The Amiga Revolution!
The Amiga-500 revolutionized the personal computer market by placing a hybrid 16/32-bit processor (the Motorola 68000), a dedicated hardware graphics pipeline, and a dedicated audio processor in the hands of the hobbyist. I’m not sure I can put into words just what a revolution this was. Prior to the Amiga, if you wanted to render an image on the screen of a personal computer, you’d have it’s CPU copy the data for that image, pixel-by-pixel, into video memory.
On the Amiga, you could simply instruct its ‘blitter’ chip to do that work for you, freeing up the CPU. Similarly with Audio, the earlier Commodore 64 had a ‘SID’ chip for audio processing, but the CPU would have to carefully marshal the timing of that chip, and the data going to it. With the Amiga, you could instruct it’s dedicated ‘Paula’ audio chip to begin playing a sample from memory. A chip named Agnus was used to provide hardware marshaling of the systems data-bus, so that the CPU could run at full speed (7.16Mhz) while the graphics and audio hardware did their thing in the ‘time-gaps’ between the CPU access to memory.
The faster processor could do more work, in less time, and because of the other chips, had less work to do. The result was, for it’s day, staggering.
Unfortunately, I did not own an Amiga-1000 or an Amiga-500. It was not something that my parents could afford to buy for me at the time. A friend of mine however did own an Amiga-500, and I have fond memories of the 2-3 year period spent visiting his home to write our first compiler together using Amos Basic. I would then go home and code up small parts of the compiler on my Commodore-64, write them down (yes on paper!), and having tested those functions take them to my friend the next day to copy-type into his Amiga. It would be six years before I finally owned an Amiga of my own. Christmas 1992, my parents bought the newly released Amiga-1200 for me. I was now a 13-y/o with what to me, was a super-computer!
The Amiga-1200 was of course a heavily improved Amiga over the earlier models with a more powerful graphics processor, now capable of SVGA resolutions up-to 800×600, and even a 1024×768 mode though it was not officially supported. It had a 16.8Million color palette, displaying up-to 256 colors on screen at any time, and up-to 262,144 colors on screen in the hold-and-modify mode. The newer Motorola 68020 processor now at 14.18Mhz and a whopping 2MB of RAM!
My Amiga-1200 was my fondest possession through 1992-1997 by which time I was in college and also owned a PC for school work. Sadly, it’s days were numbered as my need for a PC grew with the PC market and Amiga computers sold to Gateway 2000 in 1999. By the time Amiga sold to Gateway, its market was dying rapidly and the acquisition really sealed that fate. In fact, the Amiga magazines that I was reading at the time speculated that Gateway bought Amiga to squash the potential competition for their PCs, and, well it appears they may have had a point.