Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Jack Tramiel

Jack Tramiel was born in 1929 in Lodz, Poland, as Idek Tramielski. He survived the Holocaust. First he worked in the Jewish ghetto in a pants factory only to be transported to Auschwitz. He was separated from his mother who survived the camp. He was examined by Dr. Mengele and sent to Hanover to build another concentration camp (his father died of a gasoline injection when he got sick). Tramiel was rescued in April 1945 by the US liberation army. In 1947, Tramiel emigrated to the United States and soon joined the American Army. In the army he learned how to repair office equipment. In 1953, he bought a shop in Bronx to repair office machinery, and named it Commodore Portable Typewriter. Then he engaged in import of typewriters. In 1955, to circumvent import restrictions, he set up Commodore Business Machines in Toronto.

In 1962, Commodore went public. His company kept growing and in the 1970s, he started work on electronic calculators.

He started looking for a chip producer to buy: the MOS Technologies (Pennsylvania). MOS was bought in 1976. One of the engineers at MOS was Chuck Peddle, the man who had designed the ground-breaking 6502 chip. Peddle convinced Tramiel that the computer would take over in society and that the 6502 was the first in line for success. Tramiel wanted Peddle to work on a computer to show on the next Comdex. They had six months. Instead of machine code, there was to be ASCII and BASIC. The computer was 4KB PET 2001. At $599, it became a hit (this was also the time of Apple). In 1984, the sales surpassed US $1 billion. But at the same time, due to personal conflict, Tramiel was kicked out from his company (soon later Steve Jobs was to be out of Apple too). Later on, Tramiel purchased Atari but failed to reproduce his earlier success.

It is rumoured that Tramiel has a large gold and platinum sword from a contest hanging over his fireplace from Atari's Warner days when Warner Bros. owned the Franklin mint. The sword was part of an elaborate video game contest of multiple golden and gemstoned prizes worth several thousand dollars, the Sword itself is when created was worth $50,000 (although the dip in the price of gold has no doubt lowered its value). The contest aruptly ended when the Tramiels took over, leaving three of the five prizes unawarded.

External link