Chronological History of Commodore
Reproduced March 31 2002 with
permission from Larry of
Graphics added by Ian Matthews Fall 2003
updated June 4, 2012
Around the age of 15, Jack Tramiel (then named Idek Tramielski) and his
parents were shipped with other Jews from Lodz, Poland to Auschwitz in 1939, though his father perished he and his mother survived the months till Auschwitz' fall in 1944.
When Tramiel left the army, he started work at a typewriter
repair shop and then later set up his own typewriter repair business in the
Bronx. To supplement his income, he also moonlighted as a cab driver.
1955 - the "Birth of Commodore"
Jack moves to Toronto, Canada and founds Commodore
International Limited, with a deal with Czechoslovakia to assemble typewriters
[Why Commodore? Because Tramiel wanted a name with a military ring and because
higher ranks, such as General and Admiral, were already taken.]
To help fund his business, he gets Financier C. Powell Morgan, the head of the
Atlantic Acceptance Company to back his business.
Atlantic goes bankrupt and C. Powell Morgan is indicted for
"his defiance of all accepted business principles" and acts of "rapacious and
unprincipled manipulation." by the Canadian government amid charges of
fraudulent financial statements, dummy companies, and propped stock prices.
Tramiel was considered suspect as well, but was never charged.
To keep the struggling Commodore afloat, Jack gave partial
control (17%) of Commodore to a new investor, Irving Gould for $400,000.
The Chip manufacturers themselves enter the
lucrative electronic calculator market, including Texas Instruments. Their
calculators retail for less than commodore can assemble them and are stuck
with a massive inventory. Commodore went from $60 million in sales to $5
million in losses.
[June] Chuck Peddle designs the 6502 Microprocessor for MOS
Technologies, styled after the Motorola 6800 the 6502 changes the
microprocessor market overnight by selling at ony $25 per individual unit
(previously the lowest price was about $150 for an 8-bit microprocessor).
Commodore sets up shop on Palo Alto California
MOS Technologies release the KIM-1 Microprocessor Trainer,
a single board computer. Rtail $245.
[October] In order to stop being the "middle man" Commodore
purchases MOS Tecnologies for $800,000 as well as Frontier, a Los Angeles
manufacturer of CMOS chips, and MDSA, a LCD maker. Chuck peddle convinces Jack
Tramiel that the next market is with computers and jack says to build one.
1977 - A "PET" is Born!
[January] Commodore's Chuck Peddle shows the first PET to
Radio Shack, hoping to have Radio Shack sell it.
At the West Coast Computer Faire Commodore unveils the
Commodore PET microcomputer. That year the Apple ][ and TRS-80 are also
unveiled. Unlike many of the companies Commodore is able to start world wide
distribution in months instead of years.
In order to to gauge demand Commodore runs newspaper ads
that offer a six-week delivery on a computer priced at $599 with which Tramiel
thought he could still make a profit. An encouraging amount of order returned
to the sum of $3 million.
Commodore relocates from Palo Alto to a bigger
manufacturing site in Santa Clara California.
Commodore releases the upgraded PET 2001 series, with
business and non-business version sporting a larger keyboard, expandability to
32k and an improved (bug fixed) BASIC which includes disk support.
Commodore finally releases the Commodore printers 2022 and
2023, up to this point many user had to wait or look for alternatives.
The CBM 8000 computer is released, supporting 80 columns
wide dispplay on a 12" monitor, business keyboard, built-in peizo speaker,
the computer also uses the new BASIC 4.0 operating system that adds disk
commands to BASIC.
1981 say hello to "VIC"
The PET/CBM 4000 series of computers are unveiled which
also use the 12" display in 40 columns, built-in speakers and the 4.0 BASIC
ROMs, but keep their graphics/business style keyboards.
In conjunction with Waterloo University Commodore
introduces the SuperPET, a souped up 96k 8000 series PET sporting both a 6502
or 6809 processor. The 6809 mode offers the use of loading in disk based
languages and interfacing via a true RS-232 port to larger mini and mainframe
computers for programming and language development.
Commodore unveils the Commodore VIC-20 aka "the Friendly
Computer" the first color microcomputer to sell for under $300 (299.95),
features include a 5k RAM (3.5k for BASIC programs) expandable to 32k, a 22
col x 23 row 8/16 color diisplay capable of hi-resolution graphics, and a
joystick interface. During its life, production peaks at 9,000 units per day.
Bally licenses Commodore to manufacture its arcade games
into cartridges for the VIC-20.
1982 a whole new computer line for Commodore
Commodore introduces the VIC Modem, a 300 baud cartridge
modem for US$110.
Commodore introduces the 16K SuperVIC
Commodore Business Machines Inc. introduces the Commodore
Max Machine. It has 16-color 40x25 screen capability, for US$180.
Commodore announces the Commodore 64 (6510, 64KB RAM, 20KB
ROM with Microsoft BASIC, custom sound, color graphics, for US$600) for
US$595. During 1983, the price drops to US$200. It becomes the best selling
computer of all time, with estimated sales of 17-22 million units. It is the
first personal computer with an integrated sound synthesizer chip.
Commodore Business Machines introduces the B128
microcomputer. It features 128KB RAM, 40KB ROM, 6509 CPU, 5.25-inch floppy
drive, 3-voice sound chip, cartridge slot, and an 80-column green screen, for
Commodore Business Machines introduces the P128
microcomputer. It features 128KB RAM, TV connector, 40x25 16-color display,
and 320x200 graphics, for US$1000.
Commodore Business Machines introduces the BX256 16-bit
multiprocessor professional microcomputer. It includes 256KB RAM, Intel 8088
for CP/M-86, 6509 CPU, 80-column B/W monitor, built-in dual disk drives, and
3-voice sound for US$3000.
Jack Tramiel resigns from Commodore Business Machines, but
later takes his position back.
Chuck Peddle's Victor Computer Cororation releases the
Victor 9000 - Compared to the other MS-DOS 8088 computers its features were
Commodore has shipped 750,000 VIC-20 computers by the end
of 1982. Apple Computer has shipped 600,000 Apple II computers by the end of
1982. Timex has shipped 600,000 Timex/Sinclair 1000 computers by the end of
1982. Texas Instruments has shipped 575,000 TI 99/4 computers by the end of
[January] Commodore's sales of VIC-20s reaches 1,000,000
[January] Commodore introduces the SX-64, the first color
portable computer. Weight is 10.5 kg. It incorporates a 5-inch color monitor
and one or two 5.25 inch floppy drive. Price is US$1600.
[?] Rumours about a super-computer, with the codename
Lorraine (the first Amiga, named for the HiToro president's wife) were
travelling across the USA. 1983 was the year that all the custom chips were
built. RJ Mical (the coder of the intution) wanted a cheap games machine, but
the others wanted the best computer.
1984 Jack leaves Commodore
[January]the 1984 Consumer Electronics Show was the
showcase for Commodore's next computer, the 264, based on the "TED chip"
(acronym for Tramiel Editing Device).
[January] According to a statement released in January of
1984, Tramiel said, "personal reasons prevent my continuing on a full-time
basis with Commodore." Irving Gould recruited Marshall F. Smith from
Thyssen-Bornemisza NV, a conglomerate based in the Netherlands Antilles, to
[April] Commodore International launches the Commodore PC
at the Hanover Fair in Germany.
[April] Commodore International launches the Commodore
Z8000 at the Hanover Fair in Germany.
[Spring] Commodore stops manufacturing the VIC-20.
[June] Commodore announces the Commodore 16 at the Consumer
Electronics Show. The machine looks like the VIC-20 and Commodore 64, but has
16KB of RAM, and is expected to sell for around US$100, and marketed as "The
[June] Commodore announces the renamed Commodore 264 as the
Plus/4. It will now feature four built-in programs, not just one. Price will
be around US$300.
[June] Commodore announces the DSP 1101 letter-quality
daisywheel printer, designed for the Plus/4, the MPS 802 dot matrix printer
(Re-badged 1526), the MCS 801 color dot matrix printer (re-badged Okimate-10)
and the cost reduced MPS 803 dot matrix printer (which replaced the MPS-801)
[July] Jack Tramiel, former president of Commodore
International, buys a controlling interest in the Atari home computer and
video game divisions from Warner Communications, for US$240 million in
long-term notes. Warner retains Atari's coin-operated game division and home
communications venture Ataritel.
The Amiga Inc. team was trying to find a company to buy
their technology and to employ them, since they had run out of money. Many
companies were interested in the custom chips of the Amiga, such as Sony,
Apple, Philips, HP, etc.
Atari's president, Jack Tramiel, who had just left C=, because he purchased
Atari secretly, was trying to get his revenge by buying Amiga Inc. He lent
Amiga Inc. $1,000,000, to be payed back one month later.
When the month was almost up, it became apparent that Amiga Inc. would not be
able to pay him back, so he offered 98 cents per share for the company. Amiga
Inc. thought that this was unacceptable, so they looked for someone else to
buy them. Just 2 days before the deadline, C= came in and began to talk to
They managed to get C= to raise its bid to $4.25 a share, and just before the
deadline ended C= gave them $1,000,00 to pay back Atari, on the condition that
they would get to buy Amiga Inc.
1985 a pretty new "Amiga" gets all the attention
[January] Commodore unveils the Commodore 128 Personal
Computer. It functions as three computers in one: a complete Commodore 64, a
CP/M mode, and a new 128KB mode.
[July] Commodore unveils the new Amiga 1000 at a
star-studded gala held at Lincoln Center in New York. It features a
multitasking, windowing operating system, using a Motorola 68000 CPU, with
256KB RAM, and 880KB 3.5-inch disk drive, for US$1300.
[?] Mimic Systems announces the Spartan, a hardware upgrade
for the Commodore 64 that turns it into an Apple IIe. (it would take several
months before the actual units are available to the public)
In an effort to make Commodore profitable, Smith took to
downsizing, cutting the payroll by more than 45%. Though the company had an
impressive $339 million in 1985 holiday revenues, it made only $1 million for
the quarter after paying off about 1/4 of its bank debt.
Commodore suffered through Fiscal Year 1985, losing $237 million, and getting
into trouble with its creditors. The banks granted a much needed one-month
extension on Commodore's loans, and, with the success of the company's
second-best Christmas sales ever behind them, Commodore defied the Gods of
Bankruptcy yet again.
In March 1986, Thomas J. Rattigan replaced Smith as
Commodore's CEO. Rattigan was hired in April of 1985 with the understanding
that he would replace Smith, who remained on as a director. Rattigan's
objective during the first few months of his leadership was clear - cut costs
in order to stabilize Commodore's position, allowing it to rebuild. Once
again, the payroll was trimmed from top to bottom, and three plants were
closed in five months. New controls were added in the finance department to
prevent the sloppy reporting that had undermined Smith's leadership.
Commodore continued to sell respectable numbers of its $150 C64 throughout
1986. The Commodore 128, a successor to and more powerful machine than the
C64, was selling for $300 at the time, also helping to keep the company
Rattigan's policies worked. By March of 1987, Commodore had
caught up on its loans and posted a $22 million earning in the quarter ending
December 1986. It also had $46 million in the bank, the most cash since 1983,
its most profitable year.
[February] Commodore announces the Amiga 500. It features a
68000 processor, 512KB RAM, floppy disk drive, and custom chips for animation,
video, and audio.  [442.40]
[February] Commodore announces the Amiga 2000.
[March] On April 22, 1987, Rattigan was replaced by
Chairman Irving Gould, the venture capitalist who had been involved with
Commodore for over 20 years. It is unclear as to why Rattigan was replaced
after turning the company around and posting $28 million in profits over the
four quarters ending in March 1987. Rattigan himself claimed that he was
forced out by Chairman Gould due to personality conflicts and that Gould was
upset about Rattigan getting credit for the company's turnaround. Gould argued
that the comeback in the U.S. was insufficient compared to its rebound in
overseas markets, which accounted for 70% of its sales. (There are reports of
the famous board meeting showdown between Irving and Radigan where Radigan was
physically removed from the premesis, later to win a $9M suit against the
In fact, despite its profitability, Commodore's U.S.
revenues had declined by 54% in the same four quarters.
According to Gould's ideology, the North American operation was to be a sales
and marketing extension of the company, rather than the unwieldy,
semi-independent entity it had become. For the third time in Commodore
history, a new leader began his term at the helm by drastically downsizing.
Under Gould's reign, the payroll was cut from 4,700 to 3,100, including half
the North American headquarters' corporate staff, and five plants were closed.
[October] Industry veteran Max Toy, generally credited with
engineering the expansion of ITT Corp.'s Xtra Business Systems division's PC
product line and strengthening its distribution channels, last week was named
president and chief operating officer of Commodore Business Machines Inc.
Toy, who held the post of vice president of sales and
government products for Xtra Business Systems and had been with the company
for two years, said he resigned his post "for a greater opportunity." [...]
"It [Commodore] is a significant company that has solid foundation stones to
build from," he said, indicating that he intends to "solidify Commodore's
relationships not just with distribution channels but also in establishing
In his new post, Toy will report directly to Commodore
International Ltd. chairman and chief executive Irving Gould.
[?] Commodore launches its first IBM PC-compatible
machines, the PC10-1 and PC10-2. Both use a 4.77 MHz Siemens 8088.
[January] Commodore announces that 1 million Amiga
computers have been sold.
[February] Irving Gould, Chairman and Chief Executive
Officer of Commodore International Limited announced that Mehdi Ali had been
appointed to the position of President of the Company. Mr. Ali, then a
managing director of Dillon, Read & Co., Inc., New York, has been a special
advisor to Commodore for the past three years. In August he was elected to the
Commodore Baord of Directors.
Mr. Gould commented: "Having worked closely with Mr. Ali for the past three
years, I believe we are fortunate that he has agreed to expand the role he has
been playing in the restucturing of Commodore into a major comeptitor in the
Mr. Ali added: "Commodore now has considerable momentum and I hope to help
capitalize on the significant opportunities that lie ahead."
Mr. Ali will conduct his duties as President from Commodore's New York
corporate offices. Mr. Ali had been with Dillon Read since 1984 and served as
vice president on the finance staffs of PepsiCo Inc. and General Motors
Corporation for the previous eight years.
(This is an appointment to President of Commodore INTERNATIONAL, which was
mostly a vacant position guided by Irving Gould and the Board of Directors)
[April] Harold D. Copperman is appointed as President and
Chief Operating Officer of Commodore's US Operations, Commodore Business
Machines, Inc. He replaces Max Toy, who resigned to pursue other interests.
Mr. Copperman was formerly Vice President and General Manager, Eastern
Operations, Apple Computer, Inc. His responsibilities included overseeing
sales, marketing, support, and distribution for Apple's Eastern region. He
also managed Apple's Federal Systems Group. Prior to that, Mr. Copperman
served with International Business Machines for twenty years, prior to
becoming Commodore's President he was National Director of Marketing for IBM's
Academic Information Systems Business Unit.
[November] Commodore announces the Amiga 2500/30. It is
essentially an Amiga 2000 with a 2630 Accelerator Board (25-MHz 68030 and
68882 math coprocessor). [408.12]
[March] Commodore offers Amiga 1000 owners US$1000 to trade
in their Amiga on a new Amiga 2000.
[?] NewTek releases the Video Toaster, a professional
quality hardware/software video effects tool for the the Commodore Amiga 2000,
[?] Commodore announces the Amiga 3000, at the Palladium in
New York City. The system features a Motorola 16 MHz 68030, 68881 math
coprocessor, new Enhanced Chip Set, Zorro III bus, 2MB RAM, 40- or 100-MB hard
drive, AmigaDOS v2.0, and AmigaVision authoring system. Prices start at
US$4100 with a monitor.
[?] Commodore releases the CDTV (Commodore Dynamic Total
Vision) package. It features a CD-ROM player integrated with a 7.16-MHz
68000-based Amiga 500. List price is US$1000.
[?] Commodore International Stockholder Meetings are moved
to Commodore International Headquarters at Nassau in the Bahamas (home also to
Board Chairman Irving Gould).,
[January] Commodore International Limited (NYSE: CBU)
announced today the appointment of James Dionne as general manager of its U.S.
sales company, succeeding Harold Copperman, who has been appointed vice
president of Commodore International Limited, with new responsibilities
including Amiga multimedia strategies. (Dionne, from reports, had been
'groomed' for the new role ahead of time.)
[?] Commodore unveils the Amiga 3000UX, with a Motorola
MC68030 25-MHz processor, 68882 math coprocessor, UNIX System V Release 4,
Open Look, and Ethernet support. Cost is US$5000, without a monitor.
[?] Commodore introduces the Amiga 600: 4096 colors, stereo
sound, full pre-emptive multitasking operating system (Workbench 2.05), PCMCIA
slot, integrated IDE controller, Motorola 68000 CPU, for a base price of $500
(a version with an internal hard disk sortly followed).
[September] Commodore introduced the first machine with the
AGA (advanced Graphics Architecture) chipset, the Amiga 4000. The A4000/040
sported a 68040 / 25Mhz processor, six custom chips Super Gary, Super Ramsey,
Super Amber, Lisa, Alice, and Paula. With 6mb Ram (2mb Chip/ 4mb Fast), IDE
controller (they included a SeaGate ST3144A 3.5" 120mb HD). The floppy drive
was a dual speed high density one. They also used the SIMM technology for the
memory upgrades. Also announced AmigaDOS Release 3 Operating System.
[December] The AMIGA 1200 was introduced, The AMIGA 1200,
was one of the most successful AMIGA computers. It also had the IDE controller
and the PCMCIA slot of the A600, plus a 32-bit trapdoor expansion. It included
Amiga Dos v3.0. Processor : Motorola 68EC020 / 14Mhz, RAM : 2mb Chip Ram ,
expandable to 10mb total Ram. [8mb Fast] (The early announcement of the Amiga
1200 made the Amiga 500/600 sales flatten and availability of parts for the
1200 left Commodore with little profit for that quarter)
[September] Sometime at or after the World of
Commodore/Amiga Show in Anahiem California James Dionne resignes as president
of Commodore US (details here are fuzzy and I cannot find nay more mention of
any presidents of US operations)
[?] Commodore Business Machines stops producing Intel-based
The very last machine of Commodore, the CD32, a games
machine. It was the worlds first 32bit console. with a 14Mghz 68020 processor
It had a double speed CDRom Drive, 2mb Chip memory, AGA chipset and the option
of a FMV (Full Motion Video/MPEG) module. But once again the machine didnt
make it. It had many sales but not as many as they were needed to save the
financial problems of Commodore. Most of the games released were just CD
conversions of the original A1200/4000 ones, with no extra CD music, or FMV.
The Commodore situation was awful... CD32 was the first (and the last?)
machine using as standard, Kickstart3.1. (Released later as an upgrade for all
Commodore had a financial damage of $107 million dollars by
the end of 1993. But the Amiga was still a very popular machine. In 1992,
Commodore sold about 800.000 Amigas (17% more than 1991) and in 1993, it sold
20% less. Big problems made Commodore lose all that money : Fall of Amiga
periherals sales (Monitors,Printers etc.), the US $ and its price fall on the
major economic markets) and ... Irving Gould (Chariman) & Mehdi Ali (president
of the Commodore).
[March] Commodore, has announced that they were having
financial difficulties which might result in bankrupty or liquidation.
Commodore had lost $8.2 million. The stock fell to $0.75 per share. The New
York stock exchange halted trading of Commodore stock!
[April] Until the middle of April, Commodore was still
producing A4000s, A1200s, and CD32s, and the engineers continued development
of the new AAA chipset. AAA was meant to be a big improvement over AGA. 24bit
Graphics [resolutions up to 1280x1024], 16bit CD quality audio and other
interesting things. AAA was never truly finished.
During the second half of April the production of Amigas stopped. The
Philippines factory closed, but left behind a big stock of Amigas. The
Scotland factory also stopped the production. Many employees were told by the
management to hunt for new jobs...
[April,22] 15 people were dismissed from West Chester (PA),
and the Commodore Semiconductor Group was closed. 15 people were also
dismissed from the Norristown factory.
[April,26] Engineering closed. The site in West Chester,
once supported by 1000 employees, now had only 22 people left on it.
April 29th, 1994 - almost an end to an Era
Commodore International announced that it had been unable
to renegotiate terms of its outstanding loans and was closing down the
business. The liquidation process lasted for months, owing largely to the
far-reaching size of the corporation. In addition, the fact that the company
was incorporated in the Bahamas while a large share of the creditors were from
the United States made legal proceeding tense and drawn out. On April 20,
1995, almost a full year later, Commodore was sold to the German company ESCOM
for approximately 10 to 12.5 million dollars. During the summer of 1996,
however, ESCOM also fell into recievership.
[June] Jay Miner a key creator of the Amiga custom chips
dies of kidney problems.
Eventually Gateway 2000 Computers
purchases the Technologies
of Commodore/Amiga and Tulip of Holland purchase the Commodore Trademark.
Then Tulip has serious financial problems and sells Commodore to YMV
(Yohero Media Ventures) which renames itself Commodore.
YMV/Commodore produce low end MP3 players with Commodore names like VIC
and also high end gaming PC's but again can not make enough money to stay
operational. The CEO, Ben Van Wijhe, forms a new Commodore name
which basically licences the name. In 2010 Florida's Barry Alman, a
wood furniture manufacturer, states that he intends to brand low end Asian
PC's with the Commodore brand and within a year settles a licensing
dispute with Commodore.
Amiga was produced and supported by several
companies after Commodores collapse but by 2012 the Amiga name is largely used
only as brand for a Linux
based Operating System
The Commodore 64 also has been kept alive by the support of
customers and 3rd party hardware and software deveopers. The Commodore
64 made a listing in the Guiness Book of World Records for "The most units sold
of a single model of computer." Over the 10 years the Commodore 64 sold over
17million units all sporting the same features it originally had back in 1982.
On Sunday April 8th 2012, Jack Tramiel
passed away in Monte Sereno California.
REF: A great site for dates is