Commodore founder Jack Tramiel dead at 83

Jack Tramiel, arguably as important a figure to the early personal computer industry as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, passed away on Sunday. He was 83 years old.

Born as Jacek Trzmiel in 1928, Tramiel came from Lodz, Poland. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Tramiel and his Jewish family were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where his father died. Tramiel emigrated to the United States after World War II ended.

Tramiel founded Commodore International in Toronto, Canada, in the mid-1950s, manufacturing Czechoslovakian-designed typewriters, then adding machines. Ultimately, the company switched focus to calculators and then computers. In the early 1980s Commodore designed and sold the VIC-20, an inexpensive home computer, and followed that with the Commodore 64, a now legendary computer that ultimately sold more than 20 million units, significantly outselling Apple and other computer makers of its time.

Tramiel had mixed success in his later career. Tramiel resigned from Commodore in the mid-80s after heated price wars with other PC makers led to financial problems; he ended up acquiring the assets of then-struggling video game console maker Atari from Warner Communications and founded Atari Inc., releasing the Atari ST personal computer. Tramiel would remain involved with Atari’s operations through though the mid-90s.