Could anything have saved the Amiga?

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Catatonic
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Two other computing

Two other computing platforms remind me of Amiga: OpenStep (from Steve Jobs' company NextStep) and BeOS. All were considered ahead of their time, and achieved cult status. OpenStep got lucky when Apple saved it (and vice-versa). Amiga was probably too far gone at the time to have been considered by Apple.

Mark Vergeer
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Amiga not one single compatible platform

The Amiga was years ahead of it's time, but what is also true is that it was pretty pricy when you compared it to non-comparable other systems out there AND the fact that so many incarnations of the Amiga platform existed with different chip sets (ECS, AGA) and different versions of Workbench. Non standard cd-rom implementations that were later added on and differend among Amiga models (very much like the pc-situation was at the time with panasonic non-ide interfaces etc). How come cd32 software titles don't run from cd-rom drives installed in an Amiga4000? How come a good games machine is actually an Amiga 500/600 and not the much more powerful Ax000 series?
I think the Amiga was just way ahead of it's time. It just peaked early - too early for a whole portion of the population that discovered computers a tad later. Mind you PC clones were a lot cheaper than Amiga's over here in the Netherlands. Also Atari ST was more affordable and seemed more uniform/compatible across the various TOS/Hardware incarnations - but I believe the latter is what hurt Atari too. AmigaOS/Workbench was way more advanced than the Apple OS at the time and the hardware was more powerful - what made Apple win in the end was the fact that there was more uniformity (perhaps even a little dull) and more compatibility - even across various hardware/OS versions.
The Amiga is a very special machine that easily could have been more powerful/influential than it actually has been. Don't underestimate the influence it had and actually still has on current computers. How different was the cd-32 from a playstation? Same basic concept, but the Amiga cd32 was more versatile albeit lacking in 3D power that the PSX had. It all comes down to timing and marketing. Don't flood the market with too many hardware incarnations with too large breaks in compatibility - Apple does seem to get away with that but all current and older hardware runs the same OS and software. The Sega Dreamcast failed for a large part due to timing and marketing flaws - like the Amiga it was a very special platform deserving more than it got.
Still it remains guesswork for me. An interesting discussion nonetheless - especially during a night shift waiting for a patient to arrive and to admit to the psychiatric ward ;P The last sentence might sound like nonsense but some will know what I mean ;)



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Bill Loguidice
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More pontification
Matt Barton wrote:

Another point is that the majority of viewers have never seen an Amiga, Atari ST, and probably not even a Commodore. They all have seen PCs and Macs, though.

I don't buy the corporate interests thing, myself. It's irrelevant in many cases. I think the issue is is partly what you're saying in the quote above - that audience recognition would be near zero, so it's simply ignored, and partly that the people creating these documentaries and the like either don't believe (through ignorance) that any other platforms were really historically worthy for whatever reason, or don't have compelling people to interview or know of compelling stories to tell. This is unfortunate because it's not true. It's one thing to try and interview someone associated with an also-ran like the Timex Sinclair 2068, it's another to interview someone who was involved with Commodore and its Amiga line. There are plenty of fascinating interviewees available.

Matt Barton wrote:

On a plus side, it's pretty much instant friendship when you run into a true Amigan. I remember once while I was in a rock band that I went to see a guy's studio. This must have been 98 or 99. Anyway, the centerpiece was an Amiga (either a 1200 or 4000) that he still swore by. Of course, the thing was heavily modded, and could access the internet, etc. I was blown away. To put it bluntly, the "party stopped" so this guy and I could wax on for hours about the Amiga.

This is true. I even loved something similar with MST3K years and years ago, when Crow and Tom Servo were arguing the benefits of Mac versus PC and then Joel came out with a sly smile and asked them if they "Saw my Amiga's mouse". The two robots then promptly joined in against Joel. Any little bit of pop culture reference or any other individual "in the know" was always a special treat as an Amiga owner. And yes, the "fantasy" of any Amiga owner was for someone else to ask, "What's a PC (or Mac)?" rather than "What's an Amiga?", which was long since the mantra...

Matt Barton wrote:

I think what happened to the Amiga (not so sure about the Atari) is that eventually the company ended up in the hands of CEOs who cared little about the future; they just wanted to make a quick buck and get out of there. They had no personal investment. The opposite is true of Apple; say what you want about Steve Jobs, the man LOVES Apple and the computers it makes. I guess you could say that about Bill Gates, though he's caught so much flack it's no wonder he's spending more time overseas helping out. :)

The cult of personality in the technology world is often overlooked. It's certainly a factor. Having Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Nolan Bushnell, etc., as the heads/voices of their respective companies certainly helped as they were all charismatic/talented and were passionate about their products. Tramiel was something like that when he was with Commodore, but certainly lost whatever magic he had when he went over to Atari. When the future was uncertain (personal computing and videogames) and these companies needed guidance beyond the business suits, having a charismatic and driven leader was all but a necessity. Today, with the industry stabilized, these corporations can run themselves, even in the face of massive strategic mistakes (a la Sony with the PS3, which is now in a recovery period that would have killed lesser companies long before reaching it). And yes, like him or not, Jobs has proven to be a bold visionary, with his focus on aesthetics and simplified function righting an Apple ship that was floundering under the business-as-usual Sculley. Only Jobs can make the Apple faithful froth at the mouth like he does at the regular Apple "religious" events where new products are previewed. That goes a long way.



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Matt Barton
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Oldschool, I totally

Oldschool, I totally appreciate what you're saying, and I have a theory of my own. Why does Amiga (not to mention almost any other platform you want to mention) never get mentioned on popular documentaries and what-not? It's because there is no corporate interest in those platforms anymore, which ultimately boils down to funding. Microsoft and Apple are still around and have an interest in seeing "history" preserved the way they want. History is written by the winners, as the old cliche has it. It certainly doesn't help that the ST and Amiga were pretty much an isolated community, with little in the way of mass advertising to earn brand recognition. Mac is doing the right thing with the advertising; even if most people don't rush out to buy a Mac, at least it keeps the name out there and people don't scratch their heads when you say you have a Mac.

Another point is that the majority of viewers have never seen an Amiga, Atari ST, and probably not even a Commodore. They all have seen PCs and Macs, though.

On a plus side, it's pretty much instant friendship when you run into a true Amigan. I remember once while I was in a rock band that I went to see a guy's studio. This must have been 98 or 99. Anyway, the centerpiece was an Amiga (either a 1200 or 4000) that he still swore by. Of course, the thing was heavily modded, and could access the internet, etc. I was blown away. To put it bluntly, the "party stopped" so this guy and I could wax on for hours about the Amiga.

Another instance happened when I worked briefly (as in one day as a volunteer) to this guy and his wife who made television commercials. It was a smallish setup, but was apparently enough to pay the bills. Anyway, when I saw his equipment, I noticed an Amiga with a Toaster rig in there. This again must have been in the very late 90s. The guy said that yes, it was old and there was better stuff out there, but it still did everything he needed to do for professional-quality TV commercials. Imagine that!

I think what happened to the Amiga (not so sure about the Atari) is that eventually the company ended up in the hands of CEOs who cared little about the future; they just wanted to make a quick buck and get out of there. They had no personal investment. The opposite is true of Apple; say what you want about Steve Jobs, the man LOVES Apple and the computers it makes. I guess you could say that about Bill Gates, though he's caught so much flack it's no wonder he's spending more time overseas helping out. :)

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Rob Daviau
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Well, you've done it now,

Well, you've done it now, opened a soft spot for me, I have always believed the AMIGA platform got
screwed out of being where it rightly belongs. Oh don't get me wrong, I really don't believe that anything
could of put it in a position where the PC dominates today but I DO believe at the very least that it
could of firmly been in the number 2 spot that APPLE currently holds. Yes the things you mentioned
had a lot to do with how history would place all the platforms, but I believe the biggest mistake
overall was that Commodore believed their platform to be so far ahead of everything else, which
at the time of it's debut it was, that instead of taking profit and constantly re-distributing it back
into research and development they instead bought fancy cars, increased their salaries and
sat back and rested on their laurels while the AMIGA platform sat still and other platforms evolved
and eventually surpassed the technology. I mean COME ON, my AMIGA had 4096 colors/stereo sound
/parallax scrolling playfields/true multi tasking at a time when the PC had monochrome display and
bleep/bloop sound "effects" so it took a real effort to figure a way to screw up that lead! Oh what
could have been! I even stubbornly stuck with he AMIGA platform even after Win98 came out, I took
it online and just refused to give in. Here in CANADA though supporting and repairing the AMIGA
platform just became harder and harder until eventually I had no choice but to join the dark side.
Today I run the fastest and prettiest AMIGA I've ever owned, emulated on the PC which in itself
is pretty amazing when you consider the debut of UAE is was so unstable and buggy it was jokingly
referred to as UN-USEABLE AMIGA EMULATOR, at that time many people like myself believed the magic
of the AMIGAS chipset would never properly be emulated on a lowly "PC" well my how times have
changed and history has not been kind to the platform, as they say History is written by the victors
and this is so true, watch any documentary or movie or even educational short on the subject of
or history of computers and computer platforms etc and damn you NEVER hear anything about the
AMIGA or it's rightful place in the timeline of computing evolution, I mean nothing hardley ever! It
pisses me off that everyone thinks that other than maybe the Commodore 64 the only other platform
of note has been the IBM PC/APPLE MAC etc, sometimes it seems as if the AMIGA never existed........
Uh, sorry but it's always been a personal rant of mine that such a magnificent platform that has
always impressed anyone I've shown will never truly get the recognition it deserves or be remembered
as it should, it seems only those who owned and used these wonderful machines can ever
"get it"......................................

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Oldschool games, some people just don't "get it"...

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Bill Loguidice
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Videogame Generic Platforms

There has been the "generic platform" approach to consoles, most notably with the 3DO platform and to a lesser degree the CD-i, as well as the Nuon platform (among others). In all cases, any manufacturer was able to get a license to produce compatible hardware. In each of those platform's cases though, the downfall was at first cost and then getting enough quality software in place quickly enough for there to garner enough public interest against the most dominant names of the time, namely Nintendo and Sega. Of course the story has been rather different on the computer side, obviously with the PC DOS/Windows platform, Macintosh (when they briefly allowed clones to be made), MSX and going further back, CP/M.

There has been talk of Linux-based consoles over the years, but it's difficult to get corporate backing for something that doesn't rely on the model that has served console makers for several generations - that is sell the console itself just above, at or just below cost, then rely on royalties from software sales (since the platform's won't run unauthorized software) to make up the difference. With a Linux-based console, you'd essentially be eliminating that. In short, the true profit only comes from control of the platform and control of the royalties. If you don't combine both, it's not cost-effective for these companies to make the hardware platform. It's the outlook of the software royalties that pushes the Microsoft's, Sony's and Nintendo's of the world to create new hardware, otherwise they or anyone else really couldn't bother since R&D and production are so costly and you don't start to stop losing money generally speaking on systems until a certain time after launch

The closest thing to a "success" we've got is the GP2X handhelds that I recently posted about, namely the F100 and newer F200. These are just the platform (Linux-based) and have a small commercial software community, but most of the stuff is open source and free, heavily favoring emulators. It works great, but it doesn't make anyone, including the hardware maker, much in the way of profits. However, as is obvious, while anyone can put anything on the platform, the hardware itself is not free to clone. Of course, doing so would not exactly be profitable for anyone anyway, so that idea is moot.



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Bill Loguidice
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Clarifications and How it should have been done!

First off, I'd like to clarify the whole Amiga marketing thing. My position was always to advertise the Amiga as "running PC, Macintosh and C-64 software, but why would you want to when you can run Amiga software?". Yes, Commodore was too slow to standardize on hard drives and later CD-ROM drives, but that was only part of the equation. I think what Commodore and conversely Atari with their ST series needed to do was by the very early 90's at the latest (preferably very late 80's) create a dual platform, where they could seamlessly run both DOS/Windows applications by default with as much compatibility as any other clone system and also their own native applications. Looking back, that was probably the only way to make it for either of them. Basically make the best damned PC clones and have the added bonus of their own standards. Sort of like a super version of what Tandy did with the 1000 series, which was essentially compatible with stock PC systems, but also forced publishers to cater to Tandy standards for graphics, sound and joysticks for many years due to a high number of users and being a good additional standard. Eventually Tandy gave up of course and standardized on VGA and eventually got out of the PC business entirely, but they still proofed the validity of the approach. Of course a lot of this is 20/20 hindsight, but advertising the Amiga based off of my second sentence was not in fact 20/20 hindsight, as I was calling for that even then. How Commodore could low key such an amazing contemporary advantage over everything else available at the time is beyond me, even if it would have been very expensive to pull together a system compatible with all those different systems (though it still would have been competitive with the more expensive Apple and PC Compatible systems, which just ran their stuff!).



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