30 years ago Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry's voice introduced a computer which had people dropping their ZX Spectrums and Commie64's in awe, the original Commodore Amiga. It had such incredible specifications, 256KB of RAM which was upgradable to 512KB, a Motorola 68000 CPU that could handle both 16 and 32 bit addressing and OCS graphics which could manage an unheard of 640×400 resolution with 12 onscreen colour or 4096 at 320×400. There was one problem though, they were rarer than hen's teeth as Commodore vastly underestimated demand and overestimated their production capability. If you happen to be in California then check out the link at The Inquirer for there is a celebration this weekend and you might still be able to score tickets. It is amazing how far we have come in a mere generation.
"1980S BEDROOM BRILLIANCE the Commodore Amiga computer has reached the ripe old age of 30 and is still blazing in the hearts and minds of anyone who took keyboard and joystick in hand and shut the door on their parents."
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I think the resolutions and
I think the resolutions and colors where different, but I might remember wrong. I was on the other camp having an Atari STe.
Amiga’s palette was 4096 colors and I think it could show 32 colors on screen, but with some clever programming it could emulate much more (Shadow of the Beast anybody?*). Also the top resolution was 640×512, not 640×400, with 16 colors.
* Shadow of the Beast could show 128 colors at the same time on screen. The first Shadow of the Beast on the Amiga was as huge as the first Crysis on PC. Jaw dropping and great music.
NTSC and PAL had different
NTSC and PAL had different resolutions; same brilliant thinking that brought us DVD regions. I had forgotten about Shadow of the Beast and however it was those beautful bastards pulled it off.
“same brilliant thinking that
“same brilliant thinking that brought us DVD regions”
Nope, NTSC and PAL were derived from the original black&white broadcast systems, which were line-frequency locked. Each B&W system had as many TV lines as could be subdivided from the line frequency using the best components available in mass production at the time, and as the UK used 50Hz, and the US 60Hz, the UK system had more TV lines but a lower refresh rate and the US vice-versa.
When NTSC came along with colour, it kept backwards-compatibility with the B&W broadcast system, so kept the same number of lines. But NTSC had issues with colour being distorted by transmission issues (hence the Never The Same Colour jokes). When PAL was developed, it learnt this lesson and alternated the colour sub-carrier each TV line (Phase Alternating Line) to transmission phase shifts would be cancelled out.
DVD regions were just to enforce regional pricing, which is dumb.
That almost makes sense
That almost makes sense technologically but it is still a damn PTA … or was.
Atari 520ST/1040ST(fm) user
Atari 520ST/1040ST(fm) user here as well 🙂 — I wish I knew what the Amiga could have done back then because it really was an amazing piece of hardware!
I’d like to give a shout out of deep respect to the late Jay Miner who was responsible for the “chipsets” of the Atari 2600/VCS, Atari 800 (the true predecessor to the Amiga), and of course the Amiga 1000 🙂
I loved my Atari 800/xl and always wondered why the ST was less colorful… (800 could do 128 colors on screen.. ST 16 by default).
I was lucky enough to have an
I was lucky enough to have an Amiga 500, and then later an Amiga 2000. They were great systems and way ahead of it’s time. Looking back, it really makes you wonder how it was allowed to be as ambitious it was. I was big time anti-IBM and pro-Commodore but I switched to an IBM compatible PC when I noticed Amiga was going under and all the software was being released for IBM instead. I still remember the sad day I surrendered and switched sides 🙁
I also had a 500. I got the
I also had a 500. I got the matching HD enclosure which docked on the left side. A whopping 20 megs of storage there. I bought a tube of chip RAM and maxed out the available upgrade sockets. Stereo sound and a lot of colors at a time when most IBMs had CGA and Apple was green monochrome. Shadow of the Beast – parallax side-scroller; a big deal at the time. Some of my favorites were Dungeon Master; Bard’s Tale; Faery Tale Adventure and Dr. Plummet’s House of Flux. Similar experience to Bshuler (above): Sold it when the best games were going to IBM VGA and support seemed to be dropping for Amiga. I still remember the guy’s name I sold it to, though we were military and that acquaintance is long broken.
Its official res was 720×576
Its official res was 720×576 16 color (out of 4096) for its hires mode. (european version, 480 in the US)
And you could display the full 4096 colors in 352×480 resolution.
But the part that made it unique in the mid 80s (and still decades later) was its programmable HW co-processors and having DMA galore.
You could even program the co-processors to to MFM decoding (floppy)
The OS also fully supported preemptive multitasking with tons of advanced concepts. Some have yet to find its way on many modern OS.
The HW also did something wonderfully, ‘Vsync’ and ‘zero’ latency.
The mouse HW registers (direct read) could be piped directly the the HW sprites.
Tons of really cool stuff, the history behind the machine is quite amazing. For the geek of the time, this was the golden age, nothing else after the Amiga grab people heart ever again.
The audio (also all DMA driven) was pretty sweet.
I remember back in the late 80s being on the internet (very different then todays) and its was still a treasure trove. Music (trackers) before Mp3, HAM compressed images (before jpeg), etc..
“Amiga, back to the future”
I recall having a 40meg HD
I recall having a 40meg HD filled with music, hundreds upon hundreds of song like below. (most where around 200k, but on a 9600bps modem they would still take a few minutes to download from the internet)
Because the machine multi-tasked so well, you could play your music, with your desktop open, an IDE on a virtual screen, and code away.
In a way, things havent changed much in 30 years..
Amiga 500 is still my most
Amiga 500 is still my most memorable gaming system i have ever owned. And at that point in time it looked so much better than what was available on my PC.
But alas as time went on Commodore started struggling and console and PC kept advancing. Cant complain too much PC hardware is so awesome today, and consoles definitely gets the job done too. Still was sad to see Commodore go.
A friend of mine worked for a
A friend of mine worked for a small company that based its business on doing all things Amiga. He got to bring home an Amiga 500, and it was freakin awesome – derailed our tabletop RP group, as we’d go back to his office and watch the fabulous graphics. I was so in lust for the Amiga 2000 when it came out!
Memories. 30 years ago – just, wow. 🙂
I used to see Amigas at the
I used to see Amigas at the amateur radio con’s my dad took me to when I was a kid. I wanted one so bad.
I finally got my hands on one about 7 years ago. When I volunteered at an Earth Day recycling drive, I swiped an Amiga 500. I still haven’t tried turning it on though…