Review: Commodore – A Company On The Edge

I really wanted to like this history of Commodore by Brian Bagnall, but I ultimately disliked the writing too much.  The topic itself is interesting.  Commodore produced some great pioneering hardware and introduced a lot of people to computing.  I had Commodore machines in high school and graduate school.  Supporters of the company and the technology tend to be fans for life, so I was very curious to hear about the company history.

But, man, 500+ pages without getting to the Amiga line is a lot of text.

It doesn’t help that Bagnall tells his story completely from the words of his interviewees without interpreting at all.  He often makes an assertion, then produces quote from a participant that says the exact same things, and then moves on.  There isn’t enough attempt to provide a context or an understanding of the whole picture.

There’s a good argument that this first book should be about Commodore’s founder and CEO pulling them into the computer business and then being ridden out of the company.  It’s a compelling narrative, and the CEO in question seems so larger-than-life that a book about him is a sure winner.  But Bagnall gets lost in minutae that don’t advance the overall story.  Those side trips are more often than not about technical issues, but I never got the feeling that Bagnall understood what was interesting and important about them in the big picture.

I got the feeling that Bagnall conducted his interviews, broke out the interviews into chronologically ordered quotes and framed each quote in a paragraph.  That makes for a decent high school term paper, but over 500 pages, it gets old quick.

Comments are closed.