Amiga its roots and history

The Commodore Amiga: It’s Roots and History By Norman King 10/21/1989 for my Advanced C report.


The operating system of the Amiga is called AmigaDOS and is a port of the TRI-POS network operating system. TRI-POS is an
ancestor of UNIX, and was never designed to be run on mainframes,
nor on single user microcomputers. From the beginning TRI-POS was
intended to run a network of workstations, much the same as
Novell’s Netware and several other network operating systems.
Multitasking and message passing are clearly a main part of such
an operating system. Presumably the hooks for networking are
still present in AmigaDOS, and perhaps one day it will be it’s
own network OS. TRI-POS was written in a high level language called BCPL to
provide easy portability from one hardware package to another.
BCPL is an ancestor of C and differs from C in a few ways. BCPL
is a lower level language from C, BCPL comes from the B language
and every data item takes up the same amount of storage unlike C.
BCPL is a typeless language and hence explains why all the data
items are of the same length. Some references to BCPL are:

Richards, Martin, “BCPL– The language and its compiler”

Cambridge University Press, 1979
ISBN 0-512-21965-5 QA76.73 B17 R5
Richards, Martin, “BCPL and C”
Blackwell, 1986
ISBN 0-632-01607-8 QA76.73 B38 E44

On the subject of TRI-POS, the coupling between system and
application is stronger in TRI-POS than it is in UNIX. A TRI-POS
application program is like a subroutine of the operating system.
It requires shared access to system variables (the global vector)
and resident system libraries. As a result, BCPL programs tend to
be smaller than C programs. A TRI-POS port requires only the
construction of a native kernel to provide process management and
message passing. Which is exactly the services handled on the
Amiga by EXEC. And BCPL requires extensive run-time support that
TRI-POS is designed to offer. Thus the Amiga was meant to have
such features similar to such a system of management of system
variables and library access.

Since the Amiga primarily uses a 68000, the pointers are 32 bits.
Since data items in the BCPL language are of the same length,
Amiga TRI-POS (Or AmigaDOS) is forced to store all data in 32bit
longwords. Unfortunately, 68000 memory is not longword
addressable. The 68020 and 68030 address memory in longwords
(32bits) and the Amiga 2500 which uses the 68020 should be able
to address memory in longwords and work better.\DCj\00\00\00\00\00܌AmigaDOS is a very good port of the TRI-POS network operating
system developed at Cambridge University. Just like C and UNIX go
together, the same thing goes for BCPL and TRI-POS. Currently as
of AmigaDOS 1.3 and higher, the operating system has been
re-written in C and 680×0 (As in the 68000 series inc 68020 and
68030) assembly language with most of the bugs removed.

Amiga Computer Inc. began as three Florida Doctors decided to
invest $7 million in a computer venture. Originally thinking of
opening a line of computer department stores, they decided to try
something more exciting and start a computer company. So they
gathered a few people, Jay Miner who had worked on the Atari
ANTIC graphic chip and did a few jobs for Pixar, and Dave Morse a
VP of sales from Tonka toys. In 1982 the home arcade market was
hot, and even IBM tried to get into it with their PC. Amiga
wanted to make a killer game box that used multiple processors to
control sound and graphics. But a few of the technitions lead by
Jay had other ideas and looked into a network operating system
called TRI-POS in case the game box didn’t pay of. Jay and his
band of computer gurus had hid their ideas from uppermanagemet,
so that the people on the top thought that they where just going
to make a $400 game box instead of a personal workstation too!
They had looked in a thesaurus for the first name to convey the
thought of friendliness and found Amiga, Amiga is the Spanish
word for a female friend, Amigo is Spanish for a male friend.
Since machines are usually referred to as females, the name Amiga
was used.

Before getting the Amiga Arcade Game Box into the market, Amiga
wanted to establish a “market presence” which would give them an
established name. They sold peripherals and software for other
game boxes and home computers under the Amiga name. They made a
few joysticks, and even a joyboard that worked like a joystick
but the person would tilt to move. A ski game was sold with the
joyboard, and later a Indian Guru Meditation program was brought
out for it, and to achieve a good meditation one would have to
balance themselves to perfect balance. This Guru name was used
for the AmigaDOS error system later on.

R.J. Micals interviewed with Amiga Computer in July 1983, he had
formally worked at William’s Electronics and designed Pinball
systems. He had thought about working for HP, but felt
uncomfortable wearing a suit all the time. He thought that $400
for a killer game box was a good price at the time, but as fate
would have it the bottom was dropping out of the home arcade
market and the investors wanted something besides a game box and
withdrew funds, so the price was set at $600. This is where Jay
and his guru’s foresight came into play, instead of making a
killer game box, Amiga should try and make a killer workstation
with great graphic capabilities. The original Amiga was to be a
keyboardless game box, but the techies had designed everything
from disk controllers, to keyboards, ports, video interfaces, and
disk drives for the system. The system was dubbed the Amiga
Lorrane and work went into making a prototype. \DCj\00\00\00\00\00܌They had used Motorola 68000 workstations with VT-100 terminals
to test out the system and custom chip cpus. At first the chips
where not in silicone yet, but were in fact large breadboards,
placed vertically around a central core and wired together round
the edges like a Cray. Each of these “towers” had a mass of wires
running out leading up to one of the first prototype Amiga
breadboard with it’s antistatic walls and signs all around saying
“Ground Thyself” as if it where an alter to Herman Hollorith or

Later at a 1984 winter CES they got the first Amiga Lorrane set
up in breadboard at a show booth in a special grey room and gave
private demos. The private viewing of the Amiga Lorrane was a
success, and R.J. and Dale Luck went into working on putting the
system into a better format and work with Jay Miner’s new silicon
chipsets. R.J. and Dale worked 20 hours a day when they weren’t
eating or sleeping. They took all the technical staff out for
Italian food and even got drunk a few times. Late one night while
drunk, both Dale and R.J. would write what would become the Amiga
Boing! demo of a bouncing beach ball that everyone else would try
and copy. R.J. and Dale became known as “The Dancing Fools”
because they would play loud music and dance around during
compiles to stay awake. At the next CES they showed the
finished Amiga Lorrane in Silicon, and people would look under
the table for wires and ask “where is the REAL computer doing
these graphics and sounds?” as they where astonished by the
Amiga’s capabilities in such a small case.

After the CES, Amiga came into financial problems, as it would
take a lot of money to get the Amiga Lorrane finished and
advertised. The Doctors wanted out, and wouldn’t invest anymore.
Amiga went to Sony, Apple, Phillips, HP, Silicon Graphics (they
just wanted the chips) and even Sears. But not one company would
lend them any money or buy them out. Then Jack Tremiel, founder
of Commodore who had just left Commodore and bought out Atari,
figured that he’d revenge himself on Commodore by getting a
‘superior product’ and beating Commodore into a position so that
Jack could buy it out. So Jack negotiated about $500,000 with
Amiga for negotiating for a month. But half a million wouldn’t be
enough, and Jack tried to buy out Amiga at 98 cents a share even
if the Amiga stock was $2 a share. The bidding went on an Jack’s
bids got lower and lower. Commodore, which had lost it’s
management to Atari and needed a new product that would give it a
better image found out about Amiga and offered $4 a share, but
Dave Morse turned them down, then Commodore offered $4.25 a share
and Morse accepted. Commodore gave Amiga $27 million to develop
the computer by 1985. Amiga had never seen so much money in one
place, and spent it on a Sun workstation for every software
person (which the Amiga was to try and be like), with
Ethernet and disk servers for everyone. The machine was then
renamed the Commodore Amiga. And an Amiga 1000 was planned to be
released onto the market.


The Amiga 1000 sold better than Commodore had planned. And
Commodore decided to put priority on the Amiga over it’s 64 and
PC clone machines (Yes Commodore had Canadian made PC clones that
it sold in Europe, and are just now getting in our American
market) and make the Amiga 1000 a flagship for more Amigas to
come. Hence the Amiga 2000 was made with 1 megabyte of RAM, Amiga
internal expansion slots and 4 IBM PC/AT (Intel ISA) comapatble
slots in case a PC bridgecard was added to use IBM hardware. And
the low cost Amiga 500 was made, with a profile like the C64,
Tandy COCO and Apple //c (The main W. German designers of the 500
where people who used to work for Apple and worked on it’s //c
design) computers. That is a built in keyboard and low level
profile at a low price. And then the Amiga 2500 with it’s 68020
CPU and 3 megabytes of RAM, and the potential to run BSD UNIX
system V. The much awaited 68030 based Amiga 3000 hasn’t made it
to market yet and may just be a rumor. But a portable Amiga may
be likely, Dale Luck hacked one together out of an old Executive
64 portable case and used an Amiga 500 motherboard with a battery
pack that he uses. Maybe he can get Commodore to make a portable
Amiga 500 for the rest of us?

In the recent years since the Amiga came out in 1985, other
companies made their machine have features similar to the
Amiga’s. But none of them have those features ‘out of the box’
for as low a price that the Amiga offers. In addition, game
makers like Sega and Nintendo have licenced the Amiga custom cpu
designs to use in arcade and home arcade systems. The latest Sega
machine, the Genesis uses chips based on the Amiga custom cpu
chip set. The Amiga is much more than a game machine,

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