27 September, 2017

AMiGA fanboy; guilty.

I just got an awaited shipment from the UK:

Amiga "Rainbow Double-Check"-logo T-shirt

Workbench | 'Insert diskette' screen T-shirt

Representin' ;D

After re-playing a heap of my all-time favorite Amiga-games on my RetroPie (RPi3), I thought I'd do a little post honoring the 80s/90s gaming-computer. Mainly, the Amiga 500.

No other computer-system has ever had this big an impact on my life, my preferences and my esthetic sense.

To give a little intro about the Amiga 500: it was launched as a compact, home game-computer in the mid-1980s. The Amiga 500 had everything from motherboard/CPU to add-on-chips and keyboard integrated into one plastic casing.

People mostly hooked it up to their TV with an extra peripheral called the RF-modulator, but was also sold with an Commodore-branded CRT-monitor (see picture below), that even sported integrated stereo speakers(!).

Commodore Amiga 500 - 'System 1'

At the time (late 80s) Amiga was unmatched in animation and sound, mostly due to their use of specialty chain-chips (separate chips co-working in a process-chain), but also thanks to a massive (for the time) homebrew-scene (the demo-scene).

The Amiga 500 demonstrated graphics-powers unmatched by similar 8-/16-bit systems at the time. As the Amiga 500 had over 300.000 units sold by 1990, it had established itself as a massively popular home-computer across Europe. But due to scepticism and poor advertising, not so good in the US.

Amiga set itself apart from other computer systems, just like Apple. For example, the PC-dominating three-finger salute, is performed differently on Amiga-systems: Ctrl + Left Amiga + Right Amiga.

It also sported co-processors (additional processors other than the CPU) for various tasks that made this computer way ahead of its time. Today's computers--for example--almost always include co-processors (like GPUs), much like the Amiga series did back in the 80s and 90s. Only difference being that the co-processors in the Amigas were DIP-chips soldered directly to the actual motherboard, whereas modern GPUs are individually contained system-cards, sporting their own FPU-chips+G-RAM that just slot into modern motherboard PCI-express slots and uses the motherboard north/south bridge-connections to communicate with the CPU(s) / RAM.

The 90s brought the demo-scene community that grew out of the 80s, eagerly showcasing the Amiga as a competitive computer-system by making byte-sized (68000 assembly-coded), elaborate animated/scored demonstration-applications, coined "demos", thus; the demo-scene.

One of my most memorable demos was this "cracktro" by Unit A:

Another more recent (2010) demo by Razor1911:

The Amiga was also one of the last, true ROM-based computers (the operating system was located on a ROM-chip on-board, much like our Android/iOS-smartphones today, and other micro-computers of the late 80s (Apple), hard-drives cost an arm and a leg in those days, very expensive) that sported accompanying diskette(s) containing the Workbench graphical desktop environment by itself. Original, to say the least.

The Amiga Workbench was a multi-tasking desktop environment. Shown running a background-application (Boing) behind the Workbench-UI.

Commodore Amiga Workbench 1.3 (w/"Boing" running in back)
It also loaded and ran games straight from 3½ inch floppy disks (usually 880 KB format). The game-data was loaded from the floppy into Amiga-memory and consequently executed.

The picture below shows the Amiga-screen that shows if you didn't load Workbench from floppy, indicating you had to load a floppy for something to happen.

Commodore Amiga 'Insert diskette' load-screen
Commodore Amiga Boing Ball, animated gif representation
It was a major feat when made in the 80s. One animation done in bit-plane, one sound-sample run at varying speeds and sample-rates. All-together it made an animated scene with a bouncing ball in a pseudo-3d grid-room.

Commodore Amiga Guru Meditation
The Amiga equivalent of a BSOD on Windows and kernel panic on Linux

The only real caveats in these series of computers were the diskette-drive(s) and the power supply unit (PSU).

Commodore Amiga external Power Supply Unit

As a curiosity, here is a rather rare picture from wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiga_Unix):

Amiga Unix - System V Release 4 Amiga Version 2.0
Boot / Root installation-diskettes & tape

As a treat, here is the best Amiga-videos I've found on YouTube:

Turrican II: The Final Fight

Amiga Story | Part 1 + Part 2

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