back to article Commodore founder Jack Tramiel dies at 83

The founder of Commodore, one of the driving forces in the early history of the personal computers, has died at the age of 83. Tramiel, born in 1928 as Jacek Trzmiel to a Jewish family in Poland, emigrated to the US after the Second World War after losing his parents in Hitler's camps. Tramiel spent time at Auschwitz and at a …


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  1. miknik


    So long and thanks for everything your company did to enhance my childhood years. A true pioneer of modern day computing.

  2. Steven Roper

    RIP Jack.

    I owe you my career. Without your invaluable and incredible contribution to mainstream computing in the form of the C64, I wouldn't have got into computers and wouldn't have the skills I have today, and I'm sure many of us here can say the same. Rest in peace, sir, and may your legacy long endure.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Cazzo Enorme

      Re: RIP Jack.

      I owe you my career.

      Another me too. First computer I owned (shared with my brother) was a Commodore 64. I used to thoroughly enjoy working through the tutorials and code listings in Commodore User before it became solely a games review magazine. Without that start, I wouldn't have been in a position to work as a professional computer programmer some ten or twelve years later.

  3. ukaudiophile

    RIP Jack Tramiel - We lose another great man.

    Like Steven Roper, I also owe Jack Tramiel my career, starting with the VIC-20, them moving through the CBM-64, Commodore 128, Amiga A-1000 and onto the A-2000, I was a major devotee of Commodore computers, and consider them to be as important in the history of our industry and the BBC Model 'B' and the Sinclair ZX-81 in terms of getting young people enthusiastic about computers and working in IT. I learned more about programming and hacking on these machines than just about any other platform, and as such I can say Jack Tramiel's company and it's products have had a truly profound and important effect on my life.

    In losing Jack Tramiel we have lost one of the great's. Most can only wish they can have the effect on as many as Jack Tramiel had. May you rest in peace, Sir. I am sure many on this forum and in IT would wish to convey their condolences to his wife and children for their loss.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

    Whenever I see documentaries on the beginnings of home computers they invariably focus on Apple/Steve Jobs and Microsoft/Bill Gates. They usually ignore the likes of Tramiel/Commodore or at best make them out to be people who produced "games" machines of little relevance.

    Yet as someone who was around at the time, Steve Jobs was a fringe figure selling hardware at eye watering prices to a tiny market and Bill Gates sold dull business software for use on equally expensive computers. It was the likes of Tramiel who ignited the publics interest in computers. Tramiel, Sinclair, Sugar, Curry were all people who bought computer to the masses. They produced hardware that was accessible and affordable.

    Tramiel was a real power. At one stage Commodore were building 400,000 C64's a month, selling 17 million in total. He then went to Atari and had a major feud with his former company. He also launched the ST and turned around Atari who had never really recovered from the early 80's video game crash.

    Granted he wasn't an engineer, but he recognised the need and made the business decisions to get Commodore into the market and pushed for the development of machines like the C64 because he saw the need.

    Yes the man had faults and was a hard nosed businessman but now isn't the time. Apple, Microsoft et al all owe Tramiel and people like him a huge debt of gratitude for putting the foundations in place for their empires.

    1. ThomH

      Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

      It's a Silicon Valley bias thing; Tramiel dared to be over on the east coast, Sinclair, Sugar and Curry weren't even in the same country.

      Tramiel was as important to the business as any of them. His cutthroat approach to price cutting can just as easily be cast as striving to include more features at the same price, hence pushing the industry forward.

    2. Graham Bartlett

      Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

      Simple reason - Apple and Microsoft are still around. The others aren't. With the exception of Tramiel, all the others were one-hit wonders. And Tramiel was a two-hit wonder.

      None of them saw the need to sell their existing product *AND* build on that success sustainably. So Acorn died by not working sustainably, and Sinclair, Commodore, Amstrad and Atari died by producing a load of shite that no-one wanted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

        And on the other hand Apple could have easily gone bust if Jobs hadn't returned, and Microsoft's success pivoted on some luck with their original DOS deal with IBM. Arguably if Microsoft had been pulled up more on some of their anti-trust stuff they could have been in serious trouble.

        There but for the grace of god.

      2. Matthew Collier
        Thumb Down

        Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

        >> "And Tramiel was a two-hit wonder."

        I guess, technically, he was a "four hit wonder", if you want to argue the toss (PET, Vic20, C64, Amiga). All four were cutting edge at their time, and prolific (and relatively speaking, cheap). There was no competitor to the PET, the ZX80 and 81 were blown away by the Vic20 not long after they came out, the Spectrum wasn't a patch on the C64 (the BBC-B was about similar or slightly better, for non-gaming, but much worse for just gaming), and the Amiga was probably on par with the ST, but a huge hit and sold plenty.

        >>"None of them saw the need to sell their existing product *AND* build on that success sustainably".

        You don't think a 12-13 year span for Commodore, counts for anything (selling 10s of millions along the way)? The razor thin margins though does explain why they didn't last (along with the commoditisation of the (IBM) PC (clone) through the mid-late 80s and largely complete by the mid-90s).

        Until the (affordable) PC came along (in the late 80s/early 90s), many small businesses were running themselves using Vic20s, then C64s, then Amigas! (not to mention the thousands of PETs installed in schools, as far back as the very late 70s).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

          The Amiga wasn't a hit for Jack. It was initially developed for Atari while Jack was at Commodore. Ironically it only became an Commodore product once Jack had taken over Atari.

          Jack then spent a hell of a lot of money preventing Commodore from releasing the Amiga which bought his engineers time to produce the ST.

          That is the very very basic version of events. It's rather more complicated than that but you can read up on it here if interested:

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

          Bringing computing to the masses is a non-trivial accomplishment. Offering things that no one can afford to buy is not really that meangingful. It took the PC industry 20 more years to reach the level of price acessability that Commodore created. Commodore didn't stand the test of time but it did help prime the market and create a generation of computing professionals.

          The PC market is built on the bones of Commodore, Atari and the rest.

    3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

      Re Jobs and the GUI

      I remember playing with a GUI for the C64, was it called GEM? No mouse though, I had to use a joystick.

      1. Tchou

        Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

        GEM - Graphic Environment Manager

        Copyright Digital Research - 1985

        (For Atari ST systems)

        At that time, Pc's were in text mode only and Apple II was sold with a similar graphic OS on a much cheaper hardware. Guess what, the Apple machine was the more expensive yet the most underpowered (arguably with Pc's).

      2. Ilgaz

        Mighty GEM

        I could never understand how they could do it but damn thing worked fine. You could buy a mouse for c64 and use it too.

        I will say a very interesting fact. GEM guys actually released a Y2K update back in 90s. That is the degree of responsibility, understanding of "customer relation" such companies had.

        They ask why people feel nostalgic you know.

        I could never use Atari ST my own but I know one of its legendary shareware developers. Graphic converter author. Using his millions downloaded software, I found a cosmetic, mega cosmetic typo bug. Not to forget it, I mailed the issue (!) to him on first new years day trusting to "on demand" nature of mail. Used "trivial", "cosmetic" words on subject line so developer won't flame me.

        On first day of new year, 20 minutes later, 9:20 local German time, I had a mail reply thanking for report and a beta link to updated version.

        People miss that kind of scene. Device (Atari St never had Miner genius) specs, although way more modern than PC isn't that relevant.

        1. ThomH

          Re: Mighty GEM (or GEOS?)

          You'll all be thinking of GEOS rather than GEM, surely? GEM was the one that came with the Atari ST and was also available for all of the other 16-or-better bit machines from Digital Research, GEOS was — I think — the Commodore 64 one with the surprisingly complete set of applications. I've seen other 8 bit GUIs but never anything that went significantly beyond a basic proof of concept, with a calculator, text editor and nothing much else of production use.

        2. Ilgaz

          GEOS actually...

          I confused the brand, it is GEOS which was for Commodore 64. Apologies.

          1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

            Re: GEOS actually...

            Yes, it was GEOS I was think of.

      3. Rob Beard
        Thumb Up

        Re: Headed Commodore and Atari yet forgotten

        IIRC it was called GEOS. I remember a friend who had a C64 showing it to me, I remember it to be quite impressive for a humble basic C64.


  5. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    Please, El Reg & Iain Thomson, please fix that implication that the PET was some kind of reaction to the Apple II; chronology doesn't support it:

    January 1977: in the mainstream (then as now) CES show in Chicago, Commodore introduces the PET.

    April 1977: Commodore ships the first PETs, priced at $595.

    April 1977: The Apple I's price is reduced from $666 to $475 (which of course doesn't include many of the PETs features, such as a screen or a cassette deck).

    April 1977: at the West Coast Computer Faire, Apple introduces the Apple II.

    June 1977: Apple ships the first Apple ][, priced at $1298 excluding monitor, etc.

    These days the fiction that the Apple II was "the first" home computer seems pervasive, just as the equally fictitious notion that the Mac was "the first" WIMP machine seems to be common.

    And that's unfortunate, because it's people like Jack Tramiel that showed Apple what to do.

    1. TWB
      Thumb Up

      Hear hear

      'These days the fiction that the Apple II was "the first" home computer seems pervasive..........'

      Even as an Mac user now, I am pleased to hear someone say this - we had a PET in 1978 and it was definitely both a home and work computer.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hear hear

        I remember working in a science lab as late as 1992 and there was a PET in the corner doing data collection from the experiments we had running. My super told me that PETs had a lock on data collection in labs, which was either him winding me up about a tiny niche market of a niche market, or was true...i never found out. Any Reg readers out there care to comment?

        1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

          Re: Hear hear

          >> My super told me that PETs had a lock on data collection in labs ...

          Maybe not a lock (by which I assume you mean a commanding market lead), but I recall they were popular for one good technical reason ..

          Fitted as standard on the back of the PET was an IEEE-488 bus (aka HPIB or GPIB) - although they used a cheap and nasty card edge connector rather than the quality ones in the standard.

          There were (at a price) many lab instruments with an IEEE-488 ports on the back, so it was easy to hook them up and send/receive commands/data. So it would be fairly easy to (for example) send a command to a power supply to set a certain voltage on it's outputs, and then read in the outputs from the device under test using a GPIB equipped voltmeter.

          There were other computers that could do this, such as some rather neat jobs from HP - bet you can imagine the relative prices ! That gave the PET an edge.

          There were lots of other stuff that would hook up to GPIB - printers, plotters, floppy drives, ... In some respects it was to connectivity back then as USB is now - and in between we've had the good (SCSI), the bad (pick any one from many proprietary systems), and the ugly (parallel port disk drives, yuck). I can think of 3 reasons IEEE-488/GPIB never became ubiquitous - it probably was "not cheap", it was probably seen as "belonging" to HP, and the cables/connectors were fairly bulky (but they were stackable which made daisy chaining very easy).

          IIRC it was also fairly easy to program with as well. I recall "some years ago" getting paid for a data transfer job off a PET based system (running a database off floppy disks !). I borrowed an IEE-488 card for an Apple II and wrote a program to handshake like a printer and slurp the data to a file on disk. A quick report to dump all the data out from the database, "printed" to this other computer, then load into new database and job done.

          Ahh, nostalgia.

          But there's more. There were (from memory) three competitors for the desktop at this time. Two are well known - the PET and the Apple II. IIRC the third was the TRS-80. My memory is a bit vague from that long ago, but I think any one of them could have made it - but Apple won for one simple reason. When Visicorp brought out Visicalc, they looked at what was available and decided that Apple had the better specs - basically more memory with up to 48k on-board and up to 64k on an add-in card. Visicalc brought automation to spreadsheets (yes, they existed before computers and calcs were done by hand) and was snapped up by ready users (especially department managers keen to escape the tyranny of their IBM centric MIS departments). That meant sales of Apple IIs, and the others lost out. The rest, as the saying goes, is history - the TRS-80 disappeared into oblivion along with a myriad of others, the PET struggled along for a while (especially in niche areas such as lab work), Apple did "fairly well".

    2. JohnG

      PET - a forgotten leader of its time

      In my summer holidays, I had a temporary job with the first computer shop where I lived in Devon. The shop sold PET systems, peripherals and software. The majority of the customers were small businesses who used PETs for accounts, invoicing, etc.

      As I remember, there had been some hobbyist microprocessor kits around but most of these had only hexadecimal keypads and 7 segment displays - the PET was the first affordable system available in the UK that had the associated peripherals and software that made it more than just a toy for enthusiasts. The Apple ][ and TRS-80 came a bit later.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ST was 32 bits

    The 68000 was a 32 bit processor, so both the Amiga and the ST were 32 bit computers - long before the PC was 32 bits.

    1. MacroRodent

      Re: The ST was 32 bits

      The 68000 had a nice 32-bit architecture inside, but the bus width was 16 bits. For this reason it was usually called a 16-bit processor at the time.

      If this seems unfair, recall that the Z80 was considered a 8-bit processor, even though it had 16-bit registers and could do 16-bit arithmetic in one instruction. Its main competitor 6502 (used in the PET and Apple II) was completely 8-bit: All registers were 8 bits only, except the instruction pointer.

      1. error handler

        Re: The ST was 32 bits

        It was even named as such.

        ST = Sixteen/Thirty-Two

        With variants:

        STF = ST with a Floppy drive

        STFM = ST with a Floppy drive and built-in TV Modulator

        STE = ST enhanced (for certain values of "enhanced", anyway)

        I believe there was also an STM model, but I never saw one in the wild, and there was a Mega ST variant which was an STF with the internals in a separate box to the keyboard.

        This was followed by the TT (Thirty-Two/Thirty-Two) which had a 68030 processor and a 32-bit bus.

        Finally there was the Falcon, 68030 processor with a separate 56001 DSP, strangely reverting to the 16-bit bus though. This was potentially a lovely bit of kit but it never really went anywhere - Atari killed it off so they could build the Jaguar but then found themselves competing against the Playstation 1, and the rest is history.

        Anyway, thanks for everything Jack. Hope you're happy wherever you are.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Re: The ST was 32 bits

          I thought "ST" was supposed to stand for "Sam Tramiel" (i.e., his son's initials) - or is that just an old industry rumour?

          1. error handler

            Re: The ST was 32 bits

            I heard that as well (and also that TOS stood for "Tramiel Operating System"), but the Atari official line was "Sixteen/Thirty-Two" and "The Operating System".

            It may well have been that these were backronyms - the engineers and marketing guys were told it had to be called the ST and thought "well, it's got a 16-bit bus and a 32-bit processor, we can make that name work" - but you'd have to ask someone who was actually in the meeting to get a definitive answer to that.

        2. Andy Taylor

          Re: The ST was 32 bits

          The STM did exist, I still have mine in the garage. I bought it second hand for £350 including a single sided floppy drive and high-resolution monitor. It had half a MB of RAM which I later upgraded to 2.5MB using some chips salvaged from old PC expansion cards.

          1. Rob Beard
            Thumb Up

            Re: The ST was 32 bits

            I fondly remember reading the Silica Systems calalogues about 1988 and thinking "I'd love to have an ST and the 520STM is fairly cheap". Of course I was about 10 at the time and didn't realise the value of money. Still having an Atari 65XE I often daydreamed about having an ST, until about 2 years later when I got a 520STFM :-)

            I wouldn't be surprised if the 520STM are worth a few quid now being more rare than the STFM.


        3. Anonymous Coward

          Re: The ST was 32 bits

          I had a Falcon, awesom bit of Kit.

          Mine had a 040 upgrade, a Maths coprocessor upgrade, 16mb of RAM (I think) and 1GB HDD!

          Running Cubase VST (with multitrack D2D recording!) it utterly destroyed anything the other manufacturers could muster.

          Was tempted with the 060 upgrade, but I would need to sell the car to pay for it!

          Ah happy days.

          RIP Jack.

          1. Danny 14
            Thumb Up

            Re: The ST was 32 bits

            heh, still remember 1200 with 68020 board poking out from underneath with a 4mb 72pin simm and 3.5 400mb drive stuffed next to the keyboard . King of the hill (no monkey island 2 floppy swapping for me and I could play sim city 2000).

            This was the machine that got me into soldering, hacking stuff to bits and programming. As most people on here have already said, thanks for my career training!

          2. Cihatari

            Re: The ST was 32 bits

            I guess your 040 upgrade was the mighty Afterburner board?

            I did pony up for the 060 (CT60) upgrade, had to wait for ages for it to be made, never regretted it!

            Still got mine, and an STE as well.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The ST was 32 bits

        If you are going to call the 68000 a 16 bit CPU because the external bus was 16 bits, then the 386SX is also a 16 bit CPU, as the external bus is 16 bits. But the 386 would be a 32 bit CPU. Since the instruction set is the same, the core is the same, and only the bus changes, that is a nonsensical result.

        Moreover, as the CPUs move to high speed serial interfaces (Hypertransport, PCIe) you move to an external bus that is 1-4 lanes wide - will you call those 1 bit CPUs?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The ST was 32 bits

          Not the same thing at all, the 68000 was a mostly 16-bit implementation of a 32-bit ISA, 386SX was (I believe, never owned one) a 386 in a cheaper package suitable for cheaper motherboards. In other words there is no 32-bit bus version of the 68000 core because the core couldn't utilize it. The 68020 was the first 32-bit implementation of the architecture and is a completely different beast internally. So the 68000 really was a 16/32-bit processor, or a 16-bit implementation of a 32-bit ISA. (Still that's a very elegant way of doing things as ISAs obviously tend to live a lot longer than particular implementations.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The ST was 32 bits

            "the 68000 was a mostly 16-bit implementation of a 32-bit ISA,"

            Sorry. Dead wrong. The 68K family ALL had 32 bit data registers (D0-D7) and 32 bit address registers (A0-A7).

            The only real difference was the 020 and up added an MMU to allow for virtual memory, whereas the 68000 didn't have the MMU.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The ST was 32 bits

              Resp a David D. Hagood



              Sorry David D. Hagood but you are totally wrong: Motorola 68000 is a 16 bit CPU (and one I loved).

              True it has plenty 32-bit registers (D0..D7 32 bit data registers and A0..A7 32 bit address registers being A7 the stack register), but it doesn't make 68000 a 32 bit CPU becuse internal bus (inside CPU) is 16 bit wide and ALU (arithmetic-logical unit) is 16 bit wide so it can only do a 16 bit operation each time and if you need for expample add two 32 bit numbers that operation was done in 2 steps, 16 bit each time.

              16 bit internal bus width and 16 bit ALU width determine that Motorola 68000 is a 16 bit CPU.

              Motorola 68008 is also a 16 bit CPU becasuse althought external data bus is 8 bit, internal data bus and ALU are 16 bit.

              For the same reason Intel 386SX is a 32 bit CPU because athought external bus is 16 bit wide, internal bus and ALU are 32 bits wide.

              The 1st Motorola 680xx CPU wich is a 32 bit CPU is Motorola 68020: 32 bits internal bus (and external) and 32 bit ALU, ie its ALU can perfom one 32 bit operation in one step while 68000 ALU would require two steps (low 16 bits in one step and high 16 bits in other).

              For your consideration I show other examples (CPUs I have programmed): Zilog Z80 (CPU used in most Sinclair computers, and MSX and lot of others) has some 16 bit registers but it is an 8 bit CPU and if you use for example the "ADD HL,BC" instrucction wich adds tow 16 bit registers that operations is made in two steps inside CPU because ALU is only 8 bits wide (you can watch cicle count in 8 bit add vs 16 add in Z80 and you'll se that it takes at least double clock cicles).

              Other CPU example: Saturn CPU, used in lots of HP programmable calculators like HP-48 series, has 64 bit registers and instructions to operate in 64 bit registers but ¡¡it is a 4-bit CPU!!

              I recomend you this book excellent book on M68000: "MASTERING THE 68000 MICROPROCESSOR" by PHILLIP R. ROBINSON

              You can download it from

              Page 12 speaks on "Is the 68000 a 16-bit chip?".

              Like a rule (not theorem): for a processor to be x-bit wide it must have at least x-bit internal data bus and at least x-bit data ALU and at-least x-bit registers. M68000 only has 32 bit registers but internal data bus and ALU are 16 bits.

  7. Wombling_Free

    RIP Jack Tramiel

    Thanks for the C64 Jack - my love for tech started there, and my lifelong enjoyment of tinkering has kept me from purchasing a Mac ever since; I've got close, but dammit I love pulling things apart.

    Thanks for the vision to include wonderful things like the MOS 6851 SID chip - in my view one of the most important pieces of silicon ever designed.

    Thanks for the machine that allowed me to enjoy things like Elite, Mercenery, Ultima 4, Uridium, Paradroid, Impossible Mission, Flight Simulator 2.

    Thanks for an architecture a 17-year old of medium intelligence could work out assembly for, letting me discover things like fractals all by myself, two years before James Gleick's book.

    Thanks, Jack for your works.


  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    POKE 53281, 0

    POKE 53280, 0

    1. ForthIsNotDead


      "POKE 53280,1

      POKE 53280,0"

      That sir, just brought a tear to my eye.

      RIP Jack.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      pO 53265,11

      pO 649,0

      pO 1,0

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        SYS 64802

        ...for no other reason than I can remember it from my old Vic20 days :D


  9. figure 11


    Will fire up my old C64 today and have a session of Turrican in his honour.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: LOAD"*",8,1

      usagi yojimbo was my fav c64 game as it looked ace. That and target renegade.

    2. Daniel B.

      Re: LOAD"*",8,1

      First used to fire up Test Drive, the day my dad bought the 1541-II disk drive.

      I never really knew what LOAD "*",8,1 meant though. I did save stuff with SAVE "BLAH",8 and load 'em in a similar manner though. :)

  10. Robert Heffernan

    Farewell Jack

    Farewell Jack,

    Thanks for all the enjoyment your machines brought me during my childhood years, sparking my current enthusiasm and love for all things IT.

    You were largely responsible for the meteoric rise of the home computer market by providing computers at a realistic price point and in doing so, stepped on the toes of your contemporaries who in return ensured that your place in history has largely been forgotten.

    Thank you, and so long.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Thank you

    for the memories.

    That is all...

    *somehow, a beer seems insuifficient an accolade for this man and his ilk.

    1. ukaudiophile

      Re: Thank you

      Well said Sir - a beer does seem somewhat an inadequate accolade, but I am sure many of us will raise a drink to Mr. Tramiel and remember the many house of enjoyment he brought to us, and for many of us the effect his company and his equipment had on our lives.

  12. Simon B

    An amazing machine that is deeply imbedded in my mind heart and childhood. God bless you, and your family.

  13. Peter Galbavy

    Cheers and thanks

    While I never owned a Commodore product I always lusted after them - and the BBC Micro. I ended up in the Sinclair camp but was never a brand fanboi, and the C64 (with Simons BASIC) was always a childhood want.

    Thanks Jack.

  14. James Gosling

    Thank You!

    Thank you for your contribution Jack. Commodore produced some amazing kit and encouraged kids all over the world to discover computing.

  15. Death_Ninja

    Another person who owes him my childhood

    Vic20, C64 and Atari ST - three things my childhood would have been less without and almost certainly what lead me to my career in IT.

    These are the "toys" that today's children are missing out on - science thats fun.

    Jack T, thank you so much.

    PS I never knew you were a holocaust survivor...

  16. Yag

    I feel old...

    I still remember the time spent on my STf, STe and the falcon... they are probably still rotting in my parent's basement.

    RIP Jack, you helped a lot of us to discover the joys of computing.

    I wonder what Shiraz Shivji is doing those days...

  17. MJI Silver badge

    Vic20 as well

    We do owe a lot to these early home computers.

    And I do agree to the domestic market Commodore and Sinclair are the most important names

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Commodore 64, my first proper computer.

    Remember going through Basic manuals, system.out output would amuse me, and the old toolkit tapes for creating shoot em ups.

    In the end though, I suspect it was tapes that killed it off.

    It was seen as slow and cumbersome to load games off tape compared to the likes of the NES (despite the C64 having a cartridge slot, remember International Football and Fiendish Freddy?), and the lack of a disk drive (1541 an expensive peripheral) and mouse out of the box meant that it wasn't seen as a work / homework / business PC.

    Like many icons there have been attempts at resurrecting the C64. The WebIt, the gaming PC towers, the new C64x. Unfortunately the original CBM company is no more, the rights to the name being passed about by these upstarts.

    (A barebones C64x with a MiniITX board as a media server is still tempting though)

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: RIP

      disk drive (1541 an expensive peripheral)

      Same price as the C64 itself! It cost me £990 for the C64, 1541 and an 803 printer. 64K Ram, 180K disk storage, 1Khz clock and printer that didn't print true descenders

      For the same money to day I would get 6GB ram, 750GB disk storage, a 2.3Ghz clock, a wirless colour printer/scanner.

      I also have a 27 year old son who has never not had access to a computer.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch

        re: disk drive (1541 an expensive peripheral)

        Yes, that's true, but considering that it had quite a few of the same parts as in the c64 itself (less sound and graphics chips, naturally), the price wasn't that surprising. Basically, it was a fully-fledged computer in itself, albeit one dedicated to working as a drive controller.

        I could never afford the 1541, but by the time I'd outgrown the tape drive, some clone drives were available that were a lot cheaper (and more slimline). I bought one of these clones (I can't remember the name, but I think it might have been by Evesham Micros) and never had any problems with it.

        With this news, I'm tempted to pull the system out from the cupboard to see if it all still works. I loved playing Uridium and Zoids, but I'm sure there are dozens of other excellent games I've completely forgotten about. I just hope the floppies still work.

        Thanks for all those (great) wasted hours and all the memories. RIP, Jack...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: re: disk drive (1541 an expensive peripheral)

          Crumbs. Probably why I've never seen one in the wild.

          Probably came across as a bit harsh. Cassette tape was a fine compromise in keeping the price down using a well known format. Also probably helped lower prices on software, remember those £3.99 games.

          Just think that the C64 never reached it's full potential. GeOS gave it a GUI, word processor, paint app and spreadsheet. Huge functionality back then.

          RIP Jack.

  19. Rob Beard

    RIP Jack

    It's a sad day for the fans of Comodore and Atari :-(

    I was one of the Atari fans, getting an Atari 65XE in the late 80's. Although I'd previously had a ZX81 it was the Atari machine that really got me interested in computers properly. I still have fond memories of typing in listings from the old Atari magazines and the manuals, and then trying to work out how to write programs (although if I'm honest the majority of the time was spent playing games on the machine).

    I remember really wanting an Atari ST when I had the 65XE and then telling my Uncle to get an Atari ST over an Amiga when he was looking at getting my cousins a computer for Christmas (to be fair thinking back they might have been better with the Amiga but I was a die hard Atari fan through and through and didn't know at the time that Jack originally formed Commodore). When they got the ST I was a tad jealous and eventually got a 520STFM of my own a couple of years later (which I then eventually screwed up and sold to buy an Amiga 500).

    As a life long Atari fan I'll raise a glass to Jack in honour of the great computers his companies made. I'd say if it wasn't for my old Atari I probably would have ended up doing something less interesting with my life.


  20. K

    Another Guru goes to his final meditation!

    Action Replay... FREEZE! .. MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU

  21. luxor

    RIP Jack

    Without you I may never have started tinkering with computers.

    That first VIC-20 started me on a life of pleasure.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Best photo ever

    Jack and his sons, at what looks like a Ron Jeremy look-a-like contest. Superb!

    Paris because she'd appreciate the likeness.

  23. CASIOMS-8V

    10 PRINT " RIP"

    20 GOTO 10


  24. Nev

    The Man ...

    ... who really brought computing to the masses.

    Not even a mention on the BBC news website.

    I probably wouldn't be sat here typing this if it weren't for the PET, VIC20 & C64.

  25. spiny norman
    Thumb Up

    Sad day

    In the early 1990s I bought an Atari 520STfm, which is even now in the spare bedroom. It hasn't had any use for years, but my wife (yes, really) refuses to get rid of it.

    We got it for the kids, then 10 and 6, to play games on, but soon we were all hooked, from Gauntlet II to Leisure Suit Larry, to Dungeon Master, to shareware games that cost next to nothing, but provided young children with hours of safe entertainment.

    The range of business software on the ST is often overlooked: there were spreadsheets, word processors, DTP packages, databases, even a database for unstructured data and a hyper text system. The Atari converted my sceptical wife from typewriters to word processing and inspired her to do a course in desktop publishing.

    It was real, affordable computing you could get involved with and it's sad there's nothing like it today. Jack Tramiel earned a long and peaceful rest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sad day

      ".....Leisure Suit Larry, to Dungeon Master, to shareware games that cost next to nothing, but provided young children with hours of safe entertainment."

      Not sure I've ever seen Leisure Suit Larry ever be said to be hours of safe entertainment for children. :-)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    I too owe him one career

    To me a more important figure in personal computing history than Steve Jobs. He would have loved the impact of the Raspberry Pi.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I too owe him one career

      "Computers for the masses, not the classes."

      Apologies if I am misquoting or misattributing him.

  27. BoxedSet

    Farewell to a genius

    Now that is very sad news to read, a figure more instrumental to the home computing era than any other. Certainly the most instrumental in my career in computing and hours playing various games at a much younger age on the wood-fronted VCS console.

    Who can forget the frustration of waiting 10 minutes for a game to load from tape... only for it to fail to start correctly and repeating the process. An 800 and then an 800XL followed and the interest with computer tinkering was sparked.... causing me to save everything to get my first 'ST'. What a great system, and did I really spend that much money on a Mega-ST when it came out (almost 2K IIRC!). Splendid memories of using and "improving" each one of them!

    I'm happy to say I still have an Atari corner in my computer room, a Mega-ST, TT and Falcon. A few games of DropZone are definitely on the cards tonight to celebrate the life of Jack Tramiel and for what he did for so many like minds individually. Sir, I salute you! Thanks for everything, you will be missed......

    1. Ilgaz

      10 minutes and "self test" screen :)

      I can't believe that I still remember the number "230" which is the tape digit counter when "spy vs spy" loads -or doesn't-. Commodore guys on other hand had "turbo" code and happily loading same game with 30.

      Commodore and Atari (before him) had really different management styles. The machine which was considered a joke compared to c64 had way better specs (800xl) and designed by Jay Miner but Commodore had excellent developer relations and documentation.

  28. Jim 59

    Jack Tramiel

    Never owned a Commodore but still remember that name from the mid 80s, when he was an easily recognisable industry figure. As C Hill pointed out, good picture at

  29. Alistair

    RIP Jack T. --

    I certainly owe Jack a salute, having cut my teeth on a commodore PET, and I'll have to wander into Scarborough and at least make a passing nod at Warden & Eglinton.

    Between having had a couple of commodores (including the first cut they made at white box 8086 class systems) and having had the chance to see what their marketing folks considered "playing with the new stuff" at the Ontario Science Center on two occasions, I know that I owe "Commodore Computers Corporation" a huge thank you.

    Sadly, I miss the company, its spirit and its approach to 'solutions'. I never owned Atari kit, but I can honestly say I respected the gear for its capabilities. I hope *someone* somewhere has the gumption to bring back that sort of spirit and sense of adventure in a corporation.

  30. Paul Bruneau

    I never could have done what I have done without him

    I bought my vic-20 with paper route money. My rich friends or my friends who had teachers for parents had Apple II's--that was not possible for me. If not for the Vic-20 who knows what I'd be doing today.

    I can't begin to describe the sense of wonder that I got from figuring things out on it. First BASIC and then 6502 assembly, it was like going beyond my somewhat miserable (at the time) world.

  31. Goobertee

    Anybody remember the User Port?

    The user port was a part of one of the two 6526 "Complex Interface Adapter" used on the C64, an upgrade from the occasionally buggy 6522 "Versatile Interface Adapter" used on the PET and the Vic-20. The 24-pin edgecard connector had quite a number of functions available, but I was interested in the six TTL-compatible lines that were otherwise not used for anything most of the time. I created two or three interfaces over a few years and ran a CNC milling machine from it. 1 MHz sounds slow today, but I calculated that the program I had written (in 6502/6510 machine language) was in wait loops more than 98% of the time.

    Later on, the PaperClip word processor included software to control a Centronics printer from the interface. A few days waiting for the connectors via mail order and an afternoon of soldering and my father's Epson MX-80 was printing his notes.

  32. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    So long...

    It was a selection of Atari computers that I really learned to program on. An STFM, a couple of STEs and Falcon030 -- the latter was, to the best of my knowledge, one of the first (only?) two in Ireland - the other was bought by my friend. We were definitely "the masses", not "the classes". In my home town, you had to make an appointment to even LOOK at a Mac in the dealership, and even then, a system you could use to develop on was the cost of a small car.

    It was also the ST that brought me my first paid programming work - a magazine cover-disk game many years ago. Seventy quid, but you've got to start somewhere!

    I wonder if I still have my copy of "Atari ST Internals" by Bruckmann, Gerits and Englisch. Ah for the days when you could fully describe a system in 491 pages, including a disassembly of the boot ROM.

    Trivia: The ST came to the market in the days before properly standardised 8-bit character sets - you got the basic ASCII and then 128 characters of the manufacturer's choice from 0x80 to 0xFF. Given the Tramiels' background, it was hardly surprising to see that there was a complete Hebrew alphabet in this. (no, they couldn't do right-to-left layout, though).

    1. kovacm

      Re: So long...

      " was hardly surprising to see that there was a complete Hebrew alphabet in this. (no, they couldn't do right-to-left layout, though)."

      if I am not mistaking, Signum 2 could to right-to-left writing ;)

  33. Furbian

    Ah those ere the days, very sad indeed...

    After my ZX Spectrum, I saved up all my pocket money and bought an an Atari ST, and enjoyed using GEM years before Windows 3.11 gained traction. The SC1224 was the first proper colour monitor I had too, and very nice it was. But I even bought the SM124 Mono Monitor for the hi-res work, it too was a lovely device. I even ended up writing for ST User for a while, one of my first jobs. Had the whole caboodle for years and years before I bought an Amiga.

    Thanks Jack for an affordable machine that kept me going after I'd out grown my Spectrum. You will be remembered.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP Amigo, and thanks

    You know, there once was a kid who could not stop looking at these machines with TV screens, levers and buttons in the arcades and kept wondering how they worked.

    After close to a year, and visiting each and every friend's house where one of those "computers" were and absorbing every bit of knowledge from manuals and magazines (it wasn't that strange seeing someone reading a manual for a machine he did not have) , he ended up with a Spectrum, which said kid became to knew inside out, learning Basic and Z80 assembler in the process. And some English language skills too. But all the time the kid wanted to have a C64, only to be told that it was out of reach because it was too expensive. And when the kid saw the Amiga he was simply astounded....

    Not to be stopped by the "too expensive" argument any more, the kid became a freelance programmer, writing in all sort of languages and all sort of computers, programs for others to type, until he could afford to pay for himself... his first PC XT clone, complete with two floppy drives and a CGA orange monitor. Sorry Jack, the Amiga was still too expensive and I wanted something now instead of keep saving longer and longer.

    But I always missed having an Amiga. The games were incredible. The operating system with windows and mouse was fascinating. The Mac seemed like a cheap clone copy in comparison.

    And the rest, they say, is history. Long live to the Tramiels, Jobs and Sinclairs, who made it possible from the commercial side. And to the Altwasser, Vickersand and Wozniaks that came up with awesome machines. Thanks for everything. It is still fun sometimes.

  35. Colin Ritchie

    When Commodore made a Jack a King.

    God bless a man who too few recognise as one of the founding fathers of home computing.

    I had a ZX81, I hated it, useless keyboard and limited connections. My friend's Vic20 was awesome by comparison. I ignored the Spectrum and saved up £90 for a C64 to replace the 81 ASAP.

    Jack was the king of the hill for the years I used it and the Atari ST that replaced it as my teenage gaming hardware. Now I have a Mac but without Jack I would have had er... jack.

    Rest in peace, the geeks of the 20th century salute you.

  36. kovacm

    ;( ;( ;(

    "For the masses and not the classes" & "Power without price"

    Thank you Jack for everything!

    Jack Tramiel Interview (1985)

    one and half hour with J. Tramiel: Commodore 64 - 25th Anniversary Celebration

    Jack Tramiel from 1985.

    ...and new Atari with Jack at helm:

    ...and one GREAT C64 ad:

  37. daimun

    Great Memories...

    RIP Jack and thanks for everything... C64 to 128 to Amiga. It was a privilege to live through the most exciting days of computing, innovation and diversity. I still have a box with all my 1571 floppies in the cupboard upstairs.

    I loved my C64 and even ended up writing my own assembler and BASIC toolkit as I couldn't afford the assembler cartridge! Cheers.

  38. Ravenger
    Thumb Up

    I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for Jack Tramiel and Commodore.

    I started with a ZX81 - I wanted a Beeb, but couldn't afford one. Then a friend at college told me a C64 with Simons Basic was as good as a BBC Micro (not strictly true), so I sold the ZX81 and saved up for a C64 - I wish I'd kept the ZX81 now, as it was in mint condition!

    I never did get the Simons Basic cartridge, but I really got into the C64. I taught myself assembler and also used paint programs to draw graphics in the low-res 160x200 colour mode.

    It's the graphics that led to a career in computer games and I ended up working for some of the biggest publishers of that era. I'm still working in games today, 26 years later. That's an awful lot I owe to Jack and the people behind the C64.

    My C64 and its 1702 monitor still works which is a testament to how well they built those machines back then.

    So RIP Jack Tramiel, I'm eternally grateful for the chances you gave me via the C64.

  39. William Higinbotham

    VIC 20, 150K Modem and CompuServe

    I got addicted when my father gave me a Heathkit Microprocessor Trainer. Got trained in the USAF in 1982 as a computer and switching system specialist. Bought the VIC 20, tape drive storage unit and 150k baud modem. Got on CompuServe which had to be done after 7PM and before 5AM unless you want to pay $50/hr. Rest is the greatest fun I ever had. Did it before most of you.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP Jack

    It was only this year that I found out how much Jack did for the computer industry. It was when I was thinking (not anymore) of buying the Steve Jobs book that I came across "Commodore: A Company on the Edge" by Brian Bagnall. Great book! After reading that I understood how much Jack and people like Chuck Peddle where instrumental to the computing industry. Without them, where would we be today?

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