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The Deathbed Vigil

and other tales of digital angst

This is a home video filmed and produced by the famous Commodore engineer Dave Haynie. It portrays the final days of Commodore from April the 27th, to April the 30th when the company went belly up, and documents the emotions and angst that went through the formerly dedicated staff.

Tour of Commodore West Chester

The video starts with Dave Haynie video filming his drive into Commodore on the day where most of the workers were closing up shop on the last day of work. Dave then tours the facilities and talks to friends and co-workers about the situation. We get to see warehouses, shut down factory lines, the engineering labs, offices, etc.

Interesting tidbits include: The Hedley Davis Memorial Disk Drive, which is a 3,5" floppy drive that has looks as if it was forcefully thrown halfway trough a cubicle wall, and then wooden framed for future preservation. No explanation on how this actually happened is given, except for the comment, - "now and again, you have those moments..". Dave Haynie's work patch is toured. We see his lab equipment lying everywhere, Amigas running engineering software, and not least the two prototype AAA motherboards that he was working on, before everyone was laid off. The pictogram whiteboard with the history of software is drawn in pictograms. George Robbins' office and cubicle where he practically lived (as in he worked, ate and slept there) while managing low-end systems at Commodore. He eventually became known as "The Resident Commodore Person".

The last layoff party

We then see the last big layoff party at Margarita's Evergreen Inn. The frustration of the employees against their management begin to show. Many people mention CEO Mehdi Ali as the prime course of Commodores downfall. Perhaps mention isn't the word. Several people express a directly hostile attitude towards a man they felt ripped the company apart and then ran with all the money. Other than that people talk about old times, new job opportunities and otherwise drown their sorrows in Margaritas.

The Deathbed Vigil Party

After this the prime event is documented. The Deathbed Vigil Party, which was held at Randell Jesup's house on April 30, 1994.

This last section is the longest part of the video and is a plethora of segments where the now ex-Commodore employees tell stories about their life and work (which pretty much coincide). If you are a die hard Amigan, this is a feast of nostalgia that will make your eyes wet with joy and sorrow. One of the segments include a ritual burning of a Mehdi Ali papier-mâché doll. During this segment Gail Wellington, director of CATS, Commodores world-class technical support department shouts - "This is probably the only warmth we ever got out of the man!". Another segment shows the mystic keyboard bashing ritual, where a bunch of Amiga keyboards gets destroyed in various increasingly violent manners. Memorable quotes include, - "Has anyone called the press for this?" - "No! This is depressing enough!", or - "Press any key!", after someone completely mangles a keyboard with a mallet.

Another favorite segment is the one about property passes. At Commodore facilities (as is common at a few tech workplaces), you were required to fill out a property pass whenever you brought any personal items into the buildings. The system at Commodore however had a couple of flaws. The receptionist who was to sign the property pass, had absolutely no clue what it was you were carrying into the building. Therefore you could quite easily fill out the property pass for almost anything you wanted. Notable property passes include multiple Boeing 747s, a Commodore forklift or even a Cray supercomputer, so in case Commodore ever got one, the person could leave with it.

During the whole video, interspersed between segments, the history of Commodore in general and the Amiga in particular is presented in slides, as remembered by Dave Haynie. A lot of facts about Commodores demise is given.

Night of the guilty

The very last segment displays unknown employees, spray painting the names of the guilty few who they felt bore the responsibility for Commodores bankruptcy, on the speed bumps of Speed Bump Alley near the West Chester plant.


Dave ends his video with this quote, and I found it appropriate to repeat it here as a tribute to Amiga.

Perfection. Excellence. What a passionate lover.
But once having tasted the lips of excellence,
once having given oneself to its perfection,
how dreary and burdensome and filled with anomie
are the remainder of one's waking hours trapped
in the shackled lock-step of the merely ordinary,
the barely acceptable, the just okay and not a
stroke better.

- Harlan Ellison


Dave Haynie makes this video available for purchase in a digitally remastered version from this website:

http://www.jersey.net/~dhaynie/dbv/

A true must-have for any Amiga geek.

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