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-   -   Things the Amiga didn't get right from Day 1 (http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=87739)

drHirudo 28 June 2017 10:45

Things the Amiga didn't get right from Day 1
(this is a follow-up thread to "Alternate Timeline", which went in the direction of what Commodore should have done.), but at the introduction of the machine back in 1985.

There are many Amiga design flaws that annoy me even till today, and which could have made designed better, eventually making the Amiga machines better from day one and more desirable.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Amiga for what it is, but I still believe things could have made better, even back in 1985.
Okay let me start:

1. Digital joystick - the same one as in Atari 2600 with SINGLE button! Like what the hell they were thinking? Designing the most sophisticated gaming machine, with the crappiest joystick possible as standard!? Even the Apple II had better Joystick as standard 16-pin DIP socket for Analog Joystick with TWO buttons. I really can't explain how almost every Amiga game sucks from this limitation. The game programmers had to invent the up for jump, but what about the jumping on ladder or more than one weapon, or special moves. Later games used SPACE as fire second button and still up for jump like in Turrican, but then in Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II you had to use sophisticated move combinations for some basic hits. Analog joystick with at least 3 buttons could have been much much better. Not to mention that the DIP socket for analog joysticks can be used for other tasks as well - for example audio sampling with very cheap DACs and simple schemes. Okay, probably the machine was intended more for the art oriented persons, that's why they neglected the gamers crowd by giving them one of the crappiest inputs devices ever. Which leads to number 2.

2. No MIDI port! The machine with the best sound capabilities, not suitable for musicians because they were not able to plug in their MIDI talking instruments directly and had to use 3rd party hardware, which may come with incompatibilities and troubles. That why the Atari ST was more desired by audiophiles - even if it had crappier sound, the musicians loved the simple plug-in and play feature of the Atari. Okay, probably the machine was for the graphic art oriented persons, not audio art, that's why they neglected the musicians, which leads to number 3.

3. HAM mode was a hack, mostly useless for other than static pictures! Okay, you wanted graphics people to design the most awesome graphics and cartoons on the Amiga. Then why the HAM mode was neglected and left just like it was back from the days when Jay Miner experimented with it and was going to remove it, because he saw it was not very useful. Remember they left the HAM mode, because there was going to be a hole in the chip, not because they saw it as usable. From the Wiki page for HAM mode -

However, HAM has significant technical limitations which prevent it from being used as a general purpose display mode.
Okay, probably the machine was for the business oriented people working with spreadsheets and numbers, that's why they neglected the graphicians, which leads to number 4.

4. Non standard floppy disk format, very error prone! Yes, the Amiga written disks were giving much more errors that PC or Atari written disks. Simply because the Amiga wrote more bytes per sector, tracks and disks. I love the idea of getting more data on single disk, even the double sided feature was nice, but most of the manufactured floppies were tested as 720 KB PC disks. On the Amiga, writing more data meant more probability of errors, since you were using the disk with a format not supported by the manufacturer. Back in 1990-ies when I was buying packs of disks usually sometimes I had whole boxes of 100s disks simply not working on the Amiga and giving errors. When I returned them to the shop they were saying that PC owners never return these batches, only Amigans do. Because these floppies worked fine on PCs, but not on Amigas. Okay, probably the machine was for the business oriented people, who won't rely on floppy disks for their important data (remember spreadsheets required lots of read-writes because of the what-if scenarios and daily updates), that's why they neglected the floppy disks users, which leads to number 5.

5. No hard disk controller on board. Back in 1985 there were already 10 MB hard disks for under $1000. Having the option to buy off the shelf hard drive and install it in your Amiga would have made the machine much more desirable for the business users. Because of the hard expansion options (especially for hard drive) the Amiga was often looked by the business oriented people as a toy for gaming, not for serious productivity work.

These are the main flaws that I see and annoy me. Of course there are other design flaws.

Please post your input that you think could have made the Amiga better even back in 1985, which annoys you even till today. Thank you.

ajk 28 June 2017 11:09

1. The Amiga does support two joystick buttons and analog joysticks, so this is not something limited by the hardware. It should probably have been pushed more in the marketing and especially by games companies, not really sure why they didn't.

3. HAM had its limitations, but it's better to have it than not. Plenty of use cases exist for static images.

4. I can't say I have experienced that. Almost all of my floppies from even the 80s still work fine this day. Mostly common brands like TDK, Maxell and such.

5. It would have been nice, but the level of integration on the A1000 motherboard probably didn't allow for a hard drive controller. It's pretty crowded with discrete logic chips and other components, in some models even a daughter board. The A2000 a couple of years later was a much better platform for hard drives.

Jope 28 June 2017 11:14

My opinions:

1. The control ports could support two buttons directly and a third by using an analogue input, but it seems the peripheral vendors did not catch up on this, as generic 1 button sticks were more widely compatible with other computers.

2. No built in midi port, but the midi bit rate was supported by the serial port and the OS, so an inexpensive adapter could be built, and many such adapters were introduced. I agree that had MIDI been built in, this would probably have made the computer more appealing to musicians, but MIDI capable software existed from very early on, I seem to remember EA's DMCS was one of the first (1986). We used A500s with midi adapters + midi keyboards + DMCS and DR T's KCS in the schools in my town back in the early 90s.

3. Yep, HAM was a nice filler for spec sheets, but not very usable in real life. I mainly remember using it to view static GIF pictures, which took ages to decode on my A500.

4. They could have used the regular 1770 compatible sector format, yes. They probably saved money here. Perhaps PCs with their large sector gaps masked some of the faults in the media, but I remember having a big pile of bad clusters on my PC floppies when I transitioned from Amiga to PC. I'm not going to blame the Amiga's low level format for bad media. Quality disks worked well in my Amiga, when I could afford them. I might also speculate, that Amiga users experienced more disk failures, because many of us used the disks a lot more. PC owners paid for a HD much more often, so their disks and disk drives didn't get as much wear and tear. One thing many Amiga users didn't really do was clean their drive heads.. I suspect the problems many Amiga users had with their floppies might have been alleviated a bit by better drive maintenance.

5. PCs used HD controllers as plug in cards way up to the 486 era in around 1994. The reason HDs weren't more popular with the Amiga 500 users in Europe was, that it was a cheap computer and people bought them for games. This was a feedback loop. No HDs = fewer games with HD support = less incentive to buy a HD.

Tsak 28 June 2017 11:25

3. Well, HAM is definitely a feature that got mistreated and underused. Just check Time Gal, uses HAM6 and runs on OCS fine with 4096 colors on screen. Not bad huh?

drHirudo 28 June 2017 11:32


Originally Posted by ajk (Post 1168037)
1. The Amiga does support two joystick buttons and analog joysticks, so this is not something limited by the hardware. It should probably have been pushed more in the marketing and especially by games companies, not really sure why they didn't.

The Amiga joystick/mouse ports are for digital joysticks. If they made it for analog joysticks with 2 (like on the Apple II) or even 3 buttons, the software companies would have supported this from the beginning, making games and software support it. On the Apple II, two buttons are standard and almost every game uses them, some games support walk/run depending on how far you push the joystick. For the racing games it would have been making the experience much better, not having to push/depress every time when you want to turn less. Not to mention the flight simulators, where analog joystick is giving totally different gaming experience. Okay they wanted you to use Joysticks from other platforms (cheaper), which is very illogical - you buy 1,285$ computer and then save on $20 joystick.

ajk 28 June 2017 11:40


The Amiga does support analog joysticks, there are just not very many games that support them. With an analog joystick there are three buttons available and with digital ones, two.

Leffmann 28 June 2017 11:45

Good post :) if I can comment on some points:

1. Like ajk says, but I agree Commodore should've done more. Perhaps they should've included a 2- or 3-button joystick with the early models until other manufacturers stepped in.

3. I think HAM gets too much hate. It was really innovative for the time, being a hardware decoder for a simplified lossy image format, and with the memory limitations on the early models it was clear that it would always be best used for static images. At least until AGA and HAM8 came.

4. Sounds like a combination of bad luck and cheaper brands with tight margins. I don't know much about magnetic storage, but if the DS/DD disks were a bad fit for the AmigaDOS track format then Commodore would never have used them.

Some things that always irritated me:
  • 23-pin RGB cable instead of a VGA connector, but maybe there were no 15KHz VGA screens back then.

  • Floating-point on Amiga being a complete mess, with two different incompatible software implementations randomly tossed into Kickstart and Workbench, and one hardware implementation that may or may not be present.

  • Application stack management also being a mess. Instead of simply putting the required stack space in the executable right from start, we now have a myriad of incompatible patches and hacks for AmigaDOS and Exec to fix it.

  • No filesystem meta-data for icons, giving us the annoying .info files.

  • The Blitter doing logic ops before inversion filling, making polygon rasterization significantly slower, and other silly technical details.

jayminer 28 June 2017 11:55

I don't think it's about saving money on joysticks, but what was available. By using the by then standard controller port also supported by Atari computers and the C64 (and MSX?) there was lots of joysticks to buy. And the amiga supported 2 buttons from the start, you can plug in a Master System joypad and both buttons will work, and later we got the CD32 joypad which has 7 buttons (I think) so I don't really think this was a hardware problem.

The problem was that the old 1-button joysticks was so common then and lots of people who got an Amiga upgraded from an 8-bit computer and kept their old joysticks. If the Amiga had some other type of joystick port I believe people would most likely have used converters and kept on using their old 1-button joysticks anyway.

I also can't see how keeping HAM and not removing it can be seen as a flaw?

If I could have changed one thing about the Amiga chipset it would have been adding a tile-based graphics mode and made the sprites better.

desiv 28 June 2017 17:59

Actually, there wasn't much that bothered me about the initial Amiga release..
The one thing I would have changed would have been to include a GUI "file manager" type of program with the initial distribution.
There are end users who never want to see a CLI and there were things (even some basic things) that you needed the CLI..
I remember when I got my external floppy, it came with a program called CLIMate and that was MUCH nicer.. And I like CLIs.. ;-)

I'm not a fan of early analog controls (Apple II, Atari 5200) for games, so I don't think that was a major problem.
I do wish there were more affordable 2-button controllers and more early games that supported them.. But that's not really a Commodore thing..


Gorf 28 June 2017 18:13

1. Joystick ... third party problem mostly.

2. MIDI - yes you are right there. I also missed that in my "Alternate Timeline". Just did not think of it, because I never used any MIDI-equipment myself :-/

3. HAM was maybe not used very often, but it was one of the most impressing features: showing a HAM-Picture in the 80s impressed everyone!

4. Floppy - more a problem of the actual implementation of the filesystem. never had any problems with SFS or PFS.

5. HD controller. Should have been in every A2000. Not having it was ok for the A500.

What else?

The OS should have been developed with more manpower - stack-problem, resource tracking ... maybe not a problem of day one, but lack of further development.

The chipset was missing a real productivity mode - a big advantage of the Atari ST. A slightly improved Amber chip could have provided 800x600@70Hz deinterlaced - but it did not :-/

But all in all I can not think of many design flaws, if you compare it to other computers in 1985! Amiga was really ahead of its time.
Not upgrading and improving it continuously was the mistake.

And lack of good advertising!

nobody 28 June 2017 19:46

The system was fine for the time. The only major flaw was beeing led by a bunch of highly paid useless company men such as Commodore was.
By 1990 and the new VGA/Megadrives/SNES etc and no serious R&D the previous years, the Amiga was done, it was a matter of time for the sand to finish in the sand glass. They stayed way behind milking the A500 and you can't beat the competition by adding small upgrades when technology was making huge steps every year (CD, 64bit, RTG, Dual core CPUs and more).

Shatterhand 28 June 2017 20:54

MSX also uses 2 buttons, its a japanese standard that also works with X68000, FM towns and probably other jpn computers.

Amiga had 2 buttons joystick from the beginning. I read somewhere that commodore had stores full of 1 button controllers for the C64 and then sold the Amiga as if it had just one button so they could keep selling their C64 controllers. Bad decision imo.

I also dislike analog sticks from that time, most of them are a real hassle to use , even more when most games of that time worked better with digital controllers anyway. I really don't like the apple II controller that much...

My gripe with Amiga is the lack of a PSG (or more sound channels) and its poor HW sprites support.

idrougge 28 June 2017 21:15


Originally Posted by Leffmann (Post 1168045)
23-pin RGB cable instead of a VGA connector, but maybe there were no 15KHz VGA screens back then.

There were no VGA monitors at all then. Period.

matthey 28 June 2017 21:18


Originally Posted by Jope (Post 1168038)
1. The control ports could support two buttons directly and a third by using an analogue input, but it seems the peripheral vendors did not catch up on this, as generic 1 button sticks were more widely compatible with other computers.

I believe a 3rd button was easy to support with digital controllers too (multiplexing unnecessary).

pin 6 = button 1
pin 9 = button 2
pin 5 = button 3 (mid button with a 3 button mouse)

It is the same arrangement as the mouse/trackball although some diagrams show the button 3 as n/c (obviously connected in the Amiga hardware though). Hired Guns told how to swap 2 pins on a Sega Genesis pad and have 3 buttons working.

Most Amiga computers did not come with a joystick/pad but the CDTV from 1991 had 2 buttons. C= would have had to have been proactive to push a standard for controllers with more buttons. They probably could have helped with better AmigaOS controller support which is still lacking today.

Gorf 28 June 2017 21:29


Originally Posted by Shatterhand (Post 1168173)
My gripe with Amiga is the lack of a PSG (or more sound channels) and its poor HW sprites support.

I am somewhat glad it did not have a PSG like the SID.
I fear it would have brought a lot of rather bad/uninspired ports from C64 or other platforms. Well ... I am just no fan of the SID sound.

More channels are of course always nice and more/better sprites as well... but is this really a problem of 1985? The chipset already used a lot of silicon for its time.

I think these things could have been improved later on.
(maybe through a second set of sprites and a second set of audio channels?)

BippyM 28 June 2017 21:50

I think the question should be

"What did Commodore get wrong with the 1200"

Gorf 28 June 2017 22:22


Originally Posted by bippym (Post 1168200)
I think the question should be

"What did Commodore get wrong with the 1200"

The numbers.

khph_re 28 June 2017 22:33


Originally Posted by bippym (Post 1168200)
I think the question should be

"What did Commodore get wrong with the 1200"

lol. very true. Disappointed in '92, but it's still my favourite.

Things I think were wrong:

1) needing a workbench disk.
2) no chunky modes
3) no MIDI
3) releasing the A1000 before the A500
4) perhaps should have went with a 16 bit 6502.
5) ugly OS, with it's a abilities and copper, could have looked better.
6) perhaps a faster copper and no HAM.
7) released a multi button joystick/pad with later machines

minor quibbles, and hind sight is a wonderfull thing.

idrougge 28 June 2017 22:55

I think the single-button joystick (not really Commodore's fault) is the biggest mistake. It hampers game creators to this day since only a minority of Amiga owners, even today, have a two-button joystick or joypad.

Juz400 28 June 2017 23:19

No HAM Mode?
You Jest!
Surley NOT!

No 4096 colours pics of BOOBS???

Remember most of us were teenage lads back then!!

Did the Amiga give rise to the computer smut industry? LulZ

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