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DR. PETER KITTEL - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Dear Amiga community,
following some friendly request, I try to introduce myself and show some of
my background. Most people already will know much about me from my years
of Usenet participation, but here comes a summary.
I was born in 1951. I grew up, went to school and university in northern
Germany. The university was Technische Universitaet Braunschweig, and I
studied Physics starting in 1969 and finishing my doctorate in late 1983.
My thesis was in solid state physics, optical properties of silver,
investigation of reflection spectrum in high magnetical fields under
polarization modulation and at Helium temperatures.
Already as a schoolboy I got into contact with electronics, tinkering with
simple detector radios and later transistor amplifiers. Computers were no
issue in these 60's. Electronics became more professional at university
where I did many parts of my experiments myself with the soldering iron.
Ca. midway during study I first encountered computers, at first in 1970 on
a Philips Electrologica X1, a "small" computer (needed only two rooms) with
ca. 7 KB of storage and an Algol 60 compiler as standard environment.
Later I changed to the uni's ICL mainframe, also under Algol 60. Other
programming languages I learnt were Fortran IV, Dartmoor Basic, and PL/I.
In 1978 I had my first encounter with the Commodore PET 2001, and it was
love at first sight. On the 8 K version I did my own text system, which
grew by time, and which I still sometimes use for special purposes, ported
to the PC as well as the Amiga (in Basic). For the PET I also built
interfaces, e.g. one to use an analogue X-Y-recorder as a digital plotter
via D/A converters interfaced to the User Port of the PET, or another one
to use a teletype as a printer, as needle printers were too expensive in
In 1982 I bought my own PET, a CBM 4032 plus floppy CBM 4040. The 4032 was
the "fat" version, so I immediately upgraded it to 80 columns, or a CBM
8032. On this, I did my own text processing for my thesis, the printer was
a ball typewriter, the interface again self-made to the User Port. As the
typewriter was an electrical one, not electronic, the interface consisted
also of one solenoid per typewriter key to press it down mechanically. It
was very loud and not very reliable, but it allowed to change the print
ball for mathematical symbols or normal letters. My text system of course
supported this change in a very sophisticated way.
With this 1 MHz computer I did also all the numbercrunching for my
experiments, as our uni computer centre in those years was barely useable,
with days of waiting for a single job get done. I wrote a little compiler
to get a programming language similar to those of contemporary hand-held
programmable calculators like the HP 25, and got involved deeply with
floating point numerics, as I had to write my own square root routine,
because this was the routine my calculations spent 80 % of their time in.
In these uni years I got into first contacts with Commodore, which at that
time had a new manufacturing facility including an engineering department
When I was ready with my doctorate, I tried to get a job in Commodore
engineering in their Braunschweig facility, but a colleague from the
neighbour institute was some days faster. But they said they needed people
in the Frankfurt german headquarter of Commodore, so I got there. In
February 1984 I started in Frankfurt as member of the Support department,
responsible for peripherals support, that was at that time external
floppies and harddrives (3 Megabytes!), printers, plotters, graphics
tablets, graphics cards for the CBMs, etc.
Commodore Support at that time was devided in two sections: "PC" and
"Systems". Yes, "PC" was for the *home* computers VC 20 and C64! And
"Systems" was for those Big PETs, or CBMs. I always was in the Systems
part of Support. Later, in 1985, I was for a short time leader of the
PCompatible part of Support, as Commodore Braunschweig had developed nice
compatible computers, which immediately got big market share in Germany,
directly rivaling with IBM for place one for the coming years. But shortly
later my talent for writing and german orthography became obvious and my
main responsibility changed to documentation, i.e. german user manuals,
for all computers we shipped.
In mid 1985 we saw the first videos of the Amiga. It was so astounding!
In March 1986 it was introduced officially in Germany. We tried to copy
the marvelous show at Lincoln Center, NYC, of July 1985, in our Old Opera
in Frankfurt, but did not really get it as nicely. Soon I began
programming on it, mostly in AmigaBasic, but later also in C when it had to
be faster or get distributed to others. The following years were filled
with many .More.. Amiga and some PC manuals, many fairs like the yearly
CeBIT in Hannover and other big fairs in Germany, many support calls from
end users or companies, much support for other departments at Commodore,
e.g. Legals in cases of Copyright infringements by cloning the 1541 OS,
In the late 80's I began to use data communications to look into BBSes and
Usenet from the company. When I got access to the comp.sys.amiga
newsgroups, I knew that was for me. I read them eagerly each day as the
first each morning, looking for nice info from our US people or interesting
announcements of 3rd parties. What was not so nice were Amiga bashings by
several people, PC or Mac advocats, where I stepped in and defended the
Amiga against false accusations and other bashings. This way I met a lot
of interesting people from all over the world, most of them very nice and
some rather annoying.
In the last years, beginning in 1993, the decline of Commodore began with
permanent layoffs. So eventually our developer support colleague was gone
and I had to take over. And in spring 1994, before we had our last, very
successful CeBIT show, the last colleagues of Support left, including the
boss, so I remained as the last supporter in Germany, being my own boss.
In September 1994, the german company had to file for Konkurs
(liquidation), and a Konkursverwalter (Liquidator) became the new boss. He
layed us all off, but due to german laws and my long employment at
Commodore, this got only valid at end of January 1995 for me. The last
months were depressing, .More.. they consisted of cleaning up, throwing
away much which was connected with so many memories, and preserving some
data and papers that could become valid for a potential new start.
In February 1995, I got unemployed and connected my Amiga which I had
bought from Commodore to the net from my home, where I eagerly watched all
news about the buyout of Commodore. My problem was that my news connection
was rather weak, several postings were already two weeks old until they
finally made it to my site. But then I read about the auction at 20th and
21st of April. And voila, on Saturday morning, the 22nd, I found in my
email the Auction Report by Amiga Report, and it clearly said that Escom, a
company not far from Frankfurt, had won. I instantly typed my resume and
on Monday morning drove to Heppenheim and handed it in. Several days later
they called back and shortly after that hired me.
Best Regards, Dr. Peter Kittel //