Question: What If...?
Run a web search for Commodore Amiga
user groups and you'll find a fair amount of them still in existence
in major U.S. cities. If you're a younger person, or perhaps an
older person who's not computer savvy, you may not even know what a
Commodore Amiga is. But Amiga enthusiasts the world over know that
their beloved home computer was a gem in its day. In fact, it was
ahead of its time.
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The Amiga line of computers were the
successors to Commodore's highly successful VIC-20, Commodore 64,
and Commodore 128 computers which tore up the fledgling home
computer market in the early 1980s. Commodore introduced the home
computing world to 8-bit, color technology with the C64, which
became so wildly popular that it dominated the market with nearly a
40% share during the mid 80s. The C64 went on to be the best selling
home computer of all time, putting out almost 17 million around the
Eager to build on the C64's success while advancing the technology,
Commodore bought the Amiga Corporation and began aggressively
developing their products. The Amiga 1000 was introduced as a
business machine in 1985. Commodore fans were eager to latch on to
the machine, yet the price of the Amiga 1000 left them clamouring
for a less-expensive home version.
In 1986 they got their wish with the release of the Amiga 500, along
with the new Amiga 2000 business model. As the popularity of
Commodore's machines grew rapidly, the company was poised to become
the undisputed leader in all things computer. But a handful of poor
business decisions, combined with poor marketing, left the door open
for an established but obscure rival known as Microsoft.
Commodore filed for bankruptcy in 1994 and sold its assets to a
German computer maker who went under themselves just a few years
later. The newly created Amiga Technologies was sold to Gateway, who
in turn sold the Amiga brand name to Britain's Eyetech Group, Ltd.
Eyetech granted Hyperion Entertainment a perpetual, exclusive
license to develop and market the AmigaOS worldwide in 2009.
Though Amiga still exists in terms of an operating system, the glory
days of the 1980s are long gone. AmigaOS is now just a
run-of-the-mill OS for hobbyists or small businesses with basic
computing needs. In fact, Hyperion hasn't done any significant Amiga
development since 2006, though they promise version 5 will be
The demise of Amiga is an unfortunate thing when you consider how
technologically advanced the machines were in the 1980s. Amiga's
co-processors, which took care of DMA access and audio/video
functions separate from the CPU, made the machines ideal for games
and applications with heavy video loads. No one else could match
Amiga's video performance as early models could display up to 4096
colors in 32 or 64-bit mode. Later models could display up to 16.8
million colors and automatically adjust refresh rate.
Video and music editors loved the Amiga's cheap peripherals for
sound sampling and digital video editing. Expansion boards that
could increase memory, upgrade the CPU, or add improved audio and
video capabilities kept the Amiga at the top of the heap as business
machines. Throw in Amiga's ahead-of-its-time networking
capabilities, and you couldn't have a better personal computer.
If Commodore hadn't dropped the ball in the early 1990s, who knows
what the current landscape of personal and business computing would
be. But the reality is, they did drop the ball; now Amiga has been
left to wither on the vine like so many other technologies of days
gone by. And that's a shame.