[Off Topic] RIP Jack Tramiel, Father of the C64

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Helpful Harry, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. Another great computer industry figure passed away last week. :eek:(

    This is from ZDNet.co.uk ...

    Remembering Jack Tramiel, father of the Commodore 64
    Jack Tramiel, who has died aged 83, was a remarkable man,
    especially in the context of the computer industry. Those
    of us who reported it in the 1980s were used to geeky,
    long-haired introverts who knew how to write assembler or
    wield a soldering iron. We weren't as familiar with
    businessmen who had relatively little interest in
    technology but sold computers to make money. Commodore's
    founder was aware of the educational value of computers,
    and he pitched his home computers at the youth market,
    but he was a businessman first and foremost.

    In my Guardian obituary, Jack Tramiel: The father of the
    best-selling Commodore 64 personal computer, published in
    today's newspaper, I described Tramiel as "a jovial,
    cigar-smoking, balding and somewhat portly Jewish
    businessman known for hard bargaining and for the slogan:
    'Business is war'."

    I won't repeat the details here. Suffice it to say that
    while he was jovial with journalists, many of us knew he
    had been in Poland during the Nazi invasion, and that he
    had survived the Auschwitz death camp. There had to be an
    immensely tough character inside.

    Tramiel didn't intend to get into the computer business.
    When he was having problems getting chips from Texas
    Instruments, he bought a small American chip company
    called MOS Technology, and met a designer called Chuck
    Peddle. MOS Technology had developed the cheap 6502
    microprocessor, and Peddle wanted to use it to create a
    personal computer. This led directly to the Commodore PET,
    though the 6502 was also used in the Apple II, the Acorn
    BBC micro and many other home computers.

    The PET was a success, and Tramiel expanded into the
    computer business with the Vic-20, Commodore 64 and other
    machines. The C=64 was the star, selling over 20 million
    units, and getting roughly 40 percent of the US market.
    It introduced millions of teenagers to computer games,
    and some of them to computer programming.

    Unlike Sinclair's machines, the C=64 offered a decent
    keyboard and an incredibly slow external disk drive, so
    you could actually use it for more practical purposes.

    However, Tramiel fell out with his Canadian chairman and
    major shareholder Irving Gould, who had finance the MOS
    Technology takeover. He left Commodore, bought Atari's
    loss-making consumer business from Warner Bros, and
    started competing against his old company. The first
    result was a cheap line of Atari 8-bit machines
    repackaged as the 65XE and so on.

    Although 8-bit computers like the C=64 and Apple II had
    been successful, the industry obviously needed to move on
    to 16-bit and 32-bit machines. Unfortunately, there was
    no obvious successor to the 6502 (which was why Acorn
    developed the ARM chip) or the other popular chip of the
    day, the Zilog Z80. The 16/32-bit Motorola 68000 processor
    quickly became the new chip of choice: Apple used it in
    the Lisa and Macintosh, Commodore in the Amiga, and
    Tramiel's Atari in the 520ST. Motorola thought it was
    going to replace Intel in this brave new world, though
    that was not how things turned out.

    The 520ST was known as the Jackintosh. It ran slightly
    faster than the Mac, had a better monochrome screen, and
    cost a fraction of the price. In the UK, for example, a
    512K Atari ST with disk drive, monitor, mouse and a big
    bundle of software cost £750. This was less than the
    £800 that Apple UK charged to upgrade a 128K standard Mac
    to a 512K "fat" Mac.

    Thanks to Apple's price gouging on this side of the pond,
    the ST and Amiga became extremely popular in the UK and
    Germany, but neither Atari nor Commodore really upgraded
    them rapidly enough. In the 1990s, both the business and
    home computer markets moved to IBM-compatible PCs running
    Microsoft Windows. Commodore declared bankruptcy in 1994,
    with only Commodore UK surviving into 1995. Atari lasted
    until 1996.

    It was always interesting to deal with Tramiel's Atari,
    which he ran with his three sons. They were always up
    for trying something new, and they were usually happy to
    talk about it. Their innovations included the Lynx (first
    colour handheld games console), the (claimed) 64-bit
    Jaguar games console, the Atari Portfolio (first
    PC-compatible palmtop), the revolutionary Transputer
    Workstation (using parallel-processing Inmos chips), a
    cheap PC designed to run Unix SVR4 (never launched, as
    far as I recall), and various types of Atari ST,
    including a laptop version.

    None of these was a winner, and the days of
    cheap-and-cheerful products like the C=64 and 520ST had
    gone. People were buying cheap-and-cheerful Amstrad PCs

    Jack Tramiel was a back-seat driver at Atari until the
    president and CEO -- his son, Sam Tramiel -- suffered
    a heart attack. Jack soon sold the company and retired
    to Monte Sereno, California, with a palatial house and
    his two Rolls-Royces.

    Although you might have missed meeting Jack Tramiel,
    you can get a good idea of what he was like by
    watching some YouTube videos. By the time he turned
    out for the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the
    Commodore 64 at the Computer Museum, he'd mellowed
    quite a bit, but the quintessential Jack was still
    going strong.

    Helpful Harry :eek:)
    Helpful Harry, Apr 14, 2012
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