RIP Jack Tramiel - 1928-2012
Given the recent outpouring of grief over the passing of Steve Jobs, it seems amiss that the tech world isn't equally as distressed by the news that the man that brought us the Commodore 64 and Atari ST sadly passed away on 8th April.
Jack Tramiel was a true pioneer having launched two of the most successful computing platforms of all time. The Commodore 64 was one of the leading 8-bit home computers and did a valiant job of duking it out with Sir Clive's ZX Spectrum and Lord Sugar's Amstrad CPC. He left Commodore in 1984 after a disagreement with how the company was run and went on to Tramel Technology which in turn eventually bought Atari Inc from Warner. Under Tramiel's guidance, Atari went on to launch the 16-bit computing era with the Atari ST, beating his former company's Amiga to the market by a significant margin and remained on top for quite some time. The Amiga eventually triumphed because of its gaming credentials, but the ST and its various spin-offs (STe, Mega ST, TT and Falcon030) managed to stay on top in publishing and music; two key areas where the Atari hardware and OS meant it was head and shoulders above the competition.
The ST and its progeny provided true desktop power at a price that undercut the likes of early PCs and Macs by some margin. It had a great GUI operating in GEM and its 640x400 high resolution mode (which required a special monitor) was industry leading for a time.
Unfortunately, Atari's fortunes slowly dwindled with each subsequent platform release and by the time the Falcon was released the company had all-but-given up on the home computing market. A tragic shame given their last hardware was one of the best realised platforms of all time with true multitasking and high quality graphics making it an attractive alternative to the likes of the PC and Mac - unfortunately, market share told a different story. A last-gasp attempt at a games console in the Jaguar sealed the company's fate and its strange merger with hard drive manufacturer JTS was the final nail in the coffin. Nowadays, the Atari name is more synonymous with average console games on the X-box and Playstation than with it's real hardware highlights.
Tramiel helped create a multi-billion dollar industry and we've lost a real down-to-earth entrepreneur. He passed away as a result of heart faliure on 8th April aged 83...