Jack Tramiel, the antithesis of Steve Jobs, has died. Tramiel was the founder of Commodore. Unlike Jobs, Tramiel believed that computers should be utilitarian and cheap, disregarding elegant design or attention to detail—like the legendary Commodore 64.
While Jobs' sense of aesthetics and obsessive detail permeated everything Apple did, from hardware to software, Tramiel—born Jacek Trzmiel in Lodz, Poland, 1928—didn't give a damn. His only concern was price and making things useful enough to win the battle in the marketplace.
As a result, Commodore's design was the crude club to Apple's elegant sword. And while time and nostalgia have made his computers charming, they are still slabs of ugly plastic. Charming ugly plastic slabs that I still like—I used the C64 all through my middle school years and remember to love every bit of its craptastic no-frills nature.
Tramiel's company started as a typewriter repair company, then started to make calculators and LED watches and, finally, computers: the PET 2001—made in 1977 to look like a 1990 point of sale cashier or a sci-fi B-movie computer—and then the Commodore VIC-20.
But it was the $595 Commodore 64 that won the battle for him. The computer became incredibly popular. Ironically, Tramiel was forced to step down from the company he created soon after the C64—just like Jobs himself and the Macintosh. This led Tramiel to buy Atari—double irony, Atari was Jobs' first employer.
In Atari, he came out with the Atari ST, which competed against the Commodore Amiga—which was created after he left his company—the Apple Macintosh and the IBM PC.
Those who knew him say he was a very nice man. Rest in peace, Jack Tramiel. I'll play Ghostbuster in my C64 emulator today to honor your achievements. [Time]