The Story of Jack and Jay: An 8-Bit Fairy Tale

The story of Commodore, Atari and the Amiga... well, sort of

Once upon a time…

…in a land far away lived Jack and Jay. Jack was the Commander of an armada known as  Commodore, while Jay was a Grand Wizard in the royal court of the Kingdom of Atari.

Commander Jack had built up his armada over a period of thirty years. An immigrant from a distant land, he had his start driving water taxis in the harbour of New Amsterdam, and had gradually constructed his fleet, amassing a fortune first by shipping bean-counting machinery and later by manufacturing and distributing his own magical bean-counting devices – devices that could also educate and amuse the young folk, which made his bean-counting devices very popular amongst the lower-classes, who were penny-wise out of necessity.

King Nolan of Atari

However, Commander Jack wasn’t the only one to find his fortune in magical bean-counting machines. King Nolan of the neighbouring land of Atari had seen the potential of the machines, but had dispensed (at least superficially) with the bean-counting component, offering them to his subjects purely for the purposes of amusement, even opening public houses dedicated to the exhibition of these machines.

But the King had a grander vision, to give each of his subjects one of the machines for use in their own dwellings. However, the machines cost a great deal and so King Nolan called on his Grand Wizard, Jay, tasking the sorceror with finding new ways of enchanting the machines to make them less expensive to produce. Jay succeeded by conjuring a race of fairies called the Stellas – each machine would house a Stella, who would work tiny gears and levers inside. Unfortunately, in the process the kingdom’s treasury had run empty – while the machine had been perfected, King Nolan no longer had any more gold with which to manufacture them.

He began to worry that another kingdom might offer the machines to its subjects before he could, causing his own subjects to leave him, and so King Nolan made a bargain with a devil called Warner, who offered to give him the gold he needed but in exchange he would be king in title only, no longer making the decisions – the devil Warner would write all of his decrees. The Stellas were produced by the thousands and distributed to the citizens of Atari, who were happy and content.

The Grand Wizard Jay

Soon, the devil Warner became concerned about news from other kingdoms that bean-counting machines sold by Commander Jack and others – the ones that could both amuse and do business – might become more popular than the Stellas and he might lose his grip on the kingdom of Atari. And so Warner ordered the Wizard Jay to create two bean-counting machines: one more for amusement but capable of some business, and another more capable for business, but more expensive. Wizard Jay complied, conjuring two new races of fairies: the more playful Candies and the more serious Colleens.

But the devil Warner wasn’t content to simply offer the machines to Atari’s subjects. The new machines were also offered at markets in other kingdoms – raising the ire of Commander Jack, who worked to create new, more affordable magical bean-counters of his own.

Jack hired his own wizard to create a contraption that held fairies, but he called his fairies the Vixens. His Vixen-powered machines were much cheaper than the Candy-powered ones; they were also inferior in their function but Jack wisely reasoned that many peasants would find the Vixens sufficiently talented to entertain them and their offspring, and he did a brisk trade. As time marched on, his wizard learned to conjure more sophisticated Super-Vixens who could do as much as Atari’s Colleens, but also more cheaply.

Commander Jack

Jack’s wealth continued to grow, but so did his hunger for greater and greater success. He longed to destroy the devil Warner and other kingdoms that made their own bean-counting machines – the kingdom of the Apple, and the Realm of Tandy – and so he had his wizards conjure a new race of fairies Jack called the Theodores, or Teds for short. The Theodores were easier to get along with than the Vixens, who could be hard to communicate with and temperamental. The Theodores could also do much more on their own, such as write scrolls, without peasants needing to teach the fairies themselves.

The fairy Theodore aka the Plus/4

Jack unveiled the Teds to the world with a great deal of fanfare, at a grand inter-kingdom market known as the Consumer Electronics Show. Each Ted was better than an original Vixen, but more affordable than a Super-Vixen.

Jack was convinced that there would be great demand for the Teds, and the other captains in his fleet had gone along – after all, Jack had always been right before. But this time he was wrong: Ted was a flop. The captains mutinied and made Jack walk the plank!

Luckily Commander Jack was rescued by his sons Sam and Leonard, and the three sailed away, Jack insisting all the while that it wasn’t because of Ted he was forced to leave but because the leader of the mutineers had been stealing the fleet’s gold for himself and had simply seized the opportunity to be rid of him. Nobody knows the truth, but either way, Jack vowed revenge.

Meanwhile, there was trouble in the kingdom of Atari. Over the previous several seasons there had become a great demand for scrolls written with new talents to teach the Stellas, and Atari had done a heavy trade in them. Other kingdoms began to write scrolls themselves, and sell them to Stella owners against the laws of Atari. But while these outside scrolls were cheaper they were also of inferior quality, and the populace began to complain. Eventually they stopped buying new scrolls entirely, and Atari’s coffers began to empty faster than they were being filled.

To make matters worse, the devil Warner had denied Grand Wizard Jay’s request to create a new bean-counting machine and Jay had grown bored and left the kingdom. With no wizard and its subjects tired of the Stellas, Candies and Colleens, Atari found itself in trouble, and the devil Warner quickly wanted to be rid of the kingdom.

One day former-commander Jack and his sons sailed into Atari’s port. The devil Warner saw an opportunity to unload the bankrupt kingdom on a former competitor, not particularly caring how it turned out, only wishing to return back to Hell. Jack agreed. He was going to create a more sophisticated class of fairies, one that was more intelligent and capable than what had come before.

He would use the new fairies to get his revenge on the mutineers that had stolen his fleet, the mutineers content with their existing fairies, and vulnerable to losing their market. But as he looked through Atari’s scrolls he discovered that the kingdom had lent a large sum to the former Grand Wizard Jay, who had gone off on his own to also create a new generation of fairies he called the Lorraines. Jack had visited the Grand Wizard Jay before sailing to Atari, but while he had been interested in Jay’s fairies he wasn’t interested in Jay or his underlings. Jay and Jack had been unable to come to an agreement and Jack sailed away, instead quietly recruiting crewmen away from the Commodore fleet to help him develop his own fairies.

Jay got wind of the fact that Jack was working on his own fairies, but wasn’t worried because Jack had no fleet or kingdom. However, once he heard Jack was in Atari, Jay began to panic.

Realising that his funding was about to be cut off, Jay and company went to the Commodore Armada, thinking that the fleet would be desperate for the Lorraines, their having need of a new bean-counting machine to compete with Jack’s. The Commodore captains declined to give any gold to Jay, offering instead to join Jay’s crew to their own. They agreed. Commodore then attempted to convince the other kingdoms not to buy Jack’s Atari-manufactured fairies before he had manufactured them, claiming that Jack’s crew had stolen their fairy recipes from Commodore when they had left. But then Jack found the agreement between Atari and Jay, which stated that Atari had first-rights to Jay’s fairies, whether they used them or not. Jack in turn attempted to persuade the other kingdoms not to buy anything from Commodore that used Jay’s fairies! They were at an impasse.

Commodore’s captains attempted to return the gold Atari had given to Jay but Jack refused to accept it. Jack continued to attack Commodore through the inter-kingdom legal system, while ignoring Commodore’s own attacks and pressing ahead with his new bean-counting machine powered by fairies he named the Sam Tramiels, after his son, or the STs. Commodore eventually decided they had no choice but to push ahead with releasing the Lorraines, which they rechristened the Amigas.

With the conflict between them at a stalemate, both the Kingdom of Atari and the Commodore Armada would set their fairies loose on the world, and they all lived happily ever after, or for a while, at least.

Until the Microsoft Empire turned up, anyway…

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