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Commodore Computer Founder Jack Tramiel Dies at 83
"Computers for the masses, not the classes"


Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore and the man who helped popularize the personal computer, died on Sunday at the age of 83.

The Commodore 64, which was one of the first home computers to be created, left a huge mark on the computer industry worldwide after it hit the market in 1982.

 ”The millions of young people who learned their computing skills on the C64 went on to have a major impact on the computer industry, not only in Silicon Valley but worldwide. He taught the industry that the key to success is to continually lower prices while designing computers with more features every year,” Brian Bagnall, author of Commodore: A Company on the Edge, told CTVNews.ca.

The Polish-born son of Jewish immigrants, Tramiel survived the Auschwitz concentration camps before moving to North America where he became an entrepreneur, inventor and businessman. He began his career in the U.S. in the late 1940s servicing typewriters for the U.S. army, before eventually moving to Toronto in 1955 and starting Commodore Business Machines International.

Tramiel, at the vanguard of the electronics movement, then shifted his business to California’s Silicon Valley in the late 1960s and began manufacturing calculators. He eventually launched the Commodore 64 in 1982, after first releasing the PET in 1977 and the VIC-20 in 1980. The  precursors never achieved the popularity of the Commodore 64, which still qualifies as one of the most popular PCs ever made, having sold over 20 million units.

According to Bagnall, “Jack Tramiel was a larger than life character whose motto was ‘computers for the masses, not the classes.’”

“He was instrumental in getting computers into the hands of millions of teenagers, families on tight budgets, people on low incomes — people who would later become famous such as (Linux inventor) Linus Torvalds, whose first computer was the VIC-20.”

Tramiel is survived by his wife and three sons, and of course the indelible mark he left on the industry.


Síle Cleary is a regular contributor to Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at @silecleary.

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