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Old 11-11-2011, 01:18 PM   #1
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Default How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Greetings,
I found this posted on Google +. It is a brief history of the Amiga and how the patent for the XOR Cursor stopped the sail of CD32s in the USA. Weakening the company to the point of bankruptcy.

Read it here:
https://plus.google.com/110412141990...ts/dbipY1GJoGv
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Old 11-11-2011, 02:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

I find this a little suspect...

Was there no way around this patent? I think we're either missing some details on how this might have destroyed Commodore, or, assuming they couldn't find an alternative, Commodore truly was very stupid.
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Old 11-11-2011, 03:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Sounds like 'the straw that broke the camel's back'.
People strive to find simple answers, it allows for closure. Given everything else that was wrong at Commodore at the time, if this patent dispute wasn't there it would have just prolonged the eventual demise.
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Old 11-11-2011, 04:17 PM   #4
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Quote:
Originally Posted by agami View Post
Sounds like 'the straw that broke the camel's back'.
People strive to find simple answers, it allows for closure. Given everything else that was wrong at Commodore at the time, if this patent dispute wasn't there it would have just prolonged the eventual demise.
I tend to agree with you. However, who knows what could have happened?

The CD32 sold very well in the UK and literally owned the CD-ROM sales charts. 90% of all CD-ROM sales were on the CD32 format.

If Commodore could have emulated that in the US, it could have perhaps kept them going.

I suspect the Amiga would have been forgotten about and they'd have proceeded with a console based on the Hombre chipset, which I believe was almost as powerful as the Playstation 2, but years and years earlier.

Perhaps nowadays we'd have Commodore, Nintendo and Microsoft fighting it out and Sony would be licking it's wounds after a failed Playstion.
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Old 11-11-2011, 04:24 PM   #5
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

well apprently sony designed the orginal playstation 1 for somone esle i forget who
i think was atrai chould be wrong and only sold themselves after other company didnt want it
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Old 11-11-2011, 05:40 PM   #6
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

@achtung bab

Yes, it was a joint project with Nintendo for a CD-ROM add on for the Super Nintendo.

Somewhere along the line they fell out and Sony carried on the R&D for what would become the Playstation.
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Old 11-11-2011, 06:20 PM   #7
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

its not a news, its written on http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiga_CD32

Quote:
In den USA durfte das CD³² aufgrund eines Lizenzstreites offiziell nie verkauft werden und so blieben die Geräte in den Fabriken in Asien zurück. Einige Händler aus Asien verkaufen seit 2006 noch einige Restbestände mittlerweile über ein bekanntes Auktionshaus. Das CD³² war eines der letzten Hardware-Produkte, das die Firma Commodore veröffentlichte, bevor sie Konkurs anmelden musste.
some dealers got hardware over the Canadian border but not in such a big amount to save Commodore you can even see today sometimes dealers from Asia with brand new CD32 on ebay

Quote:
Patent #4,197,590 covers the concept of an "XOR cursor". In the early days of windowing systems (especially with bitonal displays), it was common to represent your cursor as a small bitonal bitmap. When you want to display the cursor, you exclusive-or (XOR) it into the pixels of the desktop. This insures that the cursor is always visible: the cursor is black on white, or white on black. And when you wish to hide or move the cursor, you XOR it again, and the original image is restored. Fairly obvious. But if you write the code, you are in violation of patent #4,197,590.
source: http://www.horrorseek.com/home/hallo...idPatents.html

http://www.amiga.org/forums/archive/...p/t-25333.html
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Old 11-12-2011, 02:38 AM   #8
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

What is a XOR cursor?
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Old 11-12-2011, 04:10 AM   #9
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

To have different angle to this debate: Commodore was stupid enough to steal someone's intellectual property.

It is stupid that patents like this can damage Commodore's revenue stream but you have to play by the rules. Commodore had some silly patens, too.
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Old 11-12-2011, 06:20 AM   #10
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

I have another angle on this debate. I have never heard of it before. I think it's crap. Or loosely based on fact.
The us was a big market for CBM but not the be-all.
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:19 AM   #11
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Why would this patent only affect sales of the CD32 and not the other Amiga models that sold in the US? I am not saying the patent had no impact, but something does not add up.
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:27 AM   #12
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Quote:
Originally Posted by itix View Post
To have different angle to this debate: Commodore was stupid enough to steal someone's intellectual property.
First of all you can't steal "intellectual property" because it's not property in the first place. That's why patents and copyright are created through separate laws and not covered by property law at all.

Secondly, this patent came totally out of left field and nobody thought there'd be any chance in hell it'd be enforcable, because it fails on every aspects of the legal requirements for getting a patent: It's obvious to someone trained in the field, and there was plenty of prior art.

Most likely it would've been invalidated if the court battles around it had gone to completion.

What it illustrates is how completely ridiculous the patent system is, and how badly it needs an overhaul - it's the largest *threat* to innovation we have.
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:31 AM   #13
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

If I remember things correctly, what happened was that Commodore couldn't bring the machines into the US. But dealers could, and did - my CD32 was from CEI in Florida. Still, the legal nonsense disrupted the whole supply chain. I think it was only the dedicated Amiga mail-order dealers that tried to get the machines. I never saw one at retail anywhere or advertised by a non-Amiga reseller.

Another part of the question: Dave Haynie wrote in Deathbed Vigil that Commodore might have survived with 400,000 US sales - could they have made that many sales without the supply problems?

Last edited by Matt_H; 11-12-2011 at 10:18 AM..
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Old 11-12-2011, 11:33 AM   #14
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Quote:
Originally Posted by billchase View Post
Why would this patent only affect sales of the CD32 and not the other Amiga models that sold in the US? I am not saying the patent had no impact, but something does not add up.
The patent would have affected the other models. However, there were tens if not hundreds of thousands of these machines already in the supply chain.

Commodore in anticipation of bringing CD32 to the US market ramped up production and had hundreds of thousands of CD32s sitting in a Philippine factory.

When you put it in that context, they effectively bet the farm on the CD32 and then couldn't sell it!
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Old 11-12-2011, 11:38 AM   #15
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt_H View Post
...Another part of the question: Dave Haynie wrote in Deathbed Vigil that Commodore might have survived with 400,000 US sales - could they have made that many sales without the supply problems?
I would say it was doubtful, but there WAS a chance.

So far as I recall the CD32 sold 100,000 units in the UK in short order. Probably a similar amount in Germany and the rest of Europe.

The US market is, what, six times bigger than the UK? However, the Amiga wasn't the popular games machine in the US that it was in the UK/Europe.

I reckon they'd have matched the UK sales at least, and if they got some momentum and good titles out there, word of mouth could possibly have done the rest.

I maintain though that if CD32 would have been a success, then Commodore may have dropped the Amiga computer and carried on with the game console market.
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Old 11-12-2011, 01:20 PM   #16
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Commodore was in trouble way before the CD32.

First, they fouled up one Christmas by replacing the A500 with the A500+, and selling it packaged with games that wouldn't run because they hit the hardware, and the hardware had changed.

The following Christmas, they released the A600, which was a big step backward from the A500. They also released the A1200, but there weren't enough parts. Very few people wanted the A600 - most people wanted the A1200, so they put off their Amiga purchases. By the time parts for the A1200 were available, Commodore had lost a second Christmas and was in trouble.

This, of course, came on top of the fact that they had terminated development on the A4000 and decided to sell the prototype instead.

It was only after that that the CD32 was even released. If everything had gone perfectly with the CD32, they probably still would have gone bankrupt.

It takes a special set of skills to go bankrupt while selling the world's most popular computer (C64) and the world's best computer (Amiga), but Mehdi Ali stepped up to the plate.
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Old 11-12-2011, 01:29 PM   #17
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Anyone care to drop a hello to good ol' Mehdi?

http://meridianassociates.biz/professional.htm

From the bio:
"His prior experience includes serving as the President of Commodore International, where he accomplished a major operational turnaround."

Some turnaround, I'd say.
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Old 11-12-2011, 01:31 PM   #18
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Quote:
Originally Posted by weirdami View Post
What is a XOR cursor?
Not something C=/Amiga ever used to the best of my knowledge.

XOR (or Exclusive OR) as a bitwise operation has the inherent property that if you repeat it (i.e. do it twice) it is a NULL operation.
Why do you want that? Because then you can draw and erase an image in only two operations: Doing it once will show it on the screen (and "under" already existing graphics), doing it twice undoes it.

It also has another valued property in that it only uses 2 reads(source and data) and one write operation(source) per pixel.

The classic alternative to this is the save&restore with cookie cutter approach which is
- copy data under pointer to (static) buffer (read + write)
- cookie cutter bob paste (read source + data + mask(or generate mask from data if your display/hw fits) and write source)
- restore data under pointer from buffer (read + write)
Which is a whole lot more work and time as you can see, but it looks better visually.
I believe AmigaOS used a lot of this as late as 1.1.

Commodore (since 1.2 at least - someone correct me on mousepointer details) simply worked around this by using a hw sprite for the pointer.
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Old 11-13-2011, 12:56 AM   #19
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Default Re: How a Stupid Patent Killed the Amiga

Quote:
Originally Posted by hishamk View Post
"His prior experience includes serving as the President of Commodore International, where he accomplished a major operational turnaround."
Well, you can't argue with him. He certainly turned the company around. lol
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