Chuck Peddle Dies at 82; His $25 Chip Helped Start the PC Age

After graduation, his aim was twofold: He wanted to live in California, and he wanted to build computers. So he took a job with General Electric, where he helped design early space vehicles, electronic cash registers and so-called time-share computers, massive mainframes that could be shared across companies, schools and other organizations.

Later, at Motorola, he worked on the 6800 chip, a $300 processor used in pinball machines and other arcade games, before turning his attention to a lower-cost processor. When the company sent him a letter killing the project, he responded with a letter of his own. He told Motorola that because it was abandoning the project, all the work he had done now belonged to him.

When he first took the idea to MOS Technology, one of the company’s founders, L.J. Sevin, turned him down, worried that Motorola would sue. So Mr. Peddle took the project to the other founder, John Paivinen, with whom he had worked at General Electric. Mr. Paivinen gave his approval.

After Mr. Paivinen had brought Mr. Peddle and the other Motorola engineers to Valley Forge and they built their low-cost chip, Motorola sued, just as Mr. Sevin had predicted. MOS fought the suit for years before paying a $200,000 fine.

By then, its $25 chip was feeding the rise of the personal computer. At MOS, Mr. Peddle built a personal computer around his new chip called the KIM-1 (the letters stood for Keyboard Input Monitor), and he started selling chips to a pair of young entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who were building a company called Apple.

In 1976, MOS was acquired by a calculator company, Commodore Business Machines, and Mr. Peddle became its chief engineer. Soon after, Mr. Jobs and Mr. Wozniak offered to sell Apple to Commodore, but Commodore declined. Mr. Peddle and his new company built their own personal computer around the 6502: the Commodore PET, which sold for $495.