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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 several 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 the Amiga CD32 model 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

The Guru Meditation is an error notice displayed by early versions of the Commodore Amiga computer when they crashed. It is analogous to the "Blue Screen of Death" in Microsoft Windows operating systems, or a kernel panic in Unix. It has later been used as a message for unrecoverable errors in software such as Varnish and VirtualBox.

When a Guru Meditation is displayed, the options are to reboot by pressing the left mouse button, or to invoke ROMWack by pressing the right mouse button. (ROMWack is a minimalist debugger built into the operating system which is accessible by connecting a 9600 bit/s terminal to the serial port.)

The alert itself appears as a black rectangular box located in the upper portion of the screen. Its border and text are red for a normal Guru Meditation, or green/yellow for a Recoverable Alert, another kind of Guru Meditation. The screen goes black, and the power and disk-activity LEDs may blink immediately before the alert appears. In AmigaOS 1.x, programmed in ROMs known as Kickstart 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3, the errors are always red. In AmigaOS 2.x and 3.x, recoverable alerts are yellow, except for some very early versions of 2.x where they were green. Dead-end alerts are red in all OS versions.

Selected biography

Jay Miner in 1990
Jay Glenn Miner (May 31, 1932 – June 20, 1994) was an American integrated circuit designer, known primarily for developing multimedia chips for the Atari 2600 and Atari 8-bit family and as the "father of the Amiga". He received a BS in EECS from UC Berkeley in 1959.

He moved to Atari in the late 1970s. However, in the early 1980s Jay, along with other Atari staffers, had become fed up with management and decamped. They set up another chipset project under a new company in Santa Clara, called Hi-Toro (later renamed to Amiga Corporation), where they could have creative freedom. There, they started to create a new Motorola 68000-based games console, codenamed Lorraine, that could be upgraded to a computer. To raise money for the Lorraine project, Amiga Corp. designed and sold joysticks and game cartridges for popular game consoles such as the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, as well as an odd input device called the Joyboard, essentially a joystick the player stood on. Atari continued to be interested in the team's efforts throughout this period, and funded them with $500,000 in capital in return for first use of their resulting chipset.

Selected picture

Boing Ball
Credit: Marko75

Simulation of the Amiga Boing Ball.

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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