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Commodore Amiga turns 30
A computer ahead of its time

By Syd Bolton
First posted: Saturday, July 25, 2015 06:00 AM EDT
Today, computers with amazing graphics, sound, and the ability to run more than a single program at a time are not just standard features – they are normal. But in 1985, computers were mostly text-based (if you remember DOS then you know what I’m talking about) and the only true graphical interface computer at the time – the Macintosh – was black and white. So when Commodore, the company behind the single most successful computer of all time (the Commodore 64) released the Commodore Amiga 1000 in July of 1985 it took the world by surprise.
While the Macintosh pioneered both the graphical user interface in homes and was single-handedly responsible for the term “desktop publishing,” the Amiga expanded on GUI, introduced multitasking (the ability to run more than one program at a time) to our homes and was responsible for the term “desktop video.”
The first thing people looked at with the Amiga was its technical specifications. It could produce 4,096 colours with an amazing graphics chip. It was able to crank out four-channel stereo sound and the multitasking operating system was something that had previously been reserved for much larger and much more complex computers. Initially created by a small team led by Jay Miner (a former Atari employee who worked on the Atari 8-bit computers and the Atari 2600 game console), the Amiga started life as a game machine and turned out to be a sophisticated computer. If only the rest of the world knew.
The Amiga line was produced for approximately 11 years, even surviving Commodore’s 1994 bankruptcy to an extent. Even today, the system is heralded with a great cult following only seen in Apple products. For myself, I was (and still am) one of those people who was completely in love with the system. I actually made my living writing and selling software for the Amiga for several years. But eventually I had to give up on it and join the ranks of the PC lovers. It still pains me to think about those days and having to leave such a great machine behind.
How can a machine invoke such emotion? I can’t say it was any one particular thing. Like many Apple products, the Amiga developed a certain culture of people, software, and hardware that, when mixed together, created an indescribable potion of magic. It’s easy to say “you had to be there” to understand it, but it’s true. The influence of the Amiga is still felt today even if you don’t realize it.
NewTek (external - login to view) makes video editing products, such as the TriCaster and LightWave 3D. Both of these products essentially got their start on the Amiga when it was used to help create television shows, such as Home Improvement and Babylon 5. When Netflix (external - login to view) decided to make a play for Internet TV (the company started out as a DVD delivery service), it hired Anthony Wood to be the vice-president in charge of that division. Prior to Netflix, Wood had a company called Sunrize Industries which made products for the Amiga. Today, Wood is the founder and CEO of Roku, which makes streaming players for TV.
The Amiga was the creative computer before such a term even really existed. It inspired others to create the multimedia computers of today, which we take for granted. It gave us electronic speech as a standard feature, multitasking for the masses, and made computing cool at a time when it seemed like all there was were spreadsheets and green screens.
The Amiga was more than a computer to me. It was a lifestyle and one that shaped how I feel about and treat technology to this day. In fact, I still have my Amiga charm on my key chain. Rest in peace, dear Amiga. You are often missed but left a legacy behind that has not only left impression on your biggest fans, but influenced the next generation of technology leaders. We owe you a lot, even if most people don’t even realize it.
Watch the world premiere of the Amiga on July 23, 1985 with Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry and many others at the New York Lincoln Center below.
Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum (external - login to view) and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC /Methapharm. You can reach him via e-mail at sbolton@bfree.on.ca (external - login to view) or on Twitter @sydbolton (external - login to view).
Commodore Amiga 1000. (Wikimedia Commons/Kaiiv/HO)

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Commodore Amiga turns 30 | Gadgets | Tech | Toronto Sun
I remember how pissed I was when I got the commodore 64 and shortly after the commodore amiga came out.
It would have been cool if we could have surfed the internet using a modern commodore.