Confessions and rememberances of an Amigaholic

My name is Dave. I am an Amigaholic.

I thought I was recovered. But I don’t think you ever recover. Not really.

You see, this week I was trolling Craigslist for garage sales. I look for trains, toys for my boys, and other things that strike my fancy. I spotted a sale that advertised an Amiga computer. I shouldn’t have put it on my list, but I did. I didn’t want to buy it, but I had to see it. I had to. Like I said, you don’t recover.

I pulled up and parked across the street. I didn’t see it right away, but I crossed the street and scanned the driveway. Then, I spotted an old cardboard box with the familiar Commodore Amiga lettering. I’d recognize it anywhere.

The box still had a label on it from Systems Plus, the old Commodore/Amiga dealer at 7435 Watson Road, suite 119 Kenrick Plaza. It’s been closed nearly 20 years, and most of Kenrick Plaza got demolished to make way for a Wal-Mart, but I remember the place. I didn’t think highly of their service department, which was what inspired me to learn how to fix computers myself in the first place. Later I applied for a job there. Unsuccessfully, but I tried. I didn’t know it then, but the place shaped my life.

For what it’s worth, the Value Village thrift store in Kenrick Plaza was a decent place to find retro computer gear for a long time. But I digress. Sort of.  Let’s talk about what was inside that box.

Commodore Amiga 3000
In 1990, computing didn’t get any better than this Amiga 3000.

Inside the box, I found an Amiga 3000. It was first released in the summer of 1990, and it was the first fully 32-bit Amiga. Earlier Amigas had 16-bit memory buses, much like a 386sx. In 1990, it didn’t get any better than this: a fully 32-bit system, with pre-emptive multitasking, coprocessors six ways until Sunday, a large SCSI hard drive, 16-bit color and stereo sound… In a lot of ways, it was the first true modern computer. The machine’s designer, Dave Haynie, says the Amiga dragged the computer industry all at once from the 1970s into the 1990s. And I’ll back him up on that statement.

You better believe I asked how much.

She said her husband could have told me more about it, but he had died. That’s a reminder of just how long it’s been since the Amiga’s heyday. I asked his name, and she told me. He wasn’t someone I knew well, but I’m sure we crossed paths. We were both members of the Gateway Amiga Club. And I’m sure we dialed into the same bulletin boards too. Maybe I should have asked if she knew his BBS handle. I thought I recognized his name, but when I tried to look it up, I found one of the machine’s designers had a similar name, as did the publisher of Amiga World magazine, so it may have been one of them I was recalling.

Yes, Amigaholics know the names of the engineers who designed the machine. Yes, I’m aware that’s more than a little strange. If you owned one back then, you understand. If you didn’t, there’s no way I can explain it to you. We spent the early 1990s trying to explain it, and, well, the company went out of business, so you can draw your own conclusions about how that went.

She said he was very proud of the machine. Clearly he was.  It was in immaculate condition, and in the early 90s, it was a machine to be proud of. It was an expensive computer, but the only way you’d find something more capable than it was to buy a workstation or a minicomputer, which would cost 2-3 times as much, at the very least.

He should have been proud of it.

It took a lot of restraint, but I didn’t buy the machine. I did take her name and phone number though, so I could change my mind. Or so I could get it into the hands of another Amigaholic. There are still a few around.

Because, let’s be honest. I want that machine, but I don’t need it. I still have my Amiga 2000 from that era, in all its decked-out glory. I’m ashamed to admit when the last time was I used it. I know where it is, and, like Andy’s toys in Toy Story, it’s there for me.

Actually, it’s more than there for me. It’s in me. Here’s the thing about Amigas. Learn how the machine works, and you think differently. It wasn’t Windows, it wasn’t Mac OS, and it wasn’t Unix, so it did things differently than any of those other computers did. Some of it was just different for difference’s sake, or to avoid lawsuits. But most of it was to make it faster.

Any time somebody says there’s nothing you can do to make Windows run faster, there’s a one-sentence rebuttal that’ll shut them up, if they know anything: Do everything, absolutely everything, that you can to a computer to make it more like an Amiga, and it’ll run faster.

I think I just summed up my entire career in a single sentence.

3 thoughts on “Confessions and rememberances of an Amigaholic

  • October 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    Cool story, man.

    In the mid-80s I was enamored with the Amiga, but didn’t end up owning one for another 20 years. I was just getting hot and heavy into the C64 when the 1000 was released in 1985, and my dad had already hopped over to the PC world by the time the 500 and 2000 hit the market.

    One of my best friends had one in the late 80s and I was insanely jealous of the machine’s audio and video capabilities, but it was only a few years later that VGA video cards and Soundblaster audio cards surpassed the Amiga’s.

    I bought an Amiga 500 (two, actually) in the early 2000’s, and a 1200 shortly after that. I’ve since sold both of the 500’s, and hang on to the 1200 even though I’ve barely used it. Maybe it’s the rose-colored glasses, but I’ve had a really hard time retroactively getting into the Amiga. I was literally heart-broken when I read that the Sega Genesis had comparable graphics to the Amiga. in my mind, the Amiga had a-maz-ing graphics, and the Sega Genesis was just average (good for the time, but not groundbreaking).

    In my new house, I plan on dedicated a large desk to retro computers. I’ll have an Apple II and a C64 there for sure, and I’d like to hook that 1200 up as well and give it one more go around. I really want to love that machine.

    • October 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm
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      I think Amigas are harder to love if you didn’t use them way back when, since they do things like switching between tasks so differently from everything else. And the wow factor is gone, since even the cheapest Android phone can do everything an Amiga did, and fit in your hand.

      Once you get an Amiga set up and get a good collection of software on it, it should be likeable. It helps that the A1200 takes a standard IDE 2.5″ hard drive.

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