them (errr.... both). The interesting thing to note is that Commodore gets very little credit for revolutionizing the PC industry even though it can be said that they did more for it than Apple and IBM combined. Bu ...more

If I was an engineer back then, I'd happily sacrifice my life as a Commodore Warrior for "Jack-Attack" Tramiel.

Don't believe the revisionist history! Apple is, and always has been, the original evil-empire. They led a revolution? THEY LED NOTHING!!!

Read about how Commodore engineer Chuck Peddle used to school "The Woz" and "Fake Steve" in how real computers were made. Read about a company that lived l
aaaahhh...geeky nostalgia goodness! i went the route of Apple II back in the day, only hands-on exposure the competition (commodore, atari) was at K-Mart. dunno why. Apple II led to the Mac, which was extremely hard to program for (aak, Hypercard)! and was still niche. wonder what life would be like if i grew up hacking away at a commodore or atari machine. would have led to PCs rather than Macs.

anywho, good times those late 70s early to mid 80s. the technology we take for granted today.
This is the story of not just Commodore, but the founding of MOS Technology which created the 6502 microprocessor.

This is a better business book than most I've read, because the author is unafraid to make clear judgement calls. When Jack Tramiel did something smart, the author says so. When someone does something dumb, he says so to. For instance, their marketing guy Tomczyk spent a long time negotiating a deal with Nintendo to have Commodore be the American company to port Nintendo's games to t
The introduction to the book sets the tone, when the author laments how most of the other computer histories in books and movies get it wrong, giving too much credit to other companies like Apple for the success of the personal computing revolution. That's a valid point. But As I've started to read the first hundred pages or so, a pattern emerged. The following occurs so many times, we can call the book formulaic:

"Book xxx says that the following thing happened. But it's wrong, and here's a quot
This book is great. Seriously. 5 stars.

My first computer was a Commodore 64 and we also had an Amiga, so I'm probably biased. There is a lot of revising of history that eliminates Commodore from the personal computer landscape and makes everything be about PC vs. Apple. In the early and mid 80s, Commodore had a lot going for it. The Commodore 64 was the first personal computer to sell 1 million units. The Amiga was light years ahead of everything else when it came out in 1985.

If their technolo
E Lewis
I really enjoyed this book. Why? It was a great trip down memory lane. I never had a Commodore, but I grew up (both literally and technically) during the hay day of the Commodore 64. It was great to get a better sense for how Commodore products fit in with classics like the Apple I, TRS-80 Model I, Apple II, TI-94, Atari 400, Atari 800, etc. (I just wish the TRS-80 Color Computer got a little play; that was my machine). In addition, the story of Commodore is an interesting one (lots of greed, in ...more
About to re-read this and realized I'd never rated it. Will edit this later but, as a very fortunate child whose DoD-employed grandfather introduced her to the Commodore 64 (hence setting me on the track to a tech career I love, and have always, loved), I highly recommend this. Warning: This recommendation may contain a touch of nostalgia.
E. Kahn
Fascinating book about the rise of Commodore as one of the major (arguably the dominant) company in the early era of personal computing. The book takes a pretty negative view of company management on the one hand, while underlining how close they were to achieving total domination on the other, which I thought was a bit contradictory. In my view, the most interesting part to the general public will be insight into the decidedly weird and wild CEO Jack Tramiel, the man who shepherded the company ...more
Outstanding. Commodore was truly the home computer revolution, but for some reason revisionist history has decided that it was Apple. Absolutely not. This is a hell of a crazy story, reading larger-than-life like a Coen Brothers film, packed with crazy characters, deceit, epic flameouts, and never skimping on the actual technical stuff. Hell of a read!
Jeff Goldenberg
A really fascinating and seemingly authentic look at not only the rise and fall of the biggest computer company of all-time, but also of the entire industry upto the mid nineties. Highly recommended reading for those of you who think Apple and the Jobs Messiah are the most important thing to happen to computers.
Some of the reviews I read of this book lead me to believe it would be more focused on the business side than the technology side. I was presently surprised that I felt it was 70% or greater about the technology. Having had a C=128 and using the heck out of it and having admired Amigas and their uses (but never having owned one,) my look at this book may be a bit biased.

From the technology side: for those who think they know how the personal computer space started, this book provides a different
A brilliant book that pretty much makes other books about Commodore redundant. This book is so comprehensive that it's hard to think of what might be missing. This is a book about a very peculiar company and some brilliant people doing brilliant stuff. Commodore did some brilliant stuff, like the sound and video chips on the Commodore 64. I hadn't even realised that the CPU of C64 was actually the same as in VIC-20, C64 just had those chips and more memory, but it was on a totally different leve ...more
Rob King
Aug 08, 2007 Rob King rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Computer history geeks
Commodore built some of the landmark computers early in the history of the personal computer. They made the first fully integrated personal computer, the first computer to sell more than a million units, and the best-selling single model of computer ever (the Commodore 64). They were also responsible for the first multimedia computer, the Amiga, and were a mainstay of the digital arts world for over a decade.

So how did they manage to screw it all up? They could have owned the world. The story of
This book is an essential remedy to the current revisionist history that would have you believe Apple Computer Inc. is the only innovative computer company that mattered back then. This history of Commodore is so much more fascinating than you might think; the personalities, clashes, and little-known facts kept me turning the pages. As a Commodore fan, I always wondered, "what went wrong?" -- and this book answers that, revealing the internal politics and decision making of one of the true pione ...more
James Alston
Jul 25, 2014 James Alston rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nostalgic micro users
A terrifically detailed book about Commodore in its early years of making home micros - PET, VIC20, Commodore 64 and others up to 1984 (so not the Amiga which is covered in the sequel). A lot of effort has gone into interviewing the people involved at the time and what could have been a tough subject to cover is a very readable 500+ pages. I bought it as a nostalgic trip back 30 years as a PET user and a C64 owner in the 80's, and it fulfilled my expectations and more. It would have been nice to ...more
Karl Kindt
If you owned and loved a Commodore PET, VIC-20, C64, or Amiga, you have to read this book. That is all there is to it. It is the only comprehensive technical and business history of the company. The writing could be somewhat better. The author repeats himself and occasionally tells things in a strange not-quite-chronological order, but that's okay because you can tell he did his homework--many interviews with various people give multiple sides to the stories and he gets all the technical details ...more
Levent Pekcan
Çok ama çok fazla bilgi içeren, muhteşem bir araştırma ürünü.
The Geekster
The ups and downs of a now largely unknown PC company. Anyone who ever owned a Commodore PC or anyone who remembers this company and who were around back then will like this book. This company could have had it all. Read the background of the great engineers and people who develop great products in the PC world and the crazy management that ran the company. Their PC crushed the Sinclair, Atari, Tandy computers and put the hurt on Apple and IBM. A must read for computer geeks.
Rob King's review below does a good job outlining the issues in the writing. I thought I was really a poor reader for a while, thinking "Wait, who is this guy now? Did I miss his intro?" but I quickly realized that the author simply didn't introduce them at all. The incorrect punctuation and italics, as well as the spelling errors, really detracted from the reading for me. It's a shame - the material is stellar but I still ended up putting the book down halfway through.
Gerard Braad
I actually read the ePub as provided by the publisher. This book describes the rise and fall of what was the largest computer company during/before people knew what a personal computer was. Commodore created the first home computer and this book tells how it started with the PET, and what eventually led to the million units sold C64... and how they acquired Hitoro/Lorraine which became known as the Amiga. I enjoyed the writing style a lot; detailed and passionate.
Bruno Nadeau
If you feel like geeking out, On the Edge is captivating from beginning to end. Commodore produced the technology that was part of my first contact with computers, which explains part of my attraction to the book. Although the writing could be improved to make reading this brick a smoother experience, the quantity of information pasted in from interview material is phenomenal. Fun read, which made me boot my C64 one more time.
Jeff Allen
Not terribly great writing and atrocious editing, but still very much worth reading to see the rise of Commodore through the early 80's and the C64.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Commodore but didn't know to ask, from their early domination of the personal computer market (including Apple, who nearly sold out to them) to their disintegration in the 1990s. Incredibly detailed. Fascinating to me because my family owned a host of computers including the C64. My main caveat is that the book is horribly, horribly edited and that it badly needs an index.
Fascinating facts, competently written, poorly edited. The structure is roughly chronological with some overlap, which made it a little hard to follow the sequence, as each chapter did not exactly follow the last. Lacks an index.

Those Commodore machines were way better, way cheaper, and way earlier than you might think! And working there sounds like everybody's worst fantasy of a technology startup.
Sep 09, 2008 Jim rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: tech
A painstakingly thorough history of Commodore, from its early days as a calculator company all the way through the fumbling marketing of the Amiga computers. The book works better as a business case study than as a discussion of the technology, although there are some spectacular descriptions of the development of the C64 and Amiga. Recommended for anyone who owned a Commodore computer.
David Woolcock
Nov 26, 2007 David Woolcock rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who hate Apple
Great book written from the perspective of the engineers instead of just the men in suits.
If I learnt one thing it is how Apple have wrongly taken credit for many of the computer breakthrough's experienced in the 70s and 80s. Commodore beat them to most things and sold it for half the price although that kind of business helped bring about their downfall.
Excellent book.
This book desperately needed an editor. Despite poor editing and flaccid writing, the book is an interesting look at how a computer is made, how a great computer is made (if you consider that the C64 sold 35 million units and was wildly popular and I owned one), and how a successful company fails.
John Stepper
Really wonderful. The C64. The Amiga (my dream computer at one point). The story of their creation and management seem so...small. So ad hoc. So...pioneering. It's a fantastic read, providing a very detailed, personal portrait of the people behind these groundbreaking computers
Craig Cecil
I've been reading computer history books for more than three decades and Brian Bagnall present lots of new insights through personal accounts from former Commodore employees. This book clearly fills in gaps of history that were previously not recorded.
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