by Dan Gibson
It feels a little strange that I didn't know the name of one of the people who deeply influenced my life until today, but thanks for bringing home computing into my life, Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore:
Tramiel was born in Poland to a Jewish family in 1928. During World War II, he and his family were sent to Auschwitz, after which he and his father were sent to a labor camp called Ahlem, near Hannover. Tramiel was rescued in April 1945 and emigrated to the United States in 1947.
In America, Tramiel started a typewriter repair business. Staying in the forefront of technology, his typewriters morphed into calculators, and later computers. In 1982, Commodore International launched the Commodore 64, which went on to the best-selling personal computer of all time. In 1984, after being forced to leave the company he founded, Jack bought the crumbling Atari Inc.’s Consumer Division and formed Atari Corporation.
“Jack Tramiel was an immense influence in the consumer electronics and computing industries. A name once uttered in the same vein as Steve Jobs is today, his journey from concentration camp survivor to captain of industry is the stuff of legends,” says Martin Goldberg, a writer working on a book about the Atari brand and the early days of video games and computing with Atari Museum founder Curt Vendel.
My first computer was a Commodore 64 and my family went through two of them (maybe even three?) hanging on to a box full of floppy discs and a dot-matrix computer long after the world of technology left that particular device in the dust. I tried to make birthday cards with Print Shop, explored underground worlds with the Zork Trilogy and probably started my way down the world of carpal tunnel issues rapidly smashing buttons playing low-tech sports games. My family couldn't afford the far more expensive products by Apple and IBM, so Tramiel's belief that computers should be for "the masses, not the classes" was directly responsible for introducing me to computing. There are times these days where I wish I could escape the world of keyboards and screens, but still, I wouldn't be wherever it is I am today, if I didn't have years of feeling comfortable with computers developed while using the C64. Thanks, Jack Tramiel.