Commodore: A Brief History
18 2002 with permission
In 1954 Jack Tramiel founded
Commodore as a typewriter repair service. Jack Tramiel was Polish,
and after Auschwitz he traveled to the United States and joined the Army.
After the army he decided to open a repair shop in the Bronx. Tramiel
always had an inclination towards technology such as mechanical and
Tramiel Moved again in 1955,
this time to Ontario, Canada becoming a low-cost office furniture
In the 70's there was a boom in the calculator and digital watches and
although Tramiel ventured in this area in 1976
Commodore was on the edge of insolvency. Tramiel was saved by Irving Gould
by lending him three million
dollars and purchased MOS technologies. The acquisition was key to
Tramiel's philosophy of vertical integration. By production and
distribution controlling, Commodore kept its costs very low and itís
products competitive. Commodore was again transferred to the Bahamas in
order to take advantage of lower taxes, which eventually the company came
on its feet again.
and manufacturing base was in California.
The idea in the 70's was
that the future of computers was in databases which were accessed via
terminals. Desktop computers and affordable models were still a far
reached idea. Tramiel refused to accept this. Determined as he was, in
1977 Commodore introduced the PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) which
was designed by Chuck Paddle and it was sold at $795. By the time PET was
put on the market there were other competitors such as Tandy TRS-80 and
Apple II. Always keeping the idea of ďUser-FriendlyĒ PET was composed of
a Monitor, Keyboard and a Tape Drive which were housed in a plastic case.
The Vic20, with its 5K Ram was introduced in
1981. The Vic often ran out of memory before users finished writing their
programs. Still the production reached up to 9000 a day, and 1982 itís
sales reached up to $305 Million. Commodoreís
hit on the market was the Commodore 64. Like the Vic 20 it came without a
Monitor but it had 64K Ram. Sales reached nearly 22 Million Units in 1983.
The market share of Commodore had become twice that of Apple and Tandy.
Also in 1983 Commodore
introduced the SX-64 which was a portable computer and 1984 the Plus/4 was
introduced with integrated software in Rom. The
Largest revolution was the Amiga 1000 with 256 Ram. The price for this
Computer was $1,200, a though competitor for the Multimedia systems. The
Amiga had many features such as built-in speech and text-to-speech
conversion. Also Monitor could display multiple screens at different
resolutions. The Concept of home entertainment system was helped with the
built in outputs for TVs and VCRs. Although Amiga 1000 had all these
features it not reached the scope Tramiel wanted, as Amiga was considered
as a gaming machine. Still the company went towards the billion-dollar
mark. Things were not going as they should and debts increased.
In January 1984 Tramiel sold his share but his past was never filled
adequately. Irving Gould was Commodoreís new reigning CEO failed to grasp
important industry trends. This caused commodore in isolation. Gould and
his president Mehdi.R.Ali failed to understand the true nature of computer
industry. Marketing was done through word of mouth therefore consumers
were never informed about Commodoreís largest innovations. Commodore 64
had no marketing plan but still it was a great success. They wanted to do
the same with the Amiga but circumstances were different.
By this time (1986-87) IBM had
conquered the market and Bill Gateís Micro$oft Windows catered for PC
Compatibles. Apple introduced Macintosh, and Software markets started to
show interest in IBM and Apple Computers. Although Commodore tried to put
on the market add-ons which could allow users to run Macintosh and IBM
Software, but it was to late. Loyal Customers continued to purchase
Commodore computers, which were continuously upgraded, but IBM and Apple
had by now dominance in the computer market. For
consumers who were not very enthusiastic with computers, in 1992 Commodore
put on the market the Commodore Dynamic Television (CDTV) that played
games and CD ROMs on normal TV Set. The successor of the CDTV was the CD32
with 32-bit memory. Although it was superior to products by Sega and 3DO,
the CD32 did not reach the desired results. This time there was a more
studied marketing plan, but the budget was still low.
Amiga was the shining star, used by New Tek Incís Video Toaster a well
Known video production tool. It was very much sought after by film and
television studios but it was not enough to help the company back on its
feet. The decline of Commodore reached its climax in 1993 with the loss of
$357 Million. The Company made big efforts to keep its engineers,
and keep the business running but these efforts were useless and in 1994
Commodore Closed itís doors forever.