The Amiga: A Shakespearean Tragedy

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

Alex Paglialonga, Writer

Here’s a question: have you ever used Windows before? If so you have used an operating system *past 1995* that has Preemptive Multitasking. What does this even mean? I’m glad you asked.

Now there are two types of multi-tasking: Cooperative and Preemptive. Cooperative multitasking is when a program can take full control of the CPU and any subsequent programs must get access from the program before it. Preemptive multitasking is when the CPU *Central processing unit* both gives control and takes control of the applications. This makes the operating system a lot more stable and less likely to get hung if a program crashes. It so happens that this was first used on the Amiga’s operating system that came out in 1985. 

I am here to tell you the tragedy of mismanagement called the Amiga–how it went from a revolutionary piece of technology to an outdated piece of plastic. And even after its parent company Commodore went bankrupt in 1994, their computers still resonate with the public every year after they were considered obsolete. 

The Amiga was not only one computer, but it was also a whole computer range and I will be going into detail on all nine of the machines Commodore made between 1985 to 1994. All right here we goooo…


Amiga 1000

Now the Amiga 1000 is the grandfather of all the Amigas. Released in 1985, it was revolutionary with 12-bit RGB (4096 colors) while the competition at this time was filled with computers that only had 9-bit RGB (512 colors) or 4-bit RGB (16 colors). The Amiga could also render 32 colors (though on screen “Pratley” it could render the full 4096 colors in ham mode hold and modify, but these could only really be used on still photos). The others were not any better. The Atari ST (512 colors) could ONLY render (16 colors) on screen at once so could the IBM *CGA* (color graphics adapter) (only n com mode or 160 x 100 mode *modified text mode*) and EGA (Enhanced Graphics adapter) and the graphics adapters ONLY had 16 colors. The Amiga also had the legendary Motorola 68000 chip in it that ran at A, blazing fast 7mhz. A lot of computers from this time had chips In like the Amiga (obviously) but also the Atari ST and the Apple Macintosh. On top of that, the Amiga also had three custom chips: Paula, Agnes, and Denise to help take the strain off of the CPU. 


The Amiga 2000/500

The Amiga 2000 released in 1986 was the first Amiga to be expandable with 5 Zorro II slots and 4 PCI-E slots (II 16 bit) (II 8 bit). It also featured an accelerator card slot and video card slot for a video toaster or genlock. It shares almost the same architecture with the Amiga 1000 with some exceptions *These mostly apply to the Amiga 500*. Agnes got an Upgrade to Fat Agnes/Fat Lady–the Agnes chip can now handle 512k of chip ram and 512k of slow ram. On later Amiga, the 2000s 4.0 onward has a buster chip (this chip basically helps the Zorro Bus to work better.) The Amiga 2000 was also the computer that video production houses used along with news stations due to its new Zorro slots and cheapness. The Amiga 500 on the other hand was not very expandable but retailed for the cheap price of $699, so the small folk like us could buy them.


The Amiga 3000

The Amiga 3000 is a lot like the Amiga 2000 but better; for instance, the Amiga 3000 has Zorro III slots and a fatter Agnes chip that can handle 1 megabyte of chip and one of fast ram (ram that can be directly by the CPU). Its improved Denise chip can render higher resolutions, and an interlaced mode is now possible. It was used in many of the same ways as the Amiga 2000. Now it can use cheaper VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) monitors. And oh yeah, it has the upgraded 68030 which can have from 16 to 25 MHz.


The Amiga 4000 

Now the Amiga 4000 is a big step forward for the Amiga line. It can now render 256 colors on screen at once from the OCS (original chipset), and from the ECS (enhanced chipset), it can render 32 colors on screen at once. It also is like an Amiga 3000 but with a cheaper IDE controller and 16-bit ram slots that break easily because they are made out of plastic. The 4000 can handle 2 MB of fast ram and 1 MB of fast ram. 


The Last Embers of the Amiga

A big problem with these computers is that the more sophisticated models were far too expensive for the general public. Why would a person spend so much money on a computer like this when they could get an IBM PC with similar features for a significantly lower price? 

The answer to this question explains the downfall of the company Commodore. They had to file for a category 7 bankruptcy after “bleeding” its resources dry. Now if you can see a theme here commodore instead of targeting the game market with their revolutionary hardware wanted to target businesses who have been dominated by IBM pc clones and as commodore halted the Amiga’s growth as everyone went flying past them. At this point, you could get an 80486 with VGA graphics and a sound blaster card (sound card) for less cash than an Amiga. Also the Macintosh at this point was better off than the Amiga. While most people today have never heard of Commodore, everyone knows Apple. And with this, the sad story of the Amiga is over.