Throw away your PCs and Macs (Amiga)
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1998. First
published in Vancouver Computes,
Is the Amiga on its way back?
Did it ever leave?
For many users, the Commodore Amiga may be the best
ever made, and the worst personal computer ever marketed?another
of superior technology out-maneuvered in the marketplace.
The Amiga 1000 debuted in 1985, a year after the
Like the first Macs, it ran on Motorola?s 68000 CPU. But unlike the
because its designers imagined it as a superior game machine, from day
one, it featured advanced on-board co-processors for sound and
Almost from the beginning, Amiga users were using these capabilities to
create animations and multimedia far beyond the abilities of the Macs
PCs of the era.
With a 32-bit, fully pre-emptive operating system
designed from the
beginning for multitasking, an Amiga with 512 kb of RAM could run
programs better than a Windows PC with multiple megabytes of memory.
only got such abilities in a mass-market operating system with Windows
95. Mac users are still waiting). Anticipating an Apple add-on of a
later, Commodore even sold an optional Bridge-board, allowing Amiga
to run a DOS-PC on their Amiga.
In the guise of NewTek?s Video Toaster, Amigas sneaked
into many TV
production studios, to create special effects at a fraction of the
of specialized hardware. (A PC-version of the Toaster was eventually
the hood, it was an entire Amiga, tricked out as a PC accessory).
Even though Commodore went out of business in the
early 1990s, many
Amiga-users remain devoted to their platform. A company called
(www.vapor.com) offers Internet software for the platform. And once on
the Web, Amiga owners can go to the Amiga Web Directory
to find resources for the machine, world-wide. While Mac publications
MacWorld and MacUser merge forces while MacWeek folds, there are
over 30 Amiga publications.
With built-in support for large disk drives and with
solid SCSI implementation,
Amiga owners have been able to keep up with technological change,
CD-ROMs, Zip drives, and more to their aging machines. Contrast it to
Atari ST, released at virtually the same time as the original Amiga.
it built a following among musicians (it included built-in, though
MIDI capability), it never really had the cult-like appeal of the
and after it went out of production, simply seemed to disappear. (I?m
anticipating receiving a barrage of e-mail from angry Atari owners).
Amiga owners seem more like owners of Sony Betamax video machines?loyal
users long after their platform has given up hopes of reaching a mass
but hanging on to what they see as a superior technology.
And it looks like the faithful may finally receive
their just rewards.
US-based computer manufacturer Gateway-2000 purchased
the rights to
the Amiga name and technology, and turned them over its newly-formed
Inc. subsidiary (www.amigainc.com). Since the Gateway purchase, a
of Amiga products has started. There are games like Myst and Quake, a
of the Netscape source code, and soon, the highly regarded Opera web
Amiga Inc has announced (at last) a new version of the
OS 5.0 due sometime next year. At the same time, there will be new
finally replacing the long-in-the tooth Motorola 680x0 processors.
is promising hardware that will be anywhere from five to ten times as
as today?s PCs, with 3D capabilities, high speed Internet, and the
to run up to four MPEG video streams at the same time. They expect to
some hardware versions for under $500. All this and backward
with the past generations of Amiga products. Rumours abound about Java
and Linux capabilities.
Heady stuff this. Much of this vision remains
fuzzy?the company seems
to be planning initial hardware versions based on Intel CPUs, before
to a yet-unnamed mystery processor. And Amiga devotees have been burned
before, repeatedly by Commodore in the years before its demise, and
recently, by the German company which owned the rights to the system
to Gateway?s purchase. The possibility of being offered some sort of
Amiga software on a Gateway PC doesn?t sit well with many Amiga fans.
I hope that Amiga Inc. can pull it off?After their
years in the wilderness,
Amiga?s loyal users deserve it. And they?re right?the Amiga was (and
a neat computer.