- Computers & Software
The Amiga 600 was released by Commodore in March of 1992, roughly six months after they had given us the Amiga 500 plus (or 500+).
It was essentially a redesign of the Amiga 500 plus, with the option of an internal hard disk drive - which to be fair was a nice option.
This machine was intended by Commodore to revitalize sales of the A500 machines (all types) before the introduction of their new and more powerful 'consumer' machine, the 32-Bit Amiga 1200.
But the A600 was seriously flawed due to one small design omission; the lack of a numerical keypad...
What Does An A600 Look Like?
Amiga 600 Overview
The A600 was the final model of the original A500-esque line based on the Motorola 68000 central processor and the ECS (The Amiga enhanced chipset).
A notable aspect of the A600 was its small size, which on the one hand was a blessing, on the other a major drawback.
The blessing was the fact that the machine took up very little room - a major benefit to some people.
The machine lacked a numerical keypad, making the A600 only slightly larger than a standard PC type keyboard being only 14" long and 9.5" deep. The height of the unit was 3".
Amiga OS 2.0 was included with the machine and was generally considered more user-friendly than AmigaOS 1.3. So far so good, but that missing numerical keypad...
TV Advertisement For The Amiga 600
Poor Initial Marketing of the Amiga 600
In the United States the A600 was intended to be $50 cheaper than the existing A500 machine, but it actually started off more expensive than an A500.
The A600 was originally to have been called the A300 to make it seem like a 'cheaper' A500 plus.
The higher cost led the machine to be marketed as a replacement for the A500 plus, but it really offered nothing techincally superior to that machine.
David Pleasance, who was the director of Commodore UK actually described the A600 as a "complete and utter screw up".
In comparison to the already popular A500 it was considered unexpandable, did not improve on the CPU, was more expensive (crazy), and lacked a numeric keypad meaning that some existing amiga games such as flight simulators and certain application software could not be used without a numerical pad emulator.
Why was this never considered? The mind boggles...
Oh - and that TV Advert was even poor back then.
A Brochure For The Amiga 600
Amiga 600 Hard Disks
Onto some plus points.
It was possible to purchase an 'A600HD' model which was sold with an internal 2.5 inch hard disk drive with a capacity of either 20MB or 40MB.
These sizes are paltry by today's standards but back in the early 1990s 40MB was a fair amount of storage space!
This model was marketed as a more 'scholarly' or 'professional' version of a home computer which was best known for its extensive range of games (try as they might Commodore could not and should not try to make the Amiga home range seem like a non-games machine)
This hard disk support introduced some incompatibility with existing Amiga software due to the memory allocated to hard disk control which prevented some titles from launching due to a lack of RAM. Adding additional RAM to the machine would solve this problem.
The A600 was actually the first Amiga computer that was manufactured in the UK.
The factory was based in Irvine, although some later machines were manufactured in Hong Kong.
Another positive over the older standard A500 was that hardware failure rate was reduced to 0.78%, compared to a rate of 8.25% on the older machine.
A UK Magazine Advertisement For Amiga Products
Amiga 600 Processor And RAM
The A600 was fitted with a Motorola 68000 Central Processor, running at just over 7MHz and 1 MB of RAM as standard.
The original design did not allow for users to replace (upgrade) the CPU and the 68000 was actually soldered to the motherboard.
Despite this, unofficial CPU upgrades included the 68010, 68020 and 68030 processors (giving a processor speed of around 50Mhz making a real noticeable difference in speed).
The upgrade was achieved by fitting a connector over the current CPU which allowed the new faster CPU to take control of the system bus.
This approach was a little rough-shod and could cause instability problems on the motherboard leading to all sorts of bizarre system behaviour.
Expanding the A600's CPU was not overly popular and was something that would be easier to accomplish on the soon to come A1200.
RAM could be upgraded to a maximum of 2MB via the trapdoor expansion slot. Again 2MB was a decent amount of memory back in 1992.
An additional 4 MB of 'fast' RAM could be added via the PC-Card slot giving a total capacity of 6MB. 6MB was a bit of a RAM whopper and again demonstrated a noticeable performance enhancement.
UK Advertisement For An A600 Bundle
The Famous Boot Up Screen
Amiga 600 Operating System
The A600 was shipped with Amiga OS 2.0 which consisted of good old Workbench 2.0 and a Kickstart ROM chip which was either revision 37.299, 37.300 or 37.350.
Early Kickstart revisions (such as 37.299) did not support for the internal ATA controller, nor for the PCMCIA interface. This was a major drawback and another bad point of the A600.
It was possible to load the necessary drivers from a floppy disk, it wasn't possible to boot directly from ATA or PCMCIA devices.
Only later models of the A600 and especially the A600HD were equipped with a Kickstart which was able to utilize those internal devices at booting.
But the Kickstart problems were to continue. In Kickstart 37.300, the maximum supported size of a hard drive was limited to 40MB.
Whilst this was enough for a lot of people, if you wanted more storage capacity then a different Kickstart ROM was required.
Workbench 2.1 would become available (as a later software update) which included some DOS support such as hard disks or floppy disks which had been formatted within a DOS environment.
A Superb Example Of Amiga Music
Sound And Graphical Capabilities
The display chip (called Fat Agnus) drove screen modes varying from 320×200 pixels to 1280×512 pixels.
Usually only 32 colours could be displayed from the 12-bit (4096 color) palette.
An extra mode called 'Half Bright Mode' offered 64 simultaneous colors by allowing each of the 32 colours in the palette to be dimmed to half normal brightness.
A 4096 coluor HAM mode could also be used at lower display resolutions. At the highest display resolutions (such as 800×600), only 4 colours at a time could be displayed.
The sound capabilities remained unchanged from the original Amiga design with the same 4 channel sterio sound allowing for two channels to the left speaker and two channels to the right.
Sound resolution was also at 8-Bit.
F-15 Strike Eagle II
You Struggle With Figher Bomber
Amiga 600 Gaming
All of those classic amiga games were compatible with the Amiga 600 and played pretty much the same as they would on an original Amiga 500 computer.
So if you fancied a spot of First Samurai, Speedball II, Hybris, Battle Squadron, Monkey Island, SWIV or Stunt Car Racer you were onto a winner.
If however you had a penchant for the likes of Ocean Software's F-29 Retaliator, F-15 Strike Eagle II or Birds Of Prey from Electronic Arts then you would be lucky to be able to play them properly.
Flight simulators usually require a lot of keys to operate the 'aircraft' and usually made use of the function keys and the numerical keypad.
But as we have already seen, the Amiga 600 did not have a numerical keypad making some (not all) flight simulators unplayable.
Arcade gaming and point and click were fine at least :-)
Stick To The Arcade Experience On An A600
Lets Sum This Baby Up
So, in my opinion, I feel that this version of the Amiga was an unecessary machine.
It offered virtually nothing over an A500 plus which was a fine machine, it just all seemed a bit pointless.
I really wish Commodore had put the A600 effort into the A1200, it could then have perhaps been the real 'next generation' home Amiga that we all craved.
It is still a shame that Commodore went the way of the dinosaur in 1994, and looking backs the cracks in the armour were beginning to appear with the likes of this machine.
The A600 was by no means a bad machine, it was just the wrong machine.
Epic On The Commodore Amiga
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