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OT: Jack Tramiel passes away at 83 years of age

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#26 Stuart OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:20 PM

There's a newer edition of the Commodore book - "Commodore - a company on the edge" that's new for only $18. I bought this on Mark's recommendation and yes, it's a gret book.

Another great read is "Inside Intel" by Tim Jackson. Charts the history of Intel from the very beginning.

#27 Willsy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:57 PM

Yep, that's the one. I got the first edition when it was first published, I guess its the first edition that carries the premium, simply because its the first edition.

I believe the 2nd edition is updated so I'll be getting that one too!

#28 Willsy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:03 PM

Oh, I can also recommend Masters Of Doom. You'll love it.

And also The Soul Of A New Machine. Quite possibly the best book about computers you will ever read. It's a fly-on-the-wall account of designing the Data General Nova 32 bit mini computer, which had to be software compatible with its 16 bit older brother. Absolutely un-put-downable. Utterly brilliant.

#29 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:02 PM

Oh, I can also recommend Masters Of Doom. You'll love it.

And also The Soul Of A New Machine. Quite possibly the best book about computers you will ever read. It's a fly-on-the-wall account of designing the Data General Nova 32 bit mini computer, which had to be software compatible with its 16 bit older brother. Absolutely un-put-downable. Utterly brilliant.


Actually, "What the dormouse said" is one of my favorite early computer industry books. Covers how the 60's counter culture influenced the Valley and the early spread of computer use to regular people vs. corporations and universities.


#30 Vorticon OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:30 PM

Another recommendation I have is the book "Computing in the Middle Ages" which gives a really great perspective of the earliest computing efforts when, as the author states, the johnny come lately's like Gates and Jobs were still in diapers.

#31 Willsy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:53 AM

What the dormouse said looks good, just ordered it, and a book about the Amiga. "it started here" or something like that.

Do please read the reviews on The Soul Of A New Machine on Amazon. The book was so good it won the 1981 pulitzer prize! *A computer book!*

#32 Willsy OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:19 AM

Another one is "a computer called Leo" - charts the history of the very first digital (valve) computers and the transatlantic race between IBM (iirc) and the Lyons company in Britain. A nice book - contains interviews with surviving engineers who actually built them from nothing, with no previous designs or paradigms to base the design on! Some of the machines used baths of mercury to store data! Others used CRTs as memory!

#33 TEXAS_JOE OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:58 AM

That's madness .... CRT's as memory .... I bet these things were prone to the occasional fire hazard maybe , hehe ... :)

#34 orion1052003 OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 1, 2012 3:39 PM

@ Retro Rogue. It sounds like you're emotionally attached to the idea that Jack Tramiel was a good, upstanding guy. I have to remain skeptical of the information in your post, as all the video game histories I read have presented the timeline of events the way I reiterated it in the post. Especially about the 7800. Certainly they could be wrong, popular histories that often repeat myths. And your information sounds specific and detailed, which tends to support the idea it could be true. I just don't see proof to be sure yet. One thing that seems to conflict, is that I already have it from the horse's mouth at Federated Electronics that he fired everyone on the spot, brutally took away their life's pensions, and cause the downfall of the company. He even said he ruined people's lives, and he was there, saw it happen, and was affected by it personally. The popular histories seem to point out that this was his m.o. with every company he bought, including Atari. So, if he did this to one company for sure, Federated, why would people tend to believe this is the only single company to go down this way and not a planned systematic pattern?

#35 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue May 1, 2012 5:47 PM

@ Retro Rogue. It sounds like you're emotionally attached to the idea that Jack Tramiel was a good, upstanding guy.


I'm not sure where you got that. The only thing I'm passionate about, as a professional industry historian, are facts and historical accuracy. I never stated an opinion one way or the other about Jack as a person. He was simply a human being, same as anyone else.

I have to remain skeptical of the information in your post, as all the video game histories I read have presented the timeline of events the way I reiterated it in the post.


I'm sorry, but they do not. What published book, interview, etc. states Jack passed on the NES? Even the well known Nintendo history book Game Over covers that timeline correctly. What you posted was a mishmash of things that even recounted the hearsay wrong.

Especially about the 7800. Certainly they could be wrong, popular histories that often repeat myths. And your information sounds specific and detailed, which tends to support the idea it could be true. I just don't see proof to be sure yet


As I stated, the information I presented comes from the direct sources, or "horses mouth" as you like to put it. Direct interviews with the people involved at Atari Inc., Warner Communications, GCC, and Atari Corporation. Including with Mike Katz, the man responsible for re-launching the 7800 as part of the new Entertainment Electronics division in 1985. Likewise engineering logs, internal emails, materials, legal documents, financial documents, etc., etc. Curt has pretty much everything left of Atari Inc. and Atari Corp., and besides that we've spent lots of time and money tracking down more resources and continuously vetting material. How are you comparing that to reading a few fan sites and materials that usually regurgitate that hearsay? Saying you don't see proof when the sources are as direct as this sounds a bit circular. If you're not familiar with the material or sources to begin with, and seem to gravitate towards regurgitated sources with no attempt to validate their accuracy, how are you able to evaluate "proof" when you won't even accept the direct sources mentioned? And how is it worth anyone's time in the face of that?

One thing that seems to conflict,


Where? I don't recall discussing Federated in my previous post.


is that I already have it from the horse's mouth at Federated Electronics that he fired everyone on the spot, brutally took away their life's pensions, and cause the downfall of the company. He even said he ruined people's lives, and he was there, saw it happen, and was affected by it personally.


Actually, coverage of the time would paint a different story.


The popular histories seem to point out that this was his m.o. with every company he bought, including Atari.


And the popular histories do not state that, what they state is he did business with companies and tried to manipulate them financially (holding back payments, etc.) to make them financially weak and then come in and buy them. Once again, it seems you're getting even the hearsay wrong. As you clearly stated above and previously, he was accused of running Federated in to the ground *after* he already owned it. Completely different scenario.

Same with Atari. A) He didn't buy Atari, he bought a division, the Consumer Division. That was then rolled in to Tramel Technology Ltd. which itself was renamed Atari Corporation. B) He didn't cause anything financially to Atari to be able buy the Consumer Division, Warner approached him about buyin it. Once again a completely different scenario.


So, if he did this to one company for sure, Federated, why would people tend to believe this is the only single company to go down this way and not a planned systematic pattern?


See above.

#36 orion1052003 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun May 20, 2012 1:39 PM

I'm sorry, but they do not. What published book, interview, etc. states Jack passed on the NES?


I will find some. Videogame Trader and Retro Gamer magazine might be the first place.

As I stated, the information I presented comes from the direct sources, or "horses mouth" as you like to put it. Direct interviews with the people involved at Atari Inc., Warner Communications, GCC, and Atari Corporation. Including with Mike Katz, the man responsible for re-launching the 7800 as part of the new Entertainment Electronics division in 1985. Likewise engineering logs, internal emails, materials, legal documents, financial documents, etc., etc.


How could I choose not to accept the direct sources BEFORE they were mentioned? The only thing I see before you revealed these sources were interviews with C64 programmers mentioned in a previous post. It is worth time to attempt to prove things, even to just to show another side of a story.

The example of Federated conflicts with your question, "What did he do to Atari?", which alludes that Jack was beneficial to companies. Rather than my opposite claim that he was a repeated scourge, that he had a negative effect on businesses, that caused the end of companies he was involved with.


Where? I don't recall discussing Federated in my previous post.


You didn't discuss Federated in your previous posts, I did. It still conflicts.


Once again, it seems you're getting even the hearsay wrong. As you clearly stated above and previously, he was accused of running Federated in to the ground *after* he already owned it. Completely different scenario.


How does the various methods for running a company into the ground make completely different scenarios? The end result is the same. If he weakened a company before or after buying it, it makes no difference. If he ran a company into the ground after being asked to buy it makes no difference. So, I didn't get hearsay wrong, you misunderstood my quote.


Actually, coverage of the time would paint a different story.


Also, the person at Federated is a direct source, not hearsay. A newspaper account of the story is not a fact. You should know that inaccuracies, omissions, partial information, bias, incomplete coverage, opinions, and many more distortions are found in newspapers.


"Part of my deal...my re-negotiation - my new deal in 1985 for helping to make Federated expansion extraordinary - from 14 little L.A. stores to 78 superstores in five states in four years...was for Federated to make it possible for me to buy the condo - the condo was to be mine as part of the deal and Keith Powell honored that commitment before Jack bought the company. His reward for honoring my deal was to be taken to court and sued, and ultimately losing his own settlement with the company. So...Jack managed to fuck over an incredibly honorable man simply because Jack was lower than the scum beneath toilet seats. That - on top of firing 800 people in one day without severance. I hope he died screaming. But he probably didn't . "


Same with Atari. A) He didn't buy Atari, he bought a division, the Consumer Division. That was then rolled in to Tramel Technology Ltd. which itself was renamed Atari Corporation.


If I bought half a shoe, renamed it Leimart, and then renamed it "shoe" again, wasn't it still a shoe the whole time? If a ball breaks into 3 pieces, which is the ball? Is there a "fact" for that? The Retrocomputing Roundtable Podcast episode #26 says that Jack Tramiel bought Atari. Maybe you should write in and correct them. I'm sure they will appreciate you making the distinction.

Edited by orion1052003, Sun May 20, 2012 1:52 PM.


#37 orion1052003 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 28, 2012 11:46 PM

Ok, this is one article about Jack that doesn't make him look too good. Here I'm showing that there are articles out there like this one. I'm sure Retrorogue's sources and research is far superior to a magazine like this based on what he said. So if these articles are wrong, it just serves to show that wrong information can be perpetuated. From what I heard, it made me not like the man. However, what I hear could be wrong, or right, and he was a human being. I will try to find other popular type of articles or book excerpts if i can find them when I have time.

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Edited by orion1052003, Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:19 AM.


#38 OldSchoolRetroGamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jun 28, 2012 11:59 PM

Ok, this is one article about Jack that doesn't make him look too good. Here I'm showing that there are articles out there like this one. I'm sure Retrorogue's sources and research is far superior to a magazine like this based on what he said. So if these articles are wrong, it just serves to show that wrong information can be perpetuated. From what I heard, it made me not like the man. However, what I hear could be wrong, or right, and he was a human being. I will try to find other popular type of articles or book excerpts if i can find them when I have time.


He was a ruthless cut throat businessman, I do not think anyone denies that. He did not like to lose and at times made the hard decisions, sometimes good decisions sometimes not but he was driven and yeah whenever he could he was the final word on things and did not give a rats ass what anyone thought. A good business man is not always a good person but I am sure many successful business men have their share of skeletons in their closet. I am sure some of his past experiences, upbringing etc were factors in what shaped his morals and practices, being a concentration camp survivor is sure to make an impression on someone. Not excusing bad things he did but as they say do not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes............

#39 wood_jl OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:03 AM

Areed with O.S.R.G. above.


Plus, what does a magazine article prove? Can anyone prove it's not biased? The tone of that piece is that of a frustrated child, looking for someone to blame because they're in love with the 7800 and it didn't "win."

#40 Retro Rogue OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:34 AM

Areed with O.S.R.G. above.


Plus, what does a magazine article prove? Can anyone prove it's not biased? The tone of that piece is that of a frustrated child, looking for someone to blame because they're in love with the 7800 and it didn't "win."


Besides the fact it has a lot of errors in it.

#41 Tursi OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:48 PM

He appeared at the local Computer History Museum a few years ago, and while I missed the show, a friend of mine did go. There, someone DID ask Jack about his decisions at Atari and what he thought about its failure. His response, while I don't remember the quoted version well enough to quote, was along the lines of admitting he made some pretty big mistakes, but that he did what he thought would work at the time. As OSRG points out, he was very cutthroat, and to run a business like that usually means taking big risks.

While I am still personally inclined to believe that he sunk companies with little concern for their well being, and would not have wanted him as my boss, it was nice to hear that at least he admitted making mistakes. Mind you, it was that cutthroat nature that pushed the C64 to the top of the heap and (partially) caused the death of our TI. It's both that and the sinking of Atari that I didn't like personally. ;)

#42 Stuart OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:57 PM

There's a newer edition of the Commodore book - "Commodore - a company on the edge" that's new for only $18. I bought this on Mark's recommendation and yes, it's a gret book.

Another great read is "Inside Intel" by Tim Jackson. Charts the history of Intel from the very beginning.


Has anyone got the second Commodore book by the same author - "The Amiga Years" - that was published this month? Any good?

#43 Willsy OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:09 PM

I haven't got it yet but I plan to. The first book was honestly so good that when I finished it I went straight back to the start and read it again! It was *that* good!

#44 acadiel OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:44 PM

Mine's still on preorder at Amazon....

#45 slinkeey OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:14 PM

Compare to the TI-99/4A

The Commodore 64 has a slower CPU right?
Better graphics and better sound though.

The Commodore appeared to be built cheaper than a TI. More features and software though, right?

#46 acadiel OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:55 PM

IMHO, this is just my opinion, but the C64 had a few things going for it from what I read in the book:

1) Custom built video and sound chips that allowed a lot of tweaking, non standard "hitting the hardware", etc
2) Fully documented architecture/schematics (at first release) whereas with the TI, that did not seem to happen until later. This enabled a lot of peripherals.

It also had its own issues...

1) the high speed lines to the external disk drive were removed by someone before the boards were mass produced, so they had to kluge the disk drive access with fewer lines, which made it much slower.
2) The BASIC commands were rather cryptic. Just look at the load command to load a program! Ex: LOAD "*",8,1

Every computer during those days had its own quirks.... I was amazed after reading the book that the C64 seemed to have its own colorful ones just like our TI does.

#47 Tursi OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Oct 24, 2012 1:16 PM

The C64 CPU has a slower clock, 6510 @ 1MHz versus 9900 @ 3MHz. But, the 9900 takes so many cycles to do anything that the effective throughput is comparable, if not slightly preferring the 6510. For example, 6510 branches take 2-4 cycles (depending on whether the branch is taken or not, and whether it crosses a page boundary), while 9900 branches take 10-14 cycles (depending only on whether the branch is taken or not). So 2-4uS for the 6510 versus 2.5-4.6uS for the 9900.

The C64's sound is definitely better. Graphics being better is arguable - it was definitely /used/ better. It had multicolor sprites, but only 8 versus the TI's 32 single color sprites. The C64's graphics modes had different restrictions to the TI's... it's bitmap mode used 8x8 attribute cells for color, where TI's had 8x1 blocks for setting color. The C64 was higher res at 320x200, and it has a lot more software/hardware tricks available for improving the display.

TI built their machines like a tank, Commodore built theirs for low cost (but still managed a solid product!)

Also worth noting, the C64 was released in 1982, while the 99/4 (which comprises 99% of the 99/4A) was released in 1979, so it had 3 years of tech ahead of it. 3 years was a big jump back then! (To compare in just the Commodore line, the Pet was 1977, the Vic-20 was 1980, another 3 year jump, then just 2 years between Vic20 and C64).





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