We wrote a much more complete history of Irving Gould in 2018 that you might also be interested in: The Crazy Story of How Irving Gould Ended Up Owning and Killing Commodore
The Canadian Government’s 1966 investigation of the bankrupt Atlantic Acceptance Corporation showed that Atlantic had produced potentially fraudulent financial reports. Atlantic was a major investor in Commodore. To save his company, Commodore’s founder and CEO Jack Tramiel, gave Irving Gould 17% of the company in exchange for US$400,000 ($1.8M in 2018 dollars). As part of that historic deal Gould became Commodore’s Chairman of the Board.
A few years later, in 1975 Commodore lost US$5 million on sales of US$50 million ($225M in 2018 dollars). This was a direct result of Commodore’s CPU supplier, Texas Instruments, entering the calculator market. Again Gould personally stepped in; this time with a loan guarantee for US$3 million.
That money financed the 1976 purchase of MOS technologies, which quickly became Commodore Semiconductor Group (CSG). The MOS acquisition was the key component in Commodore to ‘vertical integration’ plans and was at the heart of Commodores string of huge product success’ over the next decade.
In the late 1990’s Irving Gould told a friend of mine that Commodore made its easiest money selling cheap calculators in the 1970’s. However, Commodore’s great contribution to the world is the development and popularization of the microcomputer. In 1975 MOS completed development of the 6502 CPU which was the core technology behind:
- the world’s first single board microcomputer, the MOS KIM1
- the world’s first personal computer the Commodore PET
- the world’s best selling computer the Commodore 64 (which uses a 6502 derivative named the 6509)
- dozens of non-Commodore computers like the Apple I, II, III, Atari’s, Acorn’s, Franklin’s… – check out this huge list of computers that used the Commodore MOS 6502 cpu
The profit motive drove Gould to play a critical and largely unacknowledged role in computer history.
As important as the MOS’ fabrication facilities were to Commodore’s calculator business, the greatest acquisition in the MOS deal was a former owner and lead engineer named Chuck Peddle. In late 1976 Peddle convinced Jack Tramiel to produce the world’s first real computer, the Commodore Personal Electronic Transactor. The PET was announced several months BEFORE the Apple 1 and about six months before the Radio Shack TRS 80.
Irving Gould and Jack Tramiel had a successful working relationship until 1984 when an argument that has yet to be fully explained caused Jack Tramiel to quit on the spot. Soon after Jack bought the remnants of bankrupt Atari from Warner Brothers (now called Time Warner). As a result of Jacks departure Gould immediately became Commodore’s CEO.
Irving Gould and Medhi Ali (Commodore’s Managing Director at the end) have been widely ‘credited’ with causing the untimely demise of Commodore in 1993/4 through a long series of market squandering mistakes. The drive to maximize profit by producing low cost equipment combined with the serious mis-marketing of the Amiga product line was apparently the result of their management.
If Gould had kept to the financial side of the business and left the ‘big picture’ work to Jack Tramiel, Commodore may have been a name we see on computers today.
History will not likely be kind to Irving Gould but it is important to note that he single-handedly saved the company on several occasions. For that, he deserves recognition and thanks.
2002 Post Script: A good friend of flew on the Commodore Jet to Irving Gould’s house in the Bahamas in about 1996. At that time Irving Gould was alive and well living in retirement and was believed to still be a Canadian citizen. Go CANADA!!!
2005 Update: We were informed that Irving Gould passed away in 2004.