Commodore 64 inventor dies

Jack Tramiel, who created the most successful computer of all time, the Commodore 64 has died, he was 83.

Tramiel was born in Poland in 1928. During World War II, he and his family were sent to Auschwitz. He and his father were then sent to another labour camp called Ahlem, near Hannover. He was rescued in April 1945 and emigrated to the United States in 1947.

Once in the US, Tramiel started a typewriter repair business and soon his typewriters became calculators. That was stuffed up when his supplier Texas Instruments, which supplied Commodore with semiconductor chips for its calculators, began manufacturing its own calculators and selling the models at prices Commodore could not match.

Tramiel bought chip manufacturer MOS Technology to supply Commodore with the needed parts.

  He shut down most of MOS’ research and development projects, but allowed the microcomputer project called the PET, Personal Electronic Transactor to go ahead. PET helped Commodore earn US$700 million in sales in fiscal 1983 and $88 million in profits and was the computer I learned to program in school. I was one of many, but in in 1982, Commodore International launched the Commodore 64 which introduced many to cheap computing and probably shaped the way people  used the home computer.

Commodore, however, was not exactly grateful. In 1984 Tramiel was forced to leave the company after a lead shareholder had him fired. However, Tramiel claimed that after surviving the Holocaust he could survive just about anything including the computer industry.

He bought the crumbling Atari Consumer Division and formed Atari Corporation. While this had some success it never really got into the black and Tramiel sold it to JTS, a disk-drive manufacturer.

Tramiel is survived by his wife Helen, their three sons, Gary, Sam and Leonard, and their extended families.