The Amiga Computer Lives On
It was my first PC. I bought it back in 1986. By 1990 I was crazy enough to own three of them. Somehow, which I can’t exactly put my finger on, this computer was a thrill to use. Why? Maybe because it was way ahead of its time back then. Maybe because it was so simple to use. The computer that I am writing about, is the Commodore Amiga.
I still have my three Amigas. Two of them, an A2500 and an A3000, are stacked on a Rubbermaid shelf in the corner of my spare bedroom while my first Amiga, an A1000, is boxed in the closet. I was even crazy enough to get a fourth one about eight years ago, an A1200 with the new graphics chipset. It too is boxed and in the closet, but I do pull it out from time to time.
When Commodore went belly up in 1994 and later on when the German company Escom failed, l like many others moved on to the Windows PC. Not that Windows is that bad but the thrill was now gone. Apple has tried to capture that wonder with the Mac and they have done a very good job but somehow it is not an Amiga.
For all of us that still yearn for the past, there are still a good number of ways to get back to the Amiga. Below I will detail all the paths that are possible:
Coanto's Amiga Forwever
There is an Amiga product from a company called Cloanto. It is Amiga Forever. It contains emulator software that allows you to run the Amiga operating system on a Windows PC. It contains the original ROM and OS files for versions 1.0 to 3.x. The software is on a CD and installs easily on Windows 98/2000/XP/Vista. You can also boot directly from the CD and it will load the Amiga OS using Linux KX Light. The Amiga OS can also be installed so it will run on Linux and Mac OS but it requires some expertise since it will not install directly. The Cloanto website has some good information including downloads on how to make it work. You can also find the interface software on Apple’s download site.
In addition to the software, Cloanto included three DVDs filled with videos and slideshows. The two most interesting videos on the DVDs are the “Launch of Amiga” and “The Deathbed Vigil”. The Amiga launch is when Commodore first unveiled the Amiga before the media. There is an interesting appearance by Andy Warhol and Deborah Harry of Blondie. The Deathbed Vigil is at the other end of the Amiga’s life which profiles the employees during the last few days of Commodore before the doors were closed. There are other videos with Jay Miner, the father of the Amiga, and Dave Haynie, one of Commodore’s brilliant engineers. The complete set of videos are:
DVD Disk 0
- Amiga Forever Plus Edition software
- Dave Haynie 2009 Interview
- Dave Haynie 2009 Interview - HD
DVD Disk 1
- Launch of Amiga
- Inside Commodore
- Jay Miner Speech
- Jay Miner Interview
- History of the Amiga
DVD Disk 2
- The Deathbed Vigil
- Dave Haynie 2001 Interview
Finally, there are also lots of demos, games, and applications included. There is the Amiga Explorer, software that allows you to transfer files between your Amiga and your Windows PC using a null modem cable. Even the bouncing checkered ball demo, first shown at computer shows before the Amiga went on the market, is there. They even included the article and cover from Byte magazine and the US patent on the Amiga chipset. So, if you have nostalgia for the Amiga, Cloanto can take you back.
Cloanto's Amiga Forever is probably the easiest way to get back to the Amiga, but if you want to continue with the original operating system, then OS4.X is the way to go:
The original Amiga operating system is now at the 4.X level. However, unlike Cloanto's product which has emulation software allowing it to run on Intel processors, OS4.X requires the PowerPC processor, the same architecture that the Mac used before they switched to Intel. Obviously, since PowerPC motherboards are not as common as their Intel counterparts, they are going to be quite a bit more expensive. The OS can even be installed on a classic Amiga as long as it has a PowerPC expansion board installed. Below is a list of some of the motherboards and computers that will allow you to run Amiga OS4.X:
- AmigaOne X1000
- AmigaOne 500
- Sam440ep Flex
The above hardware is available online. There are discontinued motherboards that you might be able to pick up used such as on Ebay:
- AmigaOne XE
- Pegasos II
Classic Amiga Expansion Boards
- Cyberstorm PPC
- Blizzard PPC
Amiga OS4.X is proprietary or commercial software.
Amiga OS3.5 and Amiga OS3.9
These two versions of the Amiga OS were the last ones released for the classic Amiga computers. They don't require any extra hardware for them to run.
Like OS4.X, OS3.5 and OS3.9 are commercial software products.
MorphOS is a version of the Amiga operating system that emulates the 68000 series of microprocessors. Since these are the same CPUs in the classic Amigas, MorphOS is actually more compatible with older software than Amiga OS4.X. However, like OS4.X, MorphOS will only run on the PowerPC architecture. The great news is that it is compatible with the G3, G4, and G5 series of processors, allowing MorphOS to run on Apple hardware. The list of Apple computers that you can install MorphOS on is:
- Apple eMac
- Apple iBook G4
- Apple Mac Mini G4
- Apple PowerBook G4
- Apple PowerMac G4
- Apple PowerMac G5
There are some conditions on each of these machines that I did not mention. Going to the web site will detail what they are. Generally, the best computer to use seems to be the Mac Mini G4 with the statement that it simply must have a G4 processor. I have looked on Ebay and have noticed some of these machines selling anywhere from 40 to 90 dollars so returning to the Amiga by way of MorphOS is rather inexpensive. The hardware is old but by no means does it mean that MorphOS will be sluggish. Keep in mind that the Amiga operating system is small compared to Windows or OSX so it will run faster than OSX. I have heard this from users who have stated that they couldn't believe how fast MorphOS is on a G4 Mac compared to OSX Panther or Tiger.
MorphOS is proprietary or commercial software.
The AROS version of the Amiga operating system is probably the odd one of the bunch because it can run natively on Intel's x86 processors allowing you to use any PC! It is also surprising to find out that the AROS OS is fairly compatible with older Amiga software. It's target for compatibility is the classic Amiga OS3.1. Intel is also not the only processor that the operating system is aiming for. MorphOS already or is working on running on the following:
About the greatest aspect of MorphOS is that it is open source so it is free to use!
Like AROS, Amithlon is a version of the Amiga operating system that can run on x86 hardware. It probably is not as ambitious as AROS since it only runs on one processor family but it could be one version of the Amiga OS that can take you back to the original Amiga. This version is the classic Amiga OS3.9 (mentioned above) ported to x86. It seems that Amithlon was originally commercial software since it was produced by the company Haage & Partner, but now that they have abandoned it, it now seems to be open source, being updated by third-party developers.
Finally, there is AmiKit. This is simply emulation software that will allow the Amiga OS to run on Windows, Mac, or Linux systems. This is similar to Cloanto but while Cloanto is commercial software, AmiKit is open source. Therefore, it does not include the Amiga ROM and operating system. It simply is an emulator. However, you can get it running if you own any of the following:
- Amiga Forever Plus Edition (also includes required Kickstart ROM)
- Amiga Forever Premium Edition (also includes required Kickstart ROM
- Amiga Forever Online Edition
- AmigaOS 3.9 CD (both editions)
- AmigaOS 3.5 CD
- AmigaOS XL CD (Amithlon)
Note, it will not support the following:
- AmigaOS 3.1 or older
- Amiga Forever Value Edition
As you can see, there are quite a few options if you want to return to the Amiga or if you are curious and a first time user. The Amiga lives on.
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