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What is your opinion of Jack Tramiel?


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#1 Master Phruby OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 12:33 PM

I was just wondering what is your opinion of Jack Tramiel and how he ran Atari? Were things better because of him?

#2 macsociety OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 2:45 PM

I was just wondering what is your opinion of Jack Tramiel and how he ran Atari? Were things better because of him?


I like the Tramiel's in that they at least gave Atari more of a life and at least took them into the 1990s. Unless someone else came in, I think Atari was going down the drain.

I am sure they made many mistakes, poor marketing, etc..., but made for an interesting story at least Tramiel coming from Commodore, getting ousted, buying Atari, go after the computer market and I feel did some nice things with the Atari ST in the early days. Made it interesting...

Power Without The Price. I bought into it and used Atari until mid 90s before jumping to Apple professionally.

tj

#3 yell0w_lantern OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 3:41 PM

My opinion is that he was important in the home computer industry during the early days but judging by the stories and recorded behavior he was (is) also a very twisted human being.

#4 Goochman OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 3:54 PM

There would be no Atari ST without Jack. Atari was DOA and he was able to continue making something out of it for another 8-10 years.

He was a very shrew busienss man, however he couldnt adapt to the onslaught of the clones in the PC market and left the gaming market to Nintendo.

Without an Arcade Game making business, Atari didnt stand a chance as Nintendo and Sega made exclusives of the popular arcade titles for their home systems - nobody wanted to buy a Jaguar with games most people didnt know - same for the 7800 (Ms Pac Man was how old by then?)

At that time I think we all hated Jack cause Atari *was* the biggest and baddest in the early 80s - it was hard to understand that Atari in the late 80s was the 3rd wheel to the industry.

#5 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 4:37 PM

Atari Inc. did not keep going, it died in 1984. Jack's Atari Corporation was a completely new company built on acquired assets from the original Atari.

As far as my opinions on him, as Curt and I have done more and more research on Atari Corporation over the years our opinions have changed drastically.

#6 Hatta OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 4:45 PM

My opinion is that he was important in the home computer industry during the early days but judging by the stories and recorded behavior he was (is) also a very twisted human being.


That seems to be incredibly common.

#7 DarkLord OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 5:32 PM

Atari Inc. did not keep going, it died in 1984. Jack's Atari Corporation was a completely new company built on acquired assets from the original Atari.

As far as my opinions on him, as Curt and I have done more and more research on Atari Corporation over the years our opinions have changed drastically.


I'm sure many of us would like to hear your and Curt's opinion based on your research.

Would you mind sharing it with us here? Thanks.

#8 Master Phruby OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 7:37 PM

I'd like to hear that too. I have a pretty negative feelings towards the man. I loved my Atari 520STFM,1040STe, TT and 130XE and was a huge supporter for the cause. I subscribed to every Atari magazine ever made and had a huge collection of software. I learned my lifelong career trade of programming on Atari computers. I owe a lot to that company.

When the family started doing stupid things like buying Federated and poorly marketing the Jaguar and Lynx is when I pretty much jumped ship and bought a Gateway 486PC with Windows 3.11 on it. I swore I was never going to back a losing horse ever again. I guess indirectly is why I will never have anything to do with Apple. But that is another story.

#9 kskunk OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Nov 7, 2011 10:53 PM

I loved my Atari 520STFM,1040STe, TT and 130XE and was a huge supporter for the cause.
When the family started doing stupid things like buying Federated and poorly marketing the Jaguar and Lynx...

I'm no historian, but I always thought the Atari STs and XEs were the ultimate Tramiel creations -- what the Tramiel family would build if they had all their favorite engineers and complete creative control... Wait, scratch that, the Tramiel family DID build them in EXACTLY those circumstances!

But, Tramiel's success was a product of its time. High tech markets are like that -- they change faster than the players can. What worked great for the market in 1982 might not work as well in 1985. And by 1990, it could be a completely different ball game.

One day, Tramiel realized his approach to business had stopped working. He wasn't alone -- hugely successful computer companies were going bankrupt left and right around him. So he branched out. Instead of doing the same old things we loved him for, that clearly had stopped working, he tried new things, in hopes one would save the company. That was the right thing to do -- that was how other companies, like Apple, managed to survive. But, his picks weren't lucky.

That's what's great about hindsight. We know he was wrong, because we saw him pick losers. We know all the winners now, and we know the winning strategies. But at that moment, the whole industry was being turned upside down. Sales were plummeting for reasons nobody understood. Everybody had their own ideas about what to do. Some were lucky, and those guys survived.

I don't want to give him too much credit. I know he was a pain in the ass to work for, and some of his family members were incompetent. But any company who survives in an emerging high tech industry is lucky, not smart.

- KS

Edited by kskunk, Mon Nov 7, 2011 11:06 PM.


#10 Emehr OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 6:10 AM

I guess it's all relative. Compared to early Atari I'm sure the Tramiels didn't look so favorable. Compared to the companies that owned Atari afterwards, well, at least the Tramiels did something with the brand.

I don't have the bloodlust like others do because, frankly, I was completely unaware that Atari was even owned by a different company by the time the Lynx came out. I did notice the distinct lack of advertising for the Lynx so maybe I should have known something was different about the company. If I have anything to be bitter about it's that they completely dropped Lynx development to focus on the Jaguar.

#11 dark willow OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 8:24 AM

At the time, I was too young to really know what was going on inside Atari, though I was vaguely aware of the name Tramiel. I think he let Atari's engineering tradition slip somewhat - the vast array on peripherals and customisation that went into the 8-bit didn't really get replicated with the ST, but the ST was still a great system, and TT030 is definitely one the finest computers I've seen. And what with projects like the ST-book and STpad/STylus as well as the microbox Falcon 040, the engineering tradition was still extremely promising.

However, the guy himself seems to have been personally reprehensible, and, IMHO lacking in vision in the way many private businesses do. In the drive to cut costs and meet arbitrary and unrealistic deadlines, he forced engineers to cut corners. The Falcon is a case in point (no pun intended!). It wouldn't have been hard to give more time and budget to the Falcon and make a really great computer that might well have given the A1200 a real run for its money. But by driving down costs and development time so hard he crippled it at birth then took his own decisions as proof that Atari couldn't compete with "real" computers and should only do games...

I guess that's one of the faults with putting profit ahead of product that happens in all private business, not just Tramiel, but he epitomised it, took it to the Nth degree, and it wound up with him slitting the throat of his own company.

#12 oky2000 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 11:52 AM

Genius.

#13 wood_jl OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 12:24 PM

But, Tramiel's success was a product of its time. High tech markets are like that -- they change faster than the players can. What worked great for the market in 1982 might not work as well in 1985. And by 1990, it could be a completely different ball game.
<...snip...>
That's what's great about hindsight. We know he was wrong, because we saw him pick losers. We know all the winners now, and we know the winning strategies. But at that moment, the whole industry was being turned upside down. Sales were plummeting for reasons nobody understood. Everybody had their own ideas about what to do. Some were lucky, and those guys survived.

Bravo! One of the best posts I've seen, on the topic.

What he was able to do - with as little as he had to do it with (Atari Corp was a small company) - is still pretty remarkable. Amazing that in an age where the brand is owned by a bunch of money-grubbing, brand-wrecking, enthusiast-crushing, incompetent moronic punks......and there's still a bunch of uninformed, highly-opinionated armchair quarterbacks with 20 years of hindsight..... to tell us how bad Tramiel was. HA HA HA!! He was both a genius and a saint, compared to these Infogrames folks.

#14 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 3:17 PM


But, Tramiel's success was a product of its time. High tech markets are like that -- they change faster than the players can. What worked great for the market in 1982 might not work as well in 1985. And by 1990, it could be a completely different ball game.
<...snip...>
That's what's great about hindsight. We know he was wrong, because we saw him pick losers. We know all the winners now, and we know the winning strategies. But at that moment, the whole industry was being turned upside down. Sales were plummeting for reasons nobody understood. Everybody had their own ideas about what to do. Some were lucky, and those guys survived.

Bravo! One of the best posts I've seen, on the topic.

What he was able to do - with as little as he had to do it with (Atari Corp was a small company) - is still pretty remarkable.


Yes, keeping in mind as well the amount of debt he had. The purchase of Consumer was also a purchase of all of it's debt (good and bad), so all that money you heard about Atari Inc. loosing daily - all the debt that piled up from that he had to take on so it went off Warner's books. Which to his credit he managed to do by Spring of '86. Not without a lot of trials and tribulations as well - he initially had to sink in a large chunk of his own money in to initial operations to keep the company afloat in '84. As I mentioned, the purchase included good debt as part of the valuation which it was assumed they would be able to collect on - and by Fall '84 it was clear they couldn't. Everyone talks about the no money down purchase Jack got, but very few understand how lopsided in Warner's favor it actually was and how shaky the company was until that time.




The Falcon is a case in point (no pun intended!). It wouldn't have been hard to give more time and budget to the Falcon and make a really great computer that might well have given the A1200 a real run for its money. But by driving down costs and development time so hard he crippled it at birth then took his own decisions as proof that Atari couldn't compete with "real" computers and should only do games...


That wasn't Jack. He was "retired" and only on the board by that point. Sam had taken over as CEO and President in '88.


I guess that's one of the faults with putting profit ahead of product that happens in all private business, not just Tramiel, but he epitomised it, took it to the Nth degree, and it wound up with him slitting the throat of his own company.


As was pointed out, it was more the market of the time. By the early 90's the PC market had changed to much and was shaking out the last of the old industry competitors in favor of IBM PC-compats and Apple. There was nothing any of them could have done really, especially once the Wintel platform took over.

#15 yell0w_lantern OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 3:32 PM

It's a broad topic, "What is your opinion of Jack Tramiel," and can include anything from business to personal life. As far as the computer industry is concerned, he was very important. And perhaps compared to how Atari is being handled today, he took better care of the brand. However, ability and achievements do not necessarily reflect what kind of a person you are.

Given his early experiences, I'm sure that Jack would be the first to agree that you don't have to be a nice person to have a lasting impact on history.

#16 dark willow OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 6:25 PM

I'm not sure the march of the wintel clones was the only thing going down at that point. In Europe there remained quite a few niche markets, which is largely how Apple clung on before it became a fashion brand. Atari systems had a pretty strong toe hold in the music industry fairly widely, and in DTP and academia in Germany. Had management zeroed in on that, then some sort of survival as an actual engineering concern could prob. have been pulled off, though very close relationships with people like Steinberg, DMC/Invers and ROM would have been needed (something those companies would likely have welcomed, given the investment they had in the platform).

The Jaguar I don't really see how anyone at the time could have avoided, I must admit. Getting out an up to date console with modernised classics like Tempest and Defender obviously seemed a winning strategy. The only real avoidable issues were Atari's (as usual) craptastic developer relationships and PR - but I don't think solving them would have saved the Jaguar, though it might have helped sweeten the pill a bit (i.e. taking the Jag. to N64 rather than 3DO levels of fail)

#17 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 6:31 PM

My opinion of Jack is that he "snapped" one day and decided to ruin Atari and screw over Commodore. And he was successful on both fronts be it intentionally or not. Not sure Sam was up to the job either. Too many decisions were made by the Tramiels that were counterproductive and seemingly not in the best interest of someone looking to grow a consumer electronics company. Just my thoughts, opinions and feelings.

'Course, Medhi Ali is the all time loser here.

Edited by save2600, Tue Nov 8, 2011 6:40 PM.


#18 Atariman56 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Nov 8, 2011 6:36 PM

I was an Atari dealer long before Jack bought (or should I say stole) Atari from Warner Comm. The man hoodwinked all the dealers into buying his ST dealer packages in order for a dealer to be allowed to sell the ST's ($4000.00), then within a year allowed them to go thru distributors making our investment basically worthless.
His history with Atari was quite dubious as he went thru executives the way others go thru toilet paper. If he told me the sky was blue back then, I'd have to go outside to make sure he wasn't lying.
Not paying suppliers, forcing them into bankruptcy, and them making them an offer to settle lawsuits for pennies on the dollar was a standard practice for him, all the time giving his sons "bonuses" and draining the company dry to the point where he ran it out of business.
Jack was no saint, but was probably a very good businessman. I remember one executive that lasted about a week before he couldn't swallow the line of crap that Jack had instructed him to announce to the public.

All in all it was quite sad as I always supported the product and was saddened when I saw the direction he took the company in the final months.

He would have been a hell of a used car salesman.

By the way, if you want to read about the true story of Atari, their is a book available thru Amazon here.........

http://www.amazon.co...ASIN=0070115435

#19 atarian1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2011 12:04 AM

At the time, I was too young to really know what was going on inside Atari, though I was vaguely aware of the name Tramiel. I think he let Atari's engineering tradition slip somewhat - the vast array on peripherals and customisation that went into the 8-bit didn't really get replicated with the ST, but the ST was still a great system,


That was a smart move. Why make printers, modems, etc when there were already standard PC printers, modems, etc. that can be used? Let the engineers concentrate on building better computers. The problem was trying to keep the good engineers who couldn't stand the working environment that Jack created. Thus the revolving door spun... I still remember reading about the entire engineering staff headed by Shiraz Shiviji (the father of the ST) was fired. They had to hire a whole new staff, which is time consuming when they have to learn everything that the old staff knew in their head. I think that is why the STe was so lackluster. Bruce Carso @ B&C showed me an internal memo dated 1986 stating what the next gen ST would feature. I distinctly remember a hybrid EGA/VGA resolutions was proposed. That would have been great in 1988 or 89 when VGA was starting to be used. Oh well.

However, the guy himself seems to have been personally reprehensible, and, IMHO lacking in vision in the way many private businesses do. In the drive to cut costs and meet arbitrary and unrealistic deadlines, he forced engineers to cut corners. The Falcon is a case in point (no pun intended!). It wouldn't have been hard to give more time and budget to the Falcon and make a really great computer that might well have given the A1200 a real run for its money. But by driving down costs and development time so hard he crippled it at birth then took his own decisions as proof that Atari couldn't compete with "real" computers and should only do games...


I thought the Falcon did give the A1200 a run for its money. The Falcon trumped the A1200 in every category except graphics. Even when Amiga enthusiasts pointed that out, I say most people (including me) still can't tell the difference between pictures with 262,000 colors versus millions of colors. However, my ears (as well as most others) CAN tell the difference between 8-bit and 16-bit sound. The Amiga market was bigger by the time the A1200 came out so it sold more units - mostly to existing Amiga owners.

I guess that's one of the faults with putting profit ahead of product that happens in all private business, not just Tramiel, but he epitomised it, took it to the Nth degree, and it wound up with him slitting the throat of his own company.


Yep. I still remember that Forbes article that solidified this. Of course, the Tramiels called the Forbes magazine article "a bunch of lies and half-truths". I just shook my head (like many others) when I read this.

#20 DarkLord OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2011 1:11 AM

By the way, if you want to read about the true story of Atari, their is a book available thru Amazon here.........

http://www.amazon.co...ASIN=0070115435


Hmm, didn't think that book actually covered the Tramiels. Wasn't it released like in 1984 or something?

Thanks.

#21 Christos OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2011 6:06 AM

I thought the Falcon did give the A1200 a run for its money. The Falcon trumped the A1200 in every category except graphics. Even when Amiga enthusiasts pointed that out, I say most people (including me) still can't tell the difference between pictures with 262,000 colors versus millions of colors. However, my ears (as well as most others) CAN tell the difference between 8-bit and 16-bit sound. The Amiga market was bigger by the time the A1200 came out so it sold more units - mostly to existing Amiga owners.



It somewhat did there too with the hi colour mode. 65536 colours in a chunky display, which is something the amiga didn't have and I believe the amiga could only handle 16.7M colours in static screens.

#22 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2011 10:25 AM


By the way, if you want to read about the true story of Atari, their is a book available thru Amazon here.........

http://www.amazon.co...ASIN=0070115435


Hmm, didn't think that book actually covered the Tramiels. Wasn't it released like in 1984 or something?

Thanks.


It's universally known as one of the worst books, including by people who actually worked at Atari Inc. Way to much made up material and factual errors, and according to a few people who worked there the author never actually set foot at Atari. Just phoned in a few interviews and culled the rest together from other sources.

#23 orpheuswaking OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2011 1:13 PM

The man hoodwinked all the dealers into buying his ST dealer packages in order for a dealer to be allowed to sell the ST's ($4000.00), then within a year allowed them to go thru distributors making our investment basically worthless.
His history with Atari was quite dubious as he went thru executives the way others go thru toilet paper. If he told me the sky was blue back then, I'd have to go outside to make sure he wasn't lying.
Not paying suppliers, forcing them into bankruptcy, and them making them an offer to settle lawsuits for pennies on the dollar was a standard practice for him,


He did all of this with Commodore first, people knew what he was about... so any dealers who took him up on Atari offers and thought they would get something different from the Commodore Jack were fools.

And I've read Zap (I actually have a copy I purchased for $1) it's terrible.

#24 orpheuswaking OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Nov 9, 2011 1:14 PM



By the way, if you want to read about the true story of Atari, their is a book available thru Amazon here.........

http://www.amazon.co...ASIN=0070115435



Hmm, didn't think that book actually covered the Tramiels. Wasn't it released like in 1984 or something?

Thanks.


It's universally known as one of the worst books, including by people who actually worked at Atari Inc. Way to much made up material and factual errors, and according to a few people who worked there the author never actually set foot at Atari. Just phoned in a few interviews and culled the rest together from other sources.


Well hurry up and write the definitive Atari book :D

(I'm looking forward to adding a book about the Tramiel era at Atari to go with my Commodore A Company On The Edge)

Edited by orpheuswaking, Wed Nov 9, 2011 1:15 PM.


#25 DarkLord OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:18 AM

I've got that book. It really is pretty good. I just wish there was more content actually covering
the Amiga time frame.

I'd love to see a book as detailed as that covering the Tramiel era (and movie!).




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