Obit of the Day: Before Gates and Jobs
There was a time when personal computing wasn’t dominated by Apple or Windows. When computer memory astounded people by holding 64 kilobytes or, wait for it, 128! When programs were loaded not on CDs, pin drives, or from the cloud…heck, not even floppy discs…but by cassettes. And during this time long past, the man who dominated was Jack Tramiel the founder of Commodore.
Tramiel was a Holocaust survivor who came to the United States following World War II. Not long after moving to America, Tramiel opened a calculator company but as the technology advanced he invested in a chip company. And after reportedly turning down an offer from Steve Jobs to build Apples, he produced the Commodore PET in 1977. The PET came with a built-in monitor and cassette drive and was awesome. It was followed up by Commodore hit after hit: the VIC-20 (the first computer to sell one million units), the Commodore 64, and the Commodore 128. (Think iPod, iPhone, iPad, except thirty years ago.)
Like the iPad, the Commodore 64 was so successful it outsold every competitor in the market. It even had Commodore-only stores for computers, software and accessories. And to continue to continue the parallels with certain fruit-named companies, Tramiel was forced out of Commodore in 1984. (Following his departure Commodore’s management retreated from many of the marketing strategies used to make the brand popular and helped lead to its demise, as it was overtaken by IBM and Apple.)
Tramiel left Commodore for another iconic 1980s tech company: Atari. He actually bought the computer division of the video game manufacturer even venturing into PC making and video games. He sold the company back to Atari, Inc. in 1996.
Tramiel, a pioneer of personal computing died at the age of 88.
(Image of a courtesy of www.commodore.ca)
Personal note: The Commodore PET was the first personal computer I remember using. In 2nd grade I would get to school 30 minutes before classes began to meet my friend Eddie in the guidance counselor’s office. We would put a tape in the drive, wait twenty minutes for it to load, and then play a line-drawn version of Monopoly. Good times.
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