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Home computer pioneer Jack Tramiel is dead at 83

Commodore founder oversaw development of several early computers
Tue Apr 10 2012, 18:03

The Commodore 64 - one of the original computers

JACK TRAMIEL, the founder of Commodore, died in the US on 8 April at the age of 83.

As the founder of Commodore Business Machines and later owner of the Atari brand name, Tramiel oversaw the introduction of some of the most celebrated machines from the early days of the personal computer, including the Commodore PET, VIC-20, Commodore 64 and the Atari ST.

jack-tramiel-commodore-atari-Photo-courtesy-of-Alex-HandyLike many personal computer pioneers, Tramiel seems to have got into the business almost by accident.

A Polish immigrant to the US, he founded Commodore as a typewriter company, then got into selling calculators before purchasing chip firm MOS Technology and meeting its legendary designer, Chuck Peddle, who convinced him that computers were the future.

The result was the Commodore PET, which launched in 1977, the same year as the Apple II, and was an instant hit, as detailed in our sister IT news web site V3's History of IT timeline.

At Tramiel's insistence, Commodore followed this up with more affordable systems for the masses. The VIC-20 was just about the cheapest colour computer available when it launched in 1981, and was followed by the stunningly successful Commodore 64 a year later.

After leaving Commodore, Tramiel set up a new company and acquired the game console firm Atari from Warner Communications.

There he ushered into production the Atari ST, an advanced computer based on the same 68000 processor as Apple's original Mac computers and with a similar graphical user interface, but at a much lower price.

Despite this impressive legacy, Tramiel was more of a businessman than an engineer, but his talent for spotting an opportunity led to some of the landmark systems of the early personal computer industry. µ

 

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