The “bread” that changed the world: 40 years of the legendary Commodore 64

Smartphone, notebook, all-in-one console… we’re so surrounded by computers that they seem to have always accompanied mankind. But only some forty years ago even the thought of such a machine in every home seemed insane and fantastic. The Commodore 64 was one of the gadgets that could change the situation. For the anniversary of the device 4PDA remembered the history of the legendary computer and personally talked with its creators and fans.

“The family [founder of Commodore] first moved into a ghetto and then was taken to Auschwitz”

If not for the war, none of this probably would not have happened. Jacek, Trzmiel quietly lived in Lodz with loving parents Abram and Rivka. Probably would open a small shop or workshop. Or, enrolling in one of the many universities the city would become a Professor of mathematics. Or fine arts. But fate decreed otherwise — in September 1939, German troops invaded Poland. The family of Mrsmiley first moved into a ghetto and then was taken to Auschwitz.

«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64One of the buildings of the concentration camp Auschwitz (Auschwitz-Birkenau)

By that time, as the camp reached allied forces, the entire family was alive only Jacek — are determined to start a new life in which he himself will be the host. No one could humiliate him and to Lord it over them. So he became a citizen of the United States, Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore.

Humble beginnings

No computers at first, out of the question. After serving in the army and received a government loan, Jack decided to start selling typewriters: inexpensive items from Czechoslovakia imported through Canada and assembled in the United States. Things were going well, but it didn’t last long: the US is flooded with cheap machines from Japan, and business went quickly to the bottom. From total collapse was only saved by the intervention of prominent businessman Irving Gould, who bought a significant part of the company. Tramiel, became bankrupt, but the price was freedom: he once depended on the mood of the heads of the concentration camp, now his prosperity was in the hands of Gould. And he gave his protege to forget about it.

Refer to the rich man for help was humiliating — and soon, to the dismay of Tremies, he had to do it again. After the failure of typewriters, it was decided to switch the Commodore on the production of inexpensive digital calculators: items steel cheap, Assembly and sale — best. The case again went up the hill, Tramiel was ready to celebrate. But luck the second time turned away from him.

«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64Jack Tramiel (second from right) surrounded by sons. From left to right: Harry, Sam, Leonard

Commodore is not made up of components: displays purchased from the company Bowmar, and need the chips from Texas Instruments. Last and put a stick in the wheel: decided to get rid of the middleman and began to collect the calculators itself (by the way, she’s doing it to this day). In addition, once entered the market the Japanese to compete with them Tramiel was not under force. Again I had to beg the Board of Directors. Gould reluctantly allocated amount for saving the company.

“[Tramiel] decided to destroy Texas Instruments and displace them from the market”

Someone else such setbacks might have discouraged would be forced to lay down his arms and retire. But not Jack Tramiel: this unit was not going to give up. He decided to destroy Texas Instruments and displace them from the market. And it only remained to find someone who would help him do it.

A look into the future

Chuck Peddle has always been tireless. By the mid 70s he has had a service in the U.S. Marine corps, working at General Electric, and two private enterprises. In addition, Padl has worked in Motorola, where, together with Tom Bennett worked on eight-bit microprocessor of Motorola 6800 — a real revolution in the IT industry. For this alone is enough to write your own name in history, but Pedal had not intended to stay: he looked to the future. Where computers were in every home, every person, and not just in separate classrooms for specially trained personnel.

«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64Chuck Peddle — engineer, inventor, Creator of the MOS 6502 CPU

“I said not far off that time when every home will be not one computer but two or more. In those days few people they all were, and looked at me as crazy,” Chuck Peddle, Creator of the MOS 6502 processor.

But for making the device available to the common man, we need inexpensive items. Peddle, retired from Motorola in the office of MOS Technologies. There he created a product destined to transform the entire IT industry. And his name was — processor MOS 6502.

“I come to the office [Motorola] and see on the table a letter from the lawyers. They stated that the company will develop the 6800, and work on a budget version needs to stop. As I wrote in the answer that they just gave up patent rights, and I no longer will they have to work at all” — Chuck Peddle, Creator of the MOS 6502 processor.

“One of the buyers [of the processor] was young Steve jobs, who later showed 6502 Steve Wozniak”

At first no advertising in the mystery CPU MOS Technologies were not — PEDL wife and yourself went to an exhibition in California, where he sold them to all comers for $ 25 apiece. One of the buyers was a young Steve jobs, who later showed 6502 Steve Wozniak. This CPU was standing in the Apple I. And Apple II, Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom, Atari 2600

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«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64

Another client MOS Technologies became Commodore. First, the company of Tremies just bought the MOS some of the details. But when Jack announced Texas Instruments war, self-chip manufacturer was to become his main weapon. So Commodore bought MOS Technologies entirely, and the troops of Tremies replenished with talented and experienced engineers MOS. And chief among them was Chuck Peddle.

By the rules of war

Even then, in the mid-70s, Paddl knew that calculators are so last century. The future for microcomputers. Let them now only interested in the pros and enthusiasts-singles — not far off the day when they will need everything, even Housewives. Who will come out on the market first, will succeed. It only remained to impress your new boss.

“To convince and to persuade Jack, fortunately, almost did not have. He soon realized that the market of calculators we can’t go back. Although he computers do not understand. He was only interested in one thing: how fast we can do it. At a meeting with the engineers, he went with his son Leonard, he was a specialist. Leonard had told Jack: “Dad”. And Jack agreed,” Chuck Peddle, Creator of the MOS 6502 processor.

«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64Chuck Peddle and Commodore PET

The Commodore PET became the first in the history of the mass availability of the personal computer. And the Apple II and TRS-80 went on sale later. It wasn’t just a success — it was a real revolution, explains Peddle. For most, computers were something far, huge and strange mainframe. No one thought about that sort of thing, you may need someone at home. But now millions of people suddenly wanted to buy it.

“There were rumors and legends about the so-called “Jack attack”: sessions in public humiliation, which, Tramiel subjected to negligent workers”

“At the exhibition we were approached by a woman complained that her family bought from us PET, and everyone liked him so much that I had to make a schedule by which all enjoyed. She dropped time from two night to six in the morning. So she decided to buy a separate computer itself. So I realized that he was right. First, we create an audience for the first computer — and that audience bought and the subsequent” Chuck Peddle, Creator of the MOS 6502 processor.

But, Tramiel was in no hurry to rest on our laurels — he still had to deal with competitors: Texas Instruments, and now also with Apple. He was ready to meet them head on.

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He was not interested in innovation: only profit, cost reduction and market share. Disagree he was forced either to submit or to leave the company. In the industry there were rumors and legends about the so-called “attack Jack” (Jack Attack): sessions public humiliation, which, Tramiel subjected to careless workers.

Chuck Peddle worked not out of fear but out of conscience, and the”attack Jack” passed it. But he was too popular, too often allowed themselves to disagree with the boss, and in the end, Tramiel did everything to engineer resigned shortly after the release of the next computer, the VIC-20in 1980. “When Tramiel needed, he was able to turn your life into a real hell” — says Peddle. That thought about this themselves dismissed, the Director of the Commodore did not care. While the company could afford to make the most of the MOS 6502 and other technologies, she was planning to do it.

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In late 1981, Tramiel gave his engineers the task: on the basis of already existing computer VIC-20 to make a really powerful and inexpensive machine, and always with 64 KB of RAM — it just started to decline, and at the time of launch mass production would the company afford. The prototypes had to be ready for the New year. Knowing the temper of the authorities, Rob Yannes, al Charpentier and Yasuhara Terakura sighed, canceled plans for thanksgiving and Christmas, rolled up his sleeves and for two months worked wonders. Commodore 64.

«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64

Today it is impossible to refrain from condescending smile when you look at the features of the Commodore 64: to think that as much as 64 kilobytes of RAM! For 16 colors and resolution of 320 by 200 pixels (160х100 in four-color mode)! Eight-bit processor (a modified version of the same MOS 6502)! Concluded all this splendor was in the angular beige case, popularly known as “bins”.

But in 1982 it was a real breakthrough. What cost the ability to continuously scroll the screen — this was not a Apple or Atari! The picture of the C64 was such that the humble ZX Spectrum could only blush. A similar sound more than either one or three “voices” with eight octaves each, the possibility of applying filters, and much more. In the little SID chip of the Commodore 64 did, in fact, a full-fledged synthesizer.

“Only for computer [Commodore 64] came out more than two thousand games — and new ones appear so far”

At CES in 1982 to rival the Atari could only go with an open mouth, admiring the capabilities of the C64 and its price: the computer was sold for $ 595 at a cost of less than a hundred. The Atari 800 was released in retail for $ 550 almost at a loss. Old “enemies” from Texas Instruments reserved silent — Yes, their TI-99/4A could boast as much as 16-bit processor, unlike the C64. But to produce it was much more expensive. Tramiel, an experienced fighter, noticed the vulnerability and took the opportunity to strike, unleashing with a sworn enemy of the war: he began to lower the price of the C64 and its predecessor, the VIC-20, forcing opponents to do the same.

“That Commodore left the market calculators, there was not much fault of Texas Instruments. Japanese companies have played a far greater role. But Jack still decided to destroy Texas Instruments”, — Chuck Peddle, Creator of the MOS 6502 processor.

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Finally Jack Tramiel achieved the desired result. The enemy lay at his feet, and he emerged victorious. In the new 1984 Commodore came with good news — the profit of the company reached one billion dollars. You can think about how to convey a life’s sons, and to retire. But those dreams did not come true — Irving Gould, who Tramiel did not cease to irritate, they almost kicked him out of the company.

And Commodore 64, this nondescript beige “frog”, went live. The production became cheaper and the demand remained quite stable. Output signal the computer to a home TV and read, like Spectrum, audio cassettes (though there was the drive and cartridges). But, as in the case of the brainchild of Clive Sinclair, the demand for the C64 was provided not as a serious and respectable businessmen, and gamers and geeks who not only played, but studied programming, discovering device capabilities and the fundamentals of BASIC. Just for the computer came more than two thousands games and new ones appear so far.

“Chuck Peddle visited Russia, where he established printers in research centers and to develop the electronic industry”

The new leadership of Commodore tried several times to kill the C64 — and then look at the sales data and instead has released a new version of the computer. Total has sold about 17 million units. Among them are improved and, on the contrary, budget machines, and the variant that is called “consolers” — without a keyboard, but controllers. Unsinkable computer handed 12 years — he was released from 1982 to 1994. And in Germany, where he was very popular, C64 released until 1996.

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«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64The Assembly of the Commodore factory in Braunschweig, Germany

By the time the main unit Commodore for two years, was declared bankrupt and ceased operations. Steve jobs with the scandal drove from Apple. Atari, which is now worked Jack Tramiel struggling trying to stay afloat. Chuck Peddle visited Russia, where he established printers in research centers and to develop the electronic industry — in trips it was guarded by KGB agents, and the reports were presented to President Yeltsin. Clive Sinclair had forgotten about the production of computers, and the most common machine was the IBM PC in conjunction with Microsoft Windows. But even the Empire of bill gates was not under force to bury the Commodore 64 finally.

Life after death

ZX Spectrum continued to live in makeshift many copies, but with the Commodore 64 that did not happen. However, in 1998, the brand has tried to use for a completely different device — a cheap and weak PC for Windows 3.1 that allowed the wearer to climb on the Internet… and a few more. Then, in 2004 came a simple console for the TV — the usual emulator przepisanie him games, and in 2015-m — C64 Reloaded, the motherboard that can be inserted into the housing from the original device. In General, little to do with the clone army “Speccy”. But this does not mean that the gadget has sunk into oblivion.

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As often happens with vintage computers, Commodore 64 drew the attention of the demoscene. If craftsmen were able to achieve almost the impossible from the humble ZX Spectrum, with a much more elegant technical characteristics of the Commodore 64 they had a place to turn around. Special love earned the SID chip, his ability was very wide, and electronic musicians just couldn’t ignore it.

Not remained aloof and developers of games and software who continued to write programs, often on pure enthusiasm. Not to mention the many ports, often with much more advanced systems. There are “iron” — if you wish for the original Commodore, you can find anything from the obvious accessories like mouse and printer (which came out during the life of the original computer) to modem, card readers and Wi-Fi router.

“Amateur magazines on the C64 and demoscene, go still”

Amateur magazines on the C64 and demoscene, go so far. Why is only one Scene of the German World, over which employs a team of 21 people. Here and reviews of new games and demoscene, and interviews with veterans of the industry: including the creators of the Commodore C64. The Creator of the magazine, Joerg Droege, produces World Scene for 16 years — since 2001. And to stay is not going to.

«Хлебница», изменившая мир: 40 лет легендарному Commodore 64

Jack Tramiel did not in 2012. In one of his interview with Forbes he said “Business is war. There can be no compromise. There can only be victory”. Alas, Tramiel was in this war, a brilliant tactician and a poor strategist: his short battle with competitors turned against him. However, if not for his desire to win at any cost, no Commodore 64, may not be. But beige “frog” survived his chief inspirer.

Chuck Peddle alive and well, still working in the field of IT. In his interview, he laughingly complains that the creation of the personal computer is constantly credited with the Apple. “But what can I do, Apple is good”. About Steve Wozniak Peddle says: “He’s a smart guy, but sometimes I felt like he wasn’t too versed in what he does”. About Russia remembers with love: “With semiconductors have not, but your plants were wonderful, you have a lot of valuable, skilled personnel. I really wanted to meet 2000 in Moscow. Sorry, failed”.

And again. A few years ago Chuck Peddle put a pacemaker to maintain the heart. Guess, based on what he’s done? So sure: the private, the brainchild of Chuck, the MOS 6502 processor. The circle is closed.

Edition 4PDA thanked the magazine Scene World and personally Joerg Droege for assistance in arranging interviews.

Author: Pauline Esakova


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