Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Commodore Amiga.
In the 1980s, the PC wars weren't just about Macs vs IBM compatibles. Commodore was a force to be reckoned with (along with Amstrad, Tandy, Sinclair and others). The company introduced a generation of hobbyists and consumers to low-cost home computing with its VIC-20 and Commodore 64. The Mac was still coming up to speed and Apple IIs reigned supreme in many businesses and schools. That's when Commodore introduced a computer that could multitask, show color graphics, handle stereo sound and more, and it seemed destined to rule an entirely new market for personal computers. Alas, neither Commodore nor the Amiga would have the staying power of the Mac or of PC-compatibles.
Now a footnote in the history of the personal computer, the Amiga was truly revolutionary when it first saw the light of day in 1985. From Ars Technica:
As the [Computer History Museum] describes it, the Amiga 1000 was "a radical multimedia machine from a group of thinkers, tinkerers, and visionaries which delivered affordable graphics, animation, music, and multitasking interaction the personal computer world hadn't even dreamt of." It pioneered desktop video and introduced PCs to countless new users, rocketing Amiga and Commodore to the top for a brief moment in the sun.
In 1985 the Mac was still nascent and trying to find its footing. The desktop publishing market was still in its infancy. Macs were black and white machines with tiny screens. The Amiga debuted on the scene with color graphics, gorgeous sound and more besides. Amigas powered desktop video systems for years before Avid and Media Composer-based Macs were in use. An Amiga set up with NewTek's Video Toaster was the setup everyone wanted.
The Amiga had plenty of kick-ass games available, too. I remember spending hours playing Speedball 2, Worms (yes, the ballistic artillery game started life on the Amiga), and others. For a roundup of great Amiga games, check out Craig Grannell's post at Stuff.
They were amazing machines. At one point in the late 1980s I sold my Mac and bought a Commodore Amiga A500 model — their entry-level system. I still have one, actually, and it still works (that's it in the picture above).
Commodore still exists, but only as a brand, used most recently to shill Android phones. I often wonder what would have happened if Commodore had remained ascendant, and if Apple had never become a digital video juggernaut.