Robert Russell (programmer)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert "Bob" Russell (* 1958 ) is an American electrical engineer who played a key role in the development of the C64 and VC20 home computers .


Bob Russell studied electrical engineering at Iowa State University . Russell which links to was right after graduating in May 1979 by its faculty, 6502 scene by Chuck Peddle the company maintained, MOS Technology recommended as talent. Peddle then recruited the young engineer directly for the company MOS.

MOS Technology and Commodore

Russell worked at MOS with the problems of the Commodore 2040 floppy disk drives . Due to his efficient way of working, he quickly won the favor of Jack Tramiel and was allowed to accompany him at trade fairs. Russell was also entrusted with the software programming, for example when there were problems with data transmission on the PET serial bus. In this role he became a key figure in the development of the Vixen project that led to the VC-20.

While Al Charpentier , Bob Yannes and later Bill Seiler were responsible for the hardware of the new low-end computer, Russell was responsible for the software at MOS Technologies (including the creation of the KERNAL and the integration of Microsoft BASIC 2.0).

After completing the work on the VC-20 at Commodore , Russell concentrated for some time on its peripherals, with which as much money was earned at the time as with the home computer itself. The next major design was the VC1540 floppy disk drive that went with the VC-20 and was later used for the use on the C64 has been further developed into the VC1541 . When the VC-20 was completed in 1981, work began soon afterwards in the autumn of the same year on an improved and higher-market successor. From this device, initially called the VIC-40 , the C64 was to emerge. While engineers such as Al Charpentier, Charles Winterble and Bob Yannes were responsible for the hardware , the software was again entrusted to Bob Russell after his work on the VC-20.

During this time, a close friendship developed between Russell and Bob Yannes. Russell actually wanted to use a better BASIC in the C64 than the old BASIC 2.0 taken over from the VC-20 . Unfortunately, the required memory space was no longer available in the built-in ROM chips, and Jack Tramiel refused to install an additional ROM chip because he gave little importance to things like software. Therefore the C64 got the antiquated BASIC 2.0.

After the departure of Charles Winterble, Bob Russell was promoted to chief engineer at Commodore. In 1983 he showed a lucky hand in choosing new staff to replace the engineers who had left Commodore. With the setting u. a. von Bil Herd and Dave Haynie he succeeded in hiring some highly talented new engineers for Commodore. Both were mainly responsible for the last new development initiated by Russell at Commodore: the C64 successor, the Commodore 128 .

From 1984 Commodore sent Bob Russell to a young, up-and-coming computer manufacturer called Amiga Corporation to evaluate their ongoing project with the code name Lorraine, as Commodore had the unique opportunity to take over a highly advanced 16-bit computer in the prototype stage. Bob Russell was very impressed by the product he found and was convinced that this was the right way forward. After Russell had made his technical point of view clear to the company management, the decision was made not only to take over the half-finished prototype, but to take over the entire Amiga company, including the responsible engineers. However, Russell expressed incomprehension in favor of buying up the entire company, as the technology that was actually only desired could have been had for a fraction of the US $ 24 million required for the company. Commodore later sorely lacked this money when marketing its new product. Russell was also not listened to about the positioning of the new device. Russell urgently demanded a C64 successor, as the C128 hardly did justice to this role and the Amiga provided the ideal technology, which was clearly demonstrated by the Amiga 500 , which appeared much later . During its first two years , the new computer in the form of the Amiga 1000 eked a much noticed but hardly profitable niche existence in the market, while the competition, above all the Atari ST, was able to use the time to catch up on the technical lead of the Amiga and To capture market share.

In 1985, Commodore slipped into a serious financial crisis after the financial reserves were exhausted by buying the Amiga, but C64 sales declined and the Amiga 1000 hardly found buyers due to its high price. The former Pepsi manager Thomas Rattigan, who restructured the company with an iron hand, was hired as a savior in need. Many of the company's old engineers had to leave Commodore, including Bob Russell.


Today Bob Russell works in a leading position for Quadrant International, a manufacturer of camera and video products for connection to PC systems.

Web links