RIP Jack Tramiel April 12th, 2012 by b-knox

Another big, classic computing obituary.  And I really have no idea how directly responsible he was for the actual 8bit Commodore machines, but it has more emotional impact on me than the passing of Steve Jobs.  I was kind of a spoiled kid (or there were great garage sales in my neighborhoods) because I had Commodores and an Apple II around.  The Commodore VIC-20 was brought home when I was four or five years old circa 1983.  It was probably on sale because the Commdore 64 just dropped on the market (I really don’t know), but I started typing programs out of the books before I could read.  I was learning how to manipulate symbols and understand the results.  Until the family got a NES in 1986, I probably spent more time on the VIC-20 than doing anything else.

And, around the age we got the NES, other computers found their way into our home.  I enjoyed the Apple II/e, spent a lot of time dorking around on that thing, but I always found the games laughable.  The Commodore 64 was definitely better, but you could start loading a game, go take a poop, and still wait for it to finish loading sometimes.  And even with these ‘better’ computers around, I still would go back to the VIC for it’s ridiculously large onscreen characters, writing BASIC programs that outgrew it’s limited 3.5kb of RAM.  Whether the program was any good or not, it didn’t matter, I  won the RAM battle.  :D

And then my teenage years came along, I was onto DOS based PCs and sold that crap Apple.  Somewhere in my early 20’s, I dug all my old computer stuff out of the attic. Most of the C64 disks were damaged, but all of the VIC’s datasettes were sound.  Somehow, both machines actually turned on and worked after five years in a Michigan attic?!  I had a decent job, went shit wild on eBay, and started collecting VIC20 anything.  I taught myself 6502 Machine Language and started writing real programs (not many).  The VIC is a staple of my live set, controlling it’s voices with the keyboard and Atari paddles.  I’ve gone through four of them since I started playing out around 10 years ago.  Good thing they’re cheap!  ;D

But I  digress.  If, as the media put it, Steve Jobs is solely responsible for home computing as we know it today, it had a lot to do with direct competition from Mr. Tramiel.  The Commodore PET and Apple II were both released in 1977, but the VIC-20 was the first computer to sell a million plus units, and the C64 still holds the record for the most units sold of any single computer model (don’t know if that excludes iPhones).  Commodore fell apart in the 1990’s, then Jack acquired Atari and ran that into the ground too.  The computer market grew some new legs and stomped on some conventional business strategies.

What a crap!  This next cartoon will set it all straight though!!

Important note : Microsoft was there in 1977 and on to supply Commodore with it’s BASIC kernel, mostly programmed in ML by Bill Gates himself. Bill, get outta my life!!

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