source: 8bit generation
We initially backed Growing The 8-Bit Generation Kickstarter campaign not knowing its troubled past. We were drawn to it because of it’s proposed subject matter – a documentary about the start of the home computer industry, which was right up our alley. Rather than getting bogged down in the windy road of how this documentary came to be, we thought we would concentrate on what the 8-Bit Generation / Junk Food team have delivered, and boy is it good!
Like any documentary that delves into the history of a particular industry, it is the people that were there, recounting their experiences first-hand that is paramount to the success of telling such a story. Growing The 8-Bit Generation nails this part by featuring a roster of interviewees that reads like a computing and video gaming hall of fame, from Chuck Peddle, Al Charpentier, Bil Herd, Michael Tomczyk, Dave Rolfe, Richard Garriot, Jeff Minter, Andy Finkel, Lord British, Steve Wozniak, Nigel Searle, Chris Curry, John Grant, Nolan Bushnell, Al Alcorn to Joe Decuir and Leonard Tramiel among others. However, the biggest interviewee coup for the documentary was having the late and great, Jack Tramiel recount his days as the head of Commodore and his somewhat ruthless pursuit to build computers for the masses, not the classes – which he certainly did. It is staggering to think that the production team actually interviewed 64 key industry figures, not all appearing in this film, which means there will be future documentaries with the additional footage!
The best way to describe Growing The 8-Bit Generation is that it is a visual and aural representation of Brian Bagnell’s book, Commodore: A Company on the Edge. If you have read this book, you will recognise the interviewees and know the subject matter quite well. Having said that, if you haven’t read Brain’s book, you will learn how Commodore battled it out with Atari, Sinclair, Texas Instruments, Apple and Tandy to reign supreme in the home computer hardware market.
The documentary is given a sense of authority by having Bil Heard (former Commodore engineer) lending his voice as the narrator. There is also subtle chiptune background music which adds to the aural spectacle. If we were to be nitpicking (Ed: and we would hate to be!), we would have loved to have seen Bob Yannes (SID chip inventor) appear and perhaps someone from Amstrad, like Lord Sugar. Purists may argue that the documentary is too Commodore-centric, but you have to remember it was their MOS6502 microprocessor that gave birth to the home computing industry and it also had a profound impact on the video games console market.
What From Bedrooms To Billions documentary was to the history of home computer games development, Growing The 8-Bit Generation is to the history and evolution of home computer hardware – it is certainly compelling viewing!
NOTE: Retail availability of the documentary is yet to be confirmed. Keep an eye on the 8-Bit Generation site for more details.
image source: 8-Bit Generation