Jack Tramiel

Jack Tramiel

Jack Tramiel was born Jacek Trzmiel in 1928 in a Jewish family in Łódź. Being Jewish and growing up in Poland when the Nazis invaded the country didn't give him a good start in life. First he was held in the Jewish ghetto in Łódź[a], then, when the ghetto was liquidated, he was sent to the Auschwitz[b] concentration camp. There he was examined by Dr. Mengele[c], and selected - along with his father - for the Ahlem labor camp near Hanover. His mother remained in Auschwitz; his father died in Ahlem.

He was rescued from the labor camp in 1945 and emigrated to the United States in 1947. As always, Wikipedia has a more complete biography[d] of the following years, but I'll just skip ahead to August 1982 when Tramiel's company, Commodore International, released the Commodore 64[e]. We need to build computers for the masses, not the classes[*][f], as Jack put it - and did they ever. In a time when a PC would set you back $2000 ($4800 in 2012), the C64 could be had for $350 ($840), much thanks to the vertical integration of Commodore. The Commodore 64 went on to become the best-selling home computer of all time. It was so popular that when it was finally discontinued after an 11-year production run, in April 1994, it was because Commodore International went bankrupt - not because it wouldn't sell. That's something quite different from the one year product cycles of today.

Jack Tramiel was the guy that launched a million computer hobbyists, myself included - but despite that he wasn't known outside of those with an interest in IT company organizational charts, and I don't ever recall him being mentioned. Maybe that's just as well. By not having an idol, we were free. I never had to conform to an idol - which was good, because God knows I had a hard enough time conforming to everything else. Nonconformity need not be a good thing, but not having Tramiel as a superstar of C64-dom undoubtedly was a good thing.

My Commodore 64 was a birthday present for me. The C64 started off in BASIC 2.0 mode, meaning that one could, with function keypresses, switch the text color and draw with CBM-ASCII[g] characters on the 40x25 character screen. I think I started off drawing a house.

Then, slowly, slowly, I started with Basic. Now, almost thirty years later, I'm here blogging about it.

64k is enough for anyone.

2012-04-10, updated 2012-09-22