In the early 1980s, before Nintendo became a household word around the world, there were two major players in the brand new realm of home computer video games— Commodore and Atari. And Jack Tramiel was essential for both. The tech pioneer, the founder of Commodore and former owner of Atari died yesterday at the age of 83, but hopefully his impact on the evolution of video games will never be forgotten.
Tramiel was born in Poland to a Jewish family in 1928. During World War II, he and his family were sent to Auschwitz, after which he and his father were sent to a labor camp called Ahlem, near Hannover. Tramiel was rescued in April 1945 and emigrated to the United States in 1947.
In America, Tramiel started a typewriter repair business. Staying in the forefront of technology, his typewriters morphed into calculators, and later computers. In 1982, Commodore International launched the Commodore 64, which went on to the best-selling personal computer of all time. In 1984, after being forced to leave the company he founded, Jack bought the crumbling Atari Inc.’s Consumer Division and formed Atari Corporation.
“Jack Tramiel was an immense influence in the consumer electronics and computing industries. A name once uttered in the same vein as Steve Jobs is today, his journey from concentration camp survivor to captain of industry is the stuff of legends,” says Martin Goldberg, a writer working on a book about the Atari brand and the early days of video games and computing with Atari Museum founder Curt Vendel.
“His legacy are the generations upon generations of computer scientists, engineers, and gamers who had their first exposure to high technology because of his affordable computers – ‘for the masses and not the classes.’”
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