July 5, 2012

Amiga Computing, after all these years

There has been a fair amount of ongoing nostalgia since the early 1990s for the Amiga personal computer [1]. Even though the various models of Amiga machines were manufactured on a relatively small scale, people were captivated by the graphics and multitasking capabilities of the AmigaOS [2]. However, Commodore (original maker of the Amiga) went out of business in the early 1990s, which undermined the technology's further development [3].

Here is some basic information on AmigaOS (the best "lost" OS [4] there is) from operating-system.org and YouTube:

Best of Amiga Demos (from 1988!). As you can see from the screen capture, the original Amiga models used floppy disks rather than everything being stored on and run from a hard disk.

Who uses AmigaOS in 2011? As you will see, the floppy disk days are over [see also 5].

The signature demo of the graphics capability was the Boing Ball demo, shown below. The Amiga was also used to drive Video Toaster software, an early non-linear editing system used for generating specialized computer graphics used in television and movie production [6].

Use and development of the Amiga continued sporadically, and the OS evolved to Version 4.x (the current version). Preparing this post got me to thinking about the viability of AmigaOS for mobile devices. In particular, the low-resource multi-tasking and efficient graphics processing capabilities of the AmigaOS would be a very good fit for the current generation of tablet computers. Unfortunately, it is not clear as to the current status of the intellectual property and/or technology development [7]. 

[1] a forthcoming book by MIT Press (which I previewed on Tumbld Thoughts) and a never-say-die fan base.

[2] the Commodore 64 served as the progenitor of the Amiga, as the Amiga combined the usability and graphics capabilities of the C64 with a modern operating system design. MorphOS was a descendent of the AmigaOS designed for PowerPC Macintosh machines (as they shared a similar motherboard architecture at the time).

[3] the development of interesting and sophisticated (for their time) games and software were another matter. Here are a few examples: Demo 1 (on the Amiga 500 circa 1993), Demo 2 ("Sanity" from World of Commodore, 1992), Demo 3 ("Syndrome" from 1994). Keep in mind that these were programmed during the late 80's and early 90's.

For more detailed information, please see a video documentary called "History of the Commodore Amiga" on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,

[4] there is no sign of opening the kernel (Exec) or GUI (Workbench) up to open source developers (at least that I am aware of).

[5] very informative historical and instructive video with lots of information on current AmigaOS apps.

[6] here is a demo video from Newtek on the capabilities of the Toaster, circa 1992.

[7] the latest proprietor of the hardware and software technologies (Amiga Inc) are trying to focus on mobile applications. However, it is appeared that their website has "gone silent" on the matter.

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