Book Review – The Home Computer Wars

After reading Andy Hertzfeld’s book about Apple and how the first Macintosh came to be in the first part of the 1980s, I thought it would be a good idea to get a perspective of the same time frame by someone working in another computer company. So my choice fell on “The Home Computer Wars“, written in 1984 by Michael Tomczyk.

The book is long since out of print but with a bit of effort it’s still possible to get a copy. Michael tells the story of his adventures at Commodore in the early 1980’s from the point of view of a marketing manager who worked closely with Jack Tramiel and other high level decision makers at Commodore at the time.

Previously I’ve read other books about Commodore about this time frame, such as for example ‘Commodore – A company on the edge‘ by Brian Bagnall who looks at Commodore from many perspectives. This was ideal because I was already familiar with the names of many persons that also appear in Michael’s book. So perhaps Brian’s second hand account is the place to get started for an overall view of Commodore from interviews with many people and then jump into Michael’s book which is focuses on his particular experiences.

As other documents and books I’ve come across before, ‘The Home Computer Wars’ confirms that Commodore did not see Apple as a direct competitor, they are hardly mentioned at all. Michael says that this is because Apple and IBM were going for the high end, high price market while Commodore concentrated at the low cost home computing market. ‘We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes.‘ was Commodore’s founder Jack Tramiel’s motto and the book shows in detail how they did that with the VIC-20. Instead of Apple, Japanese home computer makers and Atari were perceived as the main competitors.

Being a first hand account and being something written very close to the time it deals with, the book offered many new insights to me. Very much recommended!

P.S. Another first hand account from an entirely different perspective by Chuck Peddle can be found here.