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Amiga

First personal computer to be used for digital video creation.
1391px Amiga500 System

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.

The Amiga series of computers found a place in early computer graphic design and television presentation. Below are some examples of notable uses and users:

  • Season 1 and part of season 2 of the television series Babylon 5 were rendered in LightWave 3D on Amigas. Other television series using Amigas for special effects included SeaQuest DSV and Max Headroom.

In addition, many other celebrities and notable individuals have made use of the Amiga:

  • Andy Warhol was an early user of the Amiga and appeared at the launch, where he made a computer artwork of Debbie Harry. Warhol used the Amiga to create a new style of art made with computers and was the author of a multimedia opera called You Are the One, which consists of an animated sequence featuring images of actress Marilyn Monroe assembled in a short movie with a soundtrack. The video was discovered on two old Amiga floppies in a drawer in Warhol's studio and repaired in 2006 by the Detroit Museum of New Art. The pop artist has been quoted as saying: "The thing I like most about doing this kind of work on the Amiga is that it looks like my work in other media".
  • Artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud credits the Amiga he bought for his son as a bridge to learning about "using paint box programs". He uploaded some of his early experiments to the file-sharing forums on CompuServe.
  • The "Weird Al" Yankovic film UHF contains a computer-animated music video parody of the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing", titled "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*". According to the DVD commentary track, this spoof was created on an Amiga home computer.
  • Rolf Harris used an Amiga to digitize his hand-drawn art work for animation on his television series, Rolf's Cartoon Club.
  • Todd Rundgren's video "Change Myself" was produced with Toaster and Lightwave.
  • Scottish pop artist Calvin Harris composed his 2007 debut album I Created Disco with an Amiga 1200.
  • Susumu Hirasawa, a Japanese progressive-electronic artist is known for using Amigas to compose and perform music, aid his live shows and make his promotional videos. He has also been inspired by the Amiga and has referenced it in his lyrics. His December 13, 1994 "Adios Jay" Interactive Live Show was dedicated to (then recently deceased) Jay Miner. He also used the Amiga to create the virtual drummer TAINACO, who was a CG rendered figure whose performance was made with Elan Performer and was projected with DCTV. He also composed and performed "Eastern-boot", the AmigaOS 4 boot jingle.
  • Electronic musician Max Tundra created his three albums with an Amiga 500.
  • Bob Casale, keyboardist and guitarist of the new wave band Devo used Amiga computer graphics on the album cover to Devo's album Total Devo
  • Most of Pokémon Gold and Silver's music was created on an Amiga computer, converted to MIDI, and then reconverted to the game's music format.

Other uses

The Amiga was also used in a number of special-purpose applications:

  • Amigas were used in various NASA laboratories to keep track of low orbiting satellites and were still used until 2004 (but eventually discontinued and sold in 2006). Amigas were used at Kennedy Space Center to run strip-chart recorders, to format and display data, and control stations of platforms for Delta rocket launches.
  • Palomar Observatory used Amigas to calibrate and control the CCDs in their telescopes, as well as to display and store the digitized images they collected.
  • London Transport Museum developed its own interactive multi-media software for the CD32. The software included a walkthrough of various exhibits and a virtual tour of the museum.
  • Amiga 500 motherboards were used, in conjunction with a LaserDisc player and genlock device, in arcade games manufactured by American Laser Games.
  • A custom Amiga 4000T motherboard was used in the HDI 1000 medical ultrasound system built by Advanced Technology Labs (now part of Philips Medical Systems).
  • Four Amiga 2000s were used from 1988 to 1991 to develop the digital displays panels installed in the M1-A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank built by General Dynamics Land Systems. In the General Dynamics Simulation Laboratory, the Amigas interfaced with a central simulation environment computer and produced graphics for the display panels. During demonstrations at Fort Knox, the Amigas did not interact with each other but instead operated in "remote mode" because the simulation environment computer was not portable.
  • As of 2015, the Grand Rapids Public School district still uses a Commodore Amiga 2000 computer, complete with 1200 baud modem, to automate it's air conditioning and heating systems for the 19 schools covered by the GRPS district. "The system controls the start/stop of boilers, the start/stop of fans, pumps, monitors space temperatures, and so on." The system has been running day and night for decades.
  • Amiga models, generally 1000s and 2000s, were utilized by the Prevue Guide (later renamed the Prevue Channel), a specialized cable network designed to provide TV listings. Though its' history stretched back to 1981, the Prevue Guide did not start using Amigas on a wide-scale basis until the late 1980s. Amigas were used to generate program listings locally at the headend office, while a C-band satellite feed provided promotional material for cable networks (occupying the top half of the screen above the local listings). Amigas were also used to power the pay-per-view centric sister service Sneak Prevue in conjunction with laserdiscs and a C-band feed. Eventually, Prevue was relaunched in 1999 as the TV Guide Channel and due to Commodore's bankruptcy and the general outmodedness of the Amiga platform, the Amigas were phased out in favor of custom-built Windows NT computers instead.
  • The Weather Network used Amigas to display the weather on TV. Sometimes when watching, one would witness a Guru Meditation.

Key Terms

amiga
amigaos
amigas
computers
graphics
lightwave
macintosh
television series
video
wave

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Amiga
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Sources & Credits

Last modified on September 3 2019
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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