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Brief History of the Amiga

The Amiga was first demonstrated to a restricted audience at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in January 1984. In those days the insides were just a collection of boards crudely wired together and the Kickstart ROM had to be loaded in from floppy disk. It was undeniably a prototype, but people started getting very interested. The backers were interested enough to put up some more cash, allowing further development. At this time Commodore were not involved with the Amiga at all, and the Amiga wasn't even the Amiga - instead it was known as the "The Lorraine Project".

The Lincoln Center in New York prior to the announcement.

The Amiga was first unveiled to the media on July 23 1985. Several hundred people, a veritable Who's Who of computer and technology writers, editors, reporters, market analysts, software and hardware developers, gathered at New York's Lincoln Center to witness the most impressive introduction of a computer (perhaps any single piece of technology at the time) that anyone had ever seen. The spectacle was organised by Thomas Rattigan, president of Commodore North America.

Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol, Thomas Rattigan, Roger Powell(musician)

In what many have dubbed the world's first multi-media presentation, Andy Warhol (avant garde artist and film maker) used Graphicraft software from Island Graphics to create a portrait of Debbie Harry (rock artist of Blondie fame), both prominent celebrities in the entertainment field at that time. The musical accompaniment was provided by Roger Powell of Cherry Lane Technologies using Scorewriter, Texture and Harmony, and Mike Boom representing Everyware Inc, developers of Musicraft software designed to take advantage of the Amiga's four-voice synthesiser and sequencer.

Andy Warhol creating a portrait of Debbie Harry

The Amiga 1000 was eventually launched to the world by Commodore Computers during the Summer Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, Illinois in October 1985. It used a Motorola 68000 processor running at 7.8MHz, 256 Kilobytes of Random Access Memory (RAM), and absolutely no sense of direction as far as Commodore was concerned, so although the A1000 was received with great interest there was no great take-up. As we all know it was a machine that could do almost everything, and could also do what the PC's and Macs of the day could do, so Commodore was unsure exactly who to target it at, and somehow believed that because it was so good they wouldn't really need to market it - the Amiga became one of computing's best kept secrets.

Commodore continued to develop the Amiga until April 1994, when it went into liquidation. The Amiga technology was eventually sold in April 1995 to Escom, a PC clone manufacturer based in Germany who had been involved with the manufacture of Commodore PC's in Europe for many years. There was a lot of talk but very little action, and then in 1996 Escom also went into liquidation. After another wait the Amiga technology was subsequently acquired by Gateway 2000, a PC manufacturer based in the USA.

Gateway subsequently established two divisions - Amiga Inc, the development division, and Amiga Technologies, the marketing division. Intentions were announced, followed by more announcements, often in conflict with one another, and as various prominent people found themselves without a job it was apparent that all was not well at Gateway. By December 1999, prospects were looking bad, but in January 2000, a new company formed from ex Amiga employees calling themselves Amino, and they bought the Amiga technology from Gateway.

Amino duly acquired the name Amiga Inc and so began yet another episode in the life of the Amiga. After a few initial announcements, not much was heard, and every now and then a teaser would emerge, and this was repeated several times. In March 2001 they announced they were nearly there, and the names of other companies involved with the project started to be released, but the world was kept waiting to see what future the Amiga would have.

Copyright 2005 Amiga Auckland Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 25, 2005.