Untitled Document


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21:sept//2K - the amiga

The Early Years

This is the first of a special series of features focusing on the Amiga computing platform, over them I will take you through what an Amiga is (in case you were either on Mars during the late '80's/early '90's or if you are too young to recall the glory days), what went wrong and where Amiga is now. Hopefully, this will be a regular occurrence - feature "themes" so to speak.

The Amiga has arguably had more of an impact than any other games system on the industry - if it wasn't for the Amiga it is likely that the UK wouldn't have had such a high profile development community today.

The man behind the Amiga was called Jay Miner, before joining the Amiga team he had drifted amongst technology startups in Silicon Valley before eventually gaining a job with Atari. They he worked on the 2600 before going on to help create the Atari 400 and 800. However, he wasn't really interested in all this, what he really wanted was to produce a 16-bit home computer (stop laughing this was a long time ago!) but Atari wasn't interested mainly due to cost - so he quit.

In 1982 Miner joined a bloke called Larry Kaplan (another ex-Atari man) and Dave Morse (ex-Tonka toys), who had been approached by investors with regards to developing a new games console.

Miner though wanted to develop a fully blown home computer, not a console and so without telling the investors they went ahead with this plan. The group which eventually decided to call itself Amiga was joined by a number of highly talented, but quirky programmers and engineers - not all who would have found employment at more conservative companies.

Miner interviewed Carl Sassenrath for a job designing the new machines Operating System. He was asked what he really wanted to design and he eventually came up with the Amiga's kernal Exec, a multitasking system - the first home computer OS to include multitasking.

The WIMP environment was taken care of by RJ Mical, it was called Intuition and in these days he basically took care of the task completely by himself. The task took him three weeks solid, only asking for help once!

The custom graphics co-processor was being designed at the same time by Miner himself - it included a blitter for moving rapidly areas of graphics RAM. He came up with all sorts of functions for the blitter, but line drawing was only added later, much later in fact - two weeks before the Amiga was to debut at the CES show in New York.

The machine was a huge success at the show, however the company was in financial trouble. This was at a time when there had been a general down turn in the gaming industry and investors were beginning to get itchy feet. The team were running short of cash to turn their dream of a fully blown home computer into a reality. At one stage Morse had to take out a second mortgage to pay the wages and the bills.

They made it through to the next CES show, but by that stage it was obvious that if the Amiga was going to survive, the company had to be sold. Atari desperately wanted the custom chip-set technology and bailed the group out with $500,000, which was apparently all spent the next day.

The condition was that either the money was paid back in thirty days, the company sold out to Atari or they licensed the chip-set. However, Commodore stepped in and bought the company from under Atari's noses - obviously pissed off, Atari went ahead without the chip-set and produced the ST...

[click to continue]

//agi. [agi@fsmail.net]