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A blast from the past

A friend forever: The history and legacy of Amiga

Sarah Schlothauer
amiga
© Shutterstock / Cat Naya

Over 30 years ago, Commodore released a new computer: the Amiga. With a thriving, active fanbase, the Amiga is still sometimes overlooked as an important part of tech history. Put on the nostalgia goggles, it’s time to take a look at this iconic computer and its lasting legacy.

Most of the tech world faces the future, looking at current trends and predicting what advances are just over the horizon. For some dedicated fans however, technology is all about the past. Retro computing is still alive, and that comes as no surprise to fans of yesteryear games or people with an interest in the history of tech. Meet the Amiga.

Despite being discontinued in 1996, this computer boasts a strong fanbase even after over 30 years since its release back in 1985. Let’s pay tribute to this behemoth of computing that was ahead of its time.

Amiga

© Bill Bertram 2006

Iconic beginnings

One of the Amiga’s strengths was its use as a creative computer with its revolutionary graphics capabilities. At its release in ’85, the Amiga 1000 could display up to 4096 colors and had 8-bit stereo support. After Commodore filed for bankruptcy, Byte magazine praised the Amiga 1000 by stating it was “the first multimedia computer…so far ahead of its time that almost nobody – including Commodore’s marketing department – could fully articulate what it was all about.”

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In 1985, legendary artist Andy Warhol created artwork on the Amiga that was only recently extracted from an obscure format. These works are now on exhibit at the Warhol museum, thanks to the dedicated art restoration from Carnegie Mellon University.

Running in the 90’s

The year is 1992: Bill Clinton is elected as President, the first McDonald’s opens in China, Windows 3.1 is released, Aladdin is in movie theaters, and the radio is playing Pearl Jam. The Oculus Rift is still 24 years away, but the Amiga 3000 was already creating VR games. A YouTube video demonstrates the classic virtual reality tech that may look blocky and dated now, but was futuristic for the early 90’s. (Just compare the game footage to the 1995 Virtual Boy. The difference is night and day. No eye strain, no glaring red LEDs, no lackluster 3D effects.)

The 90’s ushered in a new era of gaming for the Amiga. Many iconic and cult classics were published during this time, including the 1991 puzzle-platformer Lemmings.

Éric Chahi’s iconic cinematic platformer Another World (also known as Out of This World in North America) was also released on the Amiga. Compared to its Atari ST port, the Amiga version has better sound, and better colors, solidifying itself as the superior gaming computer. Retro gaming classics such as Sid Meier’s Civilization, Bubble Bobble, and The Secret of Monkey Island graced the Amiga and fans remember fondly.

amiga

Source: Eric Schwartz

My name is Ozymandias

All things must come to an end. Amiga closed up shop in 1996. Sales had been slow for years and the untouchable popularity of Windows 95 put a nail in the struggling computer’s coffin.

As physical technology ages, so does its parts, and like an aging body it must be maintained. By now, the plastic parts of Amiga machines have turned a grimy yellow. However, collectors’ have developed their own solution to the problem with DIY chemical mixes such as Retr0brite to breath new life into vintage tech.

Old 3.5 floppy disks are nearing the end of their lifespan. As disk rot sets in, they become de-magnetized over time and many old files are lost to the passage of time. Fan projects continuously work on emulating the OS and backing up old files for historical preservation. While we can never know how much data has already crumbled away, we can still preserve the history. Retro gaming Let’s Play videos and Twitch streams are currently propping up old, forgotten media for a new generation curious about the games of yesteryear.

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Legends never die

Fear not for the future of Amiga, because new games are even still in production for Amiga systems. Pixelglass developed a new OCS game called Worthy – an maze-filled adventure game. Not only can it purchased digitally, it is also available in a nostalgic floppy disk format. Indie developers are also creating unofficial fan projects, including optimizations of old titles, and clones of popular games.

Musicians are also still making music using retro hardware. Indie musicians create chiptunes using the Amiga’s sound chip and the community is thriving on music sharing sites such as SoundCloud and BandCamp.

Even big names have made their mark using Amiga hardware. Scottish DJ produced his debut album I Created Disco using an Amiga computer. Even Kanye West got his start using Amiga hardware.

The Amiga fanbase still lives on. It will take a lot more than the demise of Commodore to keep such a beloved computer from gathering dust.

Author
Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is an assistant editor for JAXenter.com. She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University in Long Branch, New Jersey and is currently enrolled at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany where she is working on her Masters. She lives in Frankfurt with her husband and cat.

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