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The Amiga is a family of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985. The original model was part of a wave of 16- and 32-bit computers that featured 256 KB or more of RAM, mouse-based GUIs, and significantly improved graphics and audio over 8-bit systems. This wave included the Atari ST—released the same year—Apple's Macintosh, and later the Apple IIGS. Based on the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, the Amiga differed 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 a series of production problems kept it from becoming widely available until early 1986. The best selling model, the Amiga 500, was introduced in 1987 and became one of the leading home computers of the late 1980s and early 1990s with four to six million sold. The A3000 was introduced in 1990, followed by the A500+, and the A600 in March 1992. Finally, the A1200 and the A4000 were released in late 1992. The platform became particularly popular for gaming and programming demos. It also found a prominent role in the desktop video, video production, and show control business, leading to video editing systems such as the Video Toaster. The Amiga's native ability to simultaneously play back multiple digital sound samples made it a popular platform for early tracker music software. The relatively powerful processor and ability to access several megabytes of memory enabled the development of 3D rendering packages, including LightWave 3D, Imagine, Aladdin4D, TurboSilver and Traces, a predecessor to Blender.

Although early Commodore advertisements attempt to cast the computer as an all-purpose business machine, especially when outfitted with the Amiga Sidecar PC compatibility add-on, the Amiga was most commercially successful as a home computer, with a wide range of games and creative software. Poor marketing and the failure of the later models to repeat the technological advances of the first systems meant that the Amiga quickly lost its market share to competing platforms, such as the fourth generation game consoles, Macintosh, and the rapidly dropping prices of IBM PC compatibles, which gained 256-color VGA graphics in 1987. 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. Likewise, AmigaOS has influenced replacements, clones and compatible systems such as MorphOS, AmigaOS 4 and AROS.

Selected article

Ultimate Soundtracker, or Soundtracker for short, is a music tracker program for the Commodore Amiga. It is the creation of Karsten Obarski, a German software developer and composer at a game development company EAS.

Soundtracker started as a tool for game sound development for the Amiga. The program allowed for four-channel hardware mixing on all Amiga computers, but unlike subsequent versions, limited the number of samples/instruments in a song to 15. It allocated the four channels in strict fashion: melody (lead), accompaniment, bass, and percussion. It could export the tracks as a sequence of assembly instructions.

Selected biography

Carl Sassenrath
Carl Sassenrath (born 1957 in California) is an architect of operating systems and computer languages. He brought multitasking to personal computers in 1985 with the creation of the Amiga Computer operating system kernel, and he is currently the designer of the REBOL computer language as well as the CTO of REBOL Technologies.

In the late 1960s his family relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to the small town of Eureka, California. From his early childhood Sassenrath was actively involved in electronics, amateur radio, photography, and filmmaking. When he was 13, Sassenrath began working for KEET a PBS public broadcasting television station. A year later he became a cameraman for KVIQ (American Broadcasting Company affiliate then) and worked his way up to being technical director and director for news, commercials, and local programming.

Selected picture

8-bit sound sampling hardware
Credit: Iain Fergusson

8-bit sound sampling hardware for the Amiga computer.

Did you know...

...that MorphOS implements AmigaOS API and provides binary compatibility with "OS-friendly" AmigaOS applications?
Other "Did you know" facts...



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