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Monday, 28 January 2008


I make no bones about the fact that I still consider the Amiga the best operating system ever devised. Even though I run a Linux based operating system on my main workstation I am forced by market economies to run that Linux based operating system. Even as Amiga OS 4, and the Ami-One, are available, sadly, they simply do not cut it for the day to day work I do now. So, I take, what in my opinion, is second best and use a Linux based platform, which does do everything and more I, and everyone else if they tried it, need to get done. Plus, I have my Amiga emulator to remind me of those glory days when technology truly was innovative.

Back in 1985-1995 the Amiga family of computers was at that time deemed by many to be the platform to have, use, play on and generally a must have machine.

Part of its magic and charm was the custom chips it had which came in 3 distinct combinations known as OCS (Original Chip Set), ECS (Enhanced Chip Set) and AGA (Advanced Chip Set). The chip sets where known affectionally as Agnus, Denise and Paula. Agnus was central to the whole thing. It controlled chip RAM (also known as graphics RAM) and two further graphic related components called the blitter and copper. Denise was the main graphics chip and also handled joystick and input devices. Paula was the audio chip but also controlled the floppy disk drive, the serial ports and analog joysticks. In a nutshell, those 3 surface mounted chips including the CPU itself, which was also surface mounted, those 3 chips combined to make what gave the Amiga its 'feel'.

In comparison, the IBM specification, universally known as IBM compatible PC (this term was later dropped and became known simply as the PC) for PC's used by many at that time was a mixture of largely incompatible cards that fitted together to form a computer. These cards covered graphics, audio, serial and parallel I/O, each a separate cards glued together with the CPU where at the time a pale comparison to the Amiga. Even the operating systems that ran on such hardware were utterly dire and outputted not much more than white text on a black background and even when colour graphics came to that platform it paled in comparison to what the Amiga could offer.

Back then of course IBM was a big player in computers. Much bigger than Commodore, which produced the Amiga. That, combined with lackluster management at Commodore saw the IBM compatible PC come to dominate the computer hardware market. Even when MS Windows 3.1 came to the market the Amiga operating system simply ran rings around it for sheer elegance. Some say even though the Amiga operating system is approximately 20 years old now it is still the best. The Amiga was derided because of its integrated surface mounted technology.

It is with great amusement that those of us privileged to have grownup, in computer terms, with such technology that today we are seeing a return to that combined surface mounted technology from the likes of AMD/ATI. While AMD/ATI are not yet in the process of combining graphics, audio and CPU on the same silicon slice, they are producing a graphics and CPU hybrid late 2008 or early 2009. It is surely only a matter of time before they add audio to the mix.

Then, once that happens, almost 20 years after the Amiga 1200 was released the computer hardware world will have come full circle.

And they call that progress?

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