Portal:Amiga

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The Amiga Portal

The 1987 Amiga 500 was the best-selling model.

Amiga is a family of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985. The original model is one of a number of mid-1980s computers with 16- or 16/32-bit processors, 256 KB or more of RAM, mouse-based GUIs, and significantly improved graphics and audio compared to previous 8-bit systems. These systems include the Atari ST—released earlier the same year—as well as the Macintosh and Acorn Archimedes. Based on the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, the Amiga differs from its contemporaries through the inclusion of custom hardware to accelerate graphics and sound, including sprites and a blitter, and a pre-emptive multitasking operating system called AmigaOS.

The Amiga 1000 was released in July 1985, but production problems kept it from becoming widely available until early 1986. The best-selling model, the Amiga 500, was introduced in 1987 along with the more expandable Amiga 2000. The Amiga 3000 was introduced in 1990, followed by the Amiga 500 Plus, and Amiga 600 in March 1992. Finally, the Amiga 1200 and Amiga 4000 were released in late 1992. The Amiga line sold an estimated 4.85 million units.

Although early advertisements cast the computer as an all-purpose business machine, especially when outfitted with the Sidecar IBM PC compatibility add-on, the Amiga was most commercially successful as a home computer, with a wide range of games and creative software. The Video Toaster hardware and software suite helped Amiga find a prominent role in desktop video and video production. The Amiga's audio hardware made it a popular platform for music tracker software. The processor and memory capacity enabled 3D rendering packages, including LightWave 3D, Imagine, and Traces, a predecessor to Blender.

Poor marketing and the failure of later models to repeat the technological advances of the first systems resulted in Commodore quickly losing market share to the rapidly dropping prices of IBM PC compatibles, which gained 256 color graphics in 1987, as well as the fourth generation of video game consoles.

Commodore ultimately went bankrupt in April 1994 after a version of the Amiga packaged as a game console, the Amiga CD32, failed in the marketplace. Since the demise of Commodore, various groups have marketed successors to the original Amiga line, including Genesi, Eyetech, ACube Systems Srl and A-EON Technology. AmigaOS has influenced replacements, clones, and compatible systems such as MorphOS and AROS. Currently Belgian company Hyperion Entertainment maintains and develops AmigaOS 4, which is an official and direct descendant of AmigaOS 3.1 – the last system made by Commodore for the original Amiga Computers. (Full article...)

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The Original Chip Set (OCS) was a chipset used in the earliest Commodore Amiga computers and defined the Amiga's graphics and sound capabilities. It was succeeded by the slightly improved Enhanced Chip Set (ECS) and greatly improved Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA). The original chipset appeared in Amiga models built between 1985 and 1990: the Amiga 1000, Amiga 2000, Amiga CDTV, and Amiga 500.

The chipset which gave the Amiga its unique graphics features consists of three main "custom" chips; Agnus, Denise, and Paula. Both the original chipset and the enhanced chipset were manufactured using NMOS logic technology by Commodore's chip manufacturing subsidiary, MOS Technology. According to Jay Miner, the OCS chipset was fabricated in 5 µm manufacturing process while AGA Lisa was implemented in 1.5 µm process. All three custom chips were originally packaged in 48-pin DIPs; later versions of Agnus, known as Fat Agnus, were packaged in an 84-pin PLCC. (Full article...)

Selected biography

Daniel J. Barrett (born November 6, 1963) is a writer, software engineer, and musician. He is best known for his technology books, his work with progressive rock band Gentle Giant, and the imaginary computer game BLAZEMONGER.

Barrett has written a number of technical books on computer topics. The most well-known are Linux Pocket Guide and SSH, The Secure Shell: The Definitive Guide. His books have been translated into Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. (Full article...)

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Amiga 520 RF output adapter for the Amiga 500
Credit: Johann H. Addicks
Amiga 520 RF output adapter for the Amiga 500.

Did you know...

... that Sylvia Pengilly used an Amiga computer to integrate graphics with music and herself dancing?
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