I thought about doing something different today. I’m a collector in soul and heart and since I returned to the Amiga in mid 2012 I have gathered a small collection of Commodore related books. I also have a big (and mostly incomplete) magazine collection with publications such as Amiga Format, CU Amiga, Datormagazin, Amiga Info, Azine, SAM etc, and of course the magazine I make: Amiga Forum. But I’m gonna concentrate on books. I’m gonna start off with …
The future was here (MIT Press, 2012)
This rather nice book which explains the technical wonders of the Amiga as well as how the different parts was envisioned and made. It’s mostly a technical book but not too hard to follow. The only thing I didn’t like was that it sometimes lingered on some subject for far too long, and then rushed through some other parts. But it’s still a good read for the technology nerd.
On the Edge (Variant Press, 2005)
This book has become pretty hard to find. If you do find a copy: buy it! It portrays the whole story of the rise and fall of Commodore as a computer company, told mostly through the people who worked there. It doesn’t deal much with the time before 1976, before dumb luck opened the eyes of Commodore’s CEO Jack Tramiel to the possibilities of making home computers. The part that tells the story of the Amiga/Post Tramiel era is pretty short sadly compared to the rest but it’s still very informative and does a fine job in showing how utterly unsuitable C= was as a computer manufacturer.
Commodore: A company on the edge, part 1 (Variant Press, 2010)
This is the same book as above in a new, more detailed version. It has about the same number of pages as On the edge, but only goes up to the time Jack Tramiel gets ousted from Commodore in 1984. It’s nice and detailed and all that, but the author seems to have problems keeping the story linear. Everything is equally interesting or important and it becomes rather difficult for the reader to not get distracted by all the sidestories. Still a very good read though.
A part 2 has been announced and canceled twice but the author has told us via Twitter that he is planning to finish the second part this year. That book will be called “The Amiga Years”. I do hope it’s true this time.
Freax (CSW-Verlag, 2005)
This is the story of the birth and development of the C64 and Amiga demoscene. Though a very interesting topic the book seems to be plagued by inaccuracies when reading about it on various demo scene forums. But considering the vast number of personal stories it might be something you have to expect. Far worse is it’s very scetchy English, that more than often makes it hard to understand what you are actually reading. I only managed to read it half through because of it. But the book looks really good and the guy deserves applause just for the sheer work that has got into this product.
Freax, the art album (CSW-Verlag, 2006)
This is an art album meant to complement the book Freax by presenting a vast number of scene related art. This book is simply stunning with it’s many pictures by many talanted artists on various computers (and ordinary pen and paper):
A must have buy if you can find it. There was a part 2 planned which would deal with the non C64 and Amiga demo scene, but the author “Tomcat” later decided to scrap the project in rage because of how he was treated by other fellow demo sceners for his views of gays and jews.
Generation 64 (Bokfabriken, 2014)
This book explain the importance of the C64 through the eyes and memories of some now famous Swedish entertainers, entrepreneurs and internet rebels. It’s not about how cool the computer was but rather what cool things people could do with it. It’s a coffe table book and a very nice read if you understand Swedish (homepage, blog).
Commodore 64: a visual compendium (Bitmap books, 2014)
I got this when I pledged for an Amiga book kickstarter. It’s a graphical compendium with plenty of screen shots of various games and some anecdotal facts about them (from the makers I suppose). Not much of a read, but the pictures are nice indeed.
Sabrina online (United Publications & Distribution Ltd, 2012)
There are hardly any Amiga fans out there who has never heard of Eric W. Schwartz. He became famous for his slightly erotic Warner Brothers like animated cartoons in the late 80’s/early 90’s (remember, we where mere teens back then). This was long before Shockwave and Flash made amateur animation simple enough on a PC. He doesn’t do much animation for the Amiga anymore but he is still making his monthly web comic Sabrina Online, which started in 1996. This book contains the first 10 years (plus some extra stuff).
So … uhm … BUY IT!
The Amiga book (Imagine Publishing Ltd., 2014)
This one here I got just last week. It has been on the marked for less than a month and it’s already sold out. So if you find a copy, don’t hesitate to buy it! This is basically a collection of articles about the Amiga that has been published in the Retro Gamer magazine. It’s huge! Full of text and pictures about the Amiga and the various games that defined it. Sometimes it shows that some articles are old (like when it referenced to sn Amiga Inc. statement that it will release a new supercool OS soon), and some themes was repetative, like various “top 10” like lists. But it’s still an excellent read.
The greatest Amiga, Amiga wa saikō! (Shinki gensha, 1993)
This arrived today and is also pretty much the reason I wrote this blog. It’s a Japanese book about the Amiga from 1993! This is pretty darn rare, and I was lucky to find a store that shipped to Sweden. I have not of course had the time to read it yet (my third language is Japanese), but from what I can see it doesn’t just tell you about how an Amiga work but also some about the people using it.
If you remember my earlier blog about the Amiga in Japan, Commodore pretty much screwed up there. Only 25.000 Amigas was sold in Japan all and all (in a country with some 120 million people at the time). Therefore, a book about the subject is not common (though there where some fanzines there at the time according to the book), and getting your hands on one over 20 years later is not easy. And this one is both thick, detailed and pleasantly fanboyish. So it feels really cool to have it in my collection.
My Amiga using friend Iggy studied in Tokyo in 2001, and he told me he had become friends with “the only active Amiga user in Japan”, which does tell a lot. There is an homepage for the Commodore Fan Club though (last updated 2005). Lately, there has also been a game released for AmigaOS 4.1 by a Japanese. This guy seems to be less of an Amiga fan and more into making games for odd platforms, but it’s something.
If you have read my ScummVM and The Curse of Monkey Island blog the other day you might remember me mentioning another game called Full Throttle. It’s also a point and click game released by Lucasarts, in 1995. This was actually the first game that made me want to buy a PC (and not Doom like so many others). I even went and bought a copy of the game that year and played it on my dads computer. I was still using an Amiga myself. Later, I even bought another copy when I thought I lost the first one (which I didn’t) so now I actually got two sitting on my shelf.
The installation process is the same as with Monkey Island so read the blog post above if you need help. However, one version of the game didn’t work for me for some reason, something ScummVM call “version B”) but “version A” worked fine. I have no idea if it’s because of corrupt data or if there is some real problem with version B, but that version always crashed at the same place in the game. So if you games do the same, try and find another copy. I have played this from beginning to end with version A and it worked just fine.
Full Throttle tells the story of Ben, the leader of the motorcycle gang The Polecats, who roam the dystopian near future of a runned down America. It’s not as light hearted as Monkey Island, and frankly a little short but it’s nevertheless one of my all time favourite point and click games.
amiga was not THAT bad in japan, after all it was used proffessionaly there as well!
amigas were used by TV stations (f.e. NHK) to produce several TV shows which used amiga gfx, games and my guess video toaster was also used (japan is ntsc as well afair)
also there was (or still is?) susumu hirasawa and his former bands. he was using amigas for music productions (midi) and for live shows, using it as a VJ system.
shame that it wasnt popular there duh, esp. as the amiga would’ve been perfect platform for japanese-style games (esp. arcade and rpg) and it needed them very badly – esp. against the 16bit consoles).
it would’ve been a completly different story for the amiga if commodore didn’t fucked it up and made the amiga succesful in japan. imagine the amiga as strong in japan as it were in the uk or germany in the 90’s…. man, i bet we would still have mainstraim amigas competing with mac and/or the consoles if that would been happened – at least:)
cheers and keep up the good work! its a joy to read your blog!
(btw, if you have more japanese amiga memories or stories, that would be very much welcomed:)
Of course it was. 25.000 sold units is 25.000 sold units. But it’s a very small number considering that Japan has/had a huge population and a lot of people could afford an Amiga if they wanted one. Just like Germans, Japanese are crazy about cutting edge technology so the competition was fierce. Not just PC and Mac and game consols, but also their own computers like the X68000.
I read in the book as well that Amiga was heavily used with video toasters at NHK, probably for the reason you mentioned (it’s NTSC so Japan got the technology early).
If C= didn’t screw up they might have been able to make Amiga a best seller in Japan. And that would have given them much needed revenue. But my bet is that they would screw that up nevertheless 🙂