History of the Amiga models


Norman G. King, Normad Vaporware Inc.
History of Amiga models.

In 1985 Commodore bought out the Amiga company and produced the
first in the line of many Amiga systems. Based on the Motorola
68000 chip, the same one the Macintosh uses, the Amiga is a
powerful machine. The Amiga company built special processors to
work with the CPU to speed up video, audio, disk access, and many
other input and output functions and memory management. In fact the
memory manager that Amiga made is much better than the one Motorola
made in many respects! This technology would later be picked up in
1988 by IBM and Apple, based on Amiga ideas in 1985.

The first Amiga on the market was the Amiga 1000. Based on an 8Mhz
68000 CPU with 256K of RAM and one 880K 3.5 Inch drive and Color
monitor with 4096 colors, it was the best system at the time in
1985. No other system could touch it, save perhaps the Atari ST
series based on similar designs. Jay Miner, a Computer Designer and
Engineer that made the old Atari 128 color ANTIC chip, had designed
most of the Amiga with the help of Dale Luck and a few other people
from Compaq, IBM, and Apple. They couldn’t sell the idea to IBM,
Apple, HP, Digital, or any other company. Until Atari and Commodore
battled over the Amiga company, and finally Commodore won. With
only 256K, the Amiga could still multitask, this is due to having
routines written into the system to use the special processors to
do the work instead of letting the software do it. The Amiga 1000
had a 256K and 512K memory upgrade on a shielded card that plugged
into the front of the machine. And on the right side of the machine
was a sidecar type slot, similar to the type of slot a PCjr might
use. Except this was a 16 bit slot with more DMA channels. In 1987
and 1988 the Amiga 500 and 2000 replaced the 1000. The 1000 used
the opposite gender of IBM’s serial and parallel ports. The 500 and
2000 and later Amigas have IBM compatible serial and parallel ports
to make cables cheaper and easier to find. Just plug in the IBM
cable and it works! Also the Amiga used a phone-jack type plug for
its keyboard, and the 2000 and on up used an IBM PC/AT style plug
for the keyboard. So some keyboard manufactures have scan codes for
Amiga keys in addition to PC and AT keys like the Gateway 2000
OmniKey Keyboard.

The Amiga 500 came out in 1987, and replaced the Amiga 1000 for the
low end market because it cost less and had the keyboard built into
the case. Commodore 64 owners like the idea of the Amiga 500
because it was in a style similar to their machine. Other people
didn’t like it, and went to more expensive Amiga systems. The Amiga
500 is being phased out, nobody knows if Commodore will replace it
with a faster 500 or a better 500. But so far it has been dumped on
the market and the base system with 512K and one 880K drive costs
under $200 if you look hard enough! Monitor will cost you an extra
$200 and an extra 512K RAM costs you $39 more. A 1 Megabyte machine
for under $1000 isn’t bad!

 

The Amiga 2000 came out in late 1987 and revised in 1988. Still
using the 68000 like the 1000 and 500, the 2000 was more of an IBM
AT type machine. It in fact has 4 IBM PC/AT type slots, a slot for
video, a slot for CPU takeover, and 5 Amiga Zorro 16 bit slots. Two
f the Zorro and PC/AT slots overlapped each other so an IBM
Bridgecard could be placed there. It is an IBM PC 8088 on a card,
and now you can buy them for under $200 mailorder. They also have
286 and 386 versions available now. The Zorro slots are towards the
front of the case, and the PC/AT slots are near the back of the
case. They both use the same mounting and standoffs, so
installation is easy if you have IBM experience. The Bridgecards
can share devices with the Amiga side, and IBM cards, like a VGA
card or IDE adapter, can be placed in the PC/AT slots. Sometimes it
is cheaper to use an 8088 Bridgecard and IDE card than it is to buy
an Amiga SCSI hard disk controller, so many people use the
Bridgecard to get cheap IBM hard drives and format them with
AmigaDOS.

In 1988 the Amiga 2500 and 2000HD came out. They are modified Amiga
2000 designs, the 2000HD is an Amiga 2000 with a SCSI controller
and 52 Megabyte hard drive. The 2500 is a 2000 with a 68020 or
68030 CPU and a SCSI controller and a 80 Megabyte hard drive. The
2500/20 is the 68020 based 2500, and the 2500/30 is the 68030 based
2500. The 3000 phased out the 2500 series.

In 1989, Commodore got smart and made the 68030 based Amiga 3000
and 3000T. The 2500 still used a 16 bit bus. The Amiga 3000 series
uses a 32 bit Zorro II bus with more DMA channels and a better
multiplexor than Zorro I. Zorro is Spanish for Fox by the way, as
in ‘Quick as a Fox’, and also the name of a Spanish/Mexican
Swordfighter that liked to dress in black! 🙂 Anyway the 3000 has
less slots than the 2000 had, because Commodore gave it a smaller
footprint. The 3000 also has a CPU takeover slot to stick a 68040
daughtercard on. The 3000 was designed around the 68040 design, but
Commodore used the cheaper 68030 in earlier models to save money.
For under $2000 you can turn a 68030 based 3000 into a 68040 based
3000. The 3000T is based on the IBM Clone Tower cases, it has more
drive bays and more expansion slots than the 3000. The 3000T makes
a good file server as Novell did license its Netware to be used by
Commodore. And Arcnet and Ethernet cards can be used. Also Zorro II
slots can use old Zorro I cards due to Commodore’s design of a
multiplexor that uses both 16 bits and 32 bits at faster speeds for
32 bits and slower speeds for 16 bits.

 

 

 

 

 

Since 1992, Commodore put the 25Mhz and 33Mhz 68040 CPU in their
3000 series. This puts the Amiga on par with the Macintosh Quadra
and most 486 Overdrive systems. The Amiga 3000 fixed the flicker
problem found on the video in the early Amiga 1000, 500, and 2000
systems. The low end Amiga systems, the 500, 1000, and 2000 are
being phased out, so you might find them real cheap at used
computer stores. AmigaDOS 2.0 and a 68030 based Amiga is the wave
of the future for Amiga owners. AmigaDOS is based on the Xerox PARC
Star project like the Macintosh was and AmigaDOS is based on Tri-
POS, which Unix was based on, so AmigaDOS has Unix-like features
with a Macintosh-like interface.

In the future, RISC based Amigas are in production. Using both
68040 and Intel P5 chips, and possibly a license from Sun for the
SPARC chips on a bridgecard of some type. IBM, Apple, and Motorola
are making the POWERpc RISC chip, if Commodore makes a deal with
Motorola there may be a POWERpc Bridgecard for your Amiga series!
Also there are software emulators to emulate the Commodore 64, and
IBM PC like the Macintosh SoftPC does. Only Commodore had the
Transformer PC Emulator back in 1985 with an external IBM
compatible 5.25 inch drive. And ReadySoft makes the A-Max II
Macintosh emulator and the C64 emulator. Some shareware makers have
made CP/M emulators, Apple II emulators, C64/C128 emulators, IBM
emulators, and Macintosh and Atari ST emulators. So the Amiga is a
multi-platform machine that can run many other machine’s software.

See you on the flip side!



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