One of the most exciting computers that I ever owned, and certainly one of the most significant in the history of personal computing, is the Amiga 1000, the first Amiga model release by Commodore in the fall of 1985.
At the time of its release, the system featured a powerful 7.14MHz Motorola 68000 processor, on-board custom co-processors to aid in graphics and audio tasks, a UNIX-like, pre-emptive multitasking operating system, and a graphical user interface to tie it all together. The Amiga 1000 unit retailed for $1,295 at launch and was significantly more powerful in every respect than the flagship IBM computer, the PC/AT, which featured a 6MHz Intel 80286 processor and retailed for approximately $6,000.
I learned about the coming Amiga in the summer of 1985, though, sadly, I don’t recall where. It certainly wasn’t “online,” which then would’ve meant on a dial-up BBS of some sort, as I had no modem on the Apple //c I was using at the time. I was intrigued by what I heard and excited about the prospect of owning one. (I was definitely outgrowing that //c.) It wasn’t until I walked into a Waldenbooks and picked up the August 1985 issue of Personal Computing magazine, however, that my lust truly began. And, began, it surely did.
The issue in question featured a striking cover showing the Amiga 1000 unit with several screens of software in action, filing out of the display. Inside, there was a main article and a few associated articles that went into great detail with regard to the system’s capabilities and specifications. I recall finding it actually painful that I was unable to get the text into my brain faster, such was the allure of the machine that was being so clearly described. Geek porn, this definitely was.
Remember, younger readers out there, this wasn’t just a faster version of the same old thing, like we generally see with computers today. This was a time when most every new computer brought with it an entirely new operating environment. To embrace a new platform in those days was to venture into unexplored shoals. (It was a thrill I experienced many times, but one that I lament new users today will never know.)
From that day until the day in late October 1985 when I brought my Amiga 1000 home from Chaney Computer in Newport News, VA — the first Amiga 1000 sold in the state of Virginia — I was transfixed by that copy of Personal Computing. I carried it everywhere, even to school, and read it constantly. I read it over and over and lusted and imagined and, in time, I pretty much wore it out. And sadly, like most of the computer magazines I had back in the early days (many of which I’ve reacquired in more recent years), I’m not sure where it went off to.
The degree to which that magazine impacted my life at the time was so dramatic that, a few years back, I sought to locate a copy, to have a look at what it was that sustained me so, until I had my hands on the hardware. I’ve had an eBay automated search in place for three years, at least, but I’ve never found a copy.
Well, I recently posted a request for the magazine over at Amiga.org and, as good fortune would have it, a reader there had scanned the magazine some years before and was able to provide me with a series of images that captured every page of Amiga coverage in that issue. Hats off, JimS, and many thanks.
In order to share this wonderful bit of computer journalism with others out there, I’ve assembled the various page scans into an ordered PDF that includes every bit of Amiga mention in that 27 year old issue of Personal Computing.
By all means, have a look: Personal_Computing_1985-Amiga.pdf. I found it to be adrenalizing reading and enjoyed the unbelievably impressive bitmaps shown within, including Jack Haeger’s “Four-Byte-Burger.” It turns out that it, and several other works of art shared within, were created with an early version of the Graphicraft paint program — before the program featured a file save option. These images were drawn, photographed, and then cast into oblivion when power was taken from system RAM with the monetary flick of a switch.
Please, do let me know if you happen to recall reading this particular issue, way back when. And, for those that are strangers to that wonderful period in computing history, I hope these scans convey a bit of the excitement that we old geeks enjoyed so long ago.
Update : I finally, after over a decade of searching, found the physical magazine on eBay and it is now in my hands!
Thanks for posting the pdf, enjoyed looking through it although I’d never read it before – it’s clear they were impressed with the capabilities of the machine and rightly so considering the time. I got into them here in the UK in the late ’87?(ish) with the arrival of the A500. It’s astounding to me both how Commodore could fumble so badly eventually running themselves into the ground even with this platform to build upon and how, despite being born in the mid 80s, a machine from that era can still feel as snappy in many ways compared to what we have today. How far we’ve come – and yet not.
Clicked through to your computer list and although very impressive, i’m sad to see dead links to pics :(
You inspired me, I just updated all the image links in The List, and added a few new ones. :-)
I really enjoyed reading this excellent article and PDF. Brings back lovely memories… :)
A fantastic discovery. Thank you so much dear Blake. The article actually manages to capture the sheer innovation encased in the Amiga. Thanks again. And a happy new year again!
Ahh memories… :-)
I recall reading that issue too, used to get the occasional copy of the magazine from a wee shop just off Princess St in Edinburgh that had been there since the days of the VIC 20… :-)
Strange thing about your blog that made me think was the comment about “Remember, younger readers out there”, as it never really occurs to me that anyone interested in the Amiga wouldn’t have been in at the start with the VIC 20 then the C64 and finally the Amiga…
Started off myself with the VIC 20 at the end of 80 and progressed through to the Amiga (which I still use every day) and everyone else I knew did the same. Guess I kinda take it for granted that any Amiga fan would have done the same but your blog kinda made me realise there are still younger folk out their who never knew the excitement and fun of what it was like at the true start of what we know as home computing… :-)
Nice blog… and thanks for the memories… :-)
I remember the same fascination back in 1985 though neither I nor my geek-friends could afford an Amiga. Nevertheless we knew that this was THE machine. Owning Atari XLs and MSX-machines we dreamed of the Amiga. So even here in Germany there was the same feeling you describe around that time: That the Amiga rules. It took me 4 years until I could afford a 68000-machine: It was an Atari 1040 ST (seemed to me better to do serious work because of the excellent monochrome monitor). It took me through my whole university years.
As some of you described above: I miss these years because today computing isn´t that exciting anymore because the machines are so powerful nowadays that a new machine just means: a little bit faster, a little bit smaller etc.
And, as one of you mentioned: some things didn´t get better: My word processor at the Atari (Script) never ever crashed though I wrote all my university reports in the last night (the printing with my Star LC 24-10 took 2 hours!).
By the way: great blog – I read every new article!
Markus– Thanks for sharing. Yea, it was a magical time. I must say, I recently got more excited about the Tandy CoCo3 I recently picked up for cheap on eBay to play around with than about the maximum-spec 3.4GHz Core i7 iMac I recently got to replace my 5+ year old Mac Pro. It’s nice to have the greater speed, but it’s not something new, something exciting.
I remember in going from Apple //c to Mac 128 to Amiga to Apple IIgs to Atari ST etc — it was a new scene entirely with each switch, and that was exciting and awesome. I guess that’s why I keep those old machines around and spend time with them regularly. It’s nice to recall those great day through continued use.
It’s a different era now. For better or worse, these days computers I like a power saw… you buy one to do a job, not for the sake of having one. Back in the Elder Days, owning a computer was the goal, doing useful work was an excuse. ;-) I remember being amazed at playing a few seconds of Glenn Miller on my Atari 800 as a scratchy digital file. Cool, but not serious audio. Now I’ve got nearly 30,000 old radio shows tucked away on the hard drive in quality good enough to listen to for their own sake. To say nothing of the music and movies.
Compared to anything else I’d seen up until then, the Amiga demoed our tiny college just made us all stare. What it was doing was amazing. We could not believe the boing demo didn’t have special hooks to support the crazy screen scrolling that was being shown off. And the sound was so rich and full – and still playing at the proper tempo even when the whole window was off screen. We were too used to programs speeding up as it had less to do.
It really was different. We all wanted one. Not one of us could afford one. The best we could come up with was a 1040ST. Not a bad machine, but after a few hours it was obvious it wasn’t an amiga..
It is a shame that the whole Amiga scene is just so messed up with so many variations and reasonably high costs that it seems prohbitive to pick one up… because you need three to cover all the generations!
I have four. :-)
Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your article. :) Also thanks for posting the .PDF – how things have changed since then!
I still use an Amiga today. Got an Amiga 1200 with several expansions, an Amiga 500 and a CD32. I love using an Amiga.. it’s a special feeling compared to Windows systems. When the new AmigaOS 4.x netbook from Hyperion is released, I’m going to purchase it.
Thanks for posting this, really reminds me of obsessively reading articles about computers that I owned or hoped to own. I would just read them over and over again. Like Old School above I still have my lovely Amiga 1200, a 500 and a CD 32, great times, great machines.
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Sent you an email on this wonderful find of yours. May have to check your spam. Cheers!
I am absolutely floored that I have finally found the magazine article that started it all for me. Incredible you found it as I have been looking for this particular magazine for many years with zero results. I tried numerous Google searches such as “Amiga Statue of Liberty” and so on. Last night, after a few years of giving up, I tried a slightly different search criteria and found your blog by chance. That Statue of Liberty screenshot in that article changed my life. I know that sounds completely and hopelessly dramatic, but it is absolutely true. I could not believe a personal computer was able to display that graphic. My teenage self immediately tore those pages out and taped them to the back of my bedroom door. Next to it, a blank piece of paper with a hand drawn money meter so I could keep track of when I could buy one. Mowing a lot of lawns and a little help from my parents later, I was finally able to get one fully loaded with 512K and a Commodore CRT. So many great memories with that system. The future seemed limitless on that machine.
I went on to use an Amiga 1000 and 500 live on stage in an electronic band I was in. The 1000 was for sound effects and the 500 ran the Amiga drum machine software ‘Dynamic Drums’.
It always impressed the crowds in the late 1980s. We weren’t famous, but we sure looked the part. Eventually I moved on to an I.T. career and tbh the corporate world almost ruined the computer hobby for me. “Server down!” calls at the data center in the middle of the night got old after awhile. Finally quit and went full circle. I started repairing and restoring vintage computer systems all the way up until the pandemic hit. Gave away most of my collection to preservationist and collector acquaintances of mine and called it a day. Most of my rarer vintage hardware/software went to The Strong in Rochester, NY. An amazing museum that has one of the largest video game collections in the world. Great folks there. I mostly do emulation now since I’m on the road quite a bit. Thank God for WinUAE and the still thriving Amiga indie dev scene. Amazing people are still coding for the systems and more power to them.
Anyway, that’s the short version. So much stuff in-between. I always wondered if Jack Haeger ever released that Statue of Liberty art he did on the Amiga from this magazine article as I never saw it in circulation on the BBSes or Amiga demos. I would love to have a digital copy of it, but I realize that is probably not gonna happen. I read somewhere many of his early Amiga works were on prototype Amiga systems with no I/O and they were not saved after photos were taken. Have no idea if that is true. An example would be his Four Byte Burger and of course the Statue of Liberty. Neither materialized in the digital world like some of his Graphicraft demo art.
At least I have finally found the magazine article that I have been searching for all these years. Like you, it had a massive impact on my life. At one point, I started to question if this magazine article actually existed. Ha! Thanks for bringing my sanity back. LOL
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