A history of the Amiga, part 10: The downfall of Commodore

“As the 1990s began, Commodore should have been flying high. The long-awaited new Amiga models with better graphics, the A1200 and A4000, were finally released in 1992,” Jeremy Reimer writes for Ars Technica. “Sales responded by increasing 17 percent over the previous year. The Video Toaster had established a niche in desktop video editing that no other computer platform could match, and the new Toaster 4000 promised to be even better than before. After a rocky start, the Amiga seemed to be hitting its stride.”

“Unfortunately, this success wouldn’t last. In 1993, sales fell by 20 percent, and Commodore lost $366 million,” Reimer writes. “In the first quarter of 1994, the company announced a loss of $8.2 million—much better than the previous four quarters, but still not enough to turn a profit. Commodore had run into financial difficulties before, particularly in the mid-’80s, but this time the wounds were too deep.”

“Sales of the venerable Commodore 64 had finally collapsed, and the Amiga wasn’t able to fill the gap quickly enough,” Reimer writes. “The company issued a statement warning investors of its problems, and the stock plunged. On April 29, 1994, Commodore International Limited announced that it was starting the initial phase of voluntary liquidation of all of its assets and filing for bankruptcy protection. Commodore, once the savior of the Amiga, had failed to save itself.”

Much more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: In addition to our Macs, we owned Commodore-64 units with which, among other things, we attempted to wear holes through our Jumpman and Star League Baseball floppy disks and later used Commodore Amigas for broadcast television character generation (CG).

Commodore founder Jack Tramiel dead at 83 – April 9, 2012
Apple pulls Commodore 64 emulator for iPhone from App Store – September 8, 2009
Apple co-founder Woz helps celebrate Commodore 64’s 25th anniversary – December 12, 2007


    1. I started with a Vic-20 then made the mistake of “upgrading” to the C-16. Then got an A500, “upgraded” to the A600 only to find it was basically an A500 in a new shell. Then got an A1200, finally a CD32. Most were great machines but Commodore made many, many mistakes.
      Dan Wood – kookytech.net on YouTube has great videos of Commodore history plus an interview with David Pleasance including what was wrong with Commodore at youtube.com/watch?v=V3ef8ronz9E

  1. A British friend of mine Ron Thornton used Amiga’s (with early LightWave 3D app) initially to transform TV visual effects on BABYLON 5. He was a model maker I worked with who turned to using computers and actually got that show made because of what he could do. He later built a big company Foundation Imaging and worked on many projects including. Ron died last year sadly.

    So much computer history has been written in the last 30 years and innovators have come and gone. But the important thing is they made a valuable contribution in their wake.

    1. A few years ago there was talk of upgrading and rerendering the Babylon 5 CG shots for high definition. But they were unable to find the original CG files.

      Great show with one of the best story arcs ever for a sci-fi show – at least for the first four seasons. The fifth and final season was rather anticlimactic. Michael Straczynski could have stopped at four and we all would have said well done.

  2. Had an Atari 800. Learned Atari Basic and set myself up for a computer engineering future (only to find myself switching directions in college). But I remember all of the ‘platform wars’ with commodore back in the day!

  3. My way to Mac (in Poland behind Iron Curtain): Atari 800 XL (1984), Atari 520 ST (1990), Amiga 500 (1990), Amiga 500+, 2000, CDTV, 1200, CD32 (1991-1995), Macintosh LC in work (1991), Macintosh LC630CD (1995 and counting) 😉

  4. The Amiga was the computer I always wanted, but couldn’t afford. I had a Commodore 64 and prior to that the Vic 20. I had the 300 baud modem for the Commodore 64 and was a Sysop for a BBS.
    The good old days.

    To be honest my Commodore was the only computer I “adored” until I bought a Mac mini in 2005. I went through a few PCs but never had any emotional attachment to them.

  5. Very nostalgic indeed… My early days of 3d … … what amazing days they were..

    For those who may be interested there are couple cool documenteries on itunes..

    Viva Amiga.
    From bedrom to billions.

    And if you are also interested

    Atari: Game over … also on netflix

  6. Never had an amiga, but did have a Commodore 64. I had the tape drive attachment for it and the disk drive, it was hooked up to a 12″ black and white Montgomery Ward television, which later became a 12″ color Monkey Ward’s tv which eventually had a Super Nintendo hooked up to it. Those were the days

    1. I have always thought that the Commodore 64 was ahead of it’s time.
      -computer built into the keyboard
      -OS on ROM
      -solid state
      -no fans
      -ability to connect directly to a television (or the Commodore 1702 monitor)

  7. The Amiga was the computer for those of us who could not afford a Mac. Some great software came out for it. I still have mine, including all its software, developer manuals, and C compiler. I wonder if the floppies are still readable, lol.
    Eventually I had to give in and get a PC to work with the rest of the world. But to me the Amiga was the first true desktop multitasking operating system. Still one of my favorite machines: multitasking and color for half the price of a mac.

    1. “The Amiga was the computer for those of us who could not afford a Mac.”

      Agreed, the MSRP for the Macintosh II was $5,498…Apple’s first color Macintosh. The Amiga 1000 was $1,295…both ran on the Motorola 68000.

  8. Tried using a Commodore 64 when they were brand new. They were inexpensive and compact and could be hooked up to nearly any standard TV. Unfortunately, the native random number generator was only good to two independent dimensions so I couldn’t use it in my work. But it probably was a great machine for home and learning.

    1. In some of the Compute magazines I think they had a listing for a random number generator that used the output from the ‘noise’ function of the SID chip. Maybe that could have worked for your purposes back then.

      1. Ah the venerable SID chip. Still used to this day for retro music and in the modern demo scene.

        I still have 9 c64s in my attic somewhere. I’m sitting on a gold mine of SID chips. haha

  9. Great article many memories has all the products mentioned except the last 32 bit game console the atari st was the best computer for writing music so it was a superior machine in many respects.
    Sadly the bells were wringing as i read about the company heads changing and the new head slowly chocked the products by putting out less than top spec computers and lining the pockets of the top tear over real R&D innovation.

    They should have added the word ‘Pro’ to those poorly advanced or thought out products.

    Too close to reality repeating itself but i suppose thats why you brought it to the MDN readers.

  10. Started with Atari 800, then got an Amiga, its logical successor: both designed by Jay Miner with custom graphics chips. Besides, by the time Amiga came out, Commodore had become Atari and Atari had become Commodore with Tramiel’s purchase. After those, I lived a lot of years in Windows hell until the original iPhone brought me into the paradise of Apple.

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