RIP Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore

A brief tribute to a computer legend and pioneer, who passed away yesterday.

Young British proto-gamers of the mid-to-late 1980s could generally be divided into roughly two camps: the Sinclair kids and the Commodore crowd. Before Nintendo versus Sega in the 90s and today’s endless circle-jerks between fanboys of Sony and Microsoft, young nerds in playgrounds up and down the UK debated the merits of the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Common arguments were the Speccy had a bigger and better selection of games while the Commodore 64 absolutely dominated in the graphics and sound departments. Especially sound.

I was a Spectrum kid myself and it played a big part in my formative gaming years, but I had friends who owned a Commodore machine so I was able to experience the best of both worlds. For them and many others the C64 was their introduction to gaming and they had Jack Tramiel,  founder of Commodore International, to thank for it.

Born in Poland to Jewish parents in 1928, Tramiel and his family were sent to Auschwitz before he was then later sent to Ahlem, a labour camp, with his father. Tramiel was rescued in 1945 and two years later emigrated to the United States where he started a typewriter repair business. Later his business branched out into calculators before moving into personal computers in 1977 with the Commodore PET.

Five years later Commodore gave the world the Commodore 64 and the rest, as they say, is computer and videogame history. Industry legends like Jeff Minter started out on Commodore machines and modern chiptune artists still use the C64 and it’s unique architecture to compose their music. Tramiel’s philosophy towards computers could be summed up in a phrase he himself coined: “We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes”. More than 80% of Americans now have a computer in their homes and while Jack Tramiel wasn’t the only one helping to bring computers to a wider audience, he played a significant role in making it happen.

Jack Tramiel passed away of unknown causes yesterday. He is survived by his wife Helen and their three sons, Gary, Sam and Leonard.

Source: Forbes


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