World's first multi-media PC

The "dream machine," "engineering-miracle" of the 1980s.

When other computers had maybe 16 colors at max, the Amiga (not an "IBM-compatible") was suddenly released in 1985 with 4096 colors, stereo sound, plug-and-play, and something even more unheard of: it was built from the ground-up to multitask, meaning it could run more than one program at once...all the essentials for multimedia. Even with its GUI ("windows-like" display), all this was still accomplished with less than 100k: about 1/10th a megabyte.

(Of course, through some hacks, as well as adding 16 megabytes of memory and over 100 megahertz of "speed" to drive through the mess, Microsoft was able to make an IBM computer do about the same thing 10 years later. "Windows 95" was hailed as a great accomplishment, and...well, I'll rant later ;)

Going to Software, Etc. in the late-'80s, the Amiga was always proudly displayed in the front of all the other computers; the green-screen IBMs and black-and-white Macintoshes were shoved in the corner. We were amazed at how, for the first time, a personal computer had enough colors to display a real picture, and how the colors actually seemed to blend-together in the painting program...we couldn't tell where one color began and another ended. The lady there was always excited to bring us the Dragon's Lair game to play, which looked incredibly like the real animation used in the laserdisc arcade version...and this was being run off floppies. Alas, the last time I was in Software, Etc., they didn't know what an Amiga was....

The "business" world (IBM, Apple, Microsoft, etc.) scoffed at the Amiga, and said that there wasn't a place for fancy graphics and sound (or even multitasking) in business computers: only for "game" machines...which today a compliment. And so people believed them. (Today, Apple has a "commitment" to graphics, and Microsoft is trying to sell game consoles!) The video production community picked-up on the Amiga for graphics and animation (it had a screen-mode allowing it to plug directly into a TV...something else that was also supposedly a major accomplishment for IBM PCs ten years later!); the Amiga's animation, using the popular "Video Toaster" and "LightWave" software, can be seen via Babylon 5 as well as a zillion other TV shows and films. It also was a staple in almost every Public Access station during the '90s. But - especially since there wasn't yet a World Wide Web - the rest of the public didn't really know where to begin with all the capabilities that had so suddenly become available.

Commodore computers, who currently owned the Amiga (though not to be confused with the well-known Commodore 64 computer), was also suffering from mismanagement and hardly ever advertised except in its own magazines. The CEO said, "We don't need advertising; if people want it, they'll buy it." Commodore went bankrupt in 1993. Many people - even hardcore Amiga fans - have never even seen an Amiga television advertisement, which I why when I found some on an old MTV recording from 1989, I had to scan them off for others to see (yes, they did exist!).

Gateway 2000 bought the rights to the Amiga in 1997, but hasn't done much.

Former Apple engineer Jean-Louis Gassee (now at BeOS, Inc.), reminiscing about Apple in the mid-'90s, said: "When the Amiga came out, everyone was scared as hell. No one could figure out how they packed so much power into its off-the-shelf parts." Apple's Mac was still black and white, cost more, and could only do one thing at a time. But, Apple advertised; Commodore didn't. "We [Apple] were really scared of the Amiga. Fortunately, Irving Gould [CEO of Commodore] helped Apple by running Commodore into the ground." (Interview with Mr. Gasse in Amazing Computing, Nov. 1996) Around the same time, Atari was also launching a multimedia computer - the Atari ST (and later the Falcon) - which was also way ahead of IBM/Microsoft's PC and Apple's Macintosh. Ironically, the two companies with the best products bit the dust, and vice-versa; Atari and Commodore put all their money into their computer development, while Apple and IBM/Microsoft instead put their money into their advertising. Since most of the public didn't know much about computers back then, advertising proved to the most important part of making computers.

OTHER AMIGA FIRSTS (as of 1985):

*2-button mouse standard

*Variety of screenmodes, switchable without re-booting (one could even, for instance, drag a screenmode such as VGA smoothly over another with the mouse.)

*32-bit architecture/32-bit pre-emptive multitasking operating-system (yes, in 1985!)

*16-bit color standard (without a graphics card)

OTHER FACTS:

*The first pc used for raytracing/raytraced animation (later in the '80s)

*Always came with a 3" floppy standard (no 5 1/4" drives)

*Always was able to use "long filenames" (filenames over 100 characters with spaces, etc.)

*Booted within seconds because of the low amount of resources and high efficiency; didn't require anyone to go back and add some kind of "quick-boot" fixer-upper.

*24-bit color standard as of 1991 (without a graphics card)

*Built as Y2K compliant

*No "shut-down" procedure *lol*...as long as the hard/floppy drive lights aren't on, you just switch it off.

*The Amiga was able to emulate (mimic) IBMs and Macintoshes years before the vice-versa (click for a screenshot)

*Official versions of Myst and Quake (which do indeed exist and made by clickBOOM) can be run successfully on Amigas from the '80s.

*Cheap, Cheap, CHEAP!!!

Unfortunately, now people look up the specs of an Amiga, see that it ran on a Motorola 680xx processor or whatever, and then assume it was slow and archaic. That is because they are judging it by what other computers could do with the same resources, which was nowhere near what an Amiga could achieve.

Personally I have never seen the memory requirements of PCs versus Macs be incredibly different; most people would figure a 16 mb PC is relatively equal in performance to a 16 mb Mac (or maybe to a 12 mb Mac). But 16 mb on a PC/Mac is the equivalent of only about 2-4 mb on an Amiga; it's not even in the same ballpark. (And the amount of speed needed is also as drastically different.) I believe the true test of a computer is what it can do without a lot of memory and "speed." Throw on a zillion megs and megahertz and any computer OS should be able to do a lot.

Even with my 2 megabyte Amiga, I could simultaneously run an OS better than Windows 95 (Workbench 3.1), use a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) word processor (Final Copy II), print to my inkjet at 300x300 dpi resolution, check e-mail/newsgroups or download files with a text-based internet program (Terminus), and even have a cool screensaver running. A Windows PC can't be turned on with 2 megabytes.

The first thing I noticed when using other computers on the University campus is how, when flipping from one application's window to another, an ancient 7mhz half-meg Amiga can do it instantly no matter how low on memory or resources, but on a newer 150mhz/16meg computer there is a lull (or sometimes a wait of over a minute while an application finishes what it's doing!). Why? Because PCs and Macs were designed as word processors that can only do one thing at a time...not multimedia computers. And no amount of hardware or software improvements will ever change that. Their solution? Add more and more horsepower to something that is poorly designed, inefficient, and has poor if any multimedia infrastructure. Heck if I had a ColecoVision going at 800 mhz with a graphics card and 128 megs of RAM and some other things wired into it and years of R&D, it could probably do a lot of neat things too...but it would still be a mess and nowhere near its full potential. And all the extra workarounds required to make it do simple tasks would make it crash all the time and have strange problems that even the computer makers can't track down (sound familiar? :)

So...I dunno, though I once was interested in computers, now-a-dayz nothing new really excites me. I figure that - no matter how good a new technology looks - it isn't nearly at its full potential, because it's running on what was once a fancy typewriter - an IBM "green-screen" from the '70s on steroids - instead of something designed from the ground-up for multimedia.



THE COMMERCIALS

The first commercial on this page seemed to be the most comprehensive and main one out of those I had. The second features a teenager's parents becoming annoyed because everybody keeps coming over to use his computer. In the other commercial (pictured), the teenager - with the aid of a video camera, genlock, and coaxial cable attached to the neighbor's TV - tricks the girl next door into thinking he's won some kind of Grammy music award on her television. All the commercials interestingly contain music from the movie The Goonies. Does anyone know who the announcer or "Stevie Palmer" are?

NOTE: The two bigger pictures on this page from the end of the commercials make nice wallpaper for your Windows or Mac PC ;)

WATCH the Amiga "celebrity" commercial! (3122k .avi)

WATCH the Amiga "rock star" commercial! (3120k .avi)

WATCH the Amiga "house" commercial! (3122k .avi)

Watch a 10 second generic MTV bumper used for a show ("Decade: 1980-1989") "sponsored by" the Amiga, Burger King, and Nintendo. :) (205k .avi)

Please don't steal my commercials like some other mean people :(

HIGHER-QUALITY VIDEO COMING SOON!

LINKS TO OTHER PAGES

WATCH an Amiga CD32 commercial!
This page has a commercial for the Commodore Amiga CD32 - the world's first 32-bit video game system. (I'm assuming this was never shown in the US...or maybe anywhere else for that matter.) Click on the "multimedia" link.

WATCH a Commodore 64 commercial
A C64 commercial circa late-'80s.

More commercials and advertisements!
Collecting Commodore TV commercials (mine are included) as well as old advertisements. I also donated mine (see, if you ask nicely... ;)

Anti-Windows Boot Screens
A few pictures I made that you can use as your PC's boot screen to express your frustration with Windows.

WATCH the original Amiga "Juggler" animation.
Site explaining the Juggler animation and has it encoded as a Windows .avi. I haven't actually tried it on an Amiga, but MooVid plays avi's so if anyone tries it let me know! (I remember seeing a clip of this animation in Tom Petty's "Jammin' Me" video from 1987 by the way.) Now if someone could scan the original "Boing!" animation that would be cool....

Commodore Curiosity Page
Pictures and specs on rare C= products, including the Commodore 65!

Back to HOMEPAGE
Scans of some of my videos, fun links, Pink Floyd stuff, Queen stuff, '80s stuff, etc.

Article in FORBES Magazine about the Amiga joining Linux.

NEWS AND PICTURES FROM GATEWAY AMIGA 2001 SHOW


(Since August 2003)

Hopefully a better layout of this page will come eventually...I have just been adding things here and there and I know it's beginning to look like a mess :)

If you want cheap internet access while avoiding the Microsoft (and AOL) service, I have been very happy with Juno:


Read the AmigaWorld Andy Warhol interview from 1985.


[Amiga Web Ring]
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Keep computer history from being rewritten by the winners.


Look at all these celebrities! Buzz from NASA, the Pointer Sisters, etc.



The International Anti-MS Network
The Webring connecting anti-Microsoft sites...


A fatal exception OE has occured in module SOLITAIRE at 
10B3:23A132C9.  The current application will be terminated.

   * Press any key to continue.  There is a 1% chance that 
     another application won't crash.
     
   * Press CTRL-ALT-DEL to restart your computer.  You will 
     lose any unsaved information, and your hard drive could
     crash with all the wear and tear the Windows boot
     procedure will place on it, just like how it always has to
     run when you move the mouse.

...with the goal of ending the Blue Screen of Death.

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Illustrated Computer Dictionary for Dummies

definition (circa 1995):

Amiga: (noun) The most technologically advanced computer that hardly anyone cares about. Use in sentence: "I wanted to buy an Amiga for its low price and great color graphics, but everyone else seems to be using IBMs or Macintoshes. So, to remain compatible with the rest of the world, I spent three times as much on a Macintosh and got only half the graphics capability of an Amiga."


Below is an actual ad for a book by
MICROSOFT PRESS
about the "fantastic" Amiga!
(I found this in Commodore Magazine, July 1987...click to enlarge)

MicrosoftAmigaAd



Unlike many computer "history" pages which don't even turn up any results for the term "Amiga", I was surprised at finding an entry in the AOL Webopedia (now apparently the ZD Net Webopedia) for the "powerful" Amiga, and even a mention of the Amiga under the "multitasking" term.

AmigaAdTut

Here are some more '80s Amiga ads...they're great ads, but Commodore unfortunately just put them in their own magazines: