Monday, April 9, 2012

Jack Tramiel, R.I.P.

In the 10th grade I saw my first personal computer, the Commodore PET. By today's standards it wasn't much to look at. It was an all in one unit, with the keyboard, a tiny green screen, and a cassette tape for storage, all together. But in 1978, it was an amazing gift from the future. It came with a few sparse manuals and no software, but I was drawn to it. My math teacher, Mr. Moore, knew that I was smart but lazy kid, barely finishing my own homework, reluctant to help anyone else with theirs. With the PET's help he found a way to reach me. He made me a deal. For every hour I tutored others in the math lab, I would earn an hour on the PET. Helping others raise their grades helped me to raise my own.

By the Christmas break, I had a large surplus of hours, so he allowed me, with my Dad's consent, to borrow it over the vacation. It was my first hack-a-thon. Over two blistering weeks I figured out how to write programs in BASIC and save them to the cassette. When school resumed I had finished four games. Mr. Moore was impressed. He had an idea for an educational game and contracted me to write it. At that point, while still a sophomore in high school, I became a professional computer programmer, long before most people even knew what it meant.

I was saddened to learn of the death of Jack Tramiel, the founder of Commodore International today. He was a true pioneer. I can truly say that he deeply touched my life. My memories of those early Commodore computers will always be happy ones. I learned a lot from them: the VIC20, the C64, and most of all the PET.

Jack, you will be missed.