Jack Tramiel And Commodore
Hard luck has played a big part in Jack Tramiel’s life, and his enduring spirit is something of an inspiration. Some tech pioneers have a slightly interesting story. Then there’s Jack.
Born Jacek Trzmiel in Poland in 1928, his Jewish family was transported to the local ghetto when Germany invaded in 1939, and Tramiel worked in a garment factory. From there, they were taken to Auschwitz and he and his father were dispatched to the Ahlem labour camp while his mother remained behind. The US Army liberated the camp in 1945, and he saw his future, enlisting two years later, training in office equipment repair. The seeds of his future business were sown.
After settling in the US and working as a taxi driver (a very common immigrant profession, that), he earned the money to buy a shop in the Bronx and start once more repairing office machinery. He named it Commodore Portable Typewriter. When that evolved to manufacturing adding machines Tramiel faced a big problem, in that it was eventually all but wiped out by the arrival of calculators from Japan. After securing financing to by another company, he was told by its chief designer, Chuck Peddle, that computers were the future. Tramiel asked him to prove it.
The result was the Commodore PET, which became a huge sensation at first. As seems usual in Tramiel’s career, other companies began to catch up and overtake them, leading to the development of the Vic-20 and then the world famous Commodore 64.
In 1984, Tramiel pulled a Steve Jobs and resigned from the company he founded, and created Tramel Technology, which ended up buying Atari, Inc. He died at the age of 83 of heart failure. Not a bad life for someone whose world started out in such chaos…
We’d cast: If only Ed Asner or Wilford Brimley were 20 years younger. Robin Williams with some prosthetics?
Tone: Perhaps a lighthearted drama with extensive, darker flashbacks, for an upbeat feel but an emotional punch.