Commodore International founder Jack Tramiel dies

10 Apr 2012

Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore International

Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore International, which created the Commodore 64, died on Sunday 8 April aged 83.

Forbes reports Tramiel died surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife Helen and their three sons.

Tramiel was born in 1928 in Poland to a Jewish family. They were sent to Auschwitz during World War II and Tramiel and his father were sent to a labour camp. He managed to survive and moved to the US in 1947, joining the US Army, where he learned how to repair typewriters.

After finishing military duty, Tramiel set up Commodore Business Machines, which initially sold typewriters before moving to making calculators. It bought chip business MOS Technology to provide components for the calculators and soon moved into building personal computers.

The company is best known for creating the Commodore 64 in 1982, which became the best-selling personal computer of all time. It offered 16 colours, a 40-column screen, an SID chip and had 64K of RAM.

By 1983, Commodore International became the first PC company to hit US$1bn in sales. Tramiel resigned from Commodore and bought the consumer division of Atari in 1984 after Atari suffered in the video-game crash during 1983. Tramiel sold the Atari consumer division to Atari Inc in 1996.

“Jack Tramiel was an immense influence in the consumer electronics and computing industries,” Martin Goldberg, a writer working on a book about Atari with Atari Museum founder Curt Vendel, told Forbes.

“A name once uttered in the same vein as Steve Jobs is today, his journey from concentration camp survivor to captain of industry is the stuff of legends.

“His legacy is the generations upon generations of computer scientists, engineers and gamers who had their first exposure to high technology because of his affordable computers – ‘for the masses and not the classes,’” he said.