5 Years of Amiga

by Johnny C. Kitchens
from the MCCC News, July 1990

July 23, 1985.

If you have an Amiga and or you are a big fan of the system, the date given here should be one to remember, as it is the day the Amiga made its debut. One source referred to that day as the day many a lesser silicon marvel of the decade became obsolete. On this day Commodore introduced the Amiga to the world, and started a roller coaster ride that many enjoyed while others only endured.

Five years is a long time in the consumer market and the Amiga has made that time with ohhs and ahhs, controversy and change, love and hate. I wonder what the next five years will bring, but we can only take a look at the past five.

Several phrases came to be associated with the Amiga after its introduction. One still continues to pop up today: “It’ll knock your socks off!” Ask yourself how many times that phrase has popped up since the Amiga began showing off its abilities. Another phrase which popped up and then faded away was “The Maserati of Computers.” How long has it been since you heard that one?

Change has been a big part in the life of the Amiga over the past five years; some we've noticed, some may have gone unnoticed. Commodore toyed with several logos. A few even made it out into the world to be seen. Taking the famous checkered ball from the now famous demo was considered. They also considered a plain looking “A” as the logo. Thank you, Commodore, for not using that. A rainbow colored check mark was the winner. Well at least for a while. Now “Amiga” I guess you could say is the logo.

The Amiga itself has changed a lot. The 1000 brought us the Amiga and introduced the world to its new ideas (and can be found with and without the Extra Half Bright mode). It was on the market barely 18 months. Early in 1987 the 500 and 2000 showed up. Although these two at first appeared to be a compliment to the 1000, they replaced it completely. There were two versions of the 2000—a German design and an American design. Commodore decided one was more prepared for the future than the other, and one passed away. I remember the rumors of the UX and AT versions that were to come out. Still waiting.

1988 gave us the 2000HD and the impressive 2500, both of which were just the 2000 with add-ons. Both of these have been modified in 1989. The 2090A controller has been replaced by the new 2091 and Quantum is now the Hard Drive. The 2500 has had its A2620 68020 CPU card replaced with a newer A2630 68030 CPU card.

A less noticeable change to the 2000 series has been the change in LEDs. The red power LED has given away to a green one. The disk drive went from red to amber. The hard drive changed from green to amber; Was this LED change for a reason?

Changes internally have been the big news. The true power of the Amiga, the now familiar custom chips, have gone through changes—one of which was name. Originally called Daphne, Portia, and Agnes, Daphne became Denise and is now about to change to Super Denise. Portia has become the Paula. Agnes changed to Agnus, Fat Agnus, and Super Agnus. There have been other names such as Obese Agnus heard, but Super was the official version. Now a newer version has appeared. With this new version the Amiga has moved from 512K to 1 meg and now 2 megs of chip ram. The Amiga has moved through three CPUs: the 68000, 68020, and 68030 with the 68040 just over the horizon.

Commodore has changed their handling of the Amiga, at times appearing to some to be confused on how to handle their machine. At first they didn’t want the Commodore name associated with Amiga so they hid it in the rear. Commodore wanted the machine to be considered as a serious business machine and felt that the name of Commodore would hurt the image. That changed with the 500 and 2000—the name “Commodore” was where you could see it. They tried to make sure that the Amiga was only available from the right places. I remember one dealer would only show the computer to you if you made an appointment. I bet that moved a lot of them. The advertising in the early days I’m sure created the question of “What is it?” You remember the robed man walking up to the Amiga, which was all but hidden, and he appeared to be lit up by the computer. It made sense, but only if you knew what they were advertising. For the good of the Amiga, recent ads have been more to the point.

Commodore’s changes from machine specific to more generic construction such as the connectors in the rear have all been for the better. The 2000’s ability to be configured or changed gave Commodore a good base to work with. And I’ve applauded Commodore for offering an upgrade from the 1000 to the 2000. No other company has considered doing that for its users. You have to take the good with the bad in everything. At least there seems to be more good.

The introduction of the 3000 gives the Amiga a new push for the future and it appears that Commodore may be prepared to finally market the Amiga as they’ve never done before—trying to grab hold of the multi-media madness in the business world while enhancing the foothold that it has established.

It’s been a bumpy road, but with the dedication of Amiga users, word of mouth, and proven performance, the Amiga has made it through these 5 years and is poised for the next 5 years of progress. The competition has made plenty of moves on the Amiga’s previous advantages. Many of the things the Amiga has been doing for years are now the latest rage in the rest of the computer industry.

There’s more to come from Amiga—just wait and see. Some of the competition has done their best to put the Amiga down—throwing the term “game machine” around the most.

It is estimated that current technology will be obsolete in just three years, but if we look at the C-64 you can see that a home computer can last long after technology has moved on. Just as it looks like the end of the 1000 due to advances in the 2000, along comes the aftermarket to provide an upgrade to move the 1000 up to provide an upgrade to move the 1000 up to current standards. The same thing will surely happen to the 2000 if and when the time comes. You can buy lots of hardware to enhance the Amiga, lots of games, lots of video equipment, and lots of software. But one must wonder, where is the business software base that the competition enjoys? We have more places to buy Amigas in the form of dealers, even though Commodore has declared war on mail order. There are many new companies making products for the Amiga though we’ve lost many also. The same can be said for any other brand.

The Amiga is a survivor and few products on the market could possibly survive what the Amiga has survived. This should certainly make a point. The Amiga has something that buyers want, no matter what other problems there may be. July. 1990 will be the month the 3000 will go on the market, but come the 23rd, take a moment and think a good thought for the Amiga and celebrate 5 years of fun and awesome computer graphics.