Jack Tramiel Passes Away at Age 83

The founder of Commodore International, Jack Tramiel, passed away on Sunday at the age of eighty-three with his family surrounding him, as confirmed by his family.

Writer Martin Goldgerg, who is currently working on a book about the Atari brand and the beginning of the video game industry, had this to say on Jack’s passing:

“Jack Tramiel was an immense influence in the consumer electronics and computing industries. A name once uttered in the same vein as Steve Jobs is today, his journey from concentration camp survivor to captain of industry is the stuff of legends… His legacy are the generations upon generations of computer scientists, engineers, and gamers who had their first exposure to high technology because of his affordable computers – ‘for the masses and not the classes.’”

Jack leaves behind his wife, three sons, and their extended family.

Analysis: Born into a Jewish family in 1928 in Poland, he and his family were sent to Aushwitz before his father and himself were moved to a labour camp near Hanover, called Ahlem. On April 25, 1945, he was rescued by the U.S. army. Tramiel soon moved to the United States, joining the U.S. military himself in 1947 before using a GI loan to start his own typewriter business known as Commodore. The company started by making LED watches and calculators. As technology progressed, Commodore introduced the PET 2001 in 1977, released along with the Apple II and TRS-80 by Radio Shack.

In 1982, the Commodore 64 was launched by Commodore International, which is now regarded as the best-selling personal computer of all time with almost 17 million units sold between 1982 and 1994. After being forced to leave the company in 1984, however, Tramiel purchased Atari Inc.’s Consumer Division, which dealt with the computer and gaming market, and formed Atari Corporation.

Tramiel remained at Atari for quite some time, with the Amiga from post-Tramiel Commodore and the Atari ST line duking it out for years. Fading from the public eye and overseeing many projects until 1996, he eventually sold Atari to the JTS corporation.

As someone who was born in 1994, I can’t say I experienced first hand what Tramiel had contributed to the industry. But I can acknowledge and see everyday the big role he played in getting personal computers, once thought to be available only for the incredibly rich, an obtainable product for the masses. His belief that business was like war helped push his company to become the huge success it was, selling over 22 million units in its life span.

I can liken Jack to being an anti-Steve Jobs. Whilst Jobs was concerned with catering to the upper class with elite products, Jack wanted PCs to be cheap and utilitarian, showing a lack of focus in elegance or sophistication. Because of the Commodore 64, the industry was essentially forced to slash prices to just compete with the product, and for a long time, this was a huge success. Companies like TI were driven right out of the market and the excitememnt of owning a PC in many homes was made a reality.

Jack Tramiel, more than anybody, made computers accessible to the general public and helped forge the path of the industry we know today. My best wishes go out to his family and friends.

Nathan Wood

About Nathan Wood

When he picked up a controller on that fateful day at the age of 6, Nathan had no idea how quickly it would captivate him. Enjoying a wide range of games, he is up for anything as long as it is of good quality, interesting or laughably bad. When not playing or writing about video games, he enjoys music, film, basketball and art. He is currently completing his last year of his IB diploma before mastering the great land known only as: University.