The demise of Amiga should have come about when Commodore went bankrupt in 1994. It was, however, a survivor from the beginning. Even before it was a Commodore product.
Jay Miner, who had developed the Atari 800 chip set, created the Amiga Corporation to allegedly produce a games machine. Actual ambitions went beyond this application, however. This was especially the case when the US computer games market crashed in 1983. The world’s first multitasking computer was developed and – instead of getting bought and sunk by rivals like Apple – the Amiga Corporation was acquired by Commodore in 1984. Ten years later, Commodore was no more and the future of Amiga systems looked uncertain.
The AmigaOne X1000 is the flagship system running AmigaOS 4.1. It had been intended for a summer release in 2010 in order to mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the first Amiga 1000 system. However, it started shipping in late 2011 because of delays. The AmigaOne X3500 and AmigaOne X5000 got announced at Amiwest 2013 – one of the largest events on the Amiga enthusiast calendar. Users decided that the X5000 would be released as the X5000/20 and X5000/40. The suffix is a Commodore tradition used to distinguish between the P5020 and P5040 CPU variant.
Nostalgia versus Survival
Despite the odd legal battle here and there, the Amiga has survived because of its loyal user base. When new hardware looked like an improbable dream, AmigaOS was modified to run on other platforms. For example, MorphOS works on PowerPC based Apple Macs and AROS on PC. ClusterUK Ltd even demonstrated AROS running on a Raspberry Pi – the credit card sized computer designed to teach the basics of computing. The company also designed their own system called the IMICA. Standalone AROS units start at USD $25 via Raspberry Pi. An All-In-One IMICA can be acquired from ClusterUK for circa USD $335.
Another interesting twist on the Amiga legacy is the Minimig. A Dutch electrical engineer called Dennis Van Weeran replicated the Amiga 500 through Minimig in 2006. It is an open source re-implementation of the most popular Amiga computer sold. A field programmable gate array “FPGA” chip was used to do this – a microchip that can be programmed after manufacture, as opposed to being built to defined specifications. It essentially brought the otherwise retired system back to life. The source code and schematics for the Minimig are now available under a General Public License.
The Amiga brand changed hands several times after Commodore went bankrupt. German PC manufacturer Escom AG acquired Amiga in 1994 but went bankrupt itself in 1996. Gateway Inc. then acquired certain rights and incorporated Amiga Inc. as a company in South Dakota in 1997. Two subcontractors then stepped in after Gateway decided that Amiga Inc. would close in 1999. Bill McEwen and Barrie Jon “Fleecy” Moss bought the Amiga.com domain name and the right to incorporate elsewhere. In this case, the State of Washington.
The Amiga brand now exists as a smart acquisition based on licensing rights. The AmigaOne brand is used for a PowerPC based architecture, as seen through the likes of the X1000. It is the system that currently runs on the successor to the original AmigaOS operating system.
In addition to this, CommodoreUSA paid for the right to use the Amiga name. It was used to brand a desktop computer that ran on a Linux based Workbench 5.0. Since the death of founder Barry S. Altman in December 2012, the CommodoreUSA branch of the Amiga family tree remains a mystery.
Amiga Inc. also licensed the name for a series of Tablets and All-In-One computers in Hong Kong. These were manufactured by IContain Systems, Ltd.
The AmigaOne systems are designed to run AmigaOS 4. There were, however, other AmigaOne systems from different companies before A-EON Technologies announced the AmigaOne X1000 in 2010 (see the lineage above). The company is a labour of love for business angel Trevor Dickinson. His affections for Commodore systems began with a PET in 1980. The pleasure he gets from doing business through A-EON Technology can be seen in Trevor’s Blog.
The X1000 was the platform needed to drive future developments like the X3500, X5000/20 and X5000/40. The Cyrus Plus motherboard is also a good example of the right personalities creating a sustainable approach to technology development.
Aminet is the world’s largest archive of Amiga software and files. It was originally hosted on university based servers. Some of the more vocal Amiga users include Dan Woods – radio presenter and blogger at kookytech.net. His video on being an Amiga user in 2011 is featured above. It also inspired other Amigans to share their views through social media as well. For a fair and fascinating look at the evolution of a newer system visit Epsilon’s AmigaOne X1000 Blog. The insights of this Australia based user has helped X1000 owners all over the world. Even Trevor Dickinson has acknowledged Epsilon as an excellent resource.
One of the largest community portals is amigaworld.net, which is described as receiving ¾ million views on average each month. Even magazines like Amiga Future continue to be published every two months.
Note: the sources mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg for a global network of very active users.
The Amiga is a system with a lineage that is as legitimate as one of its surviving competitors from the 1980s. It was a computer with a massive following in Europe – to a point that, when Commodore folded in the US, it was a German company that kept the Amiga alive.
Today, the strength of the Amiga brand, as well as system architecture, can be seen on two noticeable fronts. First, the continued success of its corporate repackaging by Amiga Inc. Second, by a user community that refuses to let Amiga based computing fade into obscurity.
The Amiga continues to survive despite bankruptcy, legal disputes and wilderness years in terms of development. It is the Lazarus of the computer world because it refuses to die. It may also have weathered a storm of unfortunate circumstances to see brighter days ahead – especially at a time when product design and manufacture has never been easier or more affordable.