Amiga: Happy 30th Anniversary!

Sometimes nostalgia comes up from nowhere and smacks you up the head. I only realized moments ago that today is the Commodore Amiga’s 30th anniversary! And by ‘realized’ I mean it just suddenly appeared in my Facebook news feed from someone else who found out about it in much the same way. As a general rule I don’t remember things; instead I have reminders unexpectedly thrust at me out of the blue.

What’s an Amiga? Well, the name is Spanish for ‘girlfriend’, which might lead to interesting misinterpretations. In this case, however, it’s not an actual girlfriend, but perhaps as close as many geeks back in the Eighties (such as myself) were to getting one: She’s a computer, and not just any computer, but a quite specific kind, or brand, of computer.

Example Amiga 500, identical to my first, with monitor and external disk drive.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Now, I may have broken the general, age-old ‘computer instead of girlfriend’ model, since I got my first Amiga in ’88, at about the same time as I, quite surprisingly, got a girlfriend, who now — some twenty-seven years hence — is still my wife. The Amiga relationship, alas, lasted not nearly as long, though fond memories remain, and a few souvenirs are kept. Mind you, the sentence “I keep two of my old Amigas stashed away in boxes in the basement” would probably not sound too well in Spanish, and might lead people to jump to extremely wrong (though perhaps interesting) conclusions.

Although the Amigas weren’t actual girlfriends, most of my fellow Amiga owners, as well as myself, were quite passionate about them. The “battle” between Amiga owners and other computer users was a bit like today’s trench war between Apple and Windows users; each camp swearing that the other was pure evil and plotting to destroy them — which, in corporate terms, wasn’t too far from the truth, as it was, and still is, a battle for world domination. We in the Amiga camp were, of course, better and purer and far, far awesomer than everyone else; this was an accepted truth, not to be challenged.

And it held sway until Commodore, who originally made the Amigas, had to throw in the towel prematurely due to poor marketing sense — in short they neglected to tell the world that they had a product to sell, and counted on the brand name itself to do the job for them, which didn’t really work all that well. This unfortunate failure to make a profit led to the company’s sad but inevitable demise. Aside from that, I’m sure they’re wonderful people.

So it came to pass that I would spend a considerable portion of my available hours during my late teens and early twenties in the company of, at first, an Amiga 500, and later an Amiga 1200. Much gaming and programming came of this, not to mention experimenting with graphics programs, 3D design, animation, audio processing and music — which is not to say that I did any of those things even remotely well, and little constructive came of it, but I had great fun learning and doing it, which was the main thing. The Amiga was, from the beginning, at the front of computer development. I learned about possibilities, and followed the development of the technology with eager eyes. The Commodore Amiga was an important part of my growing up and coming of age in the computer world. Though I’ve moved on to other platforms, and haven’t even touched an Amiga computer in years, I don’t think I would have been quite what I am without them.

I may just have to fish one or both of them up from the basement, hook them up to the TV and see if they still work.


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