... but will the World even notice?
January 18, 2005 6:47 AM   Subscribe

Back from the dead? The first mainstream review of the new Amiga hits the 'web. It's taken several years (discussed here at the back-end of 2000) but finally there is new hardware and software available.
Will it set the world alight (again)? Who will replace Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol at the launch party? Will it need to (or be able to) compete with the new Macmini? And - perhaps more importantly - where are Amiga, Inc., and who are KMOS?
posted by Chunder (33 comments total)
Yes, I'm a bit of an Amiga junkie I'm afraid!

There's lots of clued-up peeps here, so I thought:
(a) there'd probably be a bit of interest - even if it's only nostalgia
(b) I'd be interested to find out whether there's a precedent for the resurrection of old technology; historically it seems that once something is "dead" it stays that way. What's different about the Amiga?
(c) whether anyone could think of any market niches that are left for a new Amiga, which haven't been subsumed by Microsoft or Apple...

If anyone's interested, the official Amiga forum is here
posted by Chunder at 6:47 AM on January 18, 2005

Amazing! I used to love love love my Amiga.
posted by muckster at 7:03 AM on January 18, 2005

I used to love love love my Amiga.

I made love to a BBC Micro.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:08 AM on January 18, 2005

Dude, the Atari 800xl rulez!
posted by ph00dz at 7:11 AM on January 18, 2005

I appreciate the Amiga as a "way ahead of it's time" machine, like NeXT- they were they underdog's underdog.

But what I don't understand is the drive to "update it". Is there any true use for it other than nostalgia? As neat-o as some of the features may have been in they heyday, they seem quaint by today's standards (Oooh, support for Radeon! An improved TCP/IP stack!). I guess really what I'm asking is- does AmigaOS stand a chance as a viable, modern OS, or is it a hobbyist thing?
posted by mkultra at 7:20 AM on January 18, 2005

I loved my Amigas (A1000, A500, A3000), but that was twelve years ago. I don't see giving up OS X for AmigaOS nowdays.

UNIX has spoiled me. It was great to have true multitasking back in the days when everyone else was running DOS on PS/2 Model 25s though.

I did the graphics and titles for our high school TV news show on an A1000 with its composite video-out connected to a VCR.
posted by mrbill at 7:37 AM on January 18, 2005

Let's play the Amiga game: Name some OS feature of OS X or Windows XP and wait for the Amiga fans to tell you that the Amiga had that in 1985.
posted by tommasz at 7:42 AM on January 18, 2005

BeOS did everything the Amiga did, much better. It was far advanced over where this OS is now, and it was there five years ago. It was a dismal, miserable failure.

Now, I loved my Amigas. I still play the games through emulation. It was, entirely literally, 10 years ahead of its time, maybe 12. (and in computer time that is A LONG WAY ahead.)

But it's dead. Dead, dead, dead. BeOS was better and died. Linux is better for most things, and it's free. OSX is superior, beautiful, and supported. Even Windows XP absolutely kicks the Amiga's butt in every imaginable way.

All they're doing here is trading on nostalgia... yes, the Amiga was impossibly wonderful for the time, but that was TWENTY YEARS AGO. We were cool, froody, and different... and that time is as gone as tie-dye and Vietnam protests.

This ISN'T THE AMIGA, it's just... an OS that uses the name. It's like naming your kids after grandpa... no matter how many Billy Joe Bobs you hatch, grandpa is still dead.
posted by Malor at 7:44 AM on January 18, 2005

Oh, sweet sweet Amiga, how I loved you.

I'm kind of ambivalent about its revival, though...back in the day, one could tick off all the things an Amiga could do that an ordinary PC couldn't do and quickly run out of fingers and toes. Now, though, what's the killer app that will have broad appeal for more than the hardcore nostalgiacs (is that even a word?)? Perhaps I'm being unnecessarily pessimistic -- it's not as though any of the previous innovations saved the Amiga the first time around.

I despair that Amigas went the way of the dodo bird once already, and I think I'd hate it even more if there was a a second silent shuffling-off into obscurity after its hailed return.
posted by contessa at 7:46 AM on January 18, 2005

My first WOW moment with computers was when Frank Kozik showed me how he did the stretching and bending on one of the Butthole Surfer's album covers back in 90 or 91. It was sort of a "shit, that's easy!" kind of thing. Up until then, I'd only made a couple of text-only flyers on a B&W Mac 128k and Windows 3.1 286's. I hope this works out for the Amiga folks.

Clued-up peeps? Not in these kicks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:47 AM on January 18, 2005

What mrbill said.

You could try it the other way, tommasz, and name features that OS X and XP still don't have: like the ability to give each app its own 'screen', each with different resolutions ... and then drag down the menu bar to have them both on display at once. Turning any folder into a virtual drive, that was nice too.

I was wondering, though, why Apple didn't think back to those days and put the Mac mini into the keyboard, just like my old A1200. That would have solved the keyboard grouching, and meant they could keep the old "where's the computer?" gag.
posted by bonaldi at 7:48 AM on January 18, 2005

I'm in the market ... someone sell me a PowerMiga with dual processors and a coupla gigs of ram please.
posted by devbrain at 8:00 AM on January 18, 2005

The multiple screen thing was fairly cool for the time.... back then, you had to make a tradeoff of either resolution or color depth. You couldn't have both at the same time, so letting different apps make different choices, and yet being able to run them all at once, was quite useful. And it was a great demo when I was selling them, because I could drag the Workbench screen down and show potential customers the demo running on the screen in the back. If you looked closely, there were about three blank lines between the two screens... the Amiga used that time to reprogram the video chipset from one display to the next.

But I'd submit that the actual multiple-visible-screens trick wasn't that useful. Being able to run the multiple apps was useful, but how often did you actually get more than one showing at a time?

Nowadays, we don't have to make the choice between colors and resolution. Most apps run great in a window on your desktop. There are some, like games, that work best full screen... and you can indeed run those if you choose, even several at the same time, and flip amongst them with alt-tab.

You can't drag one down and have part of each showing... but really, except for demoing just how powerful the Amiga was, when did you actually *do* that for real? I virtually never did, myself. For actual use, alt-tab is fine.

I'm not sure what you mean about turning folders into virtual drives... do you mean the assignable device names? As in, 'assign devicename: /to/some/path'? That was quite cool, and made installing things onto hard drives very easy.
posted by Malor at 8:03 AM on January 18, 2005

That's it exactly, Malor0:

I used to use the screen-drag trick when creating figures in DPaint (shudder) and then referring to them when writing words in Wordsworth2 (awww)
posted by bonaldi at 8:31 AM on January 18, 2005

Mayor Curley, are you referring to this kind of making love to a BBC micro by any chance?

Like C3PO but with pubes and hair. Genius.
posted by ciderwoman at 8:41 AM on January 18, 2005

Turning any folder into a virtual drive, that was nice too.

Can't you do that in XP by setting it up as a share and then mounting the share as a drive?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:42 AM on January 18, 2005

Why is it I never realized, until today, that Amiga means "female friend"?
posted by bardic at 8:45 AM on January 18, 2005

The AmigaOS is small (tiny, even!) fast, and Internet-ready, yet already has a large library of supported applications, exactly what is needed for the next generation of cell phones and other handheld devices.

Wishful thinking?
posted by Tlogmer at 8:46 AM on January 18, 2005

Yup, this is a trip down memory lane, but nothing more than a trip. I'm always glad to know that there are hobbyists out there that are trying to keep the name alive and doing something interesting with it. But I just can't see this having much purpose.

I loved my Amigas (500 and 2000). Awesome machines. Great games. Decent apps. So far ahead of its time that I can only shake my head and wonder WTF happened at Commodore that could've screwed it up?

After cutting my teeth on the AppleII platform, and loving it, the switch to Amiga blew my mind. I couldn't be bothered with PCs until the 386 and VGA graphics, and that was just for games. I still did programming (AMOS!), music making, writing, and DTP on my Amiga until Win 95. The Mac was just an over-priced boat-anchor until OS X.

Amiga spoiled me rotten. :-)

Good memories, but nothing more.
posted by C.Batt at 8:59 AM on January 18, 2005

Frank Kozik showed me how he did the stretching and bending on one of the Butthole Surfer's album covers back in 90 or 91.

Would that be the cover to Pioughd? I was listening to that last night! And that cover is grotesque.
posted by sourwookie at 9:03 AM on January 18, 2005

#1 Reason the Amiga rawked:

Two words: Video Toaster. It's platform-independent these days.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:19 AM on January 18, 2005

This too shall pass. I loved my Amiga, but this looks like a product searching for a purpose.
posted by jeblis at 9:22 AM on January 18, 2005

Hmmm, 6 minutes? Hardly a record.
posted by tommasz at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2005

This is the sort of technically impressive yet pointless exercise of dreamers dreaming in the wrong direction. Trying to revive the Amiga is less sensible than trying to shove a BMW 3 series drivetrain into a 1938 Buick. I, too remember the Amiga and the great games (for the 80s) it had – a schoolmate of mine had a decked out A500 with boxes and boxes of pirated games. But it looked cheap and the Commodore brand had a toyshop cachet so when our home got PCs we went with proper machines from Apple and IBM before becoming Mac people. It was impressive for its time, but I remember being nauseated by the purple, crude looking Mac knockoff interface with the ugly, huge orange pointer. It made Windows 3.1 look like it was designed by Saul Bass or something – then I noticed that humble PC clone with a VGA card and an Adlib card seemed rather better for games, as did my Mega Drive. It is worth remembering that some of the ‘amazing’ things the Amiga could do were tricks and hacks of various sorts that made software unstable and prevented software and hardware upgrades as software was written in ways as eccentric and hardware dependent as you like. At standard resolution it could natively display 32 colours from 4096, to display 64 it used a trick called ‘Super Half Bright’ where it could also display 32 dimmer versions of the same colours – this was great for shadows etc in games but otherwise a novelty. The 4096 colour mode was mainly for still images and used another hack where the colour values of adjacent pixels could be altered. It was a mess from a engineering perspective. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great machine for its price from 1985 to about 1989 on the basis of price. Anyone buying an expensive Linux PPC board and installing a novelty OS on it, for a price far more than a Mac Mini or budget PC that will happy emulate any Amiga software anyway, is smoking big rocks. Bizarre and irrelevant. I have more respect for the weirdos attempting to solder USB ports onto ten year old Newtons for no apparent reason.
posted by The Salaryman at 9:40 AM on January 18, 2005

Can we have a moment of remembrance for the Jackintosh?

I remember the tough choice between the Mac, Amiga, and Jackintosh. That machine seemed to reboot a LOT.
posted by Aknaton at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2005

I remember using an Amiga with Video Toaster and Lighwave in my high school animation class. Fond memories, except the part where it took 15 minutes to render a frame. That sucked. However, at the time it definitely blew the doors off Windows 3.1.

I'm pretty sure that this is being resurrected for the value of the name. The fact that so many people remember it means they don't have to do any advertising to get brand recognition. The same applies to Atari and Commodore.
posted by mullingitover at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2005

Some things the Amiga didn't have that its contemporaries did:

WSIWYG editing.
Attractive, useful interface.
Fun games
Useful apps for stuff that wasn't going to a TV monitor.
posted by fleacircus at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2005

This is pointless. Death happens for a reason. It's as bad as using dead stars in commercials. Leave the dead alone. Poor Amiga.
posted by effwerd at 12:55 PM on January 18, 2005

fleacircus: What were you doing on the machine that made flicker that big of an issue? And I assume you're joking about the fun games bit.

Just the other day I was waxing nostalgic about playing Chaos Engine on the Amiga while listening to the Pinback song of the same name. Good times.
posted by Luciferous at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2005

if you want to experience something like the amiga os without actually buying a pegasos board, I suggest (a) as mentioned, beos or (2) qnx's neutrino/momentics, which is amazing and free for personal use (or used to be last time I played with it)
posted by dorian at 1:45 PM on January 18, 2005

Turning any folder into a virtual drive, that was nice too.

Can't you do that in XP by setting it up as a share and then mounting the share as a drive?

I doubt that would work reliably. Instead, use subst, which has been around since MS-DOS 3.1 came out in 1985 and has been in DOS and Windows since. I used to use it to fool naive programs into thinking that a directory was a CD-ROM drive.
posted by zsazsa at 2:12 PM on January 18, 2005

fleacircus, I ran Professional Page on my A1000 for years, and had full WYSIWYG editing. I've heard that Pagestream was good, too. Another good thing about the Amiga was that you never had to reboot to enable a new hardware driver or install a program. I didn't get a PC for home use until 1999. I'd say 2 computers lasting 13 years is a good run.
posted by rfs at 9:26 PM on January 18, 2005

The guru sez: it wasn't all roses. Keep in mind that it was a pre-emptive multitasking os... without memory protection. Boy is that ever a recipe for disaster.
posted by NortonDC at 6:41 PM on January 19, 2005

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