Posted by & filed under amiga, computers, hobbies, opinion.

As a gift, I recently received a copy of the “Commodore Book”, “On The Edge: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore” by Brian Bagnall.

Until I discovered OSX on newer Macintosh systems, my all-time favorite computer system (and platform) was the Commodore Amiga. I started out on an Amiga 1000, and I had an Amiga 3000 before I moved to Sun systems.

The story of that first Amiga 1000 is worth telling. In 1989 I was a 15-year-old kid who had gone from a TI-99/4A with cassette tape drive to an Atari 520STfm with a single floppy drive. Around the same time, I’d discovered BBSes and started exploring online using a HP-110 “laptop” and its built in 300 baud modem. For Christmas that year I received a Hayes Smartmodem 300 that I attached to the Atari ST.

One of these bulletin boards that I frequented was the PC Pursuit “Net Exchange” BBS, meant to be the support forum for Sprint’s Telenet system. Telenet was a packet-switched network that let you dial into a local modem, connect over their network to a modem in a remote city, and then dial out “locally” to another BBS in that city. Rates for using the Telenet system were much cheaper than paying for normal long distance service.

I grew up in a small town, and there were never any bulletin board systems within reach of a local phone call. However, I’d discovered a 1-800 dialup number for the Telenet system, and through that number, I could access the Net Exchange BBS by using the command “C PURSUIT”. I started lurking around, and eventually sent a message to the sysop who took pity on me and gave me a user account on the system despite the fact that I wasn’t even a Telenet customer.

I hung out in the electronic mail discussions for the Atari ST at first, then discovered that the Amiga discussions had more participants, and were generally more interesting, covering all topics and not just the computer. I received lots of kidding due to being an Atari user in a den full of Amiga fanatics, but I told them “its all I could afford”.

Months went by, and then one day my mother said “You’ve got a .. rather large package here that just arrived for you”. Unknown to me, a number of the people in the Amiga discussions had gotten together in secret, took up a collection, and bought me a decently-configured Amiga 1000 system, along with an adapter so I could use my Atari monitor with it!

The letter they enlcosed said something to the effect of “You’re a smart kid, we thought that you deserved a real computer. All we ask in return is that you do the same favor for some underprivileged kid some day.” I don’t remember all of their names, but one of the guys was named Bill Fischer (lived in Florida), and one of the other main “plotters” was a guy who owned an Amiga-centric computer shop in Nevada (Reno, I think). I’ve tried to look them up on the Internet in the years since, but have never had any luck.

That Amiga immediately became my primary computer system (I don’t remember what I did with the Atari), and I expanded it with memory, extra floppy drives, and eventually found the proper Commodore 1080 color monitor to go along with it. I used it for my Pascal programming class, writing letters, exploring online, and even used it to generate screen titles and special effects for the public-access-TV news show that my high school produced.

Unfortunately, Commodore went bankrupt in ’94, and I had to switch to a 386-based PC clone for college. I picked up a used A3000 while I was living in Oklahoma City and working for ioNET, but it got lost in the shuffle when I left it in storage with a friend after I moved to Texas in 1996. I went from PC clones to Sun systems, and from Sun systems to a G4 Cube running OS X in 2001.

Reading the book last night made me get nostalgic for my Amiga. A couple hours later, after some BitTorrent downloads of KickStart ROM files and a Workbench disk image set, I had a virtual Amiga 4000 on my desktop courtesy of E-UAE:

Emulated Amiga 4000
(click for bigger picture)

It’s not quite the same as the “real thing”, but it brings back a ton of memories. I’d love to get my hands on an A3000 or A4000 but can’t afford the eBay prices for them.

As for “returning the favor” done for me seventeen years ago, I do it whenever I can. I’ve given away more “rescued” computer systems than I can count, and also run SunHELP in my spare time.

Every time I’m able to help someone out or give a computer away to someone who can really use it, I’m reminded of the guys all across the country who got together to buy a “real computer” for a kid in a tiny Oklahoma town.

One Response to “Amiga Memories”

  1. Mark Benson

    Wow, another closet Amiga geek! :D

    I also love Amiga OS. It’s probably one of the best thought out OSs ever created and it’s multitasking power is awesome for such lean hardware. I am profoundly fortunate that the Amiga community, particularly the members of my local club LINCS AMIGA GROUP (lincsamiga.org.uk), of which I am founder member and secretary, have been extraordinary generous to me.

    I have a couple of A1200s (on in a tower and one in it’s conventional desktop casing), a hybrid A600/Mac crossbreed (article here: http://lincsamiga.org.uk/wordpress/index.php/members-amigas/macmigas-ultra600-project/ ), a A1500 (a budget UK Model of the A2000 but in actual fact it’s probably one of the best 2000s around as they all use Rev 6.x mainboards), and a 4000.

    All machines are heavily upgraded with accelerators, various expansion cards and hard drives, apart from my desktop A1200 runs a CF card as the drive as I rarely write anything to it, it’s just a games console using a neat App called WHDLoad (dumps games to disk images on hard disk then emulates the disks back to the machine to run the game).

    My 4000 is pride of my fleet. It’s running a Cyberstom060 68060 accelerator with onboard SCSI, a 2065 LAN card, Cybervision64 RTG graphics card, and a looney (for an Amiga) 148MB of FastRAM.

    I also have on loan from fellow a LAG member an AmigaONE, Development of the OS is still ongoing on PowerPC and apparently (if you can ever believe anything in the Amiga community anymore!) will eventually migrate to x86. The A1 isn’t really an Amiga (not in the classic sense), it’s just a G4 PPC reference board with a UBoot boot ROM, the only thing that makes i it Amiga is the name (which is obviously lisenced) and the fact it’s the only machine that boots Amiga OS 4.0.

    Sadly the community has been split time and again by various infighting and bickering, court disputes over IP and such since Gateway finally gave up trying to save the Amiga. We’ve had a lot of promises and nothing delivered for years. It’s sad really, AOS 4.0 is a good OS but the IP restrictions prevent it working outside chosen platforms (well officially at least).