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Commodore 64 visionary Jack Tramiel dies aged 83

Alex Scroxton

800px-Commodore-64-Computer.jpgJack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore International and the man behind many of the iconic PC brands of the 1980s has died aged 83.

Born Jacek Trzmiel in Poland in 1928, Tramiel's family was confined to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz in 1939, and was subsequently deported to Auschwitz.

Tramiel emigrated to the USA in 1947 and after a stint in the army, where he was taught to repair typewriters, he set up an office machinery repair business, Commodore Portable Typewriter, in New York in 1953.

By the mid-1950s, this business had morphed into Commodore Business Machines after Tramiel signed a deal to import Czechoslovakian typewriters. This business was based in Canada to get around US restrictions on doing business with Warsaw Pact nations.

By the mid-50s, this business had morphed into Commodore Business Machines after signing a deal to import Czechoslovakian typewriters. This business was based in Canada to get around US restrictions on doing business with Warsaw Pact nations.

In the 1960s, Commodore diversified into mechanical adding machines in response to the arrival of Japanese typewriters, and subsequently into calculators. It released its first PC, the Commodore PET, in 1977 after Tramiel challenged his lead designer to come up with a successor to the calculator.

However, despite critical acclaim and steady sales in Europe, the PET was soon at a technical disadvantage when compared to other PCs of the day, such as the Apple II and Atari 800, which featured innovations such as colour graphics.

Commodore's response to the increasing sophistication of the PC in the early 80s were the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 machines.

At half the cost of the Apple II, the Commodore 64 - adverts for which frequently graced the pages of MicroScope - quickly became one of the best-selling PC models of all time and was without doubt a catalyst for many channel businesses and future IT careers.

In 1984, Tramiel left Commodore and took control of rival Atari, where he oversaw the release of its popular ST lines, gaming consoles, IBM PC compatibles and an early competitor to the Nintendo Game Boy, the Atari Lynx.

In later life, Tramiel re-dedicated himself to the events of his youth, and was among the founders of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

He passed away after suffering heart failure at his California home on 8 April, and is survived by his wife, Helen, and sons Samuel, Leonard and Garry.

Image courtesy: Evan-Amos - Wikipedia

Related Topics: Desktop PCs, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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