What’s in a name? For the company behind two of the most beloved 1980s and 1990s home computers, the C64 and Amiga 500, the answer lies in the history of its founder, Jack Tramiel, who would also later steer the Commodore rival Atari.
From the Commodore PET to the VIC-20 and C64: Jack Tramiel with his first line of computers.
While Tramiel himself has allegedly told that the name originates from a car model, Opel Commodore, this is definitely not the case. Opel's automotive vehicle is all kinds of beautiful, especially now when its retro design really shines, but was manufactured between the years 1967 to 1982, and therefore could not have inspired a company that was founded almost a decade earlier, in 1958.
Commodore advertisement of 1970, “The sporty six-cylinder from Opel”.
Why Commodore, then? The word itself is a naval rank, sitting in between captain and admiral. But for Jack Tramiel, it meant much more. Born Idek Trzmiel, and rescued from the Auschwitz concentration camp by the U.S. Army, Tramiel joined the U.S. Army himself after he immigrated to the USA from Poland. His job was repairing office equipment, including typewriters. This work experience proved pivotal for Tramiel's whole career and future business.
After leaving the duty, the army provided Tramiel with an entitlement loan, which was enough to start his own business. He had knowledge of office equipment, especially typewriters, and manufacturing and selling his very own product seemed like a great proposition. The only thing missing was the name.
Inspired by the military, which had given him so much, Tramiel was first looking into names like Admiral and General, but these were already in use. Commodore, however, was not, and he branded his company's first product Commodore Portable Typewriter. The rest, as they say, is history.