When you think of personal computers and how they shape our lives you probably think about Apple products or “Windows PCs.” They are, after all, the two main PCs that consumers purchase today. While some of these machines are nothing short of amazing, it was a computer released on July 23, 1985 that paved the way for personal computers in households. The Amiga 1000 may have been at the more expensive end of the scale when it was released in 1985 as it cost $1,295, or $2,900 in today’s money, yet it is a machine that shaped the personal computing world. PC World, a popular computing magazine, rated the Amiga 1000 as the seventh greatest PC of all time in 2006 and a year later voted it as the 37th best tech product of all time.
So what was it that made the Amiga 1000 so good and and why did Byte magazine say about the Amiga 1000 that it was “so far ahead of its time that almost nobody, including Commodore’s marketing department, could full articulate what it was all about.” When Commodore released the Amiga 1000 in 1985, there were few people who could believe how powerful the computer was. It combined the 16/32-bit Motorola 68000 CPU, one of the most powerful CPUs for the time, with a multitasking operating system that fit into 256KB of read-only memory (ROM), shipped with 256KB of RAM and had one of the most advanced and powerful graphics and sound systems in its class.
The AmigaOS was quite buggy upon its release so users had to load the operating system on a floppy disk, but consumers overlooked this minor fault as they wanted a high performance machine to play video games on. Amiga 1000 owners could hook up their machine to an analog RGB monitor or they could connect it to a standard television, which increased its appeal as most households owned a television at this time.
One of the big selling features of the Amiga 1000 was the 4,096 colour palate that could also support 320×256 display or as high as 640×256 when displaying up to 16 on-screen colours. These specifications may seen pitiful compared to today’s computers and gadgets, but they were revolutionary at the time and the world had never seen anything like the before. Amiga 1000 users could also enjoy ground-breaking audio thanks to 4x 8-bit PCM channels. Again, by today’s standard this audio would be poor, yet back then Amiga 1000 users were mesmerised by what were, at the time, realistic sound effects.
The main problem of the Amiga 1000 was Commodore failed to keep pace with the rapidly developing personal computer market. Consumers had started to shift their video game playing to console and the famous console wars broke out, so personal computer manufacturers began focussing their attention on the business user, although Commodore were late to the party. Commodore ultimately went bust and one can only wonder what fantastic machines they could have produced if they had moved with the times.