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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

A Bob (contraction of Blitter object) was a graphical element (GEL) first used by the Amiga computer. Bobs were hardware sprite-like objects, movable on the screen with the help of the blitter coprocessor.

The AmigaOS GEL system consisted of VSprites, Bobs, AnimComps (animation components) and AnimObs (animation objects), each extending the preceding with additional functionality. While VSprites were a virtualization of hardware sprites Bobs were drawn into a playfield by the blitter, saving and restoring the background of the GEL as required. The Bob with the highest video priority was the last one to be drawn, which made it appear to be in front of all other Bobs.

In contrast to hardware sprites Bobs were not limited in size and number. Bobs required more processing power than sprites, because they required at least one DMA memory copy operation to draw them on the screen. Sometimes three distinct memory copy operations were needed: one to save the screen area where the Bob would be drawn, one to actually draw the Bob, and one later to restore the screen background when the Bob moved away.

An AnimComp added animation to a Bob and an AnimOb grouped AnimComps together and assigned them velocity and acceleration.

Selected biography

Jeremy "Jez" San OBE (born 29 March 1966) is an English game programmer and entrepreneur who founded Argonaut Software as a teenager in the 1980s. He is best known for the 1986 Atari ST game Starglider and helping to design the Super FX chip used in Star Fox for the Super NES.

San bought his first computer, a TRS-80, at age twelve. Within a year he taught himself assembly language for several microprocessors.

San founded Argonaut Software in 1982 as a way to get software consulting jobs with large companies. He worked on security systems with British Telecom and Acorn. In 1984, he started developing his first game, Skyline Attack for the Commodore 64, and also co-wrote a book, Quantum Theory, about the Sinclair QL. He became a wizard (admin) at Essex MUD, the world's first multiplayer online role-playing game.

Selected picture

Credit: Yasu the Swede

MorphOS 3.10 running on A-Eons X5000 computer, showned at Amiga30 in Neuss, Germany.

Did you know...

...that AtheOS was originally intended to be a clone of AmigaOS?
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