what you are about to witness is the result of an effort of research and engineering that began in 1982 the amiga computer on the 23rd of July 1985 and a lavish tuxedo clad event in New York the Commodore Amiga was unveiled it was part of a new wave of 16-bit machines including the Apple Macintosh IBM PC and Atari ST both spec wise the Amiga was better than all of them with 4096 colors four channels of digital audio and pre-emptive multitasking it was capable of incredible things for the time the comparison of the Macintosh launched just a year earlier the crowd went wild for a scrolling stream of monochrome text the Amiga could animate in color with synchronized sound and in the case of the famous Boeing ball demo it could do it effortlessly in the background thanks to be hardware acceleration of its custom chipset the highlight was a live art performance with Andy Warhol who produced a digital portrait of Debbie Harry on the new machine it was a spectacular launch of an incredible piece of hardware and a glimpse at the future of multimedia but the Amiga would not be a success they didn’t catch on a flat light and a conspiracy of bad fortune and mismanagement met it languished for years so what happened why did the amiga rep such a slow start and where did it all go wrong the launch established the Amiga is a capable machine and helped give it some true artistic credibility but there’s more to a successful computer than just the hardware a host of factors are at play the pricing availability marketing peripheral support and software software was perhaps the most critical at this early stage the vital killer app IBM at Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect the Macintosh at PageMaker the Amiga had nothing as 1985 progressed commodore was struggling to provide even essential elements themselves so they had to turn to a company called Metacom Co for additional support they would provide a megadose the part of the OS responsible for disk management and the command line interface Metacom Co would also provide a basic alongside other essential development tools on the productivity front commodore commissioned a word processor called text craft and a paint package called graphic craft this covered the bare essentials but little more if the Amiga was going to succeed third-party software was going to be absolutely essential luckily trip Hawkins the founder of a company called Electronic Arts was rather enamored with the Amiga in an LA Times article he declared the amiga is capable of causing a rebirth of the explosion in home computers and the double page spread a bold statement of support why Electronic Arts is committed to be Amiga their first wave of releases were mostly ports of their earlier 8-bit software a basketball game called one-on-one chess variant Archon and strategy adventure Seven Cities of Gold the perhaps EA’s greatest contribution to the Amiga arrived in November 1985 just when the Amiga was starting to ship in quantity deluxe paint was based on EA’s internal odd software called prism port it to the Amiga and polished for release it was a spectacularly good piece of software they became the standard r package for the Amiga really it was the Photoshop of its day and you can bet the vast majority of Amiga software and games were made using it one of its demonstration pictures became rather a defining image for the Amiga King Tut a rendition of Tutankhamun’s death mask in the resplendent 32 colors it was used in a 1986 advert extolling the graphical ability of the Amiga and the golden mask adorned every subsequent release of the software so if the Amiga had a killer app in 1985 it was definitely deep paint more importantly though the ACE confidence in the Amiga

was inspiring it was a risky move on their part but they embraced it and in doing so they encouraged other publishers to test the waters activision followed EA’s lead bringing a variety of 8-bit ports to the amiga infocon were particularly prolific releasing over 20 titles by the end of 1986 their text adventures were easy to port as they ran universal code on a virtual machine Bethesda Softworks released gridiron a physics-based American football simulator micro illusions were short-lived but supported the amiga wholeheartedly with games like the fairytale adventure even Commodore themselves published a game mind Walker from the idiosyncratic Bill Williams Commodore stepping in to save his project from an airbag signup software another major force was mindscape they had worked closely with commodore before and published quite a few early titles they brought Chris Crawford seminal strategy game balance of power to the Amiga as well as icons Mac venture series DejaVu uninvited and Chessmaster 2000 from the software Tool Works so the Amiga had quite a range of support within its first year but many of these games were originally made for other platforms mainly the Macintosh and Atari ST conversions from other 68k best platforms were a cheap way to bulk out the amigas library but it’s fair to say that most of these ports didn’t really stretch the amigas abilities for some this was a shame the potential of these new machines allowed for a completely new artistic approach that’s why Bob and Phyllis Jacob founded cinema where in 1985 enticed by the prospect of unfettered graphics and sound as their name implies their games would be heavily influenced by cinema and their first was a Robin Hood themed strategy game called defender of the crown Jim sacks provided the majority of the art he was an early adopter of the Amiga and a fantastic artist who really defined the look at the game by mid 1986 his artwork was in place but the development was proving more difficult not many people were familiar with programming for the Amiga and the company contracted to make the game were struggling so cinema we’re turn to someone with slightly more expertise our Jane Michael member of the original Amiga team and the guy behind intuition the amigas graphical user interface it was a very short time frame just six weeks the few people had RJ’s know-how and he was just about able to bring everything together by October 1986 of course it was rushed with missing elements underwhelming gameplay and a strategy component that wasn’t particularly deep but it looked and sounded spectacular defender of the crown set a new standard for 16-bit games and for the very first time the amiga had a game that showed what it could do in November 1986 another demonstration of the amigas ability emerged a ray traced animation of a juggler it was full screen true color run at 30 frames a second and it was rendered on an Amiga not in real time of course ray tracing is an enormous Lee CPU intensive affair but a few years ago something like this would be leading-edge state-of-the-art even for an expensive graphics workstation and now you could do it at home it was a simple scene in fact if you look closely you’ll see everything’s made out of spheres simple but still a remarkable demonstration of computer graphics with specular and diffuse reflection shadowing all of this and it was animated the author Eric Graham sent the demonstration to Commodore in case they had a use for it at first they didn’t believe that it was rendered on an Amiga but it was demonstrably so and the juggler demo was spread far and wide another feather in the platform’s camp so it took a while but by the end of 1986 the Amiga was starting to build a compelling case for purchase it had a solid base of software with a few standout examples that emphasized its 16-bit potential there was only one

problem the amiga wasn’t selling at first it was a problem of availability after the unveiling in July 85 be me who was supposed to launch in September it didn’t at least not really the Amiga didn’t ship in large quantities until November which meant it missed the key buying period for Christmas in fact those outside the US would have to wait until 1986 the PAL roms were only finished in February the Amiga had a bit of an identity crisis they were trying to avoid painting it as a toy computer and so to distance it from the much cheaper c64 Commodore were intent on chasing the more serious business sector unfortunately this was absolutely dominated by IBM and a whole army of clones commodore didn’t stand a chance the amigas advertising certainly didn’t help the first big-budget TV campaign in september 85 took its cues from 2001 a Space Odyssey an older man wanders through an Escher inspired scene ascending a staircase into a mysterious chamber an Amiga sits on a pedestal he approaches it presses a key and a light engulfs him and a rubber foetus a peasant soft focus they were clearly going for some sort of rebirth thing the notion that the creative power of the amiga and revitalize your work but it was weird it definitely wasn’t effective and the follow up adverts weren’t any better they targeted wealthy baby boomers with nostalgic sepia toned images of the 50s with the promise that the Amiga would give you a creative edge the asking price of $1300 plus was steep and at this point there wasn’t really a proven market for home computers in this price range with hindsight it’s clear that the Amiga was a vanguard of the multimedia revolution the Commodore missed the mark they had a relatively big budget for marketing 40 million dollars but they squandered him on a confused message that clearly didn’t understand what this machine could do or who it was for however there were even bigger troubles brewing commodore trying their best to hide him but they were desperately short of money in fact by the middle of 1985 just as the Amiga was launching they were on the verge of bankruptcy their fortunes have changed drastically since 1983 that was a bumper year for the commodore 64 breaking revenue records as commodore became the first personal computer company to breach a billion dollars of sales but their margins were razor thin and the home computer market cooled faster than expected in 1984 leading to mounting losses so by 1985 commodore needed a miracle to survive they got the amiga instead it’s tepid star meant that it wouldn’t save the company and the resultant lack of cash flow meant they wouldn’t be able to give the amiga the support and promotion it’s so desperately needed they were paralyzed the only thing Commodore could do was cut spending and wait for the Christmas sales of the c64 to bail them out meanwhile the amigas rivals were gaining traction the Atari ST BB immediate of release and undercut its price it was cheap and the top level specs were similar overall it wasn’t quite as powerful but its lower cost made it more accessible to the mass market and the ST had a substantial lead by the end of 1986 the Apple Macintosh had a similar start to the Amiga but had the advantage of being released over a year earlier to the start of 1984 by the end of that year they had sold 370 mm Mac’s and had found a substantial niche in desktop publishing along with a cult-like following neither the amiga nor Atari ST would ever keep pace however even the mat was dwarfed by the PC with two million IBM compatibles sold in 84 3.7 million the next year five million after that people first bought them to bring their work home with them but soon the PC would be entirely dominant in the home Commodore had enjoyed a brief moment at the top of the c64 but now they were out of money

and it somehow slipped into fourth place but then commodore whenever known for their management skills they were going through a turbulent time in terms of leadership losing their long-standing founder and CEO Jack Trammell in early 1984 in a controversial ousting by key shareholder Irving Gould Tramel set out for revenge taking over Ataris computer division and developing the Atari ST the amigas main rival meanwhile Marshall Smith took the reins of Commodore an executive from the steel industry he was ill prepared for the volatility of the technology market so when Commodores fortunes turned sour in 1985 it became clear that perhaps someone more dynamic was needed a man named Thomas Ratigan was chosen the ex CEO of PepsiCo international he was appointed as Commodores chief operating officer in December 85 before replacing Smith as CEO in March 1986 and he knew that if Commodore were to survive the bleeding had to stop as quickly as possible so first he cut the phone legacy products and dead-end projects then flesh a forty five percent total reduction in payroll closure of a couple of factories that were surplus to requirements finally he hit bone closing the Amika offices in Los Gatos forcing most of the original team to leave and at the summer 1986 production of the amigas stopped it was a logical decision with a hundred and forty thousand units made they had enough inventory to cover sales for a while there was no point in spending money on stock they may never be able to sell these cuts were drastic and would have a lasting impact on Commodore and the amigas future but the alternative was bankruptcy 1986 was not the amigas year its technical edged slit evermore Ratigan had a plan however by cutting costs he was able to clear the company’s debt and as the Christmas revenue from the Commodore 64 came in they even started to turn a profit in fact by March 1987 Commodore had 46 million dollars in cash the most money they’d had since 1983 meanwhile the future of the Amiga was under consideration with some new models on the horizon the original was simply called the Amiga the Commodore becan numerical model numbers and internally it was known as the Amiga 1000 the plan for 1987 was to bifurcate the Amiga line into two new machines one catering to the entry level and another for the high-end the new big box model was dubbed the 2000 a revised designed with similar base next to the 1000 the future proofed with a huge amount of potential expansion 5 Zorro 2 and 4 PC is a slots the low-end model was called the Amiga 500 not because it was half as good but because it was supposed to be half the price essentially it was an Amiga cost-reduced as far as practically possible designed to fit a modest home Brom the optional TV modulator and power supply were made into external units and the keyboard was incorporated into a wedge-shaped case similar to the earlier Commodore 1 to 8 it looked a bit like the Atari ST to be honest now with its custom chips it had an edge these new omegas were first shown in March 1987 at cbut in Hanover there was a certain amount of panic amongst existing users concerned that their machines will be made obsolete they were reassured that this wasn’t the case aside from the new expansion slots the machines were compatible as for the 500 there was an acknowledgment that a cheaper machine would make for a healthier amiga market but also a fear that some of that 16-bit exclusivity was being lost things were slightly different in Europe long spoiled by chief microcomputers the original was too expensive to sell well so there was an undercurrent of excitement the prospect of a cheap Amiga with a large potential market looking for a 16-bit upgrade the 500 was perfect so Commodore had money in the bank and a new lineup but in April 1987 just as

things were looking up Thomas Ratigan was fired the exact reasons for his dismissal aren’t known but it’s clear there was some conflict with gold rumors abound that Ratigan was planning a coup to seize control of the company although the official reasoning was subpar growth in the US market with Europe emerging as the dominant market place in any case Ratigan result Gould directly replaced him and it was time for the new amigas to ship Commodores advertising would never be spectacular but for this second wave they had a remarkably low bar to clear at the very least the adverts of this era were more confident of what the Amiga could do and while they still wanted to distance it from the toy like 8-bit machines they acknowledged that the Amiga could be used for games it talks it animates it educates it’s our office it’s a video studio it’s arcade games in stereo they even had a slogan only Amiga makes it possible 1987 was a transitional year for amiga software on the one hand there was a retraction of some early support not everyone who tested the waters stuck around but on the other there was a quiet optimism at the prospect of new machines and a slowly growing very significant community one of the most important vectors of software distribution was the public domain the champion on this front was a man named Fred fish he compiled discs filled with free software and distributed them far and wide in the early days stay contained invaluable hardware reference and programming support and as the amiga matured the fish disks became an indispensable source of cool software the amiga community was tight-knit principally because of its small size but also due to a willingness to network both through user group meet ups and via modem it was a pre-web world the bulletin boards were very much a thing and a propagation point for software to spread rapidly it’s fair to say the piracy was quite widespread more than a few back up disks were exchanged between friends a nascent demo scene was making itself known through cracked rows little introductions bundled with cracked software normally with fantastic music thanks to tracker software like the ultimate sound tracker it was also around this time that the first Amiga virus attained widespread infection the SCA virus copied itself from disk to disk periodically showing a message on screen it was early days but the Amiga had its very own subculture by the end of 1987 the total install base for the Amiga platform had crept over the half-million mark more than double what it was a year prior and largely thanks to the Amiga 500 things were starting to look viable by 1988 a large number of new magazines started catering to the Amiga audience amiga user international your amiga amiga computing ST Amiga format and the one the platform had already found a niche in video production thanks to its colourful output NTSC synced and genlock support but at the 1987 world of Commodore show new tech announced a very important piece of hardware called the Video Toaster it wouldn’t release until 1990 but alongside Lightwave 3d it would turn the Amiga into a production powerhouse our performing system’s ten times the cost by the middle of 88 computer retailers were reporting that the Amiga was selling as quickly as the esti with many Atari owners exchanging their systems this meant that he was now increasingly worthwhile for developers to port their games from the Atari ST to the Amiga a relatively simple task given that they had the same CPU and the Amiga could easily match the STS graphics this was good as he meant that all of a sudden there was a large library of games for the Amiga but it was also bad because none of them took particular advantage of theming as chipset and often ran more slowly than the ST counterpart still this was a definite tipping point for the Amiga and in July 1988 Commodore UK

made an aggressive price cut selling the basic a 500 for just 399 pounds the same price as the ST Atari cut their prices in response but it was too late the Amiga started to pull ahead better yet developers were starting to get to grips with the machines unique abilities and increasingly more games were out there best on the Amiga our cake conversions were a staple of the era but most 8-bit efforts were embarrassing compared to the original but for a brief moment the Amiga could manage near-perfect arcade ports in fact many regard the Amiga version of silkworm is superior to the arcade original beyond the big-name ports a number of developers were starting to build a reputation for high quality original 16-bit software and amongst them were the bitmap brothers their first game was a vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up called Zenon it had all the hallmarks of a 16-bit game digitized speech and video in-game music as well as sound effects and relatively colourful graphics it was impressive enough to be featured as a phone in game on Saturday morning children’s television and it also has the accolade of being the first ever amiga game to hit the UK top 40 charts Zenon was first developed for the ST and ported to the Amiga the bitmaps next game speedball was developed for both simultaneously but Zen and to mega blast was made with the Amiga in mind with large sprites parallax scrolling and rock hard gameplay too became a benchmark title and the fantastic soundtrack from bomb the base made it a classic the bitmap brothers were 16-bit pioneers that helped define the amigas aesthetic and some of their later games likes people too and the chaos engine are considered amongst the finest available for the platform another major publisher at the forefront of this generation were livable based sig gnosis one of the things they understood more than most is the importance of image there’s more to software than just code in graphics their box are and glossy packaging were almost as important as the contents within and it might seem superficial but the smaller market for 16-bit software demanded a premium in the slick presentation and bundled posters and t-shirts helped justify this value proposition so they rapidly established a reputation great 16-bit games but the Amiga versions were invariably very similar to the Atari ST ones at least they were until shadow of the beast came out beast was designed for the Amiga from the ground up and took advantage of multiple Hardware tricks it ran in dual playfield mode with a separate background and foreground sprites were cleverly multiplexed to make the most of the eight Hardware slots and the coprocessor or copper worked overtime to orchestrate be necessary mapping and palette changes you don’t need to know the technical details to appreciate the end result instantly impressive fast arcade action with rich graphics multi-layered parallax scrolling and Atmospheric sound the Atari ST version was pitiful in comparison now it’s not exactly fair to compare a port to the original like this for the amiga had more than its fair share of lazy SD ports so this was just desserts as Christmas 1989 approached the amiga was the only logical 16-bit choice for games for many in the UK at least what really sealed the deal was the Batman pack it bundled the Amiga 500 with oceans Batman movie tie-in game a pretty passable platformer with a particularly hot license along with the New Zealand story fa-18 interceptor and deluxe paint – all this for 399 pounds made for a great deal and they sold hundreds of thousands of amigas in just a few months the bundle strategy really worked to the 500 and Commodore would move millions of amigas the packages like flight of fantasy Screen Gems and cartoon classics sunshine on a rainy day the amiga was gonna be alright for a

couple of years at least thank you very much for watching and until next time farewell

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