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The Amiga Consciousness (countingvirtualsheep.com)
169 points by erickhill on March 14, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 108 comments



After all these years I still remember Amiga original chipset register 0xdff180 is the first palette entry. Or that exec library pointer is at 0x4. And hundreds of other details.

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 [0] 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.

[0]: http://wiki.amigaos.net/wiki/Graphics_Minterms


I saved up my summer job money and got an Amiga 500 (with an actual monitor!) - ordered in November, so it was on our doorstep when I got home from my afterschool (probably senior year of high school) job. My dad warned that I should probably let it warm up overnight, to avoid shorts from condensation. It was torture! I woke up like 2 hours before school to set it up :)

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.


”to "pull down" the main display and see the OS GUI behind it“

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?


In this context "main display" means "whatever display is in the foreground" as you could have, say, a Deluxe Paint screen. It'd take up, literally the whole screen, and you could drag it down by the top bar and see the OS desktop screen behind it, possibly in a different resolution and number of colors.


And now fullscreen apps are all the rage, again. In my mind, desktop computing in general has always converged, sometimes in roundabout ways, towards the Amiga experience.


I really wish they'd dispatch with the standard "minimize/maximize/close" trio of controls and change them to something more interesting. Close is fine, but I'd rather it be a bit harder to use. I don't need to suddenly close something, and it far more often happens that I accidentally close something. Seeing the Amiga video, a foreground/background button could be cool. Or maybe "make transparent while I hold the mouse button down". Or any number of other things. These days I just maximize my windows, then alt-tab (or equivalent for Mac) through my windows. Only rarely do I do things side-by-side, and would rather have some tiling capabilities rather than having to do it manually.


I remember have several things running simultaneously, all at different resolutions and bit depth. Talking on a BBS on one layer, playing Tracker files on another, writing a paper on a third, and the Workbench behind them all.

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.


The Amiga’s Intuition library, the core engine of the GUI, can draw graphics primitives on “screens”. Because of the Copper co-processor which displays the screen raster line by raster line, these screens can have different resolutions with different numbers of colors - all of them displayed simultaneously on the monitor.


Here's a video clip showing the feature - too bad there isn't another application running behind the Workbench screen.

https://youtu.be/H86miOXXS48?t=8m54s


I grew up with this feature. At the age of 5, that was 1986, I used my father's just bought Amiga. I took all of this for granted... So for a long time I never used a PC seriously. Around the time Commodore blew it, I looked into PCs and linux, 1993 IIRC. PC have looked primitive to me for a long time.


This is hard to describe, but easier to show. If you load up: http://www.chiptune.com/ the Workbench emulator, click and drag down the white bar at the top ("where it says Chipbench release) you'll see what is meant.


The Amiga's way of getting relative pointers to libraries was amazing (and quite ahead of its time). Like you said, the only absolute address that always worked was 4, exec.library, and after that, you used that pointer to open other libraries, guaranteeing that they could be relocated any time.


I loved the Amiga, sadly I could only make use of it on those demopartys/gaming sessions where we all got together.

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.


Ahh, Protracker.

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


Good times. I was once known as the guy who owns the AmigaDOS manual - the Amiga books were so expensive that we had a group of guys where each of us bought one book and we made photocopies.

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. :)


A lot of features were so far ahead it was astounding.

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.


Nice comment. Those Amiga 500 days were indeed magical times. Marble Madness was particularly memorable.


Indeed, Marble Madness was the first game I got for my Amiga 500! I think Shadow of the Beast was the most memorable, however. The parallax scrolling effect was amazing for the time...


Some stores had a combo when you bought an Amiga they'd throw in a game or two. We got Artic Fox and Speedball I think. Used our Atari 2600 joysticks so we didn't have to buy more. I got the Amiga 1000 with the PC Transformer software and 5.25 inch 1020 drive to boot MS-DOS in monochrome mode for college that only had IBM P cs and software.


In the UK I think the big seller was the Bat Pack [1]. Batman was a pretty amazing action game which had the bonus of being completable and at the same time as the film was a massive hit. New Zealand story was arcade perfect Mario style game. F18 interceptor was just brilliant. Hours of trying to fly inverted under the golden gate bridge. Deluxe paint - just brilliant! Coming from the spectrum this was a big upgrade.

http://www.amigahistory.plus.com/a500batman.html


> a copper list that completely defines the display, microsecond by microsecond, scanline by scanline

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.


If you only used to copper to change that one color, you can't get smaller than 8 low-res pixels width of the virtual pixels.

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.


Ha, I remember the Atari ST palette at $ff8240. Good memories, very similar to mine. I miss my Atari and Amiga.


What Atari ST palette at $ff8240? That address seems to be in the A500 KickStart 1.2 or 1.3 address space... My interest is piqued.


68000 reset vector is at address 0x4.

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.


$4 is the address of the exec.library, the entry point into the kernel (“exec” in Amiga terms), not the reset vector.


No, it really is the reset vector for 68000 chip itself. In addition to being exec library vector after being powered up!

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."


Atari is another computer altogether.


An excerpt from the original post I replied to:

“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!


Sorry. I thought you didn't know about Ataris. $ff8240 seems to actually be an Atari address: http://atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?t=8327 not an Amiga address.


well spoken and so recognizable. Without the Amiga I would have been a different person, too.


I remember the names of the chips (I think...) Paula, Gary, Agnes (I believe I had to get an FAT Agnes to use my cassette loaded CD-ROM add on). Lordy that loaded Wokbench FAST. And FMV!


Younger (hehe) generation might not know this, but Amiga was so ahead of its time. PCs, Macs and others (yes, there were other systems) were nowhere near multimedia capabilities Amiga had. Not for the price a kid could afford or bought for (such as an SGI machine). Vivid colors, fast graphics, great sound, all in a small box. Whereas PCs and Macs seemed like several generations behind it.

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).


I remember the profound disappointment when I finally "upgraded" to a PC (early Pentium or 686 from memory) from my Amiga 500, the graphics and sound were worse than the now decade old machine that it replaced and ease of use had taken I giant step backward. It was then that I realized just how ahead of it's time the Amiga was. Getting the same out of the PC would have required more expensive expansion cards but whther your software would work with them was a crapshoot (no openGL equivalent at the time). Eventually I accepted the new machine because it did have some things our Amiga lacked (and were impossible to purchase by then), like a hard drive, a CDROM, and 8MB of RAM which opened up some new capabilities but it was never the huge upgrade I'd imagined.


Those later PCs, like 486 and up had what Amiga didn't. Interactive CD-based games (like Myst, Rebel Assault, etc) and could run faster (Doom anyone?). Still lacked "something", even though some of the software started to migrate over with the advent of Windows NT (Lightwave for example).

Earlier machines, 386s and Quadras were a joke compared to Amigas (1200 and 4000).


The big problem tended to culminate in per-pixel rendering which was really slow on Amiga (with planar bitmaps) and really fast on VGA (writing one byte per pixel).

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).


I went from the Amiga 500 to a 486, yeah Doom and Wolf3D were very impressive in terms of graphical detail but some little known gems on the Amiga really pushed boundaries in scale that wouldn't really be repeated till the likes of GTA 3 or Daggerfall

"Hunter"[1] 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" [2] 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.

[1] https://i.ytimg.com/vi/MzByYlnvaN0/hqdefault.jpg

[2] https://www.myabandonware.com/media/screenshots/m/mercenary-...


Oh my, Hunter was so captivating! I played it a lot even if I never made much progress, at least as in how they maybe officially intended!

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).


I still think Wolfenstein 3D / Doom was what put the final nail in Amiga's coffin.

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.


From a gaming point of view Doom, really hit the Amiga hard. Gloom and Alien Breed 3D were poor attempts at replicating Doom (at least on standard Amiga hardware). This was at a time when it seemed every other game release was a Doom clone and where the hype was. It's a shame as the Amiga had so much more to offer.


Final nail yes but the first nail was certainly with wing commander, much faster and better looking on the PC. Doom was much later.


Final nail maybe, but she was firmly in place in the coffin and the death vigil had begun.


Amiga uses the planar system to display graphics, which gives her natural blending capabilities but is computationally expensive for 3D texture mapping because each pixel has to be manipulated up to eight times on every bitplane and then OR’ed with the rest of the bits up to eight times again, as opposed to the VGA where one pixel is one byte, which is easy to manipulate. However, doing alpha blending on a VGA was a nightmare - good luck with that!

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.


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.

Never.

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.


You still needed a faster than stock CPU. Which Great Valley Computers gladly provided. Which put them in the weird position of making more on Amiga upgrades and accessories than Commodore did, by a long shot. One example of many where Commodore left money on the table.


I just looked it up. It turns out that Myst was ported to the Amiga, like I thought it would have been, but not until 1997!


Same story here. I had an Amiga 1000 from 1985 all the way through 1995. Never with a hard drive or modem either. I was still disappointed by the 486DX2 (4MB!) that replaced it. It was better in every "bullet point" way, but lacking in a hard-to-describe way.


I remember my Amiga buddies having the same issues (I myself went from a C64 to a 286 earlier than they). Main complaints were the OS (i.e. Windows, whether it's 3.11 or 95), and a general lack of smoothness (again, OS and multi-tasking, smooth scrolling not being something you get for free with a VGA).

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)


Could it be that your "hard to describe way" was simply the difference between an exceptionally well designed system (hardware and software) and a stack of weird kludges that was the PC at that time?


> was

I actually think it's way worse now. It's only tolerable because computers are faster.


Is it really that much worse? If PC hardware wouldn't require obscure old hardware features for software compatibility, the resulting architecture based on the newer stuff only (e.g. PCI) is way better. The cores of the available operating systems also improved a lot over the years. Windows now has a rather decent kernel at its core, for example.

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.


Not sure... maybe I’m old, but the current system is alive, but not in a beautiful way. Instead, it’s like metastasis of cancer, runtime after runtime of duplicated and slightly different versions of Nodejs, .Net and who knows what, and not in perfect harmony. It’s chaotic.


It took me until around 1995 to realise how great and ahead of its time Workbench was. Win95 still felt like it was behind Workbench 3 (even 2.0) in so many ways.


That’s because it was, in every capability imaginable.



Yep. I had and own many different computers, and the only one which ever came close to my Amiga 1200 in terms of multimedia and multitasking capabilities was a (then) $60,000 USD sgi Indigo2 R10000, which was my main workstation for a while. Meanwhile, my (then) brand new Amiga 1200 cost 800,- DM (Deutschmarks for non-Europeans), which is 400,- €. Later on, I had 34 MB of RAM in it - one couldn’t run out of memory no matter what one did. And the system boots in under three seconds.


Been there, done that at a UK Telco Research Lab back in the mid 90's. Now those _were_ the good old days. I miss my Amigas (I had 4 over the years, now all gone. sob).


I've collected all the Amigas I've lusted after as a child now I have more means to afford them. A500, A500+, A600 and A1200 to date. Looking for other to add to the collection. Would love to get a 2000.


34MB!

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!


I highly recommend the documentary "From Bedrooms to Billions: The Amiga Years" http://www.frombedroomstobillions.com/amiga

The significance of the architecture and Jay Miners brilliance in system design cannot be underestimated.


Can you outline the draw for people?


Imagine Alexa/Siri 20 years from now, running on VR glasses that actually work and look cool. Available today.

That’s what the Amiga felt like in 1985.


The draw, as in the attraction to Amiga? TL;DR: it was a technologically superior product for a while, but never became mainstream. This allowed it to garner a decent, very faithful following. Kind of like if the iPhone had failed, but you still had people swearing it's greatest thing since sliced bread.

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.


That’s what I was not grasping. We were too poor to have a computer until I was 16 (in the 90s) so I missed that era. Thank you!


You're welcome! One of the appeals of Amiga was that it offered all this at a very competitive price (when compared to IBM compatible PCs). Still, I recall a Commodore 64 costing my parents about 4 months of salary, and that was without even a tape drive. This was Eastern Europe, so perhaps we were poorer than most on HN. Commodores, Ataris and other alt machines were pretty popular around those parts, due to their price point.


Old computers never die - their users do!

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 ..


> 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.


Na, creators are superior.

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.


Sorry but I just don't agree with you. Seeing kids doing nothing but blowing up pixels on their computers is a real tragedy. So many better things they could be doing, but because of the consumer culture you espouse, they just won't get there.

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 ..


AmigaOS was, overall, the best OS I have ever used. As little technical as possible, but as much as needed. It was an OS, that would gently make you a power-user. I am not going to rant, but my God, was that a good OS! 10 years ahead of its time!


It felt like it was so "feature complete" even around 1990. Add a web browser (and networking )and run it on a modern spec machine and I'm sure it would be perfectly usable.


People actually do that. You even have multiple browsers to choose from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Web_browsers_for_Amig...


Google search for AROS it is an open source free alternative to AmigaOS and it runs on PCs and can run old Amiga software on emulators.


A story: I completed a PDP11 assembly coding assignment in university, on an Amiga. Actually it was an Amiga running a Mac emulator, which in turn was running a PDP11 emulator.

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.


Fusion - a commercial Mac emulator for the Amiga - actually ran faster than a real Mac at the time (mid- to late-nineties).

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.


RetroManCave on YouTube had an interesting video recently that investigated the performance and capabilities of running a Mac emulator on an Amiga vs. a real 68k Mac, and which actually was faster:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jph0gxzL3UI

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 in maybe 1987 I was working at a computer company that had a mainframe and was full of greenscreen microcomputers like the Apricot and Sirius 1.

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.


The Amiga was originally designed to be a game console but the company was forced to pivot after the video game crash of 1983. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiga#Concept_and_early_develo...


Uncoincidentally, it's most successful market (or one of at least) was the UK where the video game crash never happened.



The Amiga, Born a Champion.

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.


If you weren’t around at the time it’s hard to understand just how much beyond every other home computer platform the Amiga was. Yet another data point that “best” doesn’t always win.


The Amiga was "winning" for a few years but, in hindsight, it is easy to see why it was eventually eclipsed. PCs in the mid-80s were slow, boring, and expensive but the ruthless PC-clone market had lowered costs and increased specifications so quickly that around the early 90s games actually started looking better on PCs.

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.


In Europe in the late 80s to early 90s, the Amiga was the computer everyone wanted, both for graphics, music and especially games. It was a natural successor to the C64, which obviously also had a gigantic following.

We never really got into the Apple II and its successors like the US did.


It's never the best thing that wins. It's whoever has the best marketing budget that wins :-)


I used an Amiga as a kid, and loved it. I am sure it had a profound impact on me. I never identified with a broader Amiga using community, until now. This is so cool, I'm excited to realize that the spirit lives on.


My parents got me one, hoping I could use it for school or something. I guess I was too young to really appreciate it beyond the fancy games I could play. Still have it tucked away in the basement though, but the floppies are likely dead by now.


Those 3,5" floppies seems to be almost immortal.

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 :)


Some 3.5" floppies didn't even survive the walk between the computer and the library for printout. It all depends on what quality discs you could afford. The expensive ones was a lot better than the cheaper ones.


The Amiga hit the home computer market like a bomb. For a few years there was nothing quite like it on the market at a price that people could actually afford. It was never that big in the USA but overseas it had a huge impact, bridging the gap between games machines and real computers.

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...


I had to do (crude) forensics on an Amiga belonging to a suicide victim at university (I was in the computer center, the uni and police asked us to look for a suicide note)

The mod/demo programs were amazing. I was totally outside the mod scene, but I could see why people were attracted to it.


That is such a sad event for you to have to perform forensics on. Did you find anything of note about the demo programs?

I really want to ask for more details about the suicide but I feel that would be crude.


I don't think the owner had written any/many. They seemed to be shared amongst the digerati for c00lz. Mostly very trippy colormap warping, some of them had sprites doing things over the underlying image, a lot of XOR constructive/destructive interference fringe ideas.

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


AmiTCP is what got me into being a sysadmin. I was a teenager using slurp and amitcp to get my amiga online the Internet. Learning about TCP and configuration files got me into setting up servers. I started working at an ISP setting up BSD servers for web/ftp/mail/ppp/radius. I've been online on my c64/128D with 300/1200 then finally a 2400 baud modem, then went Amiga 500 and got that Amiga on my local ISP.

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!


Just incase anyone hasn't seen it, Ars Technica have been running an excellent series on the history of the Amiga. https://arstechnica.com/series/history-of-the-amiga/


Everything about the Amiga was Magic. Even a system crash was a spiritual experience, with a meditating Guru.


I miss `filenote <filename> <note>` on the filesystem level - AFFS :) I'm all emotional now


Reading text, scrolling by using the down-arrow on the Amiga in 1988, was smoother than than the Windows 10 laptop I'm using to view this page, here in 2018.

I can't imagine what personal computing would be like in 2018 if the Amiga system had gained market dominance.


My first full time job was at a store that sold Amiga's (and PC's). We had a very large range of software - including every game, constantly getting new stock. Once we convinced the boss to purchase a shrink-wrap machine to keep everything looking neat, we started taking games home, copying them, and sharing them with the local community. The next morning, we'd shrink-wrap the games back to their original state, and put them back on the shelf for sale.


I'm not sure you realise this but that might have been the main reason Amiga got successful in the first place. When my friends bought computers they selected the one where they had easy access to free games. I bought an Atari while they still bought c-64 because copying tapes and discs from other users was easy. I learned programming since there was nothing else to do :-)


Oh yeah, I realise! (I bought an Amiga when I was studying Comp Sci at University, rather than the recommended PC - as the games were much better on the Amiga. Fortunately there was one unit with 68k assembly programming, ideally suited to having an Amiga (and I got really good at Speedball II).


Here is an excellent video about the history of Amiga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP1nLzT_t0o

There are several other related videos on the channel that are very much worth to watch.


To fully understand why the Amiga was great for his time, a good introduction is the book "the future was here".


so I've got a (maybe silly, but still) question: why Amiga wasn't successful to this day as a solid competitor to PCs and Macs?


Bad marketing is a big part of it. Amiga fans will also cite poor management choices in general, though I don't know anything about that.

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.


>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.


thank You all for Your responses - it turned out an interesting question for me which I plan to dive deeper into during following weekend :)


This is my memory of it, albeit from a long time ago.

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.




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