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Old 23 February 2021, 19:46   #1
Frogs
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Some thoughts on why the Amiga didn't thrive

My dad got one of the first Amigas back when the launched. He ended up using it a great deal for video production but had intended on using it as general purpose "work" computer.

I recently asked him why he thought the Amiga, rather than the Mac and PC, didn't take off and he had some thoughts I think some of you might find interesting.

(My dad was a hardware engineer at DEC back in those days).

Here's what he said (paraphrasing):

The Amiga lost from the outset by the design of the Denise chip. It ensured that the Amiga was just a game machine because at the time its competition, while inferior in lots of superficial ways, were much better in the areas that mattered for people using computers for work:

The Mac SE (which came out in 1987) didn't have a text mode but its graphics mode could do something like 512x340 without interlacing. So the screen was solid and the text sharp.

The IBM AT (which came out in 1984) couldn't do graphics well but it had a rock solid text mode letting users also do work with very crisp, sharp text.

The Amiga maxed out at 640 x 200 which wasn't suitable for work use or 640x400 interlaced which was also not useful for work. The other modes may have had lots of colors but they were too low resolution to do work.

He talked about the difference between Word Perfect on the Amiga vs. on the PC and that the Amiga version was basically unusable because the text was hard to read.

He also mentioned that the Amiga 2000 didn't come out until 1987 and that until then, doing work on the Amiga meant inserting Kickstart and then inserting Amigados and then inserting the disk for the app. He had two drives so he could skip some of these steps but this added another layer of friction.

So even if Commodore's management hadn't been incompetent, it never would have beat out the Mac or the PC because it was inferior at a work machine because of its low non-interlaced resolution.

According to my dad, the Amiga, when it came to doing actual work, was never as good as its competitors.

Anyway, I'm new here and wanted to share this with you guys to get your thoughts as I hadn't seen this explanation given before. I always heard it was bad marketing or failing to keep the Amiga's tech lead or Commodore mismanagement in general the killed it.
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Old 23 February 2021, 20:28   #2
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I'm pretty sure there were "professional" screen modes even in OCS when plugged to a 31khz monitor.
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Old 23 February 2021, 20:36   #3
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I'm pretty sure there were "professional" screen modes even in OCS when plugged to a 31khz monitor.
No, prior to ECS (A3000) the Amiga could only do 15 kHz modes. I think that indeed the games console genes of the Amiga were what made it unsuitable for office needs. Nonetheless it showed that colours, blitters and graphical user interfaces were attractive features even for workstations. But any office computer needed to do the flicker-free hires stuff first, everything else was a bonus.
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Old 23 February 2021, 20:54   #4
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Last I heard, the Amiga was first and foremost a GAMING machine.

OP, in your OP, you mention the word "work" NINE times. The Amiga was for gaming, not work.
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Old 23 February 2021, 21:09   #5
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So a TLDR would be because of resolution? Not sure if theres competition with a Mac SE with 512x340 when PAL Amiga could run around 768x288 non interlaced.

However i will say it took Commodore far too long to support higher resolutions without interlace and using standard PC screens, i. e. VGA support with AGA machines.
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Old 23 February 2021, 21:14   #6
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There was plenty of work the Amiga could do - to say that it was only intended for gaming is plain silly. It wasn't intended for high resolution monochrome work - that was dealt with already by Macs and STs, and text was the domain of the PC. But nothing could touch it for the cost for video and graphics work. And if you *really* wanted to do high resolution stuff, there was the A2024 monitor which could do a vertical resolution of 1024 on OCS machines without interlace. It was an expensive beast, of course, but it was also clearly not intended for games.
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Old 23 February 2021, 21:21   #7
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ST could do an "office" mode, yet it has also failed (at least on a scale implied here).
Singular explanations for very complex situations very seldom work.

Starting highly flammable topics as a first post also makes me want to reach for the *notsureif.jpg
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Old 23 February 2021, 21:43   #8
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There was plenty of work the Amiga could do - to say that it was only intended for gaming is plain silly. It wasn't intended for high resolution monochrome work - that was dealt with already by Macs and STs, and text was the domain of the PC. But nothing could touch it for the cost for video and graphics work. And if you *really* wanted to do high resolution stuff, there was the A2024 monitor which could do a vertical resolution of 1024 on OCS machines without interlace. It was an expensive beast, of course, but it was also clearly not intended for games.
I was going to mention that the Amiga was the "creatives' computer", but I didn't want to muddy the waters. I mean, how many of these creatives would also be bothered by the interlace flicker, even though for video and genlock work, it was NECESSARY?
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Old 23 February 2021, 22:14   #9
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The Amiga failed because Commodore bought the Amiga technology (they didn't create it) and then let most of the team go - so there was no decent follow-up. They just made money from it and put almost no money back into creating a worthy successor. The original Amiga team went on to create the Lynx, and then the 3DO.

So the next Amiga should have been Atari Lynx - but in computer form - with large no. sprites, sprite rotation/scaling and a blitter etc. But instead we got a linear update with AGA. AGA was enough of an upgrade to beat the 16 bit consoles but was in no way impressive enough for the mass-market to buy it.
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Old 23 February 2021, 22:56   #10
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I think it can be summed up as "It failed because Commodore".

Mostly due to silly corporate infighting, it didn't do all that badly as a platform at all, but it could have easily been where Apple is now if they had the right leadership.
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Old 23 February 2021, 23:41   #11
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That is an interesting view point from your father, I think he definitely has hit upon something. If I remember correctly the Amiga was envisioned as a games console with the ability of a computer added on. I think if you were to look at it from that perspective the limited lifespan of the Amiga would make sense, just like the Super NES, Megadrive etc. had a limited life. However as others have said there were many other mitigating factors that just worked against the Amiga. I think the PC and Mac played it "safe" and that might be one reason for their dominance now, business is for the long term ... but I could be going off on a completely wrong tangent though lol
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Old 23 February 2021, 23:48   #12
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I think the Amiga was a great all rounder. We couldn't afford anything major but the Amiga provided the gaming experience and the ability to do some work - bonus! I remember connecting my A600 to a video cassette recorder to record an intro with music from my Hi-Fi! I'm sure a Video Toaster would have been the better option but I didn't even know that existed back then, let alone afford one even in today's money lol!
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Old 24 February 2021, 00:06   #13
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I talked to my dad today a bit regarding the comments and he brought up that the marketing of the Amiga in the US was very different than in Europe.

In the US, the Amiga (what became the 1000) was sold as a business computer that you could have in the home not as a game machine.

Now, with what we know now, we know that the Amiga team intended it as a game machine that could be used as a computer but that's not how it was marketed in the US when it came out.

Perhaps a better title would have been why the Amiga didn't thrive as a business computer since it later found a niche in home video editing and with the Video Toaster graphics work.

The what-ifs on if the Amiga had been marketed as a *console* with computing abilities, which is somewhat how the Amiga 500 was handled in Europe, by Commodore from the start combined with better management to keep the hardware competitive would be a fun discussion.

But I had not, until I talked to my dad, ever heard anyone bring up that the things most people used a computer for in 1985, spreadsheets and word processors or later, desktop publishing (like on the Mac) weren't viable on the Amiga because of a lack of character mode and the Denise chip's 640x200. One wonders how things might have gone if the Denise ship had gotten 640x400 non-interlaced when the Amiga 2000 first came out instead of in 1990 with ECS.

BTW, I have two Amigas. An Amiga 1000 and an Amiga 2000 that I still have around in working condition. Apologies if anyone thought my post was "flammable". I just found my dad's comments interesting since I hadn't heard that perspective before.
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Old 24 February 2021, 00:12   #14
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Originally Posted by lesta_smsc View Post
I think the Amiga was a great all rounder. We couldn't afford anything major but the Amiga provided the gaming experience and the ability to do some work - bonus! I remember connecting my A600 to a video cassette recorder to record an intro with music from my Hi-Fi! I'm sure a Video Toaster would have been the better option but I didn't even know that existed back then, let alone afford one even in today's money lol!
Yes, I think in Europe or at least the UK the Amiga was really seen as that, for me the Amiga really did everything, gaming, graphics, animation, music and even my school work. But man the audio!! I think a lot of my middle school days and were spent listening to music recorded from demos and games on my boombox and walkman.
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Old 24 February 2021, 00:14   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogs View Post
I talked to my dad today a bit regarding the comments and he brought up that the marketing of the Amiga in the US was very different than in Europe.

In the US, the Amiga (what became the 1000) was sold as a business computer that you could have in the home not as a game machine.

Now, with what we know now, we know that the Amiga team intended it as a game machine that could be used as a computer but that's not how it was marketed in the US when it came out.

Perhaps a better title would have been why the Amiga didn't thrive as a business computer since it later found a niche in home video editing and with the Video Toaster graphics work.

The what-ifs on if the Amiga had been marketed as a *console* with computing abilities, which is somewhat how the Amiga 500 was handled in Europe, by Commodore from the start combined with better management to keep the hardware competitive would be a fun discussion.

But I had not, until I talked to my dad, ever heard anyone bring up that the things most people used a computer for in 1985, spreadsheets and word processors or later, desktop publishing (like on the Mac) weren't viable on the Amiga because of a lack of character mode and the Denise chip's 640x200. One wonders how things might have gone if the Denise ship had gotten 640x400 non-interlaced when the Amiga 2000 first came out instead of in 1990 with ECS.

BTW, I have two Amigas. An Amiga 1000 and an Amiga 2000 that I still have around in working condition. Apologies if anyone thought my post was "flammable". I just found my dad's comments interesting since I hadn't heard that perspective before.
I think this was a great question and nothing "flammable" about it - the Amiga was definitely seen in a different light from different countries. I am still trying to figure out how the Amiga was viewed here in Japan, no one seems to know about it
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Old 24 February 2021, 00:29   #16
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But man the audio!! I think a lot of my middle school days and were spent listening to music recorded from demos and games on my boombox and walkman.
I've been a massive fan of Amiga music since I first heard it in 1990! Even nowadays, even though I use WinUAE emulation, I still regularly listen to Amiga demos on FLAC recordings, or live on WinUAE (identical)!

The most remarkable thing is, that audio is coming from a 36-year old sound chip that predates SoundBlaster on PC! And it still sounds awesome! Kudos to the engineer of the chip!
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Old 24 February 2021, 00:41   #17
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I've been a massive fan of Amiga music since I first heard it in 1990! Even nowadays, even though I use WinUAE emulation, I still regularly listen to Amiga demos on FLAC recordings, or live on WinUAE (identical)!

The most remarkable thing is, that audio is coming from a 36-year old sound chip that predates SoundBlaster on PC! And it still sounds awesome! Kudos to the engineer of the chip!
Yeah it is an amazing thing, haha I am glad to hear others are listening to Amiga music as well. I still write music on my Amiga, I released a couple of tracks under the names: amiga breaks and apogee breaks, I am always amazed how with a good sampler you can really make the Amiga sing.
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Old 24 February 2021, 02:02   #18
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I think this was a great question and nothing "flammable" about it - the Amiga was definitely seen in a different light from different countries. I am still trying to figure out how the Amiga was viewed here in Japan, no one seems to know about it
Pitifully, because i would have loved japanese games straight from the source instead of those european ports
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Old 24 February 2021, 03:48   #19
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But I had not, until I talked to my dad, ever heard anyone bring up that the things most people used a computer for in 1985, spreadsheets and word processors or later, desktop publishing (like on the Mac) weren't viable on the Amiga because of a lack of character mode and the Denise chip's 640x200. One wonders how things might have gone if the Denise ship had gotten 640x400 non-interlaced when the Amiga 2000 first came out instead of in 1990 with ECS.
640*400 non-interlaced is beyond the specifications of NTSC, so there's nothing that could have been done on the Amiga side about that. And character mode (which the Mac doesn't have either, BTW) is obviously useless for desktop publishing.
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Old 24 February 2021, 04:32   #20
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640*400 non-interlaced is beyond the specifications of NTSC, so there's nothing that could have been done on the Amiga side about that. And character mode (which the Mac doesn't have either, BTW) is obviously useless for desktop publishing.
I'm not sure I understand what NTSC has to do with the issue here since most business users plugged them into monitors and even most Amiga 1000 owners I knew had 1084 monitors.

Ironically, the C-128 had an 80 column character mode.

And ECS addressed it. It just came way too late to matter.

edit: I know the 1084 was 15khz, my point is that like other computers, the Amiga didn't need to rely on a TV standard as its own option.

edit 2: I can't find the specs on the original Macintosh. It seems to be its own custom thing running at 512 × 342. The Mac wasn't exactly a big hit at the start either but that resolution (the 342 lines) appeared to be sufficient to get Aldus to target it. I wonder how hard it would have been to either add a character mode to the Amiga or a higher resolution capability (which would have required a higher frequency monitor).

Last edited by Frogs; 24 February 2021 at 04:50.
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