“The Commodore Story” Documentary Premieres Today

What is it about a computer that was introduced 36 years ago by a company that would be defunct 12 years later that engenders such passion that people still collect it to this day? We’re talking about the Commodore 64, of course, the iconic 8-bit wonder that along with the other offerings from Commodore International served as the first real computer to millions of us.

There’s more to the passion that Commodore aficionados exhibit than just plain nostalgia, though, and a new documentary film, The Commodore Story, seeks to explore both the meteoric rise and fall of Commodore International. Judging from the official trailer below, this is a film anyone with the slightest interest in Commodore is not going to want to miss.

It will of course dive into the story of how the C64 came to be the best selling computer in history. But Commodore was far from a one-trick pony. The film traces the history of all the Commodore machines, from the PET computers right through to the Amiga. There are interviews with the key players, too, including our own Bil Herd. Bil was a hardware engineer at Commodore, designing several machines while there. He has shared some of these stories here on Hackaday, including the development of the C128  (successor to the C64) and making the C64 speak.

We can’t wait to watch this new documentary and luckily we won’t have to. It’s set to start streaming on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes today, so pop up some popcorn and settle in for a two-hour ride through computer history but right now we’re unable to get firm dates on when. However, those of you in the Mountain View area have an even better opportunity this evening.

The Commodore Story will be premiered live at 6:30pm PST at the Computer History Museum. Grab your tickets to the premiere and a Q&A session with Bil Herd, Leonard Tramiel, and Hedley Davis.

49 thoughts on ““The Commodore Story” Documentary Premieres Today

    1. It would be difficult to interview the women and non-white people who built the C64 in the 80s – assuming they didn’t actually work on the project at the time. Diversity wasn’t exactly a goal in the early computer industry.

      As to the predominance of white dudes at the tradeshows in the trailer… well, I wonder how much it represents the real composition of the community. It may also be an artifact of where they chose to film.

      If I may be facetious for a bit: is “white balding dudes forking over exorbitant amounts of money for long-obsolete, heavy, ugly, and otherwise useless technology” really a community that ANYONE aspires to be a part of? :P

      1. “Diversity wasn’t exactly a goal in the early computer industry.”

        No, MERIT was as it should ALWAYS be. Recall, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” OR hired due to their abilities in a particular job and NOT based upon their gender or the amount of melanin in their skin.

        Everyone should be for equality of opportunity but not for equality of results because when it comes to abilities people are NOT equal and in order to make everyone equal some must be held back. You can be sure that in the late 60s/70s counterculture, pot smoking, liberal environs of places like Atari and other older tech startups there was no particular prejudice against women and minorities in hiring. They simply weren’t represented to a great extent in those fields.

        So, let’s not start the SJW crapolla here. Smart people don’t buy it.

    2. The mold? Software engineer from 1980? Ok, definitely middle-aged and predominantly white, possibly rich, depending on your economic point of view, but scary? I’m having a hard time imagining the time and place where you’d want to lock your door’s, hide your valuables or wives and children. Perhaps if you wagered a bit too deeply on a D&D session? Hey, that’s your own fault!
      Most of these guys would be more than likely to stammer and trip over their own feet at the prospect of talking to a girl when they were in high school! Seriously, I’m curious about the lens from which you view the world. Might want to check that prescription!
      Now, if they were all politicians….i think I might be more inclined to understand your fear!

      1. Worked for a software house back then and most of the people were not wasps. A few women programmers also. It disappoints me heavily that people will try to use race as an issue when they have no clue.

    3. You should be looking at the who the people involved with Commodore were in the 1980s rather than your perception of them today as old rich white men. Commodore always looked like quite a welcoming company to me. I think that the only mold(sic) you had to fit was to be a talented engineer.
      Do your comparisons with other companies at the same time and not try to criticize the past for not being today or the future.

  1. “What is it about a computer that was introduced 36 years ago by a company that would be defunct 12 years later that engenders such passion that people still collect it to this day?”

    Kind of like remembering one’s first date, years after the event. There may be others, but that first is special.

    1. I don’t know about that. I began on a C64, learned to type on it before I could even write my name with a pen and paper. Learned programming and by extension math before my first arithmetic class. I hated that computer with a passion. It was slow, clunky and prone to all manner of random failure. So much random failure that I learned to work a multimeter and solder just so that I wouldn’t have to wait for dad to have a weekend off from work to repair it. I learned so much on it and because of it but I still hate it. I think it was my first hate, my very first rage inducing hate. When it came to learning C in the mid-90s, I was so desensitized to the complexities of programming that all of the parts everyone else seems to struggle with were like a godsend to me. My first real computer love is the 486 even though it wasn’t my first because that is where I began to see just how powerful computers could be and how they could fit into our everyday lives.

  2. I can’t think of any device that impacted my young life as much as that little beige computer. People? Sure. Events? Yeah. But a machine, a thing? It inspired my imagination, changed my interests, maybe even the direction of my life. Nothing else comes close. What a thing it was. Thank you, Commodore.

  3. The Commodore Story: The trailer did state this bit it was an error on our behalf. We are looking to release this on the 23rd but this will ONLY be to all the backers so that they get to see it first naturally of the final product. We will keep you updated when the release happen on the VOD channels. Amazon will be the first later next month. Unfortunately the process of having this onto the digital platforms take a little bit of time but trust me it’ll be worth the wait!

  4. I can’t wait to see this! I’m a commodore geek from way back… I still regularly fire up my Vic, my C64, my SX64, my A1000, and my all time favorite ever, my A3000… it was really gut wrenching when commodore filed for bankruptcy. It still bothers me all these years later. I must have over 100 computers in my collection, but my commodore boxen bring all the nostalgia back full force. God I miss those days!

    1. Same here regarding the bankruptcy – after commodore I had to do a lot of soul searching and ended up going to PC instead of Apple. Still relatively happy with that decision. I still miss the Amiga and how far ahead of its time it was. AREXX was amazing, enabling scripting of practically every application from every other application. Actual multitasking, which was far ahead of its time – windows and mac wouldn’t catch up for years. And the demos were amazing and still are amazing. I love that the demoscene is still alive with new C64 and Amiga demos coming out every year – some amazing stuff that would have been seen as legitimate black magic back in the 80’s.

  5. I had a speccy myself, rather than a C64, but have to admit that the C64 probably had better colour graphics. I was won over by Commodore later on when I got an Amiga (although I had an Atari ST first). Xenon 2 Megablast, SWIV and Pang. Great days.

  6. I was at the store with my dad and uncle in the early 1980s deciding on the best computer to get. I was leaning towards C64, but store was out, so went with Vic20. Kinda regret not waiting for C64 to get back in stock, but I programmed like hell on the Vic20 and had fun writing similar programs on a friend’s C64. Now I have a C64 I got for free from a neighbor and should fire it up. Parents sold my Vic20 without checking with me, sadly.

  7. The Commodore Story is NOT available now, it’s only watchable if you were a backer on the 23rd. Next month it goes to Hulu and they haven’t announced a date for iTunes.Please update the article, I feel so heartbroken I can’t see it yet and many others have found this out too. Hopefully it’ll be on Netflix soon!

  8. Hi Guys, Steve here director of The Commodore Story. Great to see so much interest in Commodore and Amiga. Yes the documentary will be available in the next few days on Amazon and it is in the pipeline to go on Netflix and iTunes but it is down to the lap of the Netflix gods how long that takes. To answer some other questions, we have attended many events in the USA and in Europe and we filmed everything the way it was, there has in no way I promise been a deliberate push not to include diversity. If anybody wants to order a Blu-ray you can do this at http://thecommodorestory.com :-) thanks again to Bil for being part of this awesome retro ride…..!

  9. Thanks for updating us, Steve!
    I still have my A1000 which I upgraded and modded back in the day. Followed comp.sys.amiga and heard great things about A4000, only to buy one and find it hamstrung! Damn bean counters!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.