When it comes to the Amiga (released in mid-1985), however, the relationship with Commodore was and is much more complicated.
Within a couple of years after Commodore acquired Amiga in its infancy, many Amigans became bitter over how the “machine from the future” was so mis-handled.
We love the original computer scientists and engineering geniuses who created the 8-bit Commodore computer as well as the team who created the Amiga. Of course.
But the repeating record on many Amigan's turntables plays something like this:
And on and on.Inept lack of marketing or strategy; No R&D; Executive incompetence; Corporate mismanagement; Mangled sales tactics; No leadership. Lack of vision. No coherent strategy for business customers needs. Originally years ahead of the competition, yet left to wither on the vine and die.
And yet, from our collective memories, we all believe there was some sort of Commodore product in nearly half of US households that owned a home computer, not to mention sales worldwide. The "other people" had various Atari computers or green monochrome Apple II or II+, Tandy or, ultimately DOS Frankensteins. We'll be nice and not mention the sad Coleco Adam, since most everyone has forgotten this lonely child.
But are our memories real? Was what we saw around us true, or were we living in a bubble?
We aren’t entirely senile. In 1983, US-based Time magazine went so far as to name the personal computer to be the “Machine of the Year” for 1982 instead of what had been the “Man of the year” in years past. Something big definitely was going on. This was about a U.S. cultural phenomenon that was taking place, and the rest of the world was joining the parade as well.
The only way to dig into this history would be by simply looking at the numbers. Let's take a hard look at the worldwide sales figures for Commodore and Amiga computers and go from there.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.
There are no official company numbers. They are cobbled together by computer historians, fans, magazines (fed by marketing departments) and past employees.
But since that's all we have left, we'll do our best.
What was Commodore’s sales reach?
Well that's a loaded question. Worldwide? By country? Which computer?
Over the decades Commodore created many products. Launched in 1980, the VIC 20 sold 2.5 million units  before it was discontinued in 1985 and had the distinction of being the first home computer to sell over 1M units. For the sake of this post, however, I will focus on the Commodore 64 and Amiga line of computers.
It is believed (I say believed because there is no online source with explicit numbers to link to) that Commodore sold “somewhere around 22M C64s - making it the best selling computer of all time.”  Some other sources guess the numbers to be somewhere between 10-17M. One could argue the iPhone has blown that record away in modern times, but in the 80s and 90s these numbers would have been beyond staggering, hence the Time cover story.
Wikipedia claims, “At one point the company was selling as many computers as the rest of the industry combined.”
In 2005, Ars Technica did a nice job of demonstrating market share of the various platforms from 1980-1984 as seen in this chart. After 1984, the C64 continued to climb to incredible heights even amongst far superior machines in the marketplace, and in particular during the immense growth of the emerging PC/clone market. Getting reliable numbers by-country is nearly impossible, which is unfortunate as it would have quieted a lot of sniping and chest beating in forums for decades to come. Anecdotally, I can personally say that the C64 was very popular in U.S. urban areas. The California market alone probably dwarfed most European countries in terms of pure sales. All combined the C64 market in the U.S. was massive, and the cracking scene seemed as popular as playing the games themselves. Over time the demo scene, however, often seemed to be shared more from our European brothers. Germany and the UK definitely had strong showings, and still do to this day.
Amiga struggled to separate itself from Commodore’s legacy of being perceived as a cost-cutting budget computer brand. As a result Amiga was unable to achieve a dominating foothold even though its elegant design and power was obviously superior for those that ever saw it in person.
Finding reliable numbers for the Amiga prove harder than the C64, although several sources (many of which have gone dark in recent years) have tried. Some look to magazines (mostly published in Europe, so the focus might be partial), others looked to serial numbers stamped on cases, while others looked to past employee recollections, which are also prone to error or being myopic to region.
In any case, I shall lump all Amiga models together even though I know this is painful for some to bear. The more powerful boxes sold well in the US for those deep in video production. The 500 was huge worldwide. The 1200 seemed to rule the UK in the early 90s, etc. But let’s look at the numbers we do have (with a grain of salt).
According to C64-wiki.com, which includes a mishmash of numbers from a collection of magazines (presumably all European magazines) and an email from a past Commodore employee named Dr. Peter Kittel, some numbers for the Amiga might be gleaned, if they are to be accepted.
Dr. Kittel claimed sales of the Amiga (in general, not by model) were as such: It is worth explaining that Dr. Kittel was an employee of Commodore in Germany. He eventually was laid off and rehired by Escom after they won the auction of the Amiga brand and intellectual properties in 1995.
One site, which is now dark, claimed to have some sales figures by-country. These numbers were captured by a user of the forum Amiga.org in 2004, and represent all Amiga sales, by year:
** totals inline with public C= sales statement
That all being said, from the lowest estimate to the highest, the Amiga computer line seems to fall, worldwide, between 4M and 7M units total. Each country will likely think their own to have been the largest. In reality, it likely falls somewhere between the U.S., UK and Germany.
It is tragic that in today's era of data we don't have a more complete picture of a beloved tech company and its fortunes. Considering the impact on culture the C64 and Amiga computers had, it really boggles the mind to discover such a gap in history.
In a completely anecdotal poll taken by Amiga Love on Twitter, the 500 and 1200 are still today's favorites amongst various fans.
1. Bagnall, Brian (2006). On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore, Variant Press. Page 221. ISBN 0-9738649-0-7
Brilliantly detailed chronology of Amiga Computers by Ken Polsson.