Remembering The CD-32

by Eric Schwartz
From the AmiTech Gazette, December 2019

The end of the year, not to mention the decade, is running up fast. During this concluding year—actually around the end of 2018—I began using Twitter, despite my resistance thanks to certain powerful individuals using it like a weaponized sewage pile. I discovered that, like most ‘social media’ outlets, what you get out of it and whether you enjoy it or not depends on how you decide to use it. I use it to post news and information about my work and business, along with the occasional bit of fun.

As 2019 was the 35th anniversary of the Transformers toy brand, I was tweeting out various historical Transformer tidbits over the course of the year for my followers. With this year ending, I finish up my formal Transformers coverage in favor of something else. 2020 is the 35th anniversary of the debut of the original Amiga 1000, so expect the year to be filled with historical Amiga tweets.

I also have one or two other Amiga-related ideas for the coming year. It seems I’ve been energized somewhat by the anniversary year along with the up-tick in community energy recently, both in the areas of retro stuff and newer hardware and software development. I hope it all proves interesting, at the very least.

With the holiday season, one might think back on gifts and games, and of course, the most desirable video game console of the 1990s, the Sony- I mean the Amiga CD-32. I’ve mentioned previously that it actually sold quite well in various European markets during its short life, though not enough to stop Commodore from sinking, and almost certainly not enough to stop the Playstation juggernaut had it been able to compete directly. The CD-32 had a lot of games, though many were direct copies of Amiga 1200, or even 500, games. If you were lucky, a game may have gotten some simple console enhancements, like making use of the extra buttons on the controller, a higher-quality CD soundtrack, or a fancy animated intro that wouldn’t fit on a floppy disc. A luckier few actually received extra content, such as more maps or levels. Games with sprawling worlds, like adventures or role-playing frequently fared best, and their style of play was best suited to larger storage formats like CD, and offered more content than floppy-based versions— bigger maps or voice tracks instead of text, for two examples.

The CD-32 is sought after by retro collectors, as its versions of games were often the best one, (or at least rarely worse) if only because they usually came on a single CD instead of a small stack of corruptible floppies. It was also expandable, with either a MPEG full-motion video add-on, or an expansion (a classic one like the SX1, or the recent TerribleFire boards) to add the missing bits to make it a full computer. If there was one thing I wish the CD-32 offered in its stock configuration, it would be an RGB video output like all regular Amigas, but as it was intended to be a TV-based game console , S-video wasn’t a terrible trade-off, and there remains the expansion option. I’ll be bringing my CD-32 to this month’s holiday meeting, for fun, and to show off a method of connecting an Amiga to an HD television via component inputs, thanks to the RetroTINK RGB2COMP transcoder. It has definite plusses and minuses, which I’ll be happy to discuss at the meeting. Hopefully your holiday will be merry and bright, and the coming year will be worth the wait, for your Amiga systems and you as well.