A brutal incision for the company that Tramiel used to run with a kind of micromanagement style and who always set the course for the company with determination. Shortly after leaving Commodore, Jack and his wife Helen went on a trip around the world, which was supposed to last a whole year. Atari had lost more than half a billion dollars the year before, which caused the video game industry in the USA to collapse , and the share price had shot into the basement.
Steve Ross was firmly convinced that only Jack Tramiel would be able to manoeuvre Atari back into profitable waters. Discussions about the modalities of a possible takeover of Atari by Tramel Technology Limited TTL , which was established specifically for this purpose, progressed surprisingly fast and so the acquisition was officially completed on July 1st, A few days later, Tramel Technology was renamed Atari Corporation. Tramiel had a clear goal in mind — he wanted to beat Commodore with their own weapons, which he knew so well, by developing and producing a reasonably priced, mass market home computer that would mop the floor with the C Atari had both the production facilities and the distribution network to help him achieve his goal.
In the run-up to the takeover, Jack Tramiel, driven not least by the wish for revenge on Irving Gould, began poaching in the ranks of Commodore and recruiting their key personnel. He found that many Commodore employees had no confidence in the new CEO Marshall Smith and his management style and so they were only too happy to accept his invitation. Shiraz Shivji, head of development and senior chip designer at Commodore Business Machines CBM certainly represented the most painful loss of staff for Commodore. In May , Shivji took three of his most important employees from Commodore with him to join Tramiel.
But also high-ranking employees from management level answered the call of their old patriarch. When one executive after another left Commodore and rumours had it at Summer CES in Chicago June , that Jack Tramiel and Warner were in takeover talks about Atari, it was enough to finally ring the alarm bells. Amiga Corporation again had a booth at CES. Development of Lorraine had made significant progress in the meantime. Among other things, the three custom chips, which in January consisted of huge, manually produced perforated grid plates , were now actually available in the form of integrated circuits.
This time, Amiga allowed the press a closer look and the reception was simply enthusiastic. Amiga Corporation not only possessed exactly the technology they were lacking so badly, but also a whole bunch of bright minds and engineers who had spent the past two years dealing with nothing else but the next generation of computers. Some informal contacts between the two companies had already been established at the beginning of , but this was before the situation for Commodore became dire so quickly. Now the time had come to pick up the thread again.
The phonecall was followed by several meetings and open discussions at both sites of the companies involved.
Amiga had run into severe financial difficulties after their former investor Intermedics got cold feet due to the crash and withdrew further support. Dave Morse opened up to his negotiating partners that Amiga Corporation had been in a contractual relationship with Atari since March Fortunately for Commodore, Jack Tramiel only learned about this preliminary agreement a few weeks after his takeover of Atari. This should only be mentioned to avoid confusion. Meanwhile, negotiations between Commodore and Amiga continued. Among other brilliant hardware- and software engineers, Amiga Corporation had Jay Miner , who was such an experienced and successful development manager that Commodore wanted to have him and his team in their own ranks.
On August 15th, , the deal was finally sealed. The procedure described here about the poker game around Amiga necessarily is a shortened version of the real events. All this ultimately led to a mutual dispute between Atari and Commodore, which was not to be settled until three years later. Be that as it may, Commodore now possessed the hottest technology in the home computer industry as well as a highly motivated team that had taken a major step closer to achieving its goal of bringing the best computer of its time to market.
Around that time the Amiga was still a long way from being a finished product.
There was no case design yet and therefore no final layout for the mainboard of the computer. In addition, the chipset which had been presented at Summer CES still had some bugs and the team was working feverishly on a final revision. Even more work was still to be done on the software side — there was no finalized DOS, no graphical user interface and no BASIC, not to mention any application software or games for the planned launch in the summer of After all, the Amiga team, which had moved into a new, much more spacious office building in Los Gatos, was able to provide important software houses such as Autodesk, Borland, Electronic Arts and the Lotus Development Corporation with Amiga prototypes at an early stage and subsequently also with ROM updates.
January was traditionally marked by Winter CES in Las Vegas and for Commodore, this show must have felt like two punches right in the face.
It got much worse very quickly. A situation in which every CEO knows that the air is getting extremely thin. In May , New York Magazine blatantly wrote about a possible bankruptcy and described the Amiga as possibly the last hope for the ailing company. They argued that Commodore would thus be able to generate sales in the coming Christmas business with the C64, the recently completed C, the IBM PC compatible PC and PC and of course the new Amiga, on which expectations now were ever growing.
At the same time, Commodore pledged to lenders to take urgently needed measures to drastically reduce spending during the same period. It was agreed to reassemble in February in order to re-evaluate the situation and then decide whether to grant further loans for the continuation of business operations or to initiate insolvency proceedings against Commodore. While Atari proudly announced the official delivery of the ST in the USA starting July 8th, the Amiga once again was absent from the show — much to the amazement of the trade press and especially the competition.
Visitors were hardly able to find out anything at all about the Amiga at the show, instead Commodore put the spotlight on the market launch of the C and referred all inquiries regarding the Amiga to the press event in New York the following month. Magazine speculated in their issue 63 August that the Amiga had already been finished and that Commodore would only hold it back until the launch event in July and to not steal any attention for the C launch at CES.
In reality, however, they were not quite right. After the work on the C was completed, Commodore had ordered some of their best software engineers to California at the request of the Amiga team. The strengthened group worked hard day and night to get the system software as stable as possible in time for the big day on July 23rd. On July 15th, they decided that the code was in a presentable condition — preparations for the festive performance at the Lincoln Center could finally commence. The accompanying advertising campaign focused — typically for Jack Tramiel — on the unbeatable price compared to the competition.
Atari had won the qualifying — the race for pole position in the bit market. The outcome of the main race of course was still open, but one thing was certain — Commodore would have to roll up the field from behind. More than anyone else, it was Thomas Rattigan who did not lose time after the meeting with the banks and immediately set about saving costs wherever possible. Shortly afterwards, several production facilities around the globe were closed and some workers released. Technicians and engineers were also affected by the cost-cutting measures that had become necessary.
Commodore Optoelectronics was a proprietary division that was involved in the development of active matrix liquid crystal displays LCDs. These were soon to play an important role in the manufacturing of laptops and handhelds — and with the sale of their own division, Commodore deprived itself of the opportunity to scare the competition in this field with a decisive cost advantage. In the wake of this disposition, Commodore also discontinued the further development of the Commodore LCD laptop, which had already been presented as a prototype at CES in January In view of the empty coffers, management at Commodore had no other choice but to allocate the scarce resources liquid funds and personnel to these two products.
Last but not least, it was absolutely necessary to be able to rely on sales that could be realized at short notice. At least the trend was pointing in a positive direction. The festive presentation at Lincoln Center may have been a complete success for Commodore and the Amiga, but at best the event could only be the starting signal. Trukenbrod also came from the food industry and had worked at Nabisco for many years. The agency worked on a one-minute TV commercial, which was to be broadcast for the first time on the evening of September 23rd, Over at Los Gatos, the whole Amiga team was eagerly awaiting the premiere of the spot.
Most of them had spent the past two or even three years foregoing much of their private lives in order to make their common dream of creating the most colorful, sonorous and innovative computer in the world come true. In a few moments, they would finally be able to share their dream with millions of American TV viewers. In view of the colorless and gloomy mood of the spot, minutes after the broadcast, stunned silence still prevailed among the Amiga engineers.
Chronology of the Commodore 64 Computer References
Robert J. Two things strike me here watching the TV spot. Jack Tramiel, the hard-driving executive who brought Commodore International to the top of the home computer market, resigned suddenly today as president and chief executive and as a director. In a statement, Commodore quoted Mr.
Tramiel as saying, ''Personal reasons prevent my continuing on a full-time basis with Commodore. Tramiel was reported to be traveling and unavailable for comment. One source said the resignation resulted from a long-running dispute between Mr. Tramiel and Irving Gould, the chairman. The dispute may have involved Mr. Tramiel's management style.
Insiders say Mr. Tramiel ran the company like a one-man show, making it difficult for the company to recruit and retain executives. The unexpected resignation came as Commodore was achieving its best performance ever: The company emerged from the price wars in the home computer sector last year as the clear leader in market share and profits as its competitors were hit by huge losses.
For the quarter that ended Dec. Tramiel, who has survived everything from concentration camps to near-bankruptcy to a legal scandal, is thus leaving at the time of what should be his greatest triumph.
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Steven A. Greenberg, a spokesman for Commodore, said Mr. Tramiel was not forced to resign. It also said the board had has chosen a replacement for Mr. Tramiel, to be announced in a few days. It is unclear what effect Mr.
Download: The Home Computer Wars: An Insiders Account Of Commodore And Jack Tramiel
Tramiel's resignation will have on Commodore, but it is bound to be dramatic. Tramiel founded Commodore in and has built the company as the lowest-cost producer of home computers - and one that can change directions in an instant. Commodore officials certainly gave little hint that trouble was brewing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this week, where a beaming Mr.
Tramiel and other executives introduced a new line of home computers. Sig Hartmann, head of Commodore's software division, said Commodore executives had a surprise dinner for Mr.