Very sad news indeed. Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore International and the man behind Atari, has passed away this past weekend. At 83, he passed away, surrounded by family and friends. People like this don’t come in dozens, so we lost one of the great men of computing.
Jack Tramiel is the founder of Commodore, which originally started out as a typewriter maker. When cheaper Japanese typewriters entered the market, his company was unable to compete. Irving Gould bought a stake in the company, and with that new cash, Commodore switched to producing adding machines. History repeated itself – Japanese adding machines turned out to be cheaper.
On a trip to Japan, Tramiel realised that the mechanical adding machines would be superseded by digital calculators, so using chips from Texas Instruments, Commodore started producing these instead. Soon after, TI, realising how large this market would become, cut out the Commodore middleman, and started making their own calculators.
Faced with yet another crisis, Commodore bought MOS Technology. MOS’ Chuck Peddle convinced Tramiel that personal computers were the next big thing, and using MOS’ iconic 6502 processor, Peddle designed the legendary Commodore PET, the world’s first all-in-one computer, in 1977.
The PET was successful, but was eventually out-competed by the Apple II and Atari 800, which sported colour graphics. Commodore responded with the VIC-20, and, more importantly, with the Commodore 64 – a computer that pretty much defined an era and one of the best selling computers of all time (perhaps the best-selling computer, depending on your definition of ‘computer’).
In early 1984, he left Commodore, only to buy Atari’s home computing and game console divisions from Warner Communications. Like Commodore before it, the newly formed Atari Corporation would produce a number of succesful home computers, such as the Atari ST and the XE.
“We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes” – one of his more famous phrases. We’d like to extend our condolences to Tramiel’s family and friends, and mr Tramiel? Thank you dearly for your contributions to this wonderful industry. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today.