I loved my Amiga! I’m also not talking about the pretty girl I had a crush on in High School. No, like some weird Cyberpunk Indie “B” flick, I’m talking about my first computer.
So, I won’t lie. Why a Commodore? I remember walking past a long gone store chain (Software Etc.) and seeing some awesome video games being demo’d on this computer. Of course, like any 14 year old living in the Atari/Nintendo era, I had to walk in and check it out. Twist my arm at that moment, and I’d admit that what happened next was pure selfishness. I’d talk for days to my parents about how a computer would be good for school, how I’d be able to write my papers, and how it was only $500, etc. Where, in reality, I was thinking of the cool game I saw that day, that I *NEEDED* to keep playing! That game, Shadow of the Beast II, just blew my mind. This, at an age where the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) was king, and stuff like the Atari Jaguar, Sega Genesis, and Super Nintendo were still dreams being talked about at CES (Consumer Electronics Show).
Needless to say, I got my way, and I became the proud owner of my first personal computer; our family’s, actually.
Fast forward, and my naturally curious self actually started diving into the mechanics of how the GUI (Graphics User Interface) worked. I had some exposure with Macintosh back then, and Windows was in it’s infancy by comparison. So this was truly “cutting edge” stuff!
The other big thing this computer did was expand my horizons outside of the small little town of 15,000 people I knew my whole life. The computer came with something called a Modem (MOdulator/DEModulator). Modems allowed you to connect your computer to another via the telephone. You got to interact with the “O.G.” of social media, Bulletin Board Services (BBS’s). In those early days I quickly realized that my fancy “Video game system” did a LOT more then I ever thought.
I have a very musical background and quickly got into using my computer to write music. So much so that my first “big boy” job was at 15. I was recruited to write music for a video game company. TRUTH! It was a pretty cool experience, because that company then realized I had a natural aptitude, and started teaching me computer programming.
Digress for a moment, and think about this. In 1985, what did you have? IBM’s 8086, then, in the late 80’s, the 286 was king. Those computers had a little speaker that beeped at you, and the wonderful “green screen” displays were appropriately named because you had 2 colors (green or black), or an upgrade to a whopping 8 colors!!
In the same period of time, Commodore offered you a computer that had 4 channel stereo sound, a MASSIVE pallete of 4,096 colors to pick from, with 64 of them being displayed at any time. All while running a silky 50 or 60 frames per second (based on PAL or NTSC regions). It’s no wonder that the Amiga quickly became the “de facto” computer for those in the creative arts. Take it one step further, and also consider that in the modern world of gigahertz computers, gigabyte memory, terabyte storage devices, and Graphic Processors that can render a pixar movie in real time: Commodore did it on a 7 MHZ processor, with 512 KB of ram, and an 880 KB (KILO byte! Not even 1 *one* MEGAbyte, or .000088 GIGAbytes) floppy disk drive.
Let’s put that into perspective. An Alienware I7 (considered top of the line for gaming rigs) runs at 3.5 GHZ (3,500,000,000 instructions per second). That Amiga was doing what it was doing at 7 MHZ (7,000,000 instructions per second).
That’s an increase of 49,900%!!!
The little computer that could!
But, it’s all about the games, right? The processor used was manufactured by a company called Motorola. Their 680×0 series of processors were so efficient that even the mainstream video game companies adopted them. Sega utilized the same processor, in the Amiga, when they created their flagship video game system of the time; the Sega Genesis.
Want to try some of them? Have a fast computer? Keep reading!
Special thanks go to the developer of the “Scripted Amiga Emulator“, Rupert Hausberger. He created a way for us to be able to host and play some of these old games and video demonstrations, in our web browsers. I’ve set up some old favorites for you to try at:
Mind you, this takes a VERY fast computer to run. I’ve had great luck using Safari and Chrome. But, for those who are curious to see what it’s all about, but can’t properly run it, take a look at the video I created, below.
Finally, if you REALLY want the experience, every major operating system has a desktop Amiga emulator. Google “UAE” and your operating system (I.E. Linux, OS X, Windows, etc) and you will find free emulators you can use.
You’ll need two things to make it work. A “Kickstart” ROM, and then the floppy disk image of what you want to play. You can google the name of a piece of software, and “ADF” (Amiga Disk Format), and then you can load up and start playing.
For those who want an open source alternative, the AROS group has created an open source Kickstart replacement you can download for free. Check them out here!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. If I can help answer any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to put Amiga Emulator in the subject somewhere.
Finally, there are dear friends I’ve made because of this computer. One, specifically, was a huge part of this movement. A life cut too short. Jon, you’ll be missed. Whether you go by “Pasha Jon”, or “Neon Messiah”, we know you’re kicking it up there! R.I.P.