It’s a morning ritual that we guess most of you share with us; before whatever work a new day will bring to sit down with a coffee and catch up with the tech news of the moment on Hackaday and other sites. Most of us don’t do many exciting things in our everyday lives, so reading about the coolest projects and the most fascinating new developments provides us with interest and motivation. Imagine just for a moment then that by a twist of fate you found yourself taking a job at the epicentre of the tech that is changing the world,  producing the objects of desire and pushing the boundaries, the place you’d give anything to work at.

This is the premise behind our Hackaday colleague Bil Herd’s autobiographical chronicle of time in the mid 1980s during which he worked at Commodore, maker of some of the most iconic home computers of the day. We follow him through the three years from 1983 to 1986 as hardware lead on the “TED” series of computers including the Commodore 16 and Plus/4, and then the Commodore 128, a dual-processor powerhouse which was arguably the last of the big-selling 8-bit home computers.

It’s an intertwined set of narratives peppered with personal anecdotes; of the slightly crazy high-pressure world of consumer videogames and computing, the fine details of designing a range of 8-bit machines, and a fascinating insight into how the culture at Commodore changed in the period following the departure of its founder Jack Tramiel.

Jack Tramiel’s Vision For A Low-Cost Computer

TED and processor chips on a Commodore 16 motherboard
TED and processor chips on a Commodore 16 motherboard. CommodoreFriend, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Looking at the 8-bit computers of the early 1980s from our lofty perch here in 2021 it’s tempting to believe that all the machines with similar processors were equivalent to each other and in direct competition, but in Bil’s description of the landscape from which Jack Tramiel had conceived what would become the TED computers lies a reminder that the market was very much stratified. Processors such as the MOS 6502 and Zilog Z80 may have been at the heart of so many machines of the day, but their market positions depended so much more on the capabilities of their inbuilt video and sound hardware and other peripherals than it did on the microprocessor. Commodore had a runaway success story in the Commodore 64 as a premium gaming computer at the more expensive end of the market, but lacked an effective product to head off the threat from the much cheaper and less-well-specified Sinclair…

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