I ran my own blog from November 2006 till October 2014. All posts are still online, but I don't have time to update it anymore. Please note that all images and media files have been removed when the backup was moved to a new host in early 2016. Enjoy!

A Tribute To The Commodore Amiga

22. january 2008

The Amiga is a family of famous Commodore home computers. Amiga computer systems were based the Motorola 68k processor family and featured a custom made chipset offering advanced graphics and sound capabilities, running a true pre-emptive multitasking operating system which was quite exceptional for a machine released in the mid 1980s.

Amiga computers offered better performance than popular 8 bit home computers and featured much better graphics than early IBM PCs. The main competitor was probably the Atari ST line of computers, as well as the Apple Macintosh. The Amiga became a popular machine for games, video production and 3D graphics.


Creating the Amiga


Jay Miner started the development on the Amiga in 1982 at Amiga Corporation, soon after the company was acquired by Commodore. The chipset was codenamed Lorraine and was originally designed to power game consoles, but after the video game crash in 1983 Amiga decided to use the chipset to build their own computer.


Amiga 1000 (1985)



The original Amiga was released in 1985 as a successor to the Commodore 64 and as a rival to the Atari ST and the Apple Macintosh. Thanks to the custom chip set many multimedia related tasks didn't keep the processor busy, which allowed the Amiga to perform better than its competitors when working with graphics or animations. It was renamed to "Amiga 1000" later on.


When the Amiga was released it featured an 8 Mhz Motorola 68000 CPU (a 32 bit processor with a 16 bit data bus), 1 MB of RAM, 4096 colors display and and 8-bit stereo audio as well as a multitasking OS, which was quite exceptional for that time. For only $1295 it offered a technology that was far more developed than the Atari ST, the Apple Macintosh and the IBM PC. Nevertheless, the Amiga 1000 didn't become very successfull, mainly because of bad marketing strategies (Commodore was also struggling with the Commodore C128 around that time).


Amiga 500 & Amiga 2000 (1987)


The Atari ST had already become very popular when Commodore finally introduced the less expensive Amiga 500. Sold at a price of $596 the Amiga 500 became attractive for the mass market and it became a highly popular home computer. The Amiga 500 featured the same CPU than the A1000 (an 8 Mhz Motorola 68000), 512 kb of RAM and shipped in a keyboard factor case with external power supply.


The Amiga 2000 has targeted at the high end market, it also featured an 8 Mhz Motorola 68000 CPU but offered 1 MB of RAM and was more expandable. It shipped in a desktop-style case which could also harbor an additional 3. 5" drive as well as a 5. 25" disk drive. Harddisk options were also available. For $2395 you could buy an A2000 including a monitor.



Amiga 3000 (1990)


The Amiga 3000 introduced the second generation Amiga hardware, featuring a Motorola 68030 processor at either 16 MHz or 25 MHz (which also offered a 32 bit data bus, but unfortunately the rest of the chipset only supported a 16 bit bis), a 68881 or 68882 FPU coprocessor, 2 MB of RAM, an enhanced chipset (ECS) and the second generation Amiga operating system (Workbench 2. 0). Furthermore it finally became possible to use the Amiga with cheap VGA PC monitors.

Commodore had been criticised that the platform hadn't been updated for about 5 years, and both the Apple Macintosh and the IBM PC now offered graphics and video features comparable to the Amiga platform, and partly even surpassed the A3000 when it finally shipped.


CDTV (1990)


Shortly after the CDTV was released, which was basically a A500 in a settop box featuring a remote control and a CD-ROM drive. The CDTV flopped, maybe even because it was more expensive than a fully equipped Amiga 500 computer.


Amiga 500+ & Amiga 600 (1992)


In 1992 the Amiga 500+ was introduced, which was basically a cost reduced Amiga 500 with 1 MB of RAM and an updated OS (the Workbench 2. 0 from the A3000). Due to the new system software a large number of games didn't run on the A500+, which was quite fatal as this machine targeted the home computer and gaming market. The A500+ was discontinued after only 6 months.


The Amiga 600 was again an improved A500+ in a smaller keyboard style case. Originally the A600 should help to lower the price for an entry model, but in the end it was even more expensive than the Amiga 500. Commodore's profits fell to $28 million in 1992, and it was quite obvious that they were getting into trouble.



Amiga 1200 & Amiga 4000 (1992)


In October 1992, Commodore finally released the A1200 and the A4000. These third generation Amiga were based on the new AGA chipset and featured 2 MB of RAM as well as the third release of AmigaOS (Workbench 3. 0). 


The Amiga 1200 featured a 14 MHz Motorola 68EC020 CPU while the Amiga 4000 was available with either a Motorola 68EC030 or a 68040, both running at 25MHz. A tower version of the A4000 became available later in 1994.



CD32 (1993)


In 1993, Commodore launched the CD32, the world's first 32-bit game console. The hardware was based on the Amiga 1200.

Commodore lost $357 million that year.


How the story ended


Commodore filed for bankruptcy in May 1994. It was decided to sell the company without proceeding to reorganization, and the majority of Commodore's assets and name were sold to Escom, a german computer manufacturer, which restarted the company as "Amiga Technologies" but didn't create any new technologies except for a 68060 based A4000T. Many loyal Amiga users switched over to the Mac or Windows PCs. Escom then sold Amiga to Gateway 2000, which founded Amiga, Inc in 1999. None of all these companies managed to revitalize the Amiga.

Amiga, Inc. created AmigaOne, a PowerPC hardware design that runs latest version of AmigaOS. The AmigaOS, again, has been licensed to Hyperion Entertainment, a Belgian-German company which released the new AmigaOS 4. 0 on December 24, 2006.

AmigaOS 4. 0 is a native PowerPC OS and offers a large number of new features including a completely renewed GUI. The AmigaOS 4. 0 OS is reported to be reliable and stable, but it's only used by very few Amiga fans.

If you liked this post you may also want to read my posts about the Atari ST and the Commodore C128.

I think this post should end by a statement made by John C. Dvorak in 1996, who said:

The AmigaOS "remains one of the great operating systems of the past 20 years, incorporating a small kernel and tremendous multitasking capabilities the likes of which have only recently been developed in OS/2 and Windows NT. The biggest difference is that the AmigaOS could operate fully and multitask in as little as 250 K of address space. Even today, the OS is only about 1MB in size. And to this day, there is very little a memory-hogging CD-ROM-loading OS can do the Amiga can't. Tight code — there's nothing like it. I've had an Amiga for maybe a decade. It's the single most reliable piece of equipment I've ever owned. It's amazing! You can easily understand why so many fanatics are out there wondering why they are alone in their love of the thing. The Amiga continues to inspire a vibrant — albeit cultlike — community, not unlike that which you have with Linux, the Unix clone."