[vcf-midatlantic] Chuck Peddle

Michael Pohl michael.h.pohl at gmail.com
Sat Jan 4 08:42:41 EST 2020

Here you go-

Chuck Peddle’s $25 Microprocessor Ignited Computer Market
Engineer led team whose cheap device, launched in 1975, made desktop
machines affordable

Though he never became a household name, Chuck Peddle was among the peers
of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the 1970s who transformed personal
computers from curiosities for geeky hobbyists into essential tools for the

Mr. Peddle led a team at MOS Technology Inc. that designed a microprocessor
priced at $25, around a 10th of the cost of competing devices. The MOS
6502, introduced in 1975, served as the electronic brain for some of the
earliest personal computers, including the Apple I and II, as well as for
videogame consoles.

The microprocessor’s low price changed the economics for personal-computer
makers, allowing them to offer higher performance at affordable prices,
said Douglas Fairbairn, a director at the Computer History Museum in
Mountain View, Calif.

Mr. Peddle died of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 15 at his home in Santa Cruz,
Calif. He was 82.

He was also a pioneering designer of desktop computers. When Commodore
International Ltd. acquired MOS in 1976, he stayed on to design Commodore’s
PET computer, a popular product in the late 1970s.

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After clashing with Commodore’s CEO, Jack Tramiel, Mr. Peddle left to head
what became Victor Technologies Inc. Victor aimed to become one of the
world’s three biggest computer companies. With its Victor 9000 computer,
the company got off to a fast start, especially in Europe.

Within months of going public in March 1983, however, Victor was reporting
losses and slashing its workforce. The market was swiftly turning to
computers fully compatible with software run on IBM computers; Victor was
among many contenders left behind. Mr. Peddle stepped down as Victor’s CEO
in late 1983. He sold some of his stock in Victor for $3 million, gaining
“a nice pop in the bank account,” he later told The Wall Street Journal.

In February 1984, Victor filed for protection from creditors under
bankruptcy law. It was embarrassing, Mr. Peddle said later, but “you pick
yourself up. You’ve got to try to make another run at the market.”

He set up a consulting company, NNA Inc., whose initials stood for “no name
available.” One of his clients was Victor, under new ownership. “Chuck is a
brilliant idea generator,” said Eric Hass, Victor’s president. “Like any
genius, he has tremendous strengths and weaknesses. We wouldn’t hire him to
run the company, but he’s the man for technical innovations.”

Charles Ingraham Peddle, known as Chuck, was born Nov. 25, 1937, and grew
up on the outskirts of Augusta, Maine. His mother had been a fashion
illustrator, and his father was a dealer in heavy equipment. After a car
accident limited his father’s ability to work, the family budget was
strained. Mr. Peddle recalled shooting deer and rabbits for food.

He briefly worked on a road crew after graduating from high school and
wanted to become a radio announcer. A radio audition in Boston proved
disappointing, however, so he enrolled at the University of Maine, where he
received an engineering degree in 1959. He also served in the Marine Corps

Early in his career he spent 11 years at General Electric Co. as an
engineer, working on projects including electronic payment systems for gas
stations. After leaving GE, he set up his own short-lived company to design
point-of-sale payment systems, then joined Motorola Inc., where he helped
design and market microprocessors. Meetings with customers persuaded him
they needed far cheaper processors. Motorola refused to support his work on
a low-cost device, he said later. He defected to MOS Technology along with
Bill Mensch and other colleagues.

Introduction of their MOS 6502 at a trade show in 1975 created a sensation.
Mr. Peddle remembered selling about 600 in a day. Among the buyers was
Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple. “On the way home, I studied the chip
architecture and came to the conclusion that it was the best out there,”
Mr. Wozniak said in an email.

After the crash of Victor, Mr. Peddle in the late 1980s worked for Tandon
Corp. He led development of a portable hard-disk drive designed to make it
easy to transfer programs and data from one computer to another.

Later, Mr. Peddle ran a plant in Sri Lanka that bought defective memory
chips, repaired them using his patented technology and sold them to
computer makers. In recent years, he developed flash-memory products.

His survivors include Kathleen Shaeffer, his companion of 35 years, along
with three brothers and a sister, four children, two stepchildren, seven
grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Two marriages ended in divorce.

Ms. Shaeffer said Mr. Peddle went through “feast and famine” in his
financial affairs. When he had money, she said, he often gave it away “to
people he didn’t even know very well.”

In an interview last March with the University of Maine’s alumni magazine,
he summed up his engineering philosophy: “You take a dream, and you build a
dream, and you keep building on it and you don’t let anybody stop you.”

On Sat, Jan 4, 2020 at 6:50 AM Glenn Roberts via vcf-midatlantic <
vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:

> Chuck Peddle obit is in the weekend Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately I
> can't share as their content requires subscription (which I don't have).
> Glenn

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