Computing pioneer Jack Tramiel dies, aged 83

April 10, 2012 // 12:13 p.m.

Tags: #8-bit #atari #atari-st #c64 #commodore #commodore-64 #eight-bit #home-computing #jack-tramiel #mos #mos-technology #sam-tramiel #sid-chip

Home computing pioneer Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore International and father of the most successful computer in history, has died this week aged 83.

A holocaust survivor and former Auschwitz prisoner, Tramiel shot to fame when he retooled his Commodore Portable Typewriter company to take advantage of the growing interesting in personal computing. As Commodore International, Tramiel's company launched dozens of well-known devices including the most popular home computer in history: the Commodore 64.

Built around the powerful MOS 6510 processor, which Tramiel was able to buy at rock-bottom prices and deny his competitors thanks to the acquisition of MOS Technology by Commodore, the C64 handily won the eight-bit war following its launch in 1982. With sales believed to have reached around 17 million, the Commodore 64 remains the single best-selling personal computer model in history.

Tramiel, sadly, would fall out with others at Commodore and leave the company in 1984 - just two years after the C64 hit the market - to found Tramiel Technology. If you're wondering why you haven't heard of the brand: Tramiel picked up Atari's consumer division for a song, following the famous 1983 Video Game Crash, and rebranded his company as Atari.

Sadly, Atari would never replicate the success of Commodore's C64. Its home computers, including the ST series - named for Tramiel's son Sam, who would take over the presidency of Atari until a heart attack forced his father out of retirement - failed to win market share from the likes of Amiga and Amstrad. Its consoles, too, suffered from a lack of interest due to high prices and the difficulty in programming their complex systems with the allegedly 64-bit Jaguar failing to make an impact against established rival Nintendo and newcomer Sony.

Tramiel's impact on the world of computing is not to be dismissed, however: had he not had the vision to create an affordable yet powerful home computer - a vision he described as 'computing for the masses and not the classes' - the world of technology would likely be a very different place.

Tramiel passed away peacefully on Sunday, and is survived by wife Helen and sons Sam, Gary and Leonard.
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