The technology industry, and the world at large, lost a giant this week. You could be forgiven for not knowing the name Chuck Peddle, but his work has been at the heart of video gaming and personal computing since the 1970s.
Mr. Peddle was the chief architect of the MOS Technology 6502 family of microprocessors, the chips that made some of the world’s most iconic gizmos work. The groundbreaking Atari 2600 had one at its core, as did the Nintendo Entertainment System. A young Steve Wozniak picked the 6502 as the brains of his Apple I and Apple II personal computers which, ironically, competed against Mr. Peddle’s own Commodore PET series, which paved the way for the VIC-20 and Commodore 64, the best-selling computer of all time. Embedded systems designers – engineers who create products as diverse as calculators, microwave ovens, elevators, kid’s toys, and even radios – loved the simplicity of the chip.
What really set the chip apart from competitors was the price. While Motorola and Intel were selling their CPUs for upwards of $300, anyone could buy a 6502 for $25. Whether you were a hobbyist, professional engineer, or corporate behemoth, access to computing power was now a realistic proposition.
It’s a comforting trap to believe the personal computer revolution was the result of toil from just a few players – the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates types. And while success in any endeavor has many parents, there are pivotal spikes in history upon which the whole thing rests. Chuck, his team, and the chip they created are one.
Mr. Peddle was 82 years old.
To learn more about the 6502 microprocessor, visit www.team6502.org.
“There’s nothing nice about Steve Jobs, and there’s nothing evil about Bill Gates”.
– Chuck Peddle (1937-2019)