It was amazing to set a copper list that completely defines the display, microsecond by microsecond, scanline by scanline. To setup blitter to decode a raw disk sector on the background. To learn blitter 4-channel minterm  logic combinators.
Having fun with Deluxe Paint color cycling. Trying to make some kind of music in Protracker and Octamed and listening all those amazing music modules made by other people. Writing text documents CygnusEd. Having fun with AsmOne assembler IDE.
Playing Shadow of the Beast, Marble Madness, Xenon 2 Megablast, Turrican 2, Civilization, Settlers, Lemmings, Another World, Stunt Car Racer, North and South and all those other amazing games. That inspired to imitate and to learn more.
Watching amazing demos like Phenomena Enigma, Kefrens Desert Dream, Sanity Arte, Spaceballs 9 fingers. Wondering how seemingly impossible effects were achieved.
It was a great machine and taught me a lot. I'd be a different person without Amiga.
It was glorious! It was shocking to be able to "pull down" the main display and see the OS GUI behind it - like magic!
I was devastated when my parents moved to a new place when I was around 30 and I discovered they had just tossed out my TRS-80 coco, C-64 (and about 3 shoeboxes of disks), and my Amiga :( So sad.
I haven’t ever used an Amiga, but thought its “main display” was its GUI, or that its GUI at least was on par with the command prompt. Am I wrong, or am I reading too much in this statement?
It was glorious and very productive. Not that it would be super useful but I don't really think we can replicate the same "layer" thing on todays displays.
At the time my parents thought getting a 386 SX/DR-DOS/Win was a more future proof investment.
Sadly, thanks to Commodore mismanagement, they were right.
The Amiga experience made me always try to search on other platforms for the same experience, and focus part of my career designing UI/UX, also when doing backed end stuff as well.
For a while BeOS seemed it might be it.
GNU/Linux desktop experience (the whole stack) never felt right, nowadays only macOS and Windows kind of come close to those ideas.
But let us not forget Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speedball_2:_Brutal_Deluxe)
And forget the Blue Screen of Death... Amiga gave you Guru Meditation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guru_Meditation
All the cool stuff was of course in HRM and RKM so having the original DOS manual was kinda like ending up with the short end of the stick. :)
Many applications were scriptable with AREXX (the Amiga Rexx language implementation), and we could process data in one app, send it to another, process it again, save it, etc. Unix philosophy made available for any gui app. I remember the awesomeness of adding arexx support to my program and being able to script it.
I learned basic, 68k asm, C as a teenager thanks to the Amiga, I also had Latex and a printer for high school and college papers. Then added a modem and had access to the fidonet network.
Also, remember the Fred Fish's disks ? I still call my debug functions "dbug" everywhere I can as a tribute to his work (he also was the author of the C dbug library).
I can't emphasize enough how this computer and its great hackers community changed me.
Sometimes even less. IIRC, some of the attempts to get around the chunky/planar problem for rendering Doom-likes took the approach of just drawing the whole screen in one colour and changing the palette definition of that colour on a pixel-by-pixel basis.
You can, however, use more bitplanes and then use both the copper and cpu at the same time to get more colors, but you'd be tight of bus cycles pretty fast and I doubt you could get more than 80 colors per scanline using this technique.
In case you were thinking reset vector is somewhere at end of addressable memory.
Location of the reset vector is pretty weird, since at least Amiga got chip RAM over that region.
I guess there must be some special hardware that makes 68k read a different value from address 0x4 only momentarily after the system has been powered on.
Quick googling found this for example: https://retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/1158/why-...
"When a 68000 CPU powers up, it reads a few words at memory location zero to get the initial stack pointer and program counter. That suggests to me that a computer system designer would put the system ROM at memory location zero, where the 68000 would read the initial SP and PC when coming out of reset.
However the Amiga puts RAM at location zero, and the ROM at the very far end of the address space. It has a hardware switch which causes the system address decoding to place a second copy of the ROM at location zero, hiding the RAM. At reset, this hardware switch is "on", so the 68000 reads the initial SP and PC from this mirrored copy of the ROM and starts executing. Then the ROM firmware switches the hardware switch "off" to remove the mirrored ROM and reveal the RAM again."
“Ha, I remember the Atari ST palette at $ff8240.”
To which you replied:
“Atari is another computer altogether.”
I know, I own an ATARI Falcon 030 in addition to two Amigas!
A HackerNews in 2018 is explaining to me that an ATARI ST is a different computer... only on “Hacker News”! I was there and then, I worked on both an Amiga and an ATARI ST!
What made it special was that every kid (and an older person) that used it dabbled with games, programming, music, everything it had to offer. You can still see that core foundation Amiga enabled those users in their everyday work they do today. It's not something that has happened before or since. I wish kids today have something like it. On paper they do. Computers today are beyond imagination a few decades ago, but something is lacking. Maybe the abundance of power? Back then, graphics, sound, interactive storytelling and interactivity were just coming at full force to home users and they were exploring. Today it's taken for granted, so maybe not many care (everything looks the same feeling).
Earlier machines, 386s and Quadras were a joke compared to Amigas (1200 and 4000).
Theoretically there was no difference as you could, ideally, just rewrite your renderer to render in planar modes directly instead of rendering to chunky (per-pixel) modes and then converting to planar. And chunky-to-planar converters eventually became quite fast but it was too late and nevertheless an overhead.
Amiga did quite fine until 3D graphics. "Modern" games like Dune 2, Syndicate, UFO: Enemy Unknown, Settlers, etc. were hugely popular but still complex games, yet playable, and no less good looking on Amiga than on PC. But then Wolfenstein, Doom, Descent, and others with full-screen 3D graphics with texture mapping happened and Amiga just couldn't even start the race.
If Amiga had had a chunky graphics mode it would've certainly had a few more years until complete technical obsolence. Commodore basically had that chance with Amiga 1200 with the new AGA graphics chip but they chose to extend bitmap planes instead.
For anything else, Amiga was competitive despite the lack of cpu power. I remember the last years of my personal Amiga use. Productivity software, editors, programming etc were still snappier and a much more friendly experience on the Amiga even if PCs at the time had 10x the cpu speed and Windows software was maturing up (and subsequently getting bloated beyond all usability).
"Hunter" which was flat shaded 3D, had a very large play area of multiple islands and had multiple drivable vehicles, you could ride bikes, row boats, gunboats, jeeps, tanks, helicopters, surf boards, hovercrafts. All on an Amiga 500, all on 1 floppy disk.
"Mercenary 3"  also flat shaded, had a fully simulated solar system with day/night cycles. You could go in buildings, go in taxis, get on a space ship fly up to orbit, go to another planet, land in the city go in a building. The scale of this game is insane for the time.
Amiga could certainly do vector graphics but without texturing. The Blitter chip could easily fill large areas with the same color.
Hunter was an older game still but for example Frontier (Elite II) was also more than playable on Amiga and it was a "late" game, around the time where texture mapping was already getting common on PCs. A bit earlier F1GP offered very competitive detail at the time, again with non-shaded polygons only (you would get some textures in the PC version).
Not so much Amiga wasn't as fast as PC at the time, but rather something with the bitplane based graphics system not being suited for the psuedo 3D kind of games.
Amiga coders compensated for this with very fast, insanely optimized assembler code. They were so good that a multiple times computationally slower Motorola processor would run a Doom clone at the speed comparable to a contemporary PC bucket.
You just could not get a VGA-on-i486 level rendering performance out of 256-color AGA fullscreen, even with Motorola 68040 on the Amiga 4000.
All the fast 3D demos and games I saw were partial-screen, with 2x2 pixels, or both. Good-looking ones were slow. An example with at least some commercial success was Alien Breed 3D. Check the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksQG8vnvlpg
Because it was so hard to do per-pixel rendering on Amiga all these 3D graphics demos and games on Amiga basically concentrated on delivering the graphics only, with shallow content and amateur-grade playability. Doom had a lot else going on despite the smooth graphics, and that actually made Doom a good game.
Also, the PC, assuming VGA and at least SoundBlaster, had fewer limitations there, compared to e.g. the Amiga's half-bright modes. It was way easier to get something more garish.
(I felt a bit like that regarding the C64's SID sounds to the more generic-feeling samples of the Amiga. Especially when the latter veered towards Eurodance)
I actually think it's way worse now. It's only tolerable because computers are faster.
The whole package is far from perfect, but it is better than what would have resulted from continued engineering at the level that we had in the 80s and 90s.
One feature I loved in Workbench was the RAM disk. I only had 2MB so was a little limited what I could do with it, but "installing" simple apps or games into RAM they were so quick!
The significance of the architecture and Jay Miners brilliance in system design cannot be underestimated.
That’s what the Amiga felt like in 1985.
I can't comment too much regarding the development side of things, as I was quite young at the time. While I dabbled in coding and have heard many comments about various ahead of its time ideas even on the dev side of things, I suspect what set it aside was in large part the hardware.
For its price, it came surprisingly well equipped. For context, we're talking 1985, so most PCs you ran into would have had CGA (EGA only having come out in '84). On the Amiga, the lower / standard resolutions you could have 32 or 64 colours at a time, picked from a 12-bit (4096) palette. For static images, there was a special hack which allowed all 4096 colours on screen at the same time, which made for breathtaking visuals. There were a set of co-processors (Copper and Blitter), which allowed for specialised, primarily graphical programming. Kind of alike a 2D GPU, but in 1985.
The OS itself had a fairly well implemented true pre-emptive multitasking, which allowed for a number of apps to be run simultaneously. Again, this is 2 years before Windows 2.0, and probably 10 years before Windows had anything better than switch-tasking. Apps could run as a window, or get their own fullscreen mode, but surprisingly the fullscreen mode was stable (sometimes games still crash on Windows when you drop do desktop), and you could even drag the full screen window down, and see half the desktop, half the game, etc. Along with the various co-processors offloading work from the CPU, this meant that the entire experience was very fluid. I still remember playing various simple games by setting them to high priority on the CPU, while a 3D render was merrily taking 100% of the CPU in the background. There was literally no noticeable lag in the game. For various architectural reasons, this just doesn't seem to work on modern machines.
Couple that with very decent audio (again, I suspect it would be many years before PCs routinely outperformed the Amiga), and you have a very decent product. It's very difficult to explain the degree to which this technical lead existed, the market is much more competitive now, and everything is much closer together. But, as an example, it's as if someone came out with a console with full VR capabilities at a 500$ price point. It simply shouldn't be feasible.
Since it was quite different, a lot of in-house technologies sprung up. An example is the AmigaGuide format, which was a kind of hyperlinked text document (kind of like man pages?). I suspect a bunch of these esoteric and quirky aspects gave the Amiga a lot of its flavour and soul.
For various reasons, possible mismanagement by Commodore, possibly the PC's open platform simply being economically superior, the Amiga never became mainstream. But therein lies it's draw - the people who knew it and loved it simply couldn't believe this, and became rather fanatical followers.
We should definitely not be throwing away old computers. They're just as useful as they were when they were assembled, and can be tasked to do all sorts of things we haven't even thought about yet.
I'm a huge fan of retro computing (Oric-1 Atmos, FTW!) and there is nothing more satisfying than to sit down and download a fresh new app, built this year, to run on a system built 30 years ago. I think this is a feeling that must persist, somehow, so I encourage everyone and anyone who has an old computer in their attic to dig it out, boot it up, and keep it running. Even if you can't find a use for it, there are a million other people out there who could. Give it to the kids and let them learn computing in the most distraction-free environment you can give them... my kids learned computing at the 8-bit level and its already put them way ahead of the iPhone-addicted peers. Sure, the Oric may not have the latest and greatest titles, but at least my kids know how to put a picture together with nothing but a few characters, an editor, and an understanding of hexadecimal ..
Some kids don't want nor will ever care to put their time to use by programming on an 8-bit architecture. Some won't even care to do it on current gen architecture, and that should be alright.
I could be misreading your tone (hope I am), but some people value experience rather than creation. Creators are not superior to consumers. Putting down others, especially children, because they'd rather play some shovelware mobile release than create something is distasteful. We may be technically inclined, but we aren't gods.
There's nothing wrong with kids playing dumb mobile games. But they gotta spend some time making something. I don't care if it's a video game, a short film, or a bird house. When you're making things, you're learning. And when you're passively consuming, you may not be.
With games like Minecraft, kids today have no excuse. They can be making things and playing a game at the same time.
And its not like the motivation to dig further is just going to happen with the kids intrinsically - after all, these new platforms don't ship with compilers onboard, nor tools necessary to start digging, even though they're more than capable of supporting such tools, architecturally..
People valuing experience rather than creation is one thing; not knowing the first thing about how to create new software, because the vendors discourage that participation in order to drag attention into a profitable endeavour - this is another thing entirely. I'm hopeful that the attitude will change, but as you have demonstrated, its going to be a long haul ..
Macs at that time used a variable speed floppy drive, while the Amiga floppy drive was fixed speed. So I was also using a Mac-compatible external floppy disk drive.
The point of the story is that you could use an Amiga as a Mac if you really wanted to.
I sneaked out a couple of ROM images from the Macs at work, set up Fusion, and had CompuServe running on my Amiga back in 1997. Nothing else though - System 7 and 8 were complex, lackluster, slow, and crash-prone; AmigaOS really blew away the Mac, right up until OSX.
Very impressive stuff. Being able to run Mac software would mean access to Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXpress, Framemaker, Microsoft Word and Excel and other business/DTP software that unfortunately wasn't really available natively on Amiga.
I suspect lots of people used Mac emulators to make their Amiga a viable school/work machine, in addition to all the creative fun and games the native platform afforded.
One day, I walked into my work area and this new machine was set up and on the screen was this: http://amiga.lychesis.net/amiga/AvrilHarrison/AH_KingTut.png I was a pivotal moment.
My mind was blown and although I could not afford it I immediately ordered one.
In hindsight a more successful strategy for Amiga might have been to build it as a games console as its primary market position.
We made Amiga, Commodore fucked it up.
- hidden message in version 1.2 of the OS
Computers nowadays feel so boring compared to the raw, crackling future contained in the early Amigas. Maybe it's just nostalgia talking. I'm not entirely sure the boringness is a bad thing; my Mac is a tool for getting work done, rather than a cool thing that nobody really knows how to use right yet.
Although the base Amiga500s were cheap, adding things like hard drives and more memory were always expensive. The bigger and more capable models were just as expensive as their PC counterparts and Commodore were slow to react to competition. In the end it was one struggling company against many PC Clone makers and they just couldn't compete on price or features.
The final nail in the coffin was when Windows95 came out and Microsoft started focusing on the home/school market.
We never really got into the Apple II and its successors like the US did.
Packed up my Amiga 500+ after 20 years in different cellars and attics, most disks seems fine, and my kids are fascinated by the late 80s / early 90s games :)
I saved up several years of teenage-dollars to buy one when I was 15 and never looked back. Of particular interest to me was the excellent-for-the-time audio chip. I spent many hours making MODs and games for my friends to play. Later, I taught myself C and never looked back.
A sample of the sorts of things a teenager could do in 1991 : https://sheep.horse/2011/11/stuff_from_my_old_hard_drive.htm...
The mod/demo programs were amazing. I was totally outside the mod scene, but I could see why people were attracted to it.
I really want to ask for more details about the suicide but I feel that would be crude.
They had two dimensions: 1) be as trippy-cool as possible 2) be written as tersely as humanly possible
The suicide: I can't say. He left no note. I was led to believe he'd found a way to consume a huge amount of time-charged online credit, realized he had accrued a multi-thousand dollar debt, was failing university and was severely depressed. This was back in the 1990s. Computer Crime was new, and the consequences for him was probably jail time.
A lot of other stuff on the amiga was about conspiracy theory, hacking, the usual ascii copy of 'the anarchists cookbook' which almost anyone can stumble upon and hoarde. For somebody in formative years, maybe this was more exciting than in hindsight it reads. (I mean both for me, finding it, and for him, finding/owning it in the raw. I wouldn't have been significantly older than him really, perhaps 10 years at most)
I don't think I helped the family come to any sense of closure, or informed things to help the police or coroner. I did learn that this is a very emotionally stressful job to perform and I am not well suited to either the detail side of logging "what was found" or delivery of the right kind of empathetic response to people in emotional stress. The uni was pretty good about this. They gave me counselling afterward as I recall. I wouldn't be surprised to be told anyone doing this kind of digital forensics nowadays has a pretty solid support structure. Between this, and kiddyporn I think you'd need it.
I think you can learn both skills, but it takes time
But after I started working at an ISP, it was AMD 486/DX100 and was PC since then . with tons of Amiga Emulators and linux boxes
I still sit in an Amiga IRC channel till this day, and still idle on efnet.
Amusing story, an old buddy and co-worker I met on IRC, I got him a job at my work, known him for years, he moved to Finland years ago so he could go to all the demo scenes, and now he is a judge on many of them. Shout out to Sir Garbage Truck and Accession!
I can't imagine what personal computing would be like in 2018 if the Amiga system had gained market dominance.
There are several other related videos on the channel that are very much worth to watch.
By the time they were introduced, though, the PC and Mac were already in the market.
The PC was being adopted into offices by then, so it's also possible that the ironclad rep (at the time!) of IBM meant that the PC was already locked into a path to dominance, but that leaves open the question of why the Amiga didn't manage to survive in homes or education.
Compatibility mainly, being able to take your work home and continue doing it.
There were a few software 8086 emulators for the Amiga that could run DOS and a few productivity applications, and there was a sidecar for the A1000 which had a full blown PC & 5.25" floppy drive in it for compatibility.
The retail market for personal computers was very different in the mid to late 80s. I remember going to Ferranti-Dege, a camera store in Harvard Square, to buy an Apple ][+ when they first came out, and then upgraded to an Apple //e a few years later at the Harvard Coop. Buying computers and accessories like floppy disks meant going to specialized, usually small retailers.
Commodore saw an opportunity to market their very inexpensive VIC-20, and then Commodore 64, through a much broader range of stores. You started seeing VIC-20s at Toys R Us and other big chain stores. The mom & pop computer stores could not compete on price with the bigger stores, so they stopped selling Commodore machines.
The Amiga was a serious computer when it came out, and it was too high end for toy stores, etc. to carry. With the bridges burned to the other distribution channels (at least in the US) the average shopper never saw an Amiga on the shelf. Mind you, this was still in an era when Texas Instruments was selling the TI-99/4A and Atari was selling the 400 and 800, so there were other options on the shelves.