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Amiga

From Academic Kids

In computing, Amiga is a range of home/personal computers primarily using the Motorola 68000 processor family, whose development started in 1982, initially as a game machine. The original Amiga hardware was designed by Jay Miner; his machine was ahead of its time when it appeared in 1985, having a custom chipset with advanced graphics and sound features and a sophisticated multitasking operating system, now known as AmigaOS. The Amiga eventually became popular among computer enthusiasts, especially in Europe, as they upgraded from 8-bit computers such as the Commodore 64. It also found a business role in video production.

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Contents

History

The first Amiga computer, simply called the Amiga, was released in 1985 by Commodore, who marketed it both as their intended successor to the Commodore 64 and as their competitor against the Atari ST range. It was later renamed the Amiga 1000 (or A1000 for short).

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An Amiga 500 computer system, with 1084S RGB monitor and A1010 floppy disk drive.

In 1987 Commodore released two new Amiga models, the A500 and the A2000 as low-end and high-end machines, respectively. The former became the most popular Amiga computer of that decade and was mostly known as a games machine, while the latter was marketed as a more serious workstation for graphic purposes, due to the presence of a SCSI controller option, a Genlock slot and an I/O video connector.

In 1990 the A3000 was introduced in the market as the successor of both A1000 and A2000, with an extended chipset (ECS), and the second release of its operating system, to be known eventually as the AmigaOS.

In the same year, Commodore released three new low-end machines: the CDTV, aimed to move the platform to the living room; the A500+, with the same enhancements as the A3000; and the A600, basically an A500+ in a smaller box with an IDE controller for hard disks. All of them were a commercial failure, mainly due to poor marketing by Commodore.

Mass-market Amigas were then considerably cheaper than PCs or Macs of their time. This boosted sales in the more price-conscious European markets, but led to Commodore being viewed in the United States as a producer of cheap and nasty "game machines". This conception was furthered by the fact that most Commodore retail outlets were toy stores, and marketing campaigns which were woefully mismatched with the status-conscious American public. This explains why Amiga was very successful in Europe, but not in the US market, with less than a million sold.

In 1992 Commodore released their last Amiga computer models, the A1200 and the A4000: both of them featured the new AGA chipset and the third release of AmigaOS.

In 1993, in a desperate attempt to save their business, menaced by console giants as Sega and Nintendo, Commodore marketed the CD32, one of the earliest compact disc based consoles, with specs similar to the A1200.

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An Amiga A500 computer, photographed in 1988

In 1994 Commodore filed for liquidation and its asset were bought by Escom, a German PC manufacturer, which in turn filed for liquidation during 1997. The Amiga brand was then sold to another PC manufacturer, Gateway 2000, which had grand plans for it, but they eventually sold it in 2000 before actually realizing their plans. There are rumors that this sale was conducted because of ongoing force by Microsoft; however, this is unproven.

The current owner of the trademark, Amiga Inc., has licensed the rights to make hardware using the Amiga brand to an U.K. computer vendor, Eyetech Group, Ltd (http://www.eyetech.co.uk) founded by some former employees of the UK branch of Commodore International. They are currently selling the AmigaOne via an international dealer network. The AmigaOne is a PowerPC computer suited to run the last remnant of the platform, the AmigaOS, that was in turn licensed to a Belgian-German company, Hyperion Entertainment (http://www.hyperion-entertainment.biz).

During these years, a very limited number of clones (Amiga-compatible computers) were produced, as both Commodore and subsequent owners of the trademark strongly refused to have Amigas produced under license.

Amigas running any operating system up to version 3.9 are being considered "Classic" Amigas today, contrary to the new Amiga Inc./Eyetech/Hyperion models.

Many "Classic" Amigas are still in use today to produce commercials or local cable TV shows.

Technical features

The Amiga had some of the most impressive sound and graphics available for the home user. Indeed, it was also used for commercial entertainment production till the mid 1990s, aiding users in the Video editing and 3D fields.

The Original Amiga chipset, or OCS, was more advanced than other architectures of its time: it had dedicated chips for graphic effects based on the monitor's beam position and the use of genlocks was very easy; even today many broadcast corporations still use A3000s and A4000s for their real-time video effects. Many programs for making fansubs were written for the Amiga.

One unique feature the Amiga had was the ability to change the monitor resolution on the fly, within a scan line or two. This allowed multiple overlapping screens of different resolutions that could be pulled down or up in front of each other, completely without interfering with each other, controlled at the hardware level. The chipset included a blitter, which could not only copy and manipulate large area of graphics, making the Amiga well suited to arcade action games, but it also included line drawing and area-filling hardware, which helped advance the popularity of real-time 3D games.

Operating systems

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After powering up or rebooting an Amiga 500 this screen display is seen, meaning the OS started and asking the user to insert a bootable floppy disk. The displayed floppy is Workbench 1.3.

The operating system, AmigaOS, was also quite sophisticated for its time, combining an elegant graphical user interface (GUI) like that of the Apple Macintosh with some of the flexibility of UNIX while retaining a simplicity that made maintenance rather easy. While its operating system was the only preemptive multitasking platform with an efficient message-passing kernel in the consumer marketplace for several years with an efficient memory management, robustness left something to be desired, mainly due to the absence of protected memory, resulting in the famous "Guru Meditation" errors.

The Amiga operating system was resurrected in 2000 as AmigaOS 4, which currently runs only on AmigaOne computers and on A1200s and A4000s with a PowerPC accelerator card.

Other, still maintained operating systems are available for the classic Amiga platform, including Linux, NetBSD, and OpenBSD. Commodore Amiga Unix (based on AT&T System V Rel. 4) was available only for the A2500 and A3000.

Third party software

In spite of being sold short, Amiga was originally supported by such prestigious software titles as AutoCAD, WordPerfect, Deluxe Paint, and Lattice C. Video Toaster, one of the first all-in-one graphics and video editing packages, began on the Amiga. Some titles were later ported to Microsoft Windows and continue to thrive there, like the rendering software Maxon Cinema 4D or Lightwave, which was originally a part of Video Toaster.

Several universities used to host one of the most extensive non-commercial software archive for a single computer-platform: Aminet. It was born as a spare time project by Urban Müller, a Swiss student who was surprised by the immediate success of his archive. Soon the archive became mirrored worldwide and got even distributed on monthly CD-ROMs. Reports of daily additions to this software-archive were posted automatically to Usenet (de.comp.sys.amiga.archive), or could be requested as an email-newsletter. Most of the programs on Aminet were Public Domain or Shareware, but important software companies made updates and demo-versions of their programs available as well. Now Aminet is complemented by OS4Depot, which archives non-commercial and free software for the upcoming release of AmigaOS 4.0.

Models and variants

Marketed Amiga models

Original Chipset (OCS)
Model Timescale RAM (base) OS Version Additional Information
Amiga 1000 1985 - 1987 256 KB 1.0 - 1.3 Later A1000s shipped with 512KB base memory
Amiga 500 1987 - 1990 512 KB 1.2 - 1.3 First "low-end" Amiga
Amiga 2000 1987 - 1992 1MB 1.2 - 2.04 First desktop Amiga with expansion slots
Amiga 2500 1989 - 1990 1MB 1.3 A2000+'020/'030 card (not a distinct model)
Amiga CDTV 1991 - 1992 1MB 1.3 CD-ROM based multimedia machine
Enhanced Chipset (ECS)
Model Timescale RAM (base) OS Version Additional Information
Amiga 3000 1990 - 1992 2/5 MB 2.0 - 2.04 First Zorro III system
Amiga 3000T 1990 - 1992 1/4 MB 2.04 First "towerized" Amiga
Amiga 3000UX 199? - 199? ? MB 2.04 UNIX based Amiga 3000
Amiga 500+ 1991 - 1992 1 MB 2.04 ECS based A500 with 1MB RAM base memory
Amiga 600 1992 1 MB 2.05 - 2.1 First Amiga using SMT, built-in IDE and PCMCIA support
Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA)
Model Timescale RAM (base) OS Version Additional Information
Amiga 1200 1992 - 1994 2 MB 3.0 Entry-level AGA machine, A1200HD with 20~209MB hard drives
Amiga 4000 1992 - 1994 2 MB 3.0 First AGA machine, 68030/68040 CPU options
Amiga 4000T 1993 - 1994 2 MB 3.1 Towerized version of the A4000
Amiga CD32 1993 - 1994 2 MB 3.1 World's first 32-bit CD-ROM based console
PowerPC based
Model Timescale RAM (base) OS Version Additional Information
Pegasos G3 2002 - Varies MorphOS MicroATX format motherboard
AmigaOne SE 2002 - 2004 Varies (pre)4.0 ATX format motherboard
AmigaOne XE 2003 - 2004 Varies (pre)4.0 ATX format motherboard
Pegasos G3/G4 2004 - Varies MorphOS MicroATX format motherboard
MicroA1 - C 2004 - Varies (pre)4.0 Mini-ITX format motherboard
MicroA1 - I 2004 - Varies (pre)4.0 Mini-ITX format motherboard

Unreleased models

Due to management turmoil, some viable Amiga models under development were canceled prior to release:

  • A3000+: Prototyped in 1991, it used the AGA chipset and had an AT&T DSP3210 chip, high-fidelity audio, telephone line interface, and 2.5Mbit/s RS-485 network port.
  • A1000+: Intermediate in price and features between the A1200 and A3000+, it would have been a detached keyboard system with expansion slots (two Zorro slots, video slot, CPU slot). (Dave Haynie, Usenet Message-ID: <40c78969.243987715@news.jersey.net>).

Unreleased models (after Commodore)

A number of new Amiga models were announced after the end of the Commodore model era. However, very few of them were ever produced beyond simple prototypes (if they even got that far). Some models that were never produced include:

  • The Amiga Walker: This was supposed to be a new, compact multi-media computer compatible with the classic Amiga. Its case design was very weird: The black case, about the size of a games console, was curved at the rear. It was joked to be shaped like a vacuum cleaner. There were more-or-less working prototypes of the Walker but it was never released into the mass market.
  • The Amiga 5000 and 6000: One of the new owners of Amiga announced that it was planning to continue the classic Amiga line with two new models, the 5000 and the 6000. As far as is known, nothing ever became of them.
  • iWin Amigas: iWin was a German company that announced in 1999 that it was designing new computers that were compatible with both classic Amigas and IBM PCs. The only source of information about these computers was iWin's own website, which contained some technical circuit diagrams about them. Upon closer inspection, the circuit diagrams were revealed to be completely unrealistic.
    After a few months, the supposed "iWin Amigas" vanished without a trace, without ever being publicly presented or released into the mass market. The general consensus of the Amiga community is that iWin never had done any real design, but were simply trying to pull a hoax on the eagerly-awaiting Amiga fans.
  • The BoXeR: Designed by Mick Tinker at Access Innovations, the BoXeR was to be a new motherboard based on a Motorola 68060 processor. Amongst other improvements over the Commodore motherboards of the time, it incorporated the ageing AGA chipset into one chip. Sadly it never got far beyond the advanced protoyping stage. Mick was also responsible for the Access, which was basically an Amiga 1200 that was re-jigged to fit into a full length 5.25" drive bay.

Trivia

  • The Amiga still has a very strong user community, particularly outside the United States.
  • The Amiga community made a significant contribution to a computer subculture known as the Demo Scene. The Demo Scene was more or less a phenomenon inherited from Commodore 64 times.
  • Amiga has two Three-finger salutes, one for warm reset (CTRL plus the two "Amiga" keys) and the other for reboot (CTRL plus the two "Alt" keys). The latter method was introduced with AmigaOS 4.0.
  • When an Amiga crashes, it displays a flashing red box with a mysterious Guru Meditation number. The number is actually the 68000 exception number, and the address (in hexadecimal) at which it occurred.
  • During the Commodore era, machines with 'thousands' model numbering were marketed as 'quality' machines for business use, while the other machines (A500, A500+, A600, A1200) were 'consumer' machines.
  • The three most popular low-end models of the Amiga - the 500, 600 and 1200 - each had the name of a B52's song written on their motherboard. The most widely cited reason for this is the designers having been fans of the band. The motherboard of the 500 says "Rock Lobster", that of the 600 says "June Bug" and that of the 1200 says "Channel Z". No other models have song names on their motherboards.
  • The Amiga 600 was originally supposed to be the Amiga 300, a very low-cost "introductory" model, but its specification changed prior to release, and it was instead marketed as the successor to the 500 and the 500+. The motherboard of the Amiga 600 still says "Amiga 300".
  • A common misconception is that before Amiga was sold to Commodore, Atari was in the running for purchasing the small, Los Altos-based company. The misconception further states that after Atari lost the acquisition, it developed the Atari ST to compete with the (then) "Commodore" Amiga. The truth is that it was Warner's Atari Inc. that had made a deal with Amiga back in 1983 (which can be seen here (http://www.atarimuseum.com/articles/mickey.html)) and not Tramiel's Atari Corp. (which developed the ST). The agreement basically gave Atari Inc. access to the Amiga hardware for their own computer system codenamed "Mickey". As part of the agreement, Atari would sell "Mickey" (formally the Atari 1850XLD) as a video game system with no keyboard for 1 year. After that, Atari could then sell a keyboard add-on and sell full blown versions of "Mickey" to the public. Work was started but Atari ran in to the well known financial troubles and Warner wound up breaking up and selling off the parts of Atari Inc.. The consumer division (which included consoles and computers) was sold to former Commodore founder Jack Tramiel. Jack had left Commodore in January of '84 and after taking a short vacation decided to return to the business with his own next generation low cost computer system. So he formed Tramel Technology, Ltd. (TTL) and with some former Commodore employees and designed what would become known as the ST series of computers. In late May of '84 he purhcased Atari Consumer for their manufacturing capabilities and distribution network, which he'd need to manufacture and sell his new computer. The takeover was completed on July 2nd, and the truth of the matter is that the ST was 90% finished by the time he did this occured. The operating system being the only major work needed to be finished. Jack and his people had *no* idea about the Amiga agreement at the time. When they took over Atari Consumer and formed Atari Corp., all projects were put on hold until they could evaluate them. In the meantime, more engineering and management left Commodore to join up at Jack's new Atari Corp. With in the span of a few weeks, several major occurances happened. 1) In late July, Commodore filed suit against Jack for stealing trade secrets becuase of this influx of former Commodore employees. 2) Commodore bought Amiga. 3) During the project evaluations, the Tramiel's discovered Atari Inc.'s previoius agreement with Amiga and used it to launch a countersuit against Commodore via Amiga on August 13th. All suits were eventually dropped and/or settled out of court.
  • Steve Jobs was shown the original prototype for the first Amiga (Amiga 1000) before it had been purchased by Commodore, and said there was "too much hardware." He was working on Macintosh at the time.

See also

References

  • John J. Anderson, "Amiga Lorraine: finally, the 'next generation Atari'?" Creative Computing, April 1984 [1] (http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v10n4/150_Amiga_Lorraine_finally_.php)
  • Haynie, Dave. "The Amiga A3000+ System Specification". 1991 DevCon Release. July 17, 1991. [2] (http://haynie.amigaworld.de/research/a3000p/docs/a3000p.pdf)

External links

Owners and licensees

News and discussions

  • Amiga.org (http://www.amiga.org/)
  • Amigaworld.net (http://www.amigaworld.net/) — Official support forum for the AmigaOne.
  • ANN (http://www.ann.lu/)
  • Lemon Amiga (http://www.lemonamiga.com/) — A friendly Amiga community mostly focusing on games.
  • Abime.net (http://www.abime.net/) — Amiga addicts sanctuary, an Amiga community.
  • The Amiga Zone (http://www.the-amiga-zone.com/) — Amiga emulation and discussion forum.

Software

  • Aminet (http://ftp.uni-paderborn.de/aminet/change.html) — List of Aminet Mirror-Sites for public domain and freely available software for AmigaOS 3.x and 4.x
  • OS4Depot (http://www.os4depot.net) — Unofficial repository for AmigaOS 4.x software

Links Directory

Link pages

  • Amiga Realm (http://www.amigarealm.com/) — Amiga Internet Directory Service and Archive Resource.
  • Amiga Links List (http://amiga1200.deviantart.com/) — A 'Best of' List of Useful Amiga Links

History

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