|Headquarters||Canada, later USA|
|Key People (choice)||Chuck Peddle|
|Information||Viewing until the year 1995!|
Commodore was an American computer company (1955–1994) founded in West Chester, Pennsylvania by businessman Jack Tramiel. Tramiel—famous for his combative business style, his talent for spotting emerging markets, and his colorful sayings—at first sold and repaired typewriters. But his Commodore Business Machines company later branched out into other business areas, including electronic calculators.
When electronics companies began manufacturing their own calculators in the 1970s, Commodore suffered the first of their many business setbacks and nearly went bankrupt. But they learned their lesson and followed the competition by buying their own electronics manufacturing company, MOS Technology, who specialized in the design of computer chips. This move allowed Commodore to cut production costs and maintain quality. It also brought in talented engineers like the legendary Chuck Peddle, who designed the hugely popular 6502 CPU. It cost a fraction of rival processors and formed the basis of Commodore’s entire 8-bit home computer range throughout the 70s and 80s.
Shortly after acquiring MOS, Commodore introduced the PET 2001, a home/business/education computer that (unlike other computers of its day) came with a processor, keyboard, monitor, and cassette storage all bundled into a single unit. It proved instantly popular, and Commodore kept adding improved models to the range with bigger memory, better keyboards, and better screens. These PETs, with their characteristic white cases and green screens, can still be spotted as background props in TV reruns and old movies.
In 1981, Commodore released the VIC 20, the first widely available color computer and the first to sell one million units. Its follow-up, the C64, enjoyed even greater success, and over thirty years later it remains the best-selling computer of all time. Commodore continued to push the boundaries of low-cost high-tech with their Amiga range of multimedia computers, which wowed 1980s computer buyers. But despite their continued innovation, Commodore never again enjoyed their earlier success.
By 1994, boardroom wrangling, Tramiel’s waning influence over his company, the ups-and-downs of the home computer market, and the new PC standard had all pushed Commodore into voluntary liquidation. Commodore and its product names, such as C64 and AMIGA, were sold to Escom (1995-96), Tulip (1997-2004), and Yeahronimo Media Ventures Inc. (AKA Commodore International Corporation or Commodore Holdings B.V. (since 2005)), Commodore Gaming (2007), and Commodore USA (2010-2012). Today (2019) Commodore computers are used and developed by enthusiasts.
For many people, the Commodore name is a fond reminder of the Golden Age of home computing.
- 1953: Jack Tramiel, who emigrated 1948 to the United States and a fellow soldier of his, had an idea: They bought typewriters from the United Nations, repaired them and sold them again. The company name was Commodore Portable Typewriter Company.
- 1955: Jack Tramiel founded the company Commodore Business Machines (CBM) for his office typewriters in Canada to circumvent the import declarations of the USA. The company built typewriters under license as well as under its own name and sold them in big stores.
- 1958: Commodore purchased a German company that produced and sold typewriters.
- 1961-62: Incorporation of a company for adding machines for the United States and Canada. Moreover, mechanical calculators are produced and sold under license.
- 1962: Commodore's going public at the stock exchange in New York under the name of Commodore International Limited, supported by the financier C. Powell Morgan who was president of the Atlantic Acceptance Corporation from Canada.
- 1963: Due to the imminent bankruptcy of the Atlantic Acceptance Corporation, the business practice of Commodore is investigated. Besides, a company for office furniture had been purchased, for which Commodore managed the sale. The new company headquarter moved to the building of the new bought company. Jack Tramiel meets the Canadian advocate and banker Irvin Gould.
- 1967: Commodore imports Japanese electronic calculators.
- 1968: Japan produces cheap mechanical calculators and floods the world market with them.
- 1969: Commodore sells their mechanical calculators branch to a Japanese company. In Japan, Jack Tramiel has seen an electronic (digital) calculator for the first time. Beginning of the production of own electronic and hand calculators.
- 1971: The first digital Commodore calculator C108 with the 4 basic calculations is released on the market. The microchips have been produced and delivered by Texas Instruments. Commodore actively launches operations in Germany with Commodore-Germany (Company name: Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH).
- 1975: Texas Instruments builds their own calculators which are cheaper than those from Commodore. This initiates the Calculator War.
- 1975: MOS Technology builds the Singleboard Computer KIM-1 with a 6502 processor. It is presented in the first issue of the German computer magazine CHIP. The Pong game console under the name Commodore 2000K and the Commodore 3000H enter the market.
- 1976: Commodore buys the American semiconductor company MOS Technology in West Chester (Pennsylvania, USA) and moves their headquarter there. At the same time, the financial company headquarter moves to the Bahamas due to tax advantages. Start of the development of the PET (Personal Electronic Transactor) by Charles 'Chuck' Peddle. Commodore attempts to buy the computer company Apple and the semiconductor company LSI Systems. From now on the MOS chips are used in the digital calculators.
- 1977: Takeover of the chip producer Frontier from Los Angeles (California, USA). Presentation of the first personal computer PET on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Production of the PET/CBM series 2001. The CBM/PET series has been sold about one million time until the middle of the 80's. The operation system of the Commodore computers was BASIC under license from the company Microsoft until the middle of the 80's and has been modified and upgraded for own purposes.
- 1978: Presentation of the microchip VIC for video consoles on the CES. The chess computer Commodore CHESSmate is sold.
At this time there are the following Commodore companies and production locations:
- Commodore Business Machines, Inc in USA (California)
- Commodore/MOS in USA (Pennsylvania)
- Commodore Business Machines Limited in Canada (Ontario)
- Commodore Business Machines Limited in England (Eaglescliffe and London)
- Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH in Germany (Neu Isenburg)
- Commodore Japan Limited in Japan (Isaka)
- Hong Kong; Commodore Electronic (Hong Kong) Ltd in Hongkong
- 1979: Takeover of the Micro Display Systems Incorporated from Dallas (USA) and production of digital watches under own name. Production of the PET/CBM series 3001.
- 1980: Spin-off of the companies that had been taken over in the Commodore Semiconductor Group. Splitting of the factories in Home Computer and PC Production.
Production of the PET/CBM series 4001. Charles Peddle quits his position at Commodore in autumn.
Splitting of the Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH (German Commodore) into a branch office and sales management in Frankfurt and a producing plant in Braunschweig () that mainly builds professional computer systems such as the PC series. Additionally, Commodore maintains the Commodore AG in Switzerland (Basel) as well as the Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH in Austria (Vienna).
- 1981: Production of the PET/CBM series 8001. Publication of the VIC20.
- 1982: Sale of the VIC20 in Germany under the name VC20 and in Japan as VIC-1001, which had been build in Japan, too. In the middle of the year the sale of the C64 starts in computer stores. At the end of the year the C64 has also been sold to schools as a cheap learning computer under the name PET 64. Award for the VIC20 as the Computer of the Year by the German magazine CHIP in the category home computer.
Introduction of the Commodore Sport Service for the displaying of international sport event results.
- 1983: Sale of the C64 in stores and in Germany. A mobile version of the C64, the SX-64 and one of the first handheld computers, the HHC-4 are presented on the CES Las Vegas. The VC10 (name in Germany) is developed and produced in Japan, also known as Commodore MAX Machine (Japan) and Ultimax (USA). It was supposed to be the successor of the VIC20. Sale of the Commodore CBM 500/505/610/CBM 700/710/720, which has the possibility of an additional Z80 card to use the CP/M system or with an 8088 coprocessor card to use the MS-DOS system. Award for the C64 as Computer of the Year by the German magazine CHIP in the category home computer.
In Germany the following sales offices of the German Commodore exist at this time: Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart.
- 1984: Production of the CBM II series 600 and 800 computer. The sale of two million VIC20 and one million C64 are celebrated on the CES in Las Vegas. Jack Tramiel leaves Commodore and Irvin Gould becomes the new president. Takeover of the company Amiga Inc.. Closing of the Commodore Robotic-Group in Dallas, USA. The German Commodore develops an IBM compatible PC called PC10 and presents it on the Hannover fair. The Commodore PC series now uses the operating system MS-DOS by Microsoft as a basis. Furthermore, the home computers C16, C116 and Plus/4 (the so called series 264) are presented.
The following factories of Commodore exist at this time in
- England: Commodore Business Machines (UK) Ltd.; Corby, Northants
- Italy: Commodore Italiana S.P.A; Milano
- Australia: Commodore Business Machines Pty Ltd; Lane Cove
- Netherlands: Commodore Computer B.V.; Amsterdam
- Belgium: Commodore Computer NV-SA; St-Stevens-Woluwe
- Denmark: Commodore Data AS; Horsens
- 01.03.1984: Sales numbers of the C64 are 125,000 and of the VC20 140,000 in Germany. The German Commodore was the shirt sponsor for the soccer club FC Bayern München from the season 1984/85 to 1989.
- 15.11.1984: Sale of the 500,000th C64 in Germany. The C64 receives the award Home computer of the Year for the second time.
- 1985: Presentation of the C128 which also supports the CP/M system on the CES Las Vegas and of the AMIGA in the press. Sale of the PC20. At the beginning of the year the number of three million sold C64 is achieved.
Commodore starts as an advertising partner in the German production car championship for the former ski world champion and driver Franz Klammer.
- 1986: The one millionth C64 in Germany (05.12.1986) and the six millionth C64 world wide are sold. The casing has been optimized. The old bread box shape is replaced by a rather flat design, similar to the cases of the AMIGAS. Sale of the AMIGA 1000 in March in Germany. Sale of the handheld computer Commodore LCD with integrated programs and the Commodore 610. Sale of the AMIGA extension Sidecars for the expansion port. Furthermore, mobile electronic games were sold under the name Commodore LCD Game (Play & Time).
- 1987: Reworked models of the PC10/20 are published. Sale of the home computer AMIGA 500 and the professional AMIGA 2000. The Amiga has its own operating system called AMIGA-OS. The PC1 was sold. Award for the AMIGA 500 in the category home computer from the German magazine CHIP.
- 1988: The AMIGA 2500 and the 80386-PC40/50/60 are sold, but the PC versions PC50/60 were build in commission in Far East. The home computer sector and the PC sector were merged again.
- 1989: Development of the C65, sort of a combination of C64 and AMIGA.
Sponsoring of the Honda 125cc team at the MC Racing championship and of the soccer team Chelsea from England.
The last years
- 1990: Sale of the game console C64 Games System. Production of about 2000 C64 followers C65. Presentation of the CDTV, a video game console and CD player connectable to TV, and of the AMIGA 3000, which could be ordered as a tower, too. Moreover, factories on the Philippines, in Malaysia and South Korea are established during the last years.
- 1991: The first Commodore Laptop C286LT and the AMIGA 500 plus are launched. Production of the CDTV. The result of a market analysis makes Commodore fear that the C65 could damage the sale of the AMIGA models. Consequently, only about 200 prototypes of the C65 are built.
- 1992: In the anniversary year (30 years Commodore Business Machines Ltd. and 21 years German Commodore Büromaschinen GmbH), the home computers AMIGA 600, AMIGA 1200 and AMIGA 4000 are launched. Representation offices are opened in Poland (Warszawa), Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the COI-States. By then 2 million AMIGAs have been sold world wide.
- 1993: Stop of the production of personal computers by Commodore. Production and sale of the CD game console CD32. The prototypes of the C65 were sold because of shortage of money.
- 1994: Estimated 17 million C64 have been sold world wide (about 3,050,000 in Germany). About 3 million AMIGAs have been sold, among them only 1.1 million AMIGA 500 & plus models.
Closing of the first subsidiary companies, e.g. in Australia. Bankruptcy of Commodore Electronics Ltd. (USA) and stop of the exchange trade on the 29th April 1994. In September, the German Commodore announces bankruptcy due to lack of products.
- 1995: The French Commodore closes in February, meanwhile the Commodore UK tries to secure the rights to the brand AMIGA. But they were overbid by the computer company Escom, which now sells PCs under the label Commodore and tries to launch new AMIGA computer systems. Escom has built C64 models for the east european market for a short time, too.
Sales numbers (End 1993)
|Computer system||Germany||Rest of Europe||USA||Rest of World||Total|
|PETs||4.000||-||-||-||4.000 + ?|
²The finding of the sales numbers are made over different sources on the internet e.g. by the serial number.
³Source: e-mail from the Commodore employee Dr. Peter Kittel
All other numbers are estimated or sources from old computer magazines.
Commodore published and developed software for its computer systems:
- A Bee C's
- Arctic Shipwreck
- Commodore-64 Comal 80 rev 2.01
- Dancing Monster
- International Soccer
- Jack Attack
- Jupiter Lander
- Le Mans
- Omega Race
- Pinball Spectacular
- Radar Rat Race
- Rally Speedway
- Silicon Syborgs
- Slalom (Ultimax)
- Super Smash
- Tooth Invaders
- Wizard of Wor