Jack Tramiel dies at 83

April 9th, 2012 9:58 PM
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Jack Tramiel, founder of Commodore and Atari Corporation, the latter a gaming company he salvaged from Atari Inc., passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

The Commodore 64 was a better-selling computer than the Apple II. Due to an original larger user base than our community's, their retrocomputing scene is in many ways still more active, allowing an ancient rivalry to some places persists to this day.

Yet the competition wasn't personal between the computers' founders. Tramiel never met his contemporary and competitor, Steve Wozniak, until the 25th anniversary of Commodore at the Computer History Museum in 2007, an event which shed some details on their history:

With no money to build thousands of the Apple machines, Wozniak and Jobs approached Commodore about distributing the Apple II. "Chuck Peddle from Commodore came to the garage, and he was one of about three people we showed the Apple II prototype," Wozniak said.

As struggling 20-year-olds with zero savings and no business experience, the idea of a stable job at Commodore comforted them, Wozniak said. "Steve [Jobs] started saying all we want to do was offer [Apple II] for a few hundred thousand dollars, and we will get jobs at Commodore, we'll get some stock, and we'll be in charge of running the program," Wozniak said.

Commodore rejected the idea, preferring instead to develop its own simpler … machine without the pizazz of the Apple II, Wozniak said. Commodore could do it more quickly and thought at the time that would be a better course for the company, he said.

I've never used a C64 but, so close to having lost Steve Jobs, I can appreciate what Jack Tramiel's passing means to his fans. I offer my thanks to the man who played such a significant role in the founding of an era, and my sympathy and condolences to his many admirers, both then and now.

(Hat tip to Mike Maginnis, as retweeted by Eric Shepherd)

Generational hardware gap deux

December 19th, 2011 7:36 PM
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Remember those modern kids confronted with ancient technology? They were, for the most part, baffled by archaic storage media and entertainment devices. It was an amusing demonstration of the changes in interfaces and expectations across the generations.

Here's another example of the clash between new and old. Four American kids, all siblings, are given three devices from their mother's attic: a tape deck, a Commodore Plus/4, and an Atari 2600.

It's great fun to see the girl's delight at getting the Commodore to work. Today's computers may be more elegant and inviting, but there's a far greater sense of accomplishment at mastering the rudimentary commands of yesterday's machines.

By contrast, it's challenging to believe the young man couldn't figure out how to fire in a game that has one button, it's not surprising that he and his brother would find the Atari games challenging. In 2009, I brought a 22-year-old to the American Classic Arcade Museum at Funspot. Bred into being a multitasker by today's complex and staccato media, she was confused by the simplicity of the coin-ops of the 1980s. Surely there was more to it than that?

I'm glad there are retro enthusiasts out there who are not only holding onto their tech but are willing to share it with their kids. May we always remember the way things were — the better to appreciate the way things are!

(Hat tip to ComputeHer, 8 Bit Weapon)