Personal Computer Pioneer - Jack Tramiel - April 8, 2012

We all remember Steve Jobs and know his legacy will live on thanks to many successful trendsetting Apple products he envisoned and brought to the masses. But Jobs was not alone a pioneer in personal computers when he and Steve Wozniak launched Apple Computer in the seventies.

During that time, there were a few computers that hit the market and later defined personal computing as we know it today.  One of them was the Commodore PET which at the time was considered the most integrated of its competitors - the Apple II and Radio Shack's Tandy TRS-80.

The Commodore PET was manufactured by Commodore International, founded by Jack Tramiel in 1954. Commodore International started out building typewriters, and later adding machines, both of whom were successively lost to competition from the Japanese.  After learning about Japanese quality and manufacturing, Tramiel's company started designing and building portable hand-held calculators which fueled its growth in the 1970's.

Facing difficult competition from Texas Instruments and Hewlett Packard in the 1970's, Tramiel found a new opportunity in personal computers which, at the time, were mostly sold as kits and targeted the enthusiasts. Tramiel realized that the time has come for the mass market move beyond calculators and into personal computing.

At the same time, the brains behind the Commodore PET microprocessor, Chuck Peddle, a design engineer at MOS Technology had developed a very inexpensive microprocessor that make personal computers not only possible but affordable. MOS Technology was also facing the same fate as Commodore relying heavily on the calculator market. Tramiel then bought out MOS and brought in Peddle as his chief engineer to embark on a new course of building computers.

The merger of the two resulted in a very successful line of personal computers including the VIC20  and its famous successor, the Commodore 64. Price cutting wars between computer manufacturers and chip makers took their toll on many companies including Commodore and Tramiel left to take over Atari from Warner Communications, continuing to compete against rivals like Amiga, Apple, Texas Instruments and Radio Shack. 

Tramiel later sold Atari and became one of the co-founders of the Holocaust Memoral Museum in Washington DC. He was a survivor of the Holocaust, having been rescued by US forces from Camp Auschwitz.

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