updated 04:50 pm EDT, Mon April 9, 2012
Commodore 64 firm's founder dies after illness
The computing industry has lost one of its larger figures following the death of Commodore founder Jack Tramiel on Sunday. He died at 83 of unmentioned causes. He leaves behind his wife Helen and three sons.
Born in 1928, he survived concentration camps in World War II-era Germany and learned to repair typewriters, which he started after he emigrated to the US in 1947.
Most of his credit goes towards founding Commodore in 1954. Although it started out importing typewriters, it quickly adapted to the digital world and started focusing on calculators followed by computers. The company got its start with the PET in 1977 and built a tangible user base with the VIC-20 in 1981, but it reached its zenith in the public eye with the Commodore 64 just a year later.
Although the company never succeeded in developing a truly popular sequel to the C64, the PC was successful enough to become one of the most popular home computers ever. The C64 didn't leave the market until Commodore's original form was liquidated in 1994.
Tramiel left in 1984 to reorganize a post-console crash Atari and found Atari Corporation. Some of Commodore's staff ended up joining him, and a three-year legal war followed that was also matched by a cultural split between Atari's new focus on computers and Commodore follow-ups like the Amiga. The rise of the Windows PC and the more small but resilient Mac ended up minimizing Atari, although Tramiel successfully sold off the company in 1996.
Many credit Tramiel for helping to democratize computers by putting them at low prices relative to the features, such as the $300 VIC-20 or $595 Commodore 64. The choice helped drive price competition in the 1980s and a diversity that only faded out in the mid-1990s. [via Wall Street Journal, image via Alex Handy]