I’ve mentioned many times in the past how I was once a die-hard Amiga fan having owned four of the machines over the years with three still packed away among the boxes in the basement. I’m about to add a fourth back into the mix as my good friend Hairboy is going to give me his old Amiga 500 which is one of the few models I haven’t owned previously. I didn’t make the switch to a Windows based PC until 1996 after Windows 95 had established itself and even then I continued to make heavy use of my Amigas for another year or so which is impressive when you consider that Commodore kicked the bucket in 1994.
I’ve long been surprised that no one has ever written a book about the history of the Amiga or of Commodore so that makes the ArsTechnica article long overdue in my book. Here’s an excerpt from A history of the Amiga, part 1: Genesis:
This series of articles attempts to explain what the Amiga was, what it meant to its designers and users, and why, despite its relative obscurity and early demise, it mattered so much to the computer industry. It follows some of the people whose lives were changed by their contact with the Amiga and shows what they are doing today. Finally, it looks at the small but dedicated group of people who have done what many thought was impossible and developed a new Amiga computer and operating system, ten years after the bankruptcy of Commodore. Long after most people had given up the Amiga for dead, these people have given their time, expertise and money in pursuit of this goal.
To many people, these efforts seem futile, even foolish. But to those who understand, who were there and lived through the Amiga at the height of its powers, they do not seem foolish at all.
But the story is about something else as well. More than a tale about a computer maker, this is the story about the age-old battle between mediocrity and excellence, the struggle between merely existing and trying to go beyond expectations. At many points in the story, the struggle is manifested by two sides: the hard-working, idealistic engineers driven to the bursting point and beyond to create something new and wonderful, and the incompetent and often avaricious managers and executives who end up destroying that dream. But the story goes beyond that. At its core, it is about people, not just the designers and programmers, but the users and enthusiasts, everyone whose lives were touched by the Amiga. And it is about me, because I count myself among those people, despite being over a decade too late to the party.
All these people have one thing in common. They understand the power of the dream.
I can recall engaging in big arguments on various BBS forums back in the day about whether or not the Amiga would ever overtake the industry. At one time I was an Amiga True Believer™ and argued that it was only a matter of time before the machine would come out on top purely by virtue of it being a better mousetrap with an evangelical zeal that would’ve made Jerry Falwell envious. I remember the slowly dawning sense of disillusionment as it became clear that Commodore was run by people who were more interested in short-term profits than longtime viability. People often say they can remember where they were when they heard JFK had been assassinated and the day Commodore closed its doors forever holds a similar spot in my memory. I was the very definition of an Amiga Fan Boy and if I suddenly were to come into wealth beyond imagination the one thing I’d seriously consider doing would be to try and revive that platform from the grave. And buy a nice home. I mean, as long as I’m dreaming…
Anyway, the first article at Ars is off to a good start and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. If you’re an old Amiga fan, or just interested in computer history, then go check it out.
Oh, and if any of you happen to have an old A3000 compatible Ethernet card laying around let me know as I’ve been trying to track one down for ages.