Happy Birthday, Amiga!

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Amiga computer. On July 23, 1985 what is still arguably one of the best personal computers I’ve ever owned was unveiled by Commodore at the Lincoln Center in New York city. The original Amiga 1000 was years ahead of its time and was the first truly preemptive multitasking personal computer to hit the market. The Macintosh was still living in a black and white world and the PC was struggling to do more than 16 color graphics, but this new PC from Commodore was capable of displaying all 4,096 of its available colors at once in a special display mode called Hold and Modify (HAM). Let’s not forget the debut of 4 voice stereo digitally sampled sound playback and a massive (for the time) 256K of system RAM. It was the fastest thing going at 7.16 MHz and had a boatload of big name software developers singing its praises.

Alas, Commodore was run by cheeseheads that never fully understood what they had acquired in their purchase of Amiga, Inc. Despite having everything in their favor, Commodore started making blunders from the very beginning including pissing of some of the big name software developers that had been showering the Amiga with praise by not giving them development machines to work on. I can clearly remember the big full-page ad Borland took out in the first issue of Amiga World magazine to promote their upcoming release of Turbo Pascal for the Amiga; a release that never happened because of idiocy at Commodore. Commodore could have taken over the market at that point. Microsoft was still on the initial release of Microsoft Windows on the PC and wouldn’t release Microsoft Windows 1.0 until November of ‘85. Hell, Windows was considered a joke until version 3.0 hit the market five years later. The Macintosh was only a year old itself and wouldn’t support a color display until the release of the Macintosh II in 1987. There wasn’t anything close to the Amiga on the market and it should have gone on to own it, but Commodore seemed bound and determined to screw things up any way they could. Looking back on it now it’s amazing the Amiga was a successful as it was for a short time considering all the idiotic things Commodore did along the way.

I still own three of the four Amigas I purchased over the years including my original Amiga 1000. I sold the 1000 to a former girlfriend way back when, but she gave it back to me about two years ago. I still have an Amiga 1200 around someplace (currently packed away) and an Amiga 3000 I bought off my buddy Bob and never actually finished paying him off for (which he likes to remind me of every so often, but we don’t entirely recall how much I still own him for it). I’ve mentioned before that I used to run a BBS in the mid-80’s on my old Commodore 64s, but for a few years in the early 90’s I ran it on my Amigas. The CNet Pro software is still installed on my Amiga 3000 and comes up as soon as I turn it on. It was last available to callers back in 1995 I believe. The database is still intact with a full user list and all manner of old postings. Someday once I’m working again I’d like to pick up a Zorro II network card for the A3000 and get it hooked into my home network so I can put it on the Net, but it’s hard to find those cards these days and they tend to be pricey when you do. I miss my old Amigas as they were a dream to work with compared with most PCs. Oh well, no use pining for the past.

Found via Slashdot.

6 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Amiga!

  1. I remember when the Amiga first came into the house to replace the 64.  I took one look at it and retired from posting on the BBS.  It just scared the piss out of me!  But he sure loved it!

  2. At our college of business I get the feeling they focus a lot on business successes (and also on lots of boring stuff like insurance law) but they really should have several classes on corporate idiocy.  Developing an instinct for spotting failure could be incredibly useful.  Companies (and consumers)suffer because naysayers end up in the mailroom.

    “Boss, it’s idiotic not to give them development machines…”  is seldom a way to get ahead in a company.

  3. Tsk, tsk.  You’re forgetting about the Atari 520 ST.

    With double the RAM and faster at basic operation than the Amiga, it was a serious competitor, and also far better than the PC/Mac market. It was also running at 8MHz, and had built-in MIDI support.

    Granted, the graphical capacity wasn’t up there with the Amiga when it first came out, and Amiga was always better for graphics (though Atari was always better at sound) but given its cheaper price I’d say that it was at least Amiga’s equal, if not its superior smile

    Hell, if you go to http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Vista/3015/16bit.html you can see the cost difference.  The Atari 1040 had four times the RAM, faster processor, more keys, more ports (including a hard drive port) and better sound for $1200 instead of the $1800 for the amiga (and close to $5000 for the PC).

    So don’t you forget the Atari computers!  They were definitively one of the best out there, even if the people driving their production were just as big cheeseheads as those with Amiga smile

    (Proud owner of several atari machines smile

  4. I’ve not forgotten the old Atari STs. In fact it was in part Commodore’s fixation on Atari that left it shortsighted to the growing dominance of the Wintel boxes in the home.

    Atari managed to get a good head start on Commodore with their STs thanks to making use of off-the-shelf parts and, for quite awhile, ended up outselling the Amiga. I’d argue the point that it was Amiga’s equal, but then I had tons of such arguments back in my youth. The STs were certainly very capable machines in their own right and very popular with musicians thanks to their built-in MIDI ports. As I recall, those MIDI ports were also a popular way to engage in multiplayer gaming by hooking up several STs in a simple MIDI LAN.

  5. Well, concerning equal, you have to look at all of the parts.  There’s no question that amiga beat it in the graphical department, but given that it was generally a faster machine, had more RAM, the midi ports (which I made excellent use of in my gaming smile ) and was significantly cheaper made it definitely equal to the amiga.  It just had slightly different uses.

    It took them too long to match the amiga graphically, though, which was unfortunate.  Still, though.  I look back on those days fondly, where I would be playing Dungeon Master, and my friend would be playing two-colour games on a PC that cost 4 times as much. smile

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