It was 30 years ago this week that Commodore released its landmark, long-time-coming Amiga 1000 computer–the first 1990s computer in a field full of 1970s retreads.
Yes, it was a 1990s computer in 1985. It had color and sound built in, not as expensive, clunky, hard-to-configure add-ons. It could address up to 8 megabytes of memory, though it ran admirably on a mere 512 kilobytes. Most importantly, it had fully pre-emptive multitasking, something that had previously been the exclusive domain of commercial workstations that cost five figures.
It was so revolutionary that even NBC is acknowledging the anniversary.
Being a decade or so ahead of its time was only the beginning of its problems, unfortunately.
Continue reading How the Amiga could have lived to age 30 and beyond
The Commodore brand is back again, this time on an Android smartphone. For a premium price, you get an Android 5.0 phone with the Commodore logo on it, preloaded with VICE and an Amiga emulator, which, between the two of them, emulate just about everything Commodore ever made, except, perhaps, the products that can be emulated with the Android calculator app.
But I don’t expect this attempt to be any more successful than earlier efforts to resurrect the brand.
Continue reading Why this latest attempt to resurrect the Commodore brand will probably flop
SSD pricing continues to be competitive, and if I were buying an SSD today, I would have a tough decision ahead of me. The Crucial BX100 would be the obvious choice, with its good speed, super-low power consumption, and attractive price, at $99 for the 250GB model and around $185 for the 500GB model.
But there’s an underdog: the PNY CS1111. Bear with me on that one: It’s a little slower than the Crucial, but costs 15% less.
Continue reading If I were buying an SSD today
Before the Amiga was a computer, Amiga was a struggling independent company trying to stay in business so it would get its chance at changing the world. In order to make ends meet while they developed their multitasking computer, Amiga produced and sold joysticks for the game systems and computers that were already on the market.
These joysticks turn up on Ebay fairly frequently.
Continue reading The first (and maybe cheapest) Amiga product for Amigaholics like me
Since questions occasionally come up, and I remember well what it was like owning a Commodore in the 1980s in the United States, I’ll share my recollections of it.
It was very different from computing today. It was still interesting, but it was different.
Continue reading What it was like owning a Commodore in the mid 1980s
Dan Bowman kindly pointed out to me that former Commodore engineer Bil Herd wrapped up his discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday this week. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus/4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Plus/4 was one of those TED machines.
What went wrong with that machine? Commodore miscalculated what the market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Continue reading The curious case of the Commodore TED machines
A rather hastily written and sloppily edited piece showed up on Slashdot yesterday morning that caught my attention, because it was about the Amiga 2000. The Amiga 2000 is a dear machine to me; in 1991, our family upgraded to one from a Commodore 128. I still have both machines, and there isn’t much that I know today that I didn’t first experience on one of those two machines.
Although I think the piece was little more than a used computer store’s effort to unload some hard-to-move inventory, I do agree with the premise. For a machine that had a tremendous impact on the world as we know it today, the A2000 is criminally unknown. Continue reading The forgotten computer that changed the world
I wanted to like the Moto E, for sentimental reasons. The Motorola who made this phone isn’t the same Motorola who made the MC68000 CPU in my Amiga, and it’s not the same Motorola that built the hulking briefcase-sized bag phone Dad toted around in the 1980s, but the logo is the same.
The stingy Scottish miser in me wanted to like the phone too, because it costs $129. A few short months ago, the only phones you could buy new for under $130 were cheaply made no-name phones like the Blu Advance with half a gig of RAM, a low-visibility screen, a low-end processor you didn’t want and an Android that was a few versions out of date, encased in lots of cheap plastic. Next to the Moto E, the Blu phones lose what little appeal they had.
Continue reading The ultimate budget smartphone: The Moto E
I was excited yesterday to see Amiga in the news again: A team of digital archaeologists recovered a series of images off floppy disks from Andy Warhol’s estate, including a number of experimental images created by Warhol himself. Judging from the comments in the various places that covered the discovery, the Internet is unimpressed.
Yes, these images appear to be the result of Warhol messing around. In many ways, they’re not all that different from what anyone might produce today messing around with a digital camera and a simple paint program with a fill pattern.
I’m not sure how many of the critics realize this stuff was created in 1985 or perhaps even late 1984, using preproduction, not-yet-released hardware and software that was likely buggy, and, as much as I like the Amiga, nowhere near today’s standards. The stuff he had to work with was nowhere near 1989 standards–the Amiga in its early days was notoriously finicky. Continue reading The Warhol Amiga discovery in context
It was 50 years ago this month that IBM released the first modern mainframe, the System/360. The System/360 was notable for being the first series of systems built with interchangeable parts, rather than being custom-built. It’s also notable because its direct descendants are still in production: In the 1970s, it became the System/370, the System/390 in the 90s, and the z series today. The systems originally ranged from 1 MHz to 50 MHz in speed, and came with anywhere from 8 KB to 8 MB of RAM. To put that in perspective, the low-end model was comparable in power to an early Apple II desktop computer from 1977, and the high-end model was comparable in power to the 486 PCs we ran Windows 3.1 on in the 1993-94 timeframe. Or you could compare it to one of my souped-up Amigas, if you prefer (I do). But the same software that ran on the low-end model would run on the high-end model, and there’s a pretty good chance that software from the 1960s will run on a modern Z series mainframe today, with little to no modification.
Twenty years ago this architecture was supposed to be on its way out, but it never really went away. IBM keeps modernizing it, so I expect z/OS has a long life ahead of it. It’s entrenched, and when technology gets entrenched, there’s no getting rid of it.
There isn’t much new, young mainframe expertise in training these days, and it turns out there are certain jobs that mainframes do better than smaller PCs do. Most large companies have at least one mainframe, and it’s not going anywhere, but the people who can care for it and feed it are retiring fast. If you want some job security, you can do a lot worse than learning everything you can about IBM Z series mainframes in addition to the other things you know.