We ask Whatever Happened to the Tramiels?
For a long time, they were the 'first family of Atari', the people whose
decisions could mean life or death for the company. There was Jack, the
scary-arsed patriarch and feuding founder of Commodore Business Machines, he
only came in a late fashion to the ailing Warner controlled Atari Corp in
the mid-1980's, and then commenced turning it upside down.
The intention may well have been to provide a safe tenure for his sons Sam,
Leonard and Gary (the Tramiel they hid in a cupboard?) Sam took over the
presidency, and was the best known of them after Jack, Leonard and Gary
pootled around within the company. Most people would judge them as failing
to follow successfully in their fathers footsteps, maybe the Tramiel
business model was not really suited to long-term survival? Anyway, we all
know what happened in the end. The Tramiel clan sold out and got out of the
computer and video games business, and seemed to quickly melt into the
mists, perhaps never to be seen again?
A curious relief fell over the Atari community, whatever happened next,
whether we were dependent for future hardware development on long-haired
French guys called Rodolphe who specialise in acute lateness and excellent
build quality or what, at least we wouldn't have to go through all *that*
Now the issue of what the Tramiel family are doing now has never arisen
since. It really seems that "out of sight is out of mind"? But the question
emerged, like a long slumbering sea beast roused from the - ok you get the
picture! when R.J.Michal, one of the grand old men who helped create the
Amiga, spoke at the third Alternative Party in Helsinki January 2002. I
was there! You may have read my report on it (Not only in Alive issue 4,
but now also available in the archive at the official Alt Party website!)
Among other things, the unbidden question emerged from somewhere in the
crowd "Is Jack Tramiel still alive?" To which he answered, yes he was, but
not really elaborating further, saying the Tramiel family preferred to keep
a low profile these days. Maybe there were too many painful memories from
his dealings with them, for R.J. to want to elaborate further?
Now in this lull period before the reviewing team on Alive! is swept away by
the hurricane blast of new releases (said lull period known as "2002"!) I
decided on a little bit of research, to see what the Tramiel family are
actually up to these days. At least from an armchair web browsing
perspective. It turned out there was a bit of information, buried in the
vast mudpile of historical sites, in several languages, dedicated to the
past glory and mistakes of the Tramiels (in both Commodore and Atari
Firstly, a little bit about Jack, the man who started it all...
This log entry is fresh from the 'Commodore People' site, containing
information on people crucial to the prolonged success of the Commodore 64
computer in particular. Jack Tramiel came top of a list peopled by other
notables including Chuck Peddle, designer of the 6502, and even Rob
Jack Tramiel - The Founder
Driving Force behind Commodore Business Machines.
Founder of Commodore Business Machines (created from a typewriter Repair
Shop) and the driving force behind Commodore's victory over Texas
Instruments in the Home Computer Wars of 1982-83.
Quit his position at Commodore in January 1984 when Irving Gould, a Canadian
financier whom Tramiel was in debt to, returned only 10% of Tramiel's stock
in Commodore when Jack turned the company around and had it making millions.
Tramiel then bought Atari from Warner Communications for next to nothing and
turned it into a profitable company for a few years, before it was absorbed
by a disk drive company in the early 1990s and disappeared forever. Known
for his saying: "Business is War"! There's some more info in the History of
TODAY: Retired in Simi Valley, California. Supervising his sons running the
company called: Jugi Tandon Systems.
To furthermore confirm that Jack is indeed "alive" (well done Felice!)
Here's an extract from the Jewish society at Stanford University, confirming
his appearance as the guest of honour at an "Emerging Leader Dinner".
Presumably, the Jewish Holocaust surviving part of his heritage was given
greater emphasis here?
Events from 2001-2002 Included:
Sponsored by Hillel at Stanford - Emerging Leaders Dinners
Each month, graduate students have the opportunity to have dinner with a
prominent business or political leader to learn about the speaker's life and
work. Space is limited. For more information and reservations, please
Jack Tramiel Holocaust Survivor and Founder, Commodore Int'l. Dinner
Emerging Leaders Dinners provide graduate students with the opportunity to
hear from and interact with accomplished community and business leaders.
Students and the featured guest enjoy dinner and conversation together, and
students have the opportunity to learn about the featured guest's life and
work. Dinners are free of charge. We are pleased to announce the next event,
featuring: Jack Tramiel Holocaust Survivor and Founder of Commodore Int'l.
Hillel at Stanford
Last Updated: June 5, 2002
Okay, time to dig in and find out about the rest of the gang, what about
Sam? Surely he's working these days, but who would give him a job now?
A big hand to Conxion, who have landed Sam on their board of directors!
here's a little bit from their website telling you what they are about.
The result is Conxion, a lean, efficient organization built from retained
earnings and with a history of profitability. We are building an enduring
company that customers can rely on for the long haul. Our mission is to turn
the power of our network, datacenters and managed hosting skills into
business solutions that yield business benefits. We do it with a passion for
performance that produces incredible results.
We've already staked our claim as the Net's premiere host for massive
downloads and million-hit websites. When Microsoft offers new versions of
Internet Explorer or NT Service Packs, millions of users move immediately to
download the often massive files, and the process goes off without a hitch.
Our long-term goal is to help e-business reach its full potential. We'll
keep building our network and our organization, because we want to create
something that lasts. When your business is ready for the Internetwork
Delivery System, we'll be here.
Enough!!! No more!
And here it is, Sam the man, with a bit of extra information thrown in about
some of his other business activities and his past life. Nice of them!
Board of Directors - Sam Tramiel
Mr. Tramiel is the former CEO of Atari Corporation. He has over twenty-eight
years of experience in various aspects of high technology companies in both
domestic and international markets. (Ruining them, then cutting and running
perhaps?! - Not at all embittered Ed note.)
He is currently a principal of Tramiel Capital, Inc., which specializes in
real estate and investments. During the period from 1972 to 1984 he held
various positions at Commodore International, Ltd., one of the pioneering
companies in the development and marketing of some of the earliest personal
computers. Mr. Tramiel has been a member of the Board of Directors of
Conxion Corporation since February 1999.
The other Tramiels, Leonard and Gary, tended to keep a lower profile than
eldest sibling Sam. The same goes for their internet presence, with no
current entries for Gary out there, and he's not a particularly dominating
presence even in the copious historical record. However, I did strike lucky
with Leonard, who seems to have withdrawn from the computer industry into
wealthy semi-retirement, punctuated by bouts of concerned social
improvement, as the following web extract now reveals.
The Great American Textbook Scandal
October 30, 2000
By David McClintick
ONE DAY IN MARCH OF last year Leonard Tramiel, a balding, dark-bearded man
of 45, sat alone in a science classroom in Milpitas, a middle-class
community on the south end of San Francisco Bay. Having earned a Ph.D. in
physics from Columbia University and having made a bundle in Silicon Valley,
Tramiel now taught occasionally around the Bay Area as a volunteer.
Savoring a few quiet moments before 30 eighth graders surged into the
classroom, Tramiel opened their astronomy textbook, Prentice Hall's
Exploring The Universe, to the lesson for the day. Tramiel was surprised to
see that Prentice Hall had inadvertently reversed two photographic images,
giving a misleading impression of how the moon looks as it passes through
its phases. Tramiel turned back a page.
The book said that the moon probably had been born when a giant asteroid had
struck the earth, tearing a chunk of material from the planet, and that the
Pacific Ocean may be the hole left behind. What was this doing in a science
textbook? The asteroid theory hadn't been taken seriously for over 30 years.
Tramiel turned back another page and read that the far, or dark, side of the
moon had been photographed for the first time by the Lunar Orbiter, a U.S.
space probe. He knew for a fact that the Soviets had taken those first
Three errors in three pages. At home that night, Tramiel read the textbook
cover to cover and found dozens of errors of fact, of interpretation, of
Tramiel called Prentice Hall's 800 number. An operator said someone would
get back to him. Nobody did. Calling again three days later, Tramiel
insisted on staying on the line until someone helped. A woman identifying
herself as one of the editors of the series came on to assure him that the
errors had been corrected in a subsequent edition. Tramiel obtained the
later edition and found only three of the dozens of errors he had found had
His interest in textbooks now fully aroused, Tramiel examined a new Prentice
Hall book used by his older son's private middle school in Palo Alto.
According to the title page, Science Explorer Astronomy had been written by
Jay M. Pasachoff, a professor of astronomy at Williams College whom Leonard
Tramiel knew to be a renowned scientist.
But the book contained such idiocies as references to a "history book from
around 800 B.C.," when books did not exist, and to the "rotating"of the
earth around the sun, when every schoolboy is supposed to know that the
earth rotates on its axis but revolves around the sun. Tramiel checked in
with Pasachoff and was not surprised to hear how the errors got in the book-
-in the editing process, after the book left Pasachoff's hands.
Go on Leonard, get those idiots! Hit them, kill them, smother them with your
So there you have it, the Tramiels rediscovered, and out of harms way at
last. Next time? Alastair Bodin, head of software development for Atari UK,
has he burnt in hell yet!!
CiH, for Alive! Mag,powered by web extracts, August '02....