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Before the Amiga

Before Commodore Business Machines acquired the Amiga technology, they were well established in the business and home computer markets with a diverse range of machines. Commodore Business Machines was formed in Toronto, Canada, in 1955 by Jack Tramiel who arrived in the United States after the Second World War as a teenage Polish refugee from Auschwitz. The company started out in a modest way manufacturing typewriters under licence from Czechslovakia. He chose the name CBM, it is said, because of its similarity to IBM. In 1975, after two decades of trading in office products, the company was brought to its knees by the ferocious calculator wars, which the Japanese eventually won. But Tramiel, feared as much as respected for his business methods, was a survivor. He spotted the potential market for a personal computer and in 1976 brought Chuck Peddle into the company and the rest is, as they say, history.
Jack Tramiel

Founder of Commodore Business Machines.

  Chuck Peddle

Designer of the PET and the 6502 processor inside it.


Tramiel turned Commodore into a redoubtable trading and manufacturing operation, and in under a decade saw the value of the company grow 50-fold. But, if it had a weakness, it was in new product development. The company's philosophy was "We sell to the masses, not the classes" and Tramiel's belief was that the customer will always buy what offers best value for money. The requirements of cheap volume manufacture however tend to militate against incorporation of the most advanced technology. In 1979, after Tramiel insisted that memory components for the new PETs must be derived from MOS Technology, against Peddle's wishes, the two men split and Peddle joined Victor United, a subsidiary of of the giant Walter Kidde Corporation and formed Sirius Systems Technology to produce the Sirius 16-bit business machines.

Then in late 1982, following the release of the C-64, a large proportion of Commodore's small research and development staff left the company in a mass walk-out, and from that time it relied on buying in the fruits of the research done by other companies. During this time it was amazingly profitable, due in part to an assured supply of components from MOS Technology, and a modern automated plant which could reportedly build a C-64 for as little as US$50. It was following this episode in January 1984, that Tramiel left Commodore and moved to Atari who themselves had a few problems, and looked to Tramiel to turn them around. This left Commodore in the hands of Irving Gould and Medhi Ali, who rumour has it were more interested in building a tax-haven in the Bahamas (even to the extent of registering the company there) thereby making it difficult for shareholders to get to board meetings, than the future of Commodore.

The following machines were announced by Commodore prior to the Amiga, but none of the MS-DOS based machines have been included.
1977 The CBM 4032 (PET)
1978 The CBM 4016
1980 The Commodore VIC 20
1980 The CBM 9000 (SuperPET)
1981 The CBM 8032
1982 The Commodore C-64
1982 The Commodore Max
1982 The Commodore P128
1982 The CBM B128
1982 The CBM BX256
1983 The CBM 700
1984 The Commodore 264 and V364
1984 The Commodore SX-64
1984 The Commodore C-16
1984 The Commodore Plus/4
1985 The Commodore C-128
1985 The Commodore C-128D
1986 The Commodore C-64C


Copyright 2005 Amiga Auckland Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 25, 2005.