Commodore Legends: Petro Tyschtschenko
The next person to be featured in our “Commodore Legends” Hall of Fame is perhaps a name that doesn’t ring a bell for many of you.
But when I say that he is the man that saved the Amiga when Commodore went bankrupt, the name Petro Tyschtschenko will probably spring to mind.
Starting with Commodore (Germany) in 1982 he quickly moved up the corporate ladder and became the Director of International Material Management and Logistic in 1986. He was first responsible for Europe and than for the world wide Logistic Operation.
After Commodore’s bankruptcy in 1994, he played the pivotal role in assuring that the Amiga computer line would continue and he would follow this up by becoming President of Amiga Technologies.
To this day, Petro is keeping up with the Amiga scene so it is only fitting that this Commodore Amiga legend gets his spot in the Hall of Fame
The Commodore years
Robby: Could you tell us a little more about your years at Commodore as it looks like a fascinating career path: starting in 1982 when Commodore was at its peak with the C64 being released, you were the sales logistics & purchasing manager for Commodore Germany and you climbed the corporate ladder becoming Commodore’s global logistics manager until Commodore filed for bankruptcy in 1994.
Petro: You will find a lot of details about this story in my book, which hopefully will be finished end of this year. I have designed a website, unfortunately only in German language, but you can find some more details on this site: petros-memoiren-1982-bis-2001.de
I started in 1982 with Commodore GmbH in Germany, was first responsible for Purchasing and Logistic for the German Subsidiary as a Director of Logistic. I changed than into the European Area, build up a Central warehouse in the Netherlands and was then, until the bankruptcy of Commodore, Director of worldwide Logistic.
Robby: How did you see Commodore change over those 12 years?
Petro: There were not a lot of changes… We all worked like hell. Very motivated. No time to think about bad things, only fighting for the good things.
Robby: How did you see the competition from Atari (i.e. the STs), Apple and the up and coming DOS market?
Petro: To be honest, Atari was no competition, Apple more so, but Apple was at this time not very strong and fought for survival. Commodore was much better. Apple always gave us a hard time through pricing. We did not like to lose money, what Apple definitely was doing at this time.
Robby: What’s in your view, the most groundbreaking Amiga innovation?
Petro: The whole AMIGA development was a revolution. No-one in the market could compete with our OS and the video functions at that time.
Robby: How have your years at Commodore influenced you?
Petro: I was travelling a lot and for the first time in my live I was in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. This changed of course my feelings and my mind a lot. Before that I was most of my time only in Germany and sometimes in other countries of Europe. I learned a lot: other cultures, another way of thinking and trained in the English language. I learned how to travel and how to organize the meetings.
Robby: What is, in your opinion, next to the fact that Commodore made the best selling computer of all-time with the C64, the greatest achievement of Commodore?
Petro: Amiga A500 and Amiga A1200 of course. But before that, the VIC 20 from Commodore which was the entry into the new computer century.
Robby: What is the funniest moment you had at Commodore?
Petro: The funniest moment was when I met Jack Tramiel. We built up a very close relationship and I was many times with him for dinner. He also came from the eastern part of Europe, like my family, that was a binding fact… Nice times… Jack was a great guy!
Robby: What is the saddest moment you had at Commodore?
Petro: The saddest moment was when I was informed by Mehdi Ali, that the company would go down… I could not believe this. We have had then the last supper in New York with some other Directors of the top management.
Robby: If you could go back in time, what would be the one thing above all others, that you would like to have changed in the course of Commodore’s history?
Petro: One of the things that hurt us a lot was the PC development. If I could go back in time, I would have fased out the PC line much sooner and had focused solely on the AMIGA Line and Commodore’s C64 developments. Also I would have supported the software development with third parties a lot of more and more intensive. Software was a poor issue in Commodore’s and Amiga’s history.
The post-Commodore years
Robby: From your speech given at the Video Toaster Expo Conference back in ’95, I read “In August 1994, almost one year before the 21st of April, when ESCOM AG took over the rights of Commodore, Manfred Schmitt, Chairman at ESCOM AG, told me “Petro, I want the Amiga”. From this day on, I was in charge of setting up the deal that the Amiga Community was waiting for: Taking over the rights and patents of Commodore International and give the Amiga a new home. It was a very difficult task, the situation with Commodore was complicated and many companies were also interested in getting the baby. But our strategy to keep silent about what we did helped us to be faster and more efficient. Nobody knew about ESCOM before the deal was completed.”
How did your relationship with ESCOM come about, so that they considered you the person to set up the deal?
Petro: During the Commodore times I was very powerful in organizing the products, being the logistic director for the Far East. Manfred Schmitt was at this time a potential German distributor. Commodore Products where always short in supply. One time I had allocated large quantities of C64 to Manfred, which saved him a lot of the business and generated him revenue. This story and my action was something he always respected and never forgot. He called me, because he trusted me a lot and asked me to work for him to seal the deal with the bankruptcy courts in New York.
Robby: You became the President of Amiga Technologies GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of ESCOM AG. What would you consider to be the greatest achievement in that period.
Petro: The biggest achievement was my strategy, to ramp up A1200 production for the European Market and the A4000 Production for the US market. The best plan is nothing if you cannot perform and convert into action and reality. I have performed my plans very successful and generated a lot of profit and revenue for AMIGA Technologies. Amiga Technologies could survive without ESCOM and would have no financial problems.
Robby: In July 1996, a year after ESCOM acquired Commodore’s assets, it had to file for bankruptcy as well. Do you think the A1200 and A4000T would have had a chance in the market had ESCOM survived longer?
Petro: I do not think so. The products where still advanced at that time, but new products should’ve been developed as soon as possible. The technology in the computer industry gets old very fast and needs a permanent R&D.
Robby: ESCOM’s Amiga assets were acquired by Gateway. What was your role in that undertaking?
Petro: I had managed the whole deal. When ESCOM went into bankruptcy, me as a President and General Manger had also apply for bankruptcy, but I could continue my business, without ESCOM. So I made an agreement with the liquidator and promised him to continue generating revenue. Which I have done and in between I was looking for an investor. I was approaching many companies, even Motorola and Apple, until I found Gateway. I informed the liquidator and we did all contracts with Gateway and Gateway took over the whole company including the intellectual properties, myself and the complete inventory for USD 14.000.000.
Robby: Would an acquisition by VisCorp have proven better for Amiga (thinking of the fact that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was a shareholder of VisCorp)?
Petro: You should know that Viscorp had a good chance. In the end there was not enough funding available. My understanding is that VisCorp has nothing to do with Microsoft, that’s a new story for me.
Robby: What made the VisCorp deal not go through? Is there some truth to the rumor that Microsoft put pressure on Gateway to clinch the deal?
Petro: As I just explained, it was the fact of missing funding. After 5 years Gateway received from my side permanently funds, which I generated out of the existing Amiga inventory. I have had revenue and my cost was very low… But the revenue gets less and less, because of a lack of new developments. So Gateway started to spend also money for AMIGA. Jim Collas built up the US head office, hired new staff and looked for new premises.
Jim was a very good manager and with the powerful Gateway behind us, Amiga could raise again from the ashes like a star. But then somebody stopped him and he gave up and cancelled his contract. I do not know the story behind it, but soon Gateway asked me to find a new investor for Amiga. I suggested myself and Gateway agreed and some contracts were already drafted, but my investment was not that high and then Bill McEven showed up and made the deal.
Robby: In the interview I did with Dave Haynie, he states: ” The Amiga people, I think, are a little exhausted. It’s been one broken promise after another. I tried to get something going, didn’t actually make any promises until we had Amiga Technologies going, backed by the second largest PC company in Germany at the time (ESCOM), and then that big company manages to kill themselves. Then more of the random promises. Then Gateway promises something, but drops the project. And that was the last serious effort. They’ve also made some bad decisions, like PowerPC, that seemed to have become a kind of religion in the Amiga community.”
It seems he wasn’t too keen on the whole 1200 and 4000T and especially not on the PowerPC approach. How do you look back at the PowerPC and Amiga venture?
Petro: The most important issue was finding a new future technology for AMIGA, and at that time Apple also was on Power PC. There was some strategy from third parties on Power PC, but Amiga never performed under my direction on the Power PC platform. I was only building up the Amiga OS from 3.1 to 3.5.
Robby: Recently you sold of a sizeable stock of A1200s. All factory sealed and in storage all these years. This was quite the buzz in the Amiga community. Did you expect this?
Petro: My Indian friend called me and asked me if I needed back some AMIGA A1200 Magic Packs and I announced this on facebook. I had not expect such a great respon! The quantities I imported (under 100 units) have sold without any profit, just to activate the Amiga Community. In the end I have lost a few bucks and earned a lot of work to handle this deal properly. Anyway, I have done this for the community and 150 Euro was a good price for everybody.
Robby: I’ve been told you hold one of the two existing Amiga Walker prototypes, the last “real” Amiga. Can you tell a little more about this machine? It was going to be an A1200 replacement but what was the main impetus for this machine?
Petro: The development was started in the time of ESCOM, because we needed a new machine for our survival. It was a similar technology as the A1200 but with a CD Rom drive and USB Connector and a 30 processor instead of the 20.
Robby: How do you see the future of Amiga (AmigaOS, machines by Commodore USA, …)
Petro: Amiga is a retro computer and only for a small existing community which is mostly made up of collectors. It is like the old timers in the automotive industry: Exciting, a nice hobby. For business activities the time is over. As a dealer you can only handle this Amiga business as a one man show and on low cost.
I do not think that there is an investor spending a lot of money to revive AMIGA!
Robby: What does the future hold in store for you?
Petro: I am not a dealer. I am getting 70 years old on April 16th. To keep me young, I am handling a small export business with “Made in Germany” products and doing a social job free of charge for cancer patients all around the word and transporting as an on board courier human stem cells from one hospital to another for cancer patients to help them.
Robby: And on that note, Petro, many thanks for the interview and I wish you all the best and success and thank you for having kept the Amiga flame burning!