Chuck Peddle – Father of the Personal Computer: Brief History

Reproduced March 31 2002 with permission from Marko Mäkelä of funet.fi  Tandon / JTS / Celetron chronology at the end of this article added Oct 4, 2003 by Ian Matthews  – Entire article refreshed Nov 23 2018

Note that we now have a much more comprehensive article on Chuck Peddle HERE.


chuck-peddle

commodore-pet-prototype-fig1_et_feb-1978

Commodore PET Prototype

Chuck Peddle got the idea of developing a personal computer that should be a closed system which can immediately be used after plugging it to the power outlet.  The result was the worlds first personal computer, the Commodore PET.  This occurred almost at the same time the Apple II was introduced but the Apple II used Chuck’s MOS 6502 CPU… so he kind-of-invented the Apple too.

The PET’s features included a built-in monitor, integrated cassette device and the well-known BASIC interpreter from Microsoft.  Commodore revised the PET many times and it is still quite popular amongst computer collectors today.

Chuck is one generation older than the ‘miracle children’ among the computer industries well known founders like Bill Gates, Stephen Wozniak and Steve Jobs and that fact always seems to keep him one step out of the discussion.  In 1982 influential Byte magazine said “More than any other person Chuck Peddle deserves to be called the founder of the personal computer industry”.

motorola_mc6800lIn 1973, Chuck Peddle went to Motorola to finish the development of the 6800 microprocessor.  The 6800, one of the first microprocessors on the market, was correspondingly expensive with its price of $200 ($900 in 2018 dollars).  From talking to large industrial manufacturers like car companies, Chuck knew that this price would inhibit the processor from conquering the market.  He left Motorola and had a fresh start at MOS Technology.

What he developed in this small company would soon become the most successful microprocessor of the first microcomputer decade — the 6502 CPU.  Nobody could anticipate that it was the basis of a whole industry that started not only a technical but also a social revolution.

commodore_calcualtor_playboy_december_1973

1973 COMMODORE MINI-SLIDE RULE CALCULATOR – From a December 1973 advertisement in Playboy… um uh ummmm yaaa well, this was the what I was looking for in the magazine… I was shocked to find naked women… I suppose I will have to take one for the team and scan all the old Playboys for Commodore materials. Its a tough job but I will sacrifice myself for Commodore.

One person who detected the worldwide effects of microprocessors and especially the 6502 from MOS Technology was Jack Tramiel, the founder and President of Commodore Computers.  Until then Commodore had focus on typewriters and then calculators.  It is not hard to understand that Tramiel, the main client of 4-function-chips for pocket calculators by MOS Technology, bought the company even while Commodore was in financial troubles itself.  But for Tramiel, the most important part of the deal was among the 6502 the developing engineer Chuck Peddle.

Chuck Peddle was so sure of his idea that he allied with Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and father of the popular BASIC interpreter, to buy Apple. This took place almost at the same time when Commodore bought MOS Technology.  Wozniak and Jobs wanted back then $150,000 ($670,000 in 2018 dollars) for Apple, but Peddle and Gates could only raise two thirds of the required funds.

victor_9000-computer-1983_print_adSo Chuck stayed at Commodore and in 1977 pushed the development of the PET (Personal Electronic Transactor). At the same time Wozniak and Jobs were building the Apple II using his MOS 6502 CPU.  The PET differed from the Apple by its built-in monitor, integrated cassette device as well as by a chiclet keyboard which could be better compared with a pocket calculator than with a typewriter).  In spite of the keyboard disadvantage, the first lot of 1000 PETs were rapidly sold at about $1600 ($6,200 in 2018 dollars) each. The first generation of true personal computers was born.

Three years later Chuck Peddle developed a new talent — the one of a company president. Together with Chris Fish, a former financier of Commodore, he founded Sirius Systems Technology which was a financial failure and in the end was bought by the then notable Walter Kidde Corporation in 1982.

The development in the area of personal computers was concentrated on the 16-bit chips at that time, like the Intel 8088.   Sirius beat the IBM PC to market by just a few weeks.  The Sirius I was not an cheap computer with its advanced features like a 16-bit CPU, detached keyboard and flicker-free high resolution graphics monitor.


Post Script:

It was confirmed in October 2003 that Chuck Peddle is the Chief Technology Officer for Celetron which is a hard drive disk platter and power supply manufacturer.  Mr. Peddle works in the US offices, but the most of the company’s operations are in India and Asia.  Mr. Tandon has a very interesting history with Mr. Peddle and Commodore:

  • In 1976, Sirjang Lal Tandon founded Tandon Computers, a highly successful corporation, which supplied disc drives to the PC industry.
  • Sirjan Lal Tandon was a pioneering visionary for India’s high tech industry
  • Commodore’s first hard drives, the 9060 and 9090 used Tandon’s Winchester drives – I have a Commodore 9060 in my collection
  • In 1980 Chuck Peddle and Chris Fish owned Victor corporation which made a superior 8080/8086 based machine called the Sirius 1, prior to IBM’s entry into the small computer market
  • Tandon sold Winchester hard drives to IBM for the first IBM PC’s in 1981.
  • In 1982 Tandon started selling floppy drives to Victor for the Sirius 1.
  • 1985 saw Chuck Peddle go to work directly for Tandon
    By 1986 Tandon Computers had too much inventory and after substantial lay offs and cut backs 1987 had Tandon sell their production facilities (but not their patents) to Western Digital
  • In 1991 Tandon had 1100 employees and sales  greater than US$400 Million but by 1993 Tandon declared bankruptcy
  • Jurgi Tandon with Tom Mitchell created a new company called JTS in 1994 which yet again manufactured hard drives
    JTS had stiff competition from Seagate, Conner, Western digital and IBM and in 1996 it merged (or had some in depth partnership) with Jack Tramiel’s Atari Corporation
  • Jack Tramiel’s sons took over some part of JTS management and they produced very inexpensive IDE hard drives under the JTS brand and OEM’d drives for DELL among others.
  • As the new millennium appeared JTS became less and less relevant
  • In 2000, three Tandon group companies, Tancom Electronics, Advance Technology Devices and Celetron Circuits, merged to form a global electronics manufacturing solutions firm Celetron Consolidated Inc
  • At their peak in the late 1990’s they had more than 5000 employee’s and were a ‘most favored supplier’ to Western Digital and Allied Telesyn
  • The companies are now bankrupt

Share This With Your Friends Now:
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedin

2 Comments on Chuck Peddle – Father of the Personal Computer: Brief History

Avatar

I have a cassette “Basic Basic for the Commodore Pet”, but my datasette is not working.

    Ian Matthews

    Hi Meyer;

    We have schematics and other items available but your best bet is use our forum and see what others think may be the problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *