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Jack Tramiel, Founder of Commodore Business Machines, Dies At Age 83

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the rest-in-peace dept.

News 301

LoTonah writes "Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore Business Machines and later, the owner of Atari, died Easter Sunday. He was 83. He undoubtedly changed the computing landscape by bringing low cost computers to millions of people, and he started a price war that saw dozens of large companies leave the market. He also took a bankrupt Atari and managed to wring almost another decade out of it. The 6502 microprocessor would have withered on the vine if it weren't for Tramiel's support. Could anyone else have done all of that?"

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Everyone ignores Commodore (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623135)

Looking at every article and documentary on the late 70's and 80's computing scene these days, you would think that the only computers that existed were Apples and PC's out of Silicon Valley, and that everyone out there had $2,000 to spend on a new computer back when that was the price of a decent used car. But the most popular computer in the 80's wasn't a Mac, or a PC. Commodore was by far the most popular computer line of that era. And they made computers than didn't require a second mortgage for working-class people to buy. And they were EVERYWHERE (not just in the yuppie homes).

Not that you'll even find Commodore mentioned in The Pirates of Silicon Valley, or any other popular computing accounts about that time. You'd think everyone was going around back then just talking about IBM, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates--when most people hadn't even *seen* a PC or Apple outside of a school or business.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623185)

Apple is the only company that matters. they invented the PC, they invented the smart phone and they invented the tablet. Literally no other company in the history of computing is anywhere near as important as Apple. Apple is all things to all people. Apple is Alpha and the Omega.

Think different, think BETTER, think Apple.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623247)

Apple is the only company that matters. they invented the PC, they invented the smart phone and they invented the tablet. Literally no other company in the history of computing is anywhere near as important as Apple. Apple is all things to all people. Apple is Alpha and the Omega.

Think different, think BETTER, think Apple.

The sad part is, I can't really tell if the parent is being sarcastic or not, given there really are hordes of fanboys that believe those statements...

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623309)

I think he was sarcastic; but I totally see your point. Besides everybody knows Apple just copied off some ancient Chinese guy who invented the abacus. They did however, dutifully bring the improved technology back to where it came from.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (2)

Nyder (754090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624313)

I think he was sarcastic; but I totally see your point. Besides everybody knows Apple just copied off some ancient Chinese guy who invented the abacus. They did however, dutifully bring the improved technology back to where it came from.

Yep, them abacus had rounded corners and didn't work right if you held it wrong.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623327)

You missed a few inventions. Apple also invented the Wheel, the Spear, Bow&Arrow, Gunpowder, Basket Weaving, Marbles, Feng Shui, the Gramophone, the Radio, the Radar, the Telegraph and a few thousand other important things, including Nikola Tesla (they wanted to call that last invention iNikola iTesla, but his mother didn't like that name...).

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

Hovsep (883939) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623695)

You left out the discovery of fire.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (4, Funny)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624037)

And the turtleneck sweater.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

kulnor (856639) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623363)

Actually, NeXT should have won,.Problem is that the cube was just 15 years ahead of its time. It eventually did win as a chunk of MacOS X.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

keeboo (724305) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624717)

IMO the NeXT workstations, though clearly based on the Xerox office computer from the 1970s, was far more deserving awe than anything Apple released during the 1980s, including both the Macintosh and the Lisa.

But that wasn't for the masses (actually, given the price tag for awfully underpowered bare models during the 1980s, I don't think that even Macs were as realistic as people like to remember).

For the rest of us, there were 8-bit computers such as C64, Spectrum, MSX etc; and great 16/32-bit machines one could actually afford, such as Amiga and Atari ST.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0, Troll)

hackus (159037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623389)

I hope you are wrong.

Apple is the definitive company on using slave labor. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to manufacture a product overseas with people huddled in factories, in labor conditions we haven't seen in this country since the 1900's rolled around, and proclaim themselves "brilliant" managers.

Give me a bunch of slaves and I bet I could have profit margins as high as Apple's.

Oh, and I would like to point out, Apple is a American company in name only. If you look at who they make products for, where they design and make those products, it is increasingly just a small branch office in the USA.

This is all going to come crashing down, when Apple can no longer find any slaves to make the products they sell at the margins they need.

When it crashes, it is going to be a mighty crash too, at what $600 bucks a share?

More like a small nuke is going to go off when it does in the exchange.

-Hack

PS: Oh and as a parting shot. This is one of the reasons why I like GNU Version 3 license. It would prevent companies like Apple hawking the public's hard work, and turning it into a slave based business model. Almost the entire Apple business is based off of public works including its ideas, none of which are original.
(Specifically touch based phone devices or computing devices of any kind as well as the iPad....especially the ipad.)

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (2)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623855)

All the American tech companies are guilty. Commodore made computers in West Chester, Pennsylvania and the Philippines and Ireland. Since those days almost all of the computers are made in The Peoples Republic of China. It's not Apple alone. The Apple haters are about as bad as the Apple fanboys about twisting facts.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624715)

Actually, NeXT boxes were made in the good ol' U.S. of A--I believe Steve Jobs built a factory up in Fremont, California. Of course, it was mostly automated... [vice.com]

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (4, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623229)

>> Looking at every article and documentary on the late 70's and 80's computing scene these days, you would think that the only computers that existed were Apples and PC's

The winners write the history. (More specifically, the marketing departments of the winners write the scripts, provide the footage and locate the retired experts to feed the articles and documentaries about how awesome they were decades ago.)

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623451)

Not that you'll even find Commodore mentioned in The Pirates of Silicon Valley, or any other popular computing accounts about that time.

It is kind of odd. I think part of the problem is that history is being written by the victors, and as successful as Commodore were, they were driven into the ground by the post-Tramiel management team. Another issue that most of the accounts are written by Americans, and the Apple ][ ruled in the USA.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623627)

Not just Americans, but specifically journalists in the Silicon Valley. Non valley companies like Novell, IBM, and DEC always received worse press coverage than locals like Apple, Sun, and HP. (The one exception in Microsoft, but more often than not they've been framed as the enemy to the Valley.)

This holds true even today with startups locating in the Bay Area partially just because the 'buzz' is so much better and you meet the right people at parties.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (3, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624413)

Another issue that most of the accounts are written by Americans, and the Apple ][ ruled in the USA.

Actually from what I understand, the Commodore 64 was- if anything- most successful in the USA, in part because it was sold so cheaply there (for what was actually a very good computer at the time) due to Tramiel wanting to win the home computer market. AFAIK the Apple II did well in educational and early business markets, but the C64 was *the* home computer in the US.

But you're absolutely right- there's a problem with history being written by the victors, because it gives a misleading picture of the time. Sure, the IBM PC (and MS-DOS), predecessor to today's Wintel PCs, was big in the business market, but in its early days it wasn't a home machine. Who'd want to pay thousands of pounds for a machine with (at best) CGA graphics and *very* primitive sound when you could get a C64 for a fraction of the cost? Kids at home probably didn't give a **** about some horribly expensive green-screen machine that wasn't even that hot at games.

I've heard that part of the problem with the C64- and the reason Tramiel was forced to leave C= - was that Tramiel was *so* aggressive with the price and driving competitors out of the market- that C= weren't actually making that much money on them (even though apparently they'd been exceptionally good at driving down the production cost, in part by becoming vertically integrated).

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about Tramiel, as from what I've heard some of his business practices were very questionable, with- for example- some blaming him for contributing to the downfall of Synapse Software (well-known for developing many well-regarded early Atari 800 games) when he reneged on a supposedly binding agreement after taking over Atari's computer division. YMMV, there appears to be an interesting (archived) discussion here [atariage.com] . (One comment; "Not paying suppliers, forcing them into bankruptcy, and them making them an offer to settle lawsuits for pennies on the dollar was a standard practice for him").

At any rate, I think he at least deserves some credit for his successes- mainly with Commodore (and some level of respect for surviving Auschwitz) even if there were some aspects to him that were questionable.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623457)

Did you ever use a Commodore PET computer? It certainly wasn't anywhere near as sexy as an Apple or an Atari.

The C-64 came far later. It's only interesting aspect was the low cost - the technology inside was 5 years out of date. Steve Jobs is off 'inventing' the Macintosh, while Tramiel is pushing a $200 computer in K-Mart. Which story makes the better movie?

And if it's any condolence, the Radio Shack TRASH-80 also always gets the short shrift in these stories. They were at least as big as Apple for a while.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (4, Informative)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623685)

The C-64 was better than anything available at the time. Most amount of RAM (More than the Apple ][), color graphics (Mac was Black & White), the super-advanced SID synthesizer (Still used by a lot of musicians today) which gave it true sound back when the Apple and IBM offerings only offered pathetic beep noises.

Sure, the 6502 (Really the 6510 in a C64) was a few years old then, but there was nothing else out there in the affordable range. The megahertz wars hadn't started. the IBM PC was faster with a 4 Mhz processor, but the PC was such a barebones POS at the time that nobody wanted it.

It's what they did with the 5 year old 65xx line that was the groundbreaking part.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623915)

Well the IBM PC was *slightly* later than the C64.
Yes I'm too lazy to look it up.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624193)

One whole year later. Apple ][ in 1977, C64 in '82, IBM PC in '83, Mac in '84.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

LoTonah (57437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624485)

Really? I must have been a time traveller then, because I recall using an IBM PC in 1982 (came out in '81). :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Personal_Computer

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624813)

Oh, that's only because I was trying to be quick and just believed him that the PC came later than the C64 after I looked up when the C64 came out.

Not that it really changes anything.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (2)

lord_mike (567148) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623923)

It's important to note that the Commodore 64 incorporated graphics support hardware (aka the first "graphics card") which helped make the computer much faster than it's CPU speed would indicate, especially for gaming.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (3, Informative)

CaptainLugnuts (2594663) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624237)

You Sir, must stop talking out of your ass.

Most of the PCs back then had 'graphical support' hardware. Obviously I'm not talking about the D/A converter for analog video out. What do you think VIC in VIC-20 stood for? Back then the Apple II had swappable video cards. The Atari 8-bit PCs had the ANTIC with the CTIA & GTIA chips. Hell, even the 2600 had the Stella chip for dealing with player/missile graphics.

Back in the day when I started out programming you had to rely on the hardware for functionality because there was no way the CPU could manage it.

I hate the smell of noobs in the morning, It smells like ignorance.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

LoTonah (57437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624511)

This is my favorite comment of the day. Thanks!

I love how people who weren't there try to pass themselves off as experts ;)

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623931)

...Most amount of RAM (More than the Apple ][)...

More than an Apple ][ yes, but the ][e and //c had 128K, and that's what Apple was shipping when Commodore was selling the C64.

But thanks for playing.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623945)

The 6502 was not just old, it was also the most cheap 8 bit part of its time. And the most inferior. Motorola and Intel both made better parts in the 6800 and the 8080. And by the time of the C64 boom period Zilog's Z80 ruled over everything else. The 6502 was the lesser choice for it's entire history. But MOS would sample to anybody and Motorola wouldn't. So it got put into the hobbyist's designs, most significantly the Apple II. And the C64 was the poor man's Apple II clone. The kids all had their plastic cased commies. The serious folks ran CP/M on a Z80.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

CaptainLugnuts (2594663) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624363)

After growing up programming in the early 80's on the VIC-20, Atari 800 & C64, imagine my surprise when I started hacking the ECU in my car (240SX) to find out that it's a 6502 derivative! The Mitsubishi M7750 series is a 6502 based 8/16 bit swappable CPU with all kinds of extra goodies like hardware multipliers thrown in.

It made me smile, and grab my Programming the 6502 published by Sybex off the shelf.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

LoTonah (57437) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624659)

Well, I dunno if the 6800 was more powerful than the 6502 (wasn't the 6502 more or less a clone of the 6800?), but the 6809 sure was.

And the Z80 was driving off the cliff by 1982 (IBM PC's were starting to eat CP/M machines for lunch). I don't think I'd say the Z80 at 4MHz was more powerful than the 6502 at 1MHz. The 6502 could do more per cycle.

As far as business machines go, it was more about an operating system than about any one computer. I saw CP/M run on some pretty crappy hardware, and I would rather have had an Apple, PET or TRS-80 than some of those so-called business machines. Once VisiCalc came out, and then Lotus 1-2-3, it was game over for CP/M.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624115)

If you remember the SID don't forget the mockingboard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mockingboard [wikipedia.org]
and AD/DA converter boards were on sale too.

And the b/w mac with its teeny screen was more usable than a first gen amiga OS (which ran gorgeous graphic demos but crashed by looking at it the wrong way)

Having said that, the c64 and amiga were the undisputed kings of home computing.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624183)

which gave it true sound back when the Apple and IBM offerings only offered pathetic beep noises

Except that you mentioned the Macintosh, which had a full 8-bit audio DAC and could generate any sound you might care to (although limited to around 11 kHz and at a relatively low S/N ratio), and the 68000 was fast enough to generate polyphonic composite waveforms in memory.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624505)

the IBM PC was faster with a 4 Mhz processor, but the PC was such a barebones POS at the time that nobody wanted it

Not exactly. By 84-85 the company I was working for had more than a few. And we were not unique.

My department wangled even more when I convinced my boss to buy Taiwan motherboards to upgrade a couple machines and then a while later we used petty cash to buy cases, floppy drives, VGA cards, and monitors to reassemble the original motherboards into more machines.

And the PC actually had a 4.77Mhz CPU, and it wasn't too long before the Taiwan clones had 6, 8, and 10Mhz 8088s. And then there was the NEC v20 CPUs that ran 25-50% faster by virtue of fewer clock cycles per instruction.

Perhaps most annoying was when I went to see a demo by the marketing department, where it was obvious that they had just bought a pair of ATs purely for the sake of putting together the demo and the things were sitting idle 90% of the time while we begged for XTs and couldn't get them.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624635)

The megahertz wars hadn't started. the IBM PC was faster with a 4 Mhz processor

I'm not so sure about that. Although the 6510 ran at 1.03 MHz, it could access the memory bus on every clock cycle (well, when not pre-empted by the video chip). The IBM-PC 8088 ran at 4.77 MHz, but could only access the memory bus every four clock cycles. I'd say the 64 was competitive with the 8088 and probably faster at some activities.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623949)

Did you ever use a Commodore PET computer? It certainly wasn't anywhere near as sexy as an Apple or an Atari.

Ummm, the first PET came out when all Atari offered was the 2600 video game console; their computers, the Atari 400 and 800 came out a few years later. And both the Atari and Apple computers (and the Atari 2600 console) used the 6502 chip, which was codesigned by Chuck Peddle, who designed the first PET computer. And soon after MOS Technologies developed the 6502 they were bought by Commodore.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624227)

The C-64 came far later. It's only interesting aspect was the low cost - the technology inside was 5 years out of date. Steve Jobs is off 'inventing' the Macintosh, while Tramiel is pushing a $200 computer in K-Mart.

far later? far later than what? The C-64 came out in August of 82 with a price tag of $600 (The Vic 20 was the $200 computer at that point) The Apple IIe with similar specs (64K RAM, 6502 CPU) came out in Jan 1983. AFTER the C64 came out.
The Mac came out in 84 while CBM released the Amiga in 1985 (both with the 68K CPU). I don't see how the tech was 5 years out of date. Apple and Mac and Atari were neck in neck (with IBM PC languishing in the business world)
Things went downhill after Tramiel left for Atari. And things were never the same.
As far as TRS-80 being short "shrifted" it was never recognized as the most popular computer by Guinness.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

fizzer06 (1500649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623477)

"Not that you'll even find Commodore mentioned in The Pirates of Silicon Valley . . ."

Well, they WERE talking about pirates after all.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (5, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623637)

I bet Jack Tramel's death won't get the kind of coverage that Steve Jobs got. His 6502 CPU (plus variants) were used in Atari 2600/5200/7800 consoles, Atari computers, Apple I/II/IIgs computers, Nintendo ES and Super Nintendo consoles. His Commodore and Atari companies popularized music, video, and preemptive tasking when the Macs/PCs were going "beep" and had about 4 colors.

And yet after today we'll probably never hear about him again. And yes the Commodore 64 was and still is the record-holder for most machines sold (peak years: 1983-86). The runner-ups:

2. Amiga 500 (millions of C64 owners upgraded)
3. Atari 800 (peak year: 1980-82)
4. Tandy/Radio Shack TRS-80 (1977-1979)

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623899)

> And yes the Commodore 64 was and still is the record-holder for most machines sold

Just due market expansion, it wouldn't surprise me if that record was silently broken by some unremarkable Dell Dimension.

C-64 sold between 13 and 30 million (depending who you ask). Apple has sold 300M+ iPads, so if one counts tablets, it's not even close.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623973)

His 6502 CPU

Except it was Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch who created the 6502.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623657)

And you sir, are ignoring the Atari's, which were also selling like hotcakes and were just as good ( if not better ) than the 'equivalent market' commodore. There were also tons and tons of TRS-80s out there too.

Old 8-bit rivalries aside ( which got us all nowhere in the end ), a lot of what you used would depend on where you lived, and what your friends used.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623807)

Except history blurs after that point. Jack decimated Atari. And then he jumped from Commodore and took over the smoking ruin of Atari. And the courtship of Amiga bounced between both Commodore and Jack's Atari.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623887)

This price-point is a big deal. A friend in high school worked his first summer job for the $500 to get a PET. He wanted to "work for NASA". That was about the only visible high-tech thing in the 70 burbs; no Internet, no Discovery channel.

The fact that some kid in the neighborhood got a computer, helped a lot to encourage interested adults who could spend the $2000. It made computers visible. That got people to seek out and visit the local computer dealer, and read a few magazines. That sold a lot of Apples and PCs.

(In high school I did a multimedia presentation (three slide projectors, audio tape, and narration) about the coming ubiquity of small computers. I even declared some people would have them in their cars. I got laughed out of class.)

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (1)

Mongo T. Oaf (2600419) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624219)

I bought a Commodore 64 in '83. I totally loved it. Programming in Basic was easy but dumb. It had excellent graphics, but the synthesizer portion was even better. Later in that decade I bought a hdd, $600.00 for a 600 KB drive the size of a large toaster. The best game was 117A stealth fighter. I still wish I had that game today. I got very tired of the tape cassette thingy; it was so slow. Jumpman was good too. God bless Jack, he made my life a lot of fun.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (4, Informative)

glassware (195317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624833)

Also worth mentioning: Jack Tramiel was the only person who ever won a business deal over Bill Gates. When Jack Tramiel was looking for a BASIC for his computers - the Commodore PET specifically - he called in Bill Gates and wrung the worst deal out of him that anyone has ever produced. It's documented in the fantastic "Commodore" book by Brian Bagnall (http://www.amazon.com/Commodore-Company-Edge-Brian-Bagnall/dp/0973864966/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1334012789&sr=8-3).

Every Commodore computer used Bill Gates' BASIC code and Bill got a pittance.

Bill Gates has never since let anyone get the best of him. I suspect the experience of getting Tramieled directly led to his success in negotiating the rights to PC-DOS and winning the IBM PC contract.

Here's to you, Jack. You gave Chuck Peddle the chance to be great, and you scared Bill Gates into building modern computers. That's a pretty damn good run.

Re:Everyone ignores Commodore (2)

toejam13 (958243) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624947)

There are a number of reasons why Commodore is now a side note in history.

First, Commodore really only had two major hits: the Commodore 64 and the Commodore Amiga 500. The Commodore VIC20 and Commodore Amiga 1200 sold well, but not to the degree needed to be remembered by the mainstream media. The rest of their product line-up, while sometimes revolutionary for the time, often had even less commercial success. In short, Commodore was either hot or not with their end-user products.

The second issue was fragmentation. While Apple had a somewhat smooth transition from the Apple II through the II+, IIc, IIe and IIgs, Commodore's 8-bit era was a frenzied smorgasbord of products: the PET series, SuperPET, VIC20, MAX Machine, C64, CBM-II, C16/Plus4 and C128. Little to no unifying naming scheme, cross-platform binary compatibility, or cross-platform source code compatibility. Commodore got better with the Amiga and Tramiel got better with the Atari ST, but in the history books, the damage to Commodore's early days was done.

The third issue is that discrete component supplies often get little notoriety. Commodore's MOS Technologies subsidiary may have been revolutionary at the time, but was too early in the game to get the sort of notoriety that Intel, AMD, 3Dfx, IBM, SiS, Nvidia and ATI received in the modern desktop world. Branding played a part, too. It was a number of years before they renamed the subsidiary to Commodore Semiconductor Group and even longer until they stopped stamping MOS on their chips. It may have been necessary to keep companies such as Apple, Atari, Sinclair Research and the like happy since it was a more neutral name, but it fragmented the Commodore brand.

The fourth issue is that the Commodore name essentially died when they went bankrupt. Atari is still an active game publisher, even after purchase from Infogrames. So is Sega Corporation. Apple, IBM and Nintendo are still active hardware manufacturers. The Compaq name has only recently been phased out by HP. History is written by the winners and people tend to have short memories.

The last issue is very open to debate, but part of it may be because of embarrassment. Amiga users were zealots. People joked about the fanboi culture that existed within the Amiga community. "I can format a floppy disk while playing Marble Madness!". Even today, when I point out that I used to own Amigas in my younger days, it will occasionally be met with a chuckle by whoever I'm talking to. In short, nobody wants to talk about you when they think you're a joke.

Good riddance (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623179)

he started a price war that saw dozens of large companies leave the market

Including his own. It's a good think the world is ride of one more stupid business man.

a way more important person... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623253)

...than whoever the fuck that Mitch Wallance guy was from 60-minutes.

Too bad.. RIP... But at least the Amiga is back... (1)

dryriver (1010635) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623255)

http://www.commodoreusa.net/CUSA_AMIGAmini.aspx [commodoreusa.net] .... The new AMIGA MINI comes with a 3.5 Ghz i-7 CPU, up to 16 GB RAM, GTX 430 GFX, 600 GB SSD, HDMI/DVI out and 8 USB ports. Sure, it isn't a real "AMIGA", but its cool that there is at least an "attempt" to put AMIGA branded computers back on the desktop. Long live Commodore! And long live the C64 and Amiga 500! Good times...

Re:Too bad.. RIP... But at least the Amiga is back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623335)

Those are primarily PCs in generic cases with the Commodore and Amiga logos slapped on them. The only exception is the "Commodore 64" which has a custom molded case. Aside from that, they're all just generic PCs with a half baked Linux distro thrown in. And oh my god are they expensive.

Anyone would be much better off building themselves a computer or buying a Dell and loading Ubuntu if a Linux PC is what they're after.

BS (0)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623799)

Its an abomination if you ask me. And i was an Atari guy and didn't like Amiga.

Re:Too bad.. RIP... But at least the Amiga is back (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624077)

No please. let it die. I love the C64, still got two on my desk, and I write software for the C64 and for emulator tools for it in my spare time. But it is over and done with. Either bring out a new computer with a new chip and new OS or bring out a linux box, but don't brand the linux box "commodore" or "amiga" because it is neither.

Re:Too bad.. RIP... But at least the Amiga is back (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624143)

Did you price that so-called "Amiga"?

It's twice the price of a top end Mac Mini, a SFF computer that has similar enough specs that if you bump the Apple to the same specs, it's /still/ 500 bucks cheaper.

Just... no.

And it's not like you're getting an Amiga OS. You're getting Fuduntu with an emulator and a really gawd-awful skin.

--
BMO

Re:Too bad.. RIP... But at least the Amiga is back (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624411)

Rather than spend $350 on a case containing a PC motherboard with no memory, no CPU, and no disk, I feel I'd get a much better "Amiga experience" by buying an Amiga Forever [amigaforever.com] CD for $30 or so and running it on my existing machine.

Re:Too bad.. RIP... But at least the Amiga is back (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624959)

AMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! </scene reference>

But seriously, not it is not "cool that there is at least an "attempt"" to bring back the brand, with zero innovation besides a breadbox casemod. Note that all their other systems (including their "Amiga"s) are just cheap Chinese off-the-line volume machines available to anybody to throw their badge on it.

My First Computer (3, Insightful)

preaction (1526109) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623269)

The computer that started my love, and now my career, was an Atari ST. I would spend hours watching demos, playing (probably pirated) video games, and experimenting with voice synthesizers, drawing, and music programs.

TOS ERROR #35 in heaven, Jack.

Re:My First Computer (4, Interesting)

mccalli (323026) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623439)

They were great. With an SM124 mono monitor in hand, he ST was my first serious computer (coming off the back of a Spectrum and another Tramiel machine, the C64).

I learned C with the cheap GST C compiler. I did serious text crunching with Signum (superb output). I learned to do MIDI sequencing with Steinberg Pro 12. I used Spectre for Mac emulation and had a hardware 286 emulator fitte on which I ran Turbo Pascal. And then, of course, were the games.

Excellent machine. Tramiel's great hit, the C64, was also responsible for getting me into music in the first place. People like Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway got me hooked, and I still use C64 sounds today via plugins like QuadraSID.

Jack Tramiel's influence is severely understated by many (he schooled both Gates with the Commodore BASIC contract for instace) and I am sad to hear of him going.

Ian

Re:My First Computer (2)

marsu_k (701360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623735)

Tramiel's great hit, the C64, was also responsible for getting me into music in the first place. People like Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway got me hooked, and I still use C64 sounds today via plugins like QuadraSID.

++ for this. There were two factors that got me interested in electronic music, Rob Hubbard and Depeche Mode. Of the two, I'd have to say Hubbard was a greater influence (and I'm a huge DM fan).

Re:My First Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623635)

I would spend hours watching demos, playing (probably pirated) video games

Who are you trying to kid? Damn near every last one of them were pirated.
I know, you know it, and every geek here who used a computer back in those days knows it.

Re:My First Computer (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623935)

I bought a lot of games for the 64 and a few for the Amiga. I did pirate EA games but that was after one of their shitty copy protected disks hammered my 1541 drive into oblivion. 5 minutes to load a game that after stripping the protection off only took about 15 seconds. Nobody else did that shit like that, it was unnecessary.

Re:My First Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623769)

Amiga > Atari ST

My first comp was a TI-99/4A. Learned BASIC and assembly language there. Then on to the C64 for more of the same plus LISP. Then on the the Amiga where I learned the holy language: C

I did both (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623295)

I owned both Atari and Amiga pcs, without them I'd have been trying to figure out a way to lug a crt and an acoustic coupler home. Thank you Jack.

We have our three (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623305)

Thomas Kinkade, Mike Wallace, and Jack Tramiel.

RIP.

just has to be posted (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623435)

http://xkcd.com/218/ [xkcd.com]

for my childhood, thank you Jack.

Wring another decade? (0)

mat catastrophe (105256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623453)

That's an incredibly accurate way to describe the nonsensical way he ran that brand into the ground.

He gave me Coconotes (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623523)

Best game ever. RIP.

Speedscript was incredible! (1)

ugglybabee (2435320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623525)

I used my C64 almost exclusively for word processing It got me through college, plus I wrote a novel that was (justly) never published. The program was called SPEEDSCRIPT, and it took a little time to learn, but I've never seen a word processor for PC that was more powerful or more agile. The closest thing I know of today is probably emacs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpeedScript [wikipedia.org]

Re:Speedscript was incredible! (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623607)

I still miss the C= X key combination in SpeedScript (Swapped the two characters) and wonder why it never has appeared in any of the "big boy" word processors.

Re:Speedscript was incredible! (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623989)

I spent many hours typing in SpeedScript out of Compute!'s Gazette Magazine. That's when I learned to backup my work to save lots of cussing.

impressive adaptation (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623533)

One thing that's particularly interesting about Jack Tramiel is that, unlike some of the other 70s tech entrepreneurs (Woz, say), he was really from a previous generation, not natively a computer guy. But, he managed to anticipate and succeed over several technological transitions. He immigrated to the U.S. after surviving a concentration camp during WW2, and started a reasonably successful typewriter company in the 50s. That successfully transitioned to mechanical calculators in the early 60s after the typewriter market started getting too competitive and low-margin, and then once transistors started becoming affordable, he digified that line and put out a line of digital calculators in the late 60s. In fact Commodore in effect put out the first Texas Instruments calculator, using commodity circuits sourced from TI, which TI only later realized they could assemble under their own label, resulting in the now-famous TI calculator line.

Then, finally, he anticipated the home-computing trend, with Commodore releasing its first design in 1977, the same year as the Apple II.

It's not very difficult to imagine an alternate history where Commodore was a typewriter company that had a brief adding-machine phase before completely missing the digital-computing wave and going bankrupt by 1980.

Re:impressive adaptation (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624039)

Too bad he didn't anticipate Mehdi Ali and Irving Gould coming in to destroy the company.

I still remember one magazine talking about those two fools on the golf course. "What is it we sell again?" "Computers." "Oh, yes, how are those selling anyway?"

Re:impressive adaptation (1)

Ambient Sheep (458624) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624259)

Very true. Commodore had some awesome (for the time) calculators in the mid-to-late 70s. I still remember one my maths teacher owned that had more buttons on it than the mind could comfortably conceive (this was a cool thing when I was 12).

For some reason though, when the market moved from LED/VFD calculators to LCD ones, Commodore just seemed to vanish, presumably preferring to concentrate on the PET/VIC/C64.

Guru Meditation (1)

ClubPetey (324486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623535)

Guru Meditaiton # 81070000.00524950

Re:Guru Meditation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624867)

Guru Meditaiton # 81070000.00524950

You mean a dead-end alert (AT_DeadEnd = 0x8000000) in Exec library (AN_ExecLib = 0x01000000) caused by a failed AllocSignal() (AG_NoSignal = 0x00070000) at address 0x00524950 (which is in the Zorro-II memory space from 0x00200000 to 0x009FFFFF)?

What an odd thing to say!

Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623557)

>Could anyone else have done all of that?

Kevin Flynn.

Where are the Apple fanbois now? (0)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623567)

6502 microprocessor would have withered on the vine ...

If the Commodore 64 and the Atari 800 never existed, the Apple ][ would have simply been even more prevalent than it was, until the IBM PC would come on the market.

Re:Where are the Apple fanbois now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624409)

The Apple II and Mac's were so expensive compared to the C64/TI/Atari, it's doubtful that the non-existence of the lower-end market would have made any difference. It's not like the absence of $200-$800 computers would have made $2000 computers any more affordable to the masses.

Being a supplier to Atari or Commodore sucked.... (5, Interesting)

rimcrazy (146022) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623611)

I can tell you unequivocally that being a supplier to both companies sucked big time. They never paid you. It got so bad that we (when I was a supplier to them) basically made any business with them COD because if you didn't you would never get your money. You may all love Jack but I couldn't stand doing business with them. Major PITA.

Re:Being a supplier to Atari or Commodore sucked.. (5, Interesting)

default luser (529332) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624301)

Yes, this book details Jack purposefully not paying suppliers [amazon.com] , nice to hear it repeated from someone first-hand. According to the book they made a point of not paying suppliers, especially if they were interested in acquiring the company. When the company was cash-strapped and desperate, Commodore would buy them out.

It made more money on the short-term, but was bad for the long-run because it burned bridges in the industry. This made it hard for Jack to get now-wary suppliers and dealers to help him grow his business when he saw an opportunity for a new market/device.

Tramiel's Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623621)

Each succeeding generation of a consumer electronics product is sold at a lower price than its predecessor (this is in addition to having better performance and more features).

What can be sacrificed? Backward compatibility. Customers don't care (or at least they didn't, back in his day)

Hamster Reset! (1)

KatchooNJ (173554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623625)

Just don't blow your fuse.

(Nobody will get this.)

Re:Hamster Reset! (1)

mccalli (323026) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623655)

Looked it up: Interesting. I've performed that reset before, but never heard that name for it.

Cheers,
Ian

Gotta Love 'TOS'. (1)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623725)

For it's name, at least, the name for the operating system on the Atari ST: T.ramiel O.perating S.ystem

Re:Gotta Love 'TOS'. (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624061)

Better than Jack DOS

Why is he associated with the 6502? (1)

billcarson (2438218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623829)

As far as I recall, that thing was designed and produced by MOS technology (which was sadly a one-hit wonder).

Re:Why is he associated with the 6502? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624017)

Yes, it was a bunch of ex-Motorola folks who designed the 6502 under Chuck Peddle as a 6800 competitor. Tramiel bought MOS Technology though.

Re:Why is he associated with the 6502? (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624399)

As far as I recall, that thing was designed and produced by MOS technology (which was sadly a one-hit wonder).

Commodore, under Tramiel, bought MOS technology [wikipedia.org] in 1976 when they were in danger of going titsup.com.

Plus, the PET, VIC20 and C64 from Commodore all used the 6502.

Of course, Trameil wasn't the only 6502 user, there was some outfit called Apple using it, plus OSI (my first computer was an OSI 'Superboard') and, in the UK the Acorn System 1, Atom and (later) the BBC Micro. I'm sure there were others. However, I think these postdated the Commodore takeover.

Re:Why is he associated with the 6502? (2)

default luser (529332) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624579)

He's not. That's Chuck Peddle's baby.

He did allow Chuck to design the Commodore PET, but this was only after Chuck witnessed the Apple prototype and finally convinced Jack that the calculator market was dead.

Jack was a smart businessman who could run a tight ship, but he was a poor prognosticator of the tech industry. Most of his products he pushed were derivatives made more efficiently, and he (and Commodore management once the company grew) had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next big new thing.

Hell, the legendary Commodore 64 chipset was only as amazing as it was because Jack wanted a game console [wikipedia.org] . Never mind the fact that the console market was saturated, at the VIC-20 was the same price - Jack wanted to be the best console maker, and that was that. And when the console market caved he was left with a game chipset, and he still had to be convinced by an internal team of the best engineers at Commodore to turn it into a product.

Tro7lGkore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39623871)

you all is to let Market. Therefore, 3uty to be a big

Thank you, Jack (1)

chiefnerd (823986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39623979)

Thank you, Jack, for your significant and underappreciated contribution to the computing field. I and many others like me cut our teeth coding for the Commodore 64 and have since made our own valuable contributions. You will be missed.

The first computer I ever programmed. (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624027)

The first computer I ever programmed or had in my home was a Commodore PET model 2001 computer. My father was a teacher taking an 8 week course in microcomputers and he was able to bring a PET home with him for the duration of the course. That was in 1978. A few years later, the first computer I ever owned was a Commodore 64. In high school computer science class we used Commodore PET model 4032 computers with Waterloo Structured BASIC, until I introduced the teacher to COMAL, which ran on the new Commodore 64s the school had just acquired.

Good Riddance you fuck! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624119)

This guy essentially fucked Atari and Commodore. He went to Atari and created a computer inferior to the Amiga. Loyal Atari users like myself bought it and were left wanting. He had it slapped together real fast and put it to market. If he let Atari die, wonder if Commodore would have lived a little longer?

Re:Good Riddance you fuck! (1)

echusarcana (832151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624271)

I have to agree. Having learned my craft during those early years, I recall the times well. Jack was hated by Commodore dealers, hated by users... and I don't doubt hated by his own employees. The way I see it, he basically sucked all the money he could out of a successful company and reinvested very little to keep the success rolling. They were never able to move past their 6502-based designs (the Amiga design was purchased).

I have to recommend this is an outstanding read: http://www.amazon.com/On-Edge-Spectacular-Rise-Commodore/dp/0973864907 [amazon.com]

Re:Good Riddance you fuck! (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624407)

The ST series could have been nice, but they made it and... did nothing. They never evolved it anywhere. Say what you will about the current OS players, but at least things are always evolving and growing as they duke it out.

I had an ST with the little box by David Small that turned it into a Mac. I used that for a year and then said WhyTF am I bothering with this hybrid monster and just got a Mac IIsi. I was pursuing my Master's degree at the time at USC, and they had amazing discounts for students an Apple stuff. Actually, on all stuff. I got Photoshop at 80% off.

Jack... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624225)

Jack was a WWII Nazi concentration camp survivor who bore the scars of the numbers on his arms.
He was brutal in business. Jack was also very short (I'm not tall, but towered over him).

I've grown to consider all of those things about him before judgement of him. Basically, if it didn't
make money, forget about it (think Oracle).

I met him once (for about 12 seconds). He was very personable to me.

He's a part of computer history, now.

The Volkswagen of computing (3, Interesting)

hessian (467078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624257)

Rest in peace, Jack Tramiel, famed for "The Jack Attack."

The Commodore 64 truly was The People's Computer, like the Volkswagen "bug" was The People's Car.

At a time when an Apple //e cost $2500 for monitor, CPU, extra RAM (necessary), and two disk drives, you could walk out of the store with a full Commodore system for $350 and hook it up to an old TV.

This is why C64 culture was so vital: people took risks with their computers instead of treating them like business machines or expensive curiosities. Back in the BBS days, the Commodore boards were where it was at. Total anarchy zones. If the feds or feebs swooped in to confiscate them, one paycheck later they were up and operating again.

I hope Jack gets the recognition he deserves in the great beyond. With any luck, he's just finished sliding a whoopee cushion onto Steve Jobs' easy chair and is watching from behind a corner with a devilish grin.

6502 (0)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624431)

> The 6502 microprocessor would have withered on the vine if it weren't for Tramiel's support

Uhh, what?

The Apple II came out before Atari's personal computers, and even before the Atari VCS (2600), which uses a 6507... As well as tons of other computers and other devices that use 6502 variants.

Re:6502 (2)

KPexEA (1030982) | more than 2 years ago | (#39624963)

Commodore bought MOS technology in 1976 when they were on the verge of bankruptcy, Apple would not have had a source for chips if they had gone under.

Wow, dude - this is the man that got me started (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39624599)

and had such an impact on lives of many a geek,

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