Back into the Storm: A Design Engineer’s Story of Commodore Computers in the 1980s

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Exclusive: Receive your copy autographed by Bil Herd and co-author Margaret G Morabito, Editor of RUN Magazine, exclusively for 8-Bit Classics Customers Only!

Back into the Storm: A Design Engineer’s Story of Commodore Computers in the 1980s brings you on a journey recounting the experiences of working at Commodore Business Machines from 1983 to 1986, as seen through the eyes of a young hardware engineer, Bil Herd. Herd was the lead design engineer for the TED series of home computers which included the Plus/4 and C16. He was also the lead designer for the versatile C128 that sold in the millions and was known fondly as the last of the 8-bit computers. In this book, Bil tells the inside stories that he and his extraordinary team, called “the Animals,” lived through at Commodore.

These were years when the home computer wars were at their height, technology moved ahead at a fast pace, and Commodore was at its pinnacle. The best-selling computer of all time, the Commodore C64, was in full swing and had blown past the sales numbers of its competitors, such as Apple, Tandy, Atari, and Sinclair, to name a few, in the home computer market. Commodore’s founder, Jack Tramiel, was the head of the company when Bil began working there.

This book describes with intricate detail how Herd and his team designed and built the computers that they were charged with creating for Commodore. It brings you through the design cycles of the computers that Herd headed up, categorized in the book in three stages--early, middle, and late--starting with the TED series of computers that he inherited in his first week at Commodore. The TEDs are known mostly as the Plus/4 and C16 computers, but there were other models that were designed, such as the C364 with a first-of-its-kind desktop interface that actually spoke, but which never made it into production. The TED series was followed by the Commodore C128, which was Herd and the Animals' invention from start to finish, and amazingly had an unheard of three operating systems.

This was a high pressure time, a unique time in computer history, when a handful of (mostly) young individuals could craft a computer using the resources of one of the largest computer manufacturers at the time at their disposal, and yet there were no design committees nor management oversight groups to get in the way of true progress. As corny as it sounds (and it does sound corny), they designed from their hearts and for the five-month period that it took to get a computer from paper to the Consumer Electronics Show (the Super Bowl for the computer industry), they lived, breathed, and ate everything dealing with how to get their computers done. They added features that they thought were good ideas and did their best to dodge the bad ideas from middle management that were thrust in their direction. They had that cockiness that came from knowing that they would outlive these bosses in the Commodore corporate culture, if they were successful, and providing they survived the highwire, design cycle themselves. They worked hard, they played hard.

Come for an insider's ride with Bil Herd and the Animals in this fun adventure!

Product Details:

  • Authors: Margaret G Morabito & Bill Herd
  • Paperback
  • Language: English
  • 302 pages
  • Release date: July 28, 2021
  • ISBN-10: 8534584950
  • ISBN-13: 979-8534584950


Additional information

Weight 19 oz
Dimensions 6 × 1 × 9 in

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  1. Joseph Moorman

    Excellent storytelling

    Joseph Moorman (verified owner)

    The humorous stories and characters are dense in this book. If you like Herd’s videos, the writing style in his book is absolutely just as charming but flows with additional detail which is only possible in print. It’s exhilarating to go through the close calls and MacGyver hack jobs they did in those days to get things working. Totally worth a read for every 8-bit geek.

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