I am, apparently, no longer an Amiga owner.


Categories: GeekStuff

So, back when I got the first computer that was personally mine, not just a computer I used, it was an Amiga 3000. Back when PC users were dealing with a hilariously awful mess of IRQ allocations and jumpers, 640k limits, and the like Commodore shipped stuff with a clean 32-bit OS, SCSI disk access (instead of the elaborate mess of MFM and other drives), and so on.

I still think it’s a shame that Commodore didn’t win, or at least stay a viable contender. I think this mostly has to do with really bad management decisions. But the fact is, for 10+ years, those Amigas remained my primary computing environment. I ran my ISP off Amiga hardware. And for a long time, I quite justifiably laughed at people who tried to downplay the significance of a real multitasking environment.

The Amiga didn’t win, but much of the philosophy behind it did. In 1989, people thought it was crazy that Amigas had special chips to handle graphical displays, for instance. After all, couldn’t you just have the CPU do that? People mocked us about multitasking. Why would you want to run two programs at once? You can’t use two programs at once. Why would you want to be able to give files names that weren’t 8.3 characters? Who would ever want a filesystem which preserved capitalization but would know what you meant even if you omitted it? Why would you want an operating system to come with a scripting language that could be used to control applications? Why are you being such a whiner about setting a few jumpers in order to get your mouse and your sound to work at the same time?

Now, of course, OS X users take Automator and AppleScript for granted. Everyone considers multitasking such a fundamental feature that Apple got openly derided and mocked for shipping a phone that didn’t multitask. Case-preserving filesystems have pretty much won. Even phones have dedicated graphics hardware, and often also dedicated sound hardware. So while the specific computers didn’t really take over the world, they were fully vindicated; the things the Amiga engineers said were important were, in fact, important. We really did want machines where stuff just worked when you plugged it in, where having more than 8 colors at a time was technically practical, and where you could do lots of things at once.

So anyway, my old Amigas have been delivered to a guy who refurbishes and fixes them, along with a bunch of spare parts and such. He’ll try to recover as much of the data from my old Amiga floppies as he can, and I can use it with my amiga emulator (yay for Amiga Forever). And maybe the data will be able to help someone else get some key item recovered.

It says a lot about Commodore’s build quality that, apart from the backup batteries failing, the five Amigas I had access to were all in pretty good shape, despite being roughly twenty years old. And that there are still people using them today.

Lovely machines.

Comments [archived]

From: Phil Nadeau
Date: 2012-06-20 02:56:34 -0500

I have owned exactly two Apples in my life, a 2c and a G3 mac. My relationship with both was lukewarm, and I regret their loss not at all.

I have never owned an Amiga, and I regret that loss somewhat more.

I did once have her less popular cousin, the Atari 520ST, but I was too much of an amateur at the time to dance well with it.

And after that it was just clod PC’s, from 1991 to… well… now. And I feel like I missed something.