Jack Tramiel is a huge name in the computing industry and rightfully so a the founder of Commodore International, maker of the iconic Commodore 64 home computer system. Jack Tramiel died on Sunday at age 83, a death that was confirmed by his son Leonard Tramiel on Monday.
Tramiel brought the first Commodore 64 to market in 1984 and the device went on to become one of the most popular computer models of all time, selling more than 17 million units from 1982 through 1994.
Born to a Jewish family in 1928 Tramiel survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and emigrated to the U.S. in 1947 and after that harrowing moment he would go on to claim he could survive anything, which apparently included his own brutal business sector.
Commodore International started from humble typerwriter roots after Tramiel joined the U.S. Army in 1948 and was assigned as a typewriter repairman in the divisions New York offices. Moving to Toronto in 1955 Jack Tramiel founded Commodore Business Machines after learning that Canadian law would allow him to legally import Italian typewriter. As the company grew it would begin manufacturing its own devices before moving to Silicon Valley and beginning its electronics run in the 1960s. Commodore eventually moved from electronic calculators to home computer after Texas Instruments began to sell calculators at lower price points.
Tramiel was forced out of the calculator market by Texas Instruments because the company provided his own products with chipsets and the cost of those chipsets caused Commodore product prices to soar. Not wanting to fall prey to a provider again Tramiel purchased MOS Technology, a chip manufacturer, a buy that eventually produced PET, Personal Electronic Transactor. In fiscal 1983 PET earned Commodore $700 million in sales with $88 million in profits.
While Commodore’s profits in 1984 approached $1 billion the company’s board decided to fire Tramiel over disagreements with the company’s direction.
Following his ouster Tramiel would purchase Atari Corp from Time Warner that same year, a company that had hard times remaining in the black and was eventually sold to disk-drive manufacturer JTS.
When all is said and done Jack Tramiel is still one of the most influential men in the home computing industry, no doubt about it.