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The Amiga is a personal computer whose development started in 1982. The original Amiga Inc. company was bought out in 1984 by Commodore, who marketed the Amiga as their intended successor to the Commodore 64, and as the competitor against the Atari ST range.

The first Amiga computer was released in 1985. This was the Commodore-Amiga 1000 or A1000 for short. A500 (low-end) and A2000 (high-end) followed in 1987. The A500 was the most popular Amiga computer at that time; today the most popular Amiga is the A1200. The last Amigas to be made were the A1200 and the A4000, the last leaving the assembly line in 1996. A very limited number of clones (Amiga-compatible computers) were produced, as both Commodore and subsequent owners of the trademark adamantly refused to have Amigas produced under license.

The Amiga operating system has been resurrected as AmigaOS 4, which currently runs only on AmigaOne computers. It has also inspired the MorphOS and AROS operating systems.

For its time, the Amiga had some of the most impressive sound and graphics (through several coprocessors) available for the home user. Indeed, it was also used for commercial entertainment production till the mid 1990s (Video editing, 3D graphics rendering etc). NewTek marketed a special Amiga expansion called the Video Toaster, which enabled NTSC video editing and production. Video Toaster was used to render the space ships in the first season of Babylon 5, and was involved in numerous other major movie productions without ever being credited. NewTek also created the Lightwave 3D rendering program on the Amiga, which they eventually ported to the PC and is still being sold today.

The operating system, AmigaOS, was also quite sophisticated, combining an elegant GUI like that of the Apple Macintosh with some of the flexibility of UNIX while retaining a simplicity that made maintenance rather easy.

The original Amiga chipset, OCS, was more advanced than other architectures of its time: it had dedicated chips for graphic effects based on the monitor's beam position and the use of genlocks was very easy; even today many broadcast corporations still uses A3000s and A4000s for their real time video effects.

The Amiga community contributed a lot to a computer subculture known as the Demo Scene. The Demo Scene was more or less a phenomenon inherited from Commodore C64 times.

The original Amiga was designed by Jay Miner. His machine was many years ahead of its time when it appeared, having features such as IRQ sharing, memory mapped IO, AutoConfig (somehwat similar to "plug-and-play" used in today's windows systems), and preemptive multitasking. Some of these features had been used previously in mainframe computers, but had never been used in a personal computer before.

Amiga models include:

In general, machines with 'thousands' numbering were marketed as 'quality' machines for business use, while the other machines (A500, A500+, A600, A1200) were 'mass market' machines.

Prototypes that were never released include:

The following operating systems are available for Amigas: AmigaOS, Linux, and NetBSD. Commodore Amiga Unix (based on AT&T System V Rel. 4) was available for the A3000UX.

Software and hardware is available for the Amiga to emulate the Macintosh (MacOS), PC IA-32 (MS-DOS) and various 8-bit platforms like Commodore 64.

Unfortunately, although the Amiga was very successful in Europe, especially in the UK and Germany, it was less lucky in the US market, with fewer than a million sold. Mass-market Amigas were considerably cheaper than PCs or Macs of their time - this boosted sales in the more price-conscious European markets, but led to Commodore being viewed in the United States as a producer of cheap and nasty 'game machines' - this image was not helped by the fact that most retail outlets were toy stores, and by Commodore's marketing campaigns which were woefully mismatched with the status-conscious American public. There was also the bane of rampant software piracy. In turn, the Video Toaster so popular in the US (NTSC) did not work with the PAL TV standard used in many European countries.

As a home computer, compatibility with ordinary household television sets was prioritized over professional-grade graphics. The memory management was very efficient but lacked Protected memory. Even "amenities" such as a hard drive (on a 500) or a device for ensuring a non-interlaced display (a 'flicker fixer') had to be bought from third-party vendors. While it was the only multitasking platform in the consumer marketplace for several years, robustness left something to be desired (mainly due to the absence of Protected memory, resulting in the famous "Guru Meditation" errors.

In spite of being sold short, Amiga was originally supported by such prestigious software titles as AutoCAD, WordPerfect, Deluxe Paint, and Lattice C. Some titles were later ported to Microsoft Windows and continue to thrive there, like the rendering software Maxon Cinema4d. Many Amigas are still in use today to produce commercials or local cable TV shows.

The history of Amiga owners is a colourful one, including two bankruptcies (Commodore International 1994, ESCOM 1996), two buyouts (Commodore buying Amiga, Inc. 1984, Gateway buying the Amiga IP from the ESCOM estate in 1997) and the licensing of the Amiga IP by Amiga Inc., a new company founded by a former Gateway marketing employee in 2000.

The Amiga has a strong user community, particularly outside the United States.

The current owner of the trademark, Amiga Inc. has licensed to a Belgian-German company, Hyperion Entertainment, the production of an updated AmigaOS ported to PowerPC which is to be released in 2004, ten years after the last official AmigaOS release by Commodore. It has also licensed the AmigaOne trademark to the U.K. computer vendor Eyetech Group, Ltd founded by some former employees of the UK branch of Commodore International.

Much Operating system advocacy surrounds the technology implemented in the Amiga, to the point that many Amiga users are accused of zealotry (look for "Amiga Persecution Complex" in the Jargon File).

The 'Amiga keyboard'\ is quite similar to PC 101-key keyboardss, but differs in subtle ways. Repeat keypress timings caused by holding down a key were handled by software on the Amiga, not hardcoded into the BIOS, and often synchronized to the display timings. As a result, e.g. scrolling through a document could be smoother than on the PCs of the day, which were limited to at most 30 repeats per second. The layout of the keyboard featured a left and right "Amiga" key (bearing the "A" of the (former) Amiga logo in black on the left and outlined on the right). It has the two keys "Help" and "Del" in the place where PC keyboards have "PgUp", "PgDown", "Pos1", "End", "Inst" and "Del". It doesn't have keys like "Print Screen", "Scroll Lock" or "Break". It also only has 10 function keys instead of the 12 on PC 101-key keyboards.

The Amiga Three-finger salute, or interrupt key combination, is Ctrl + Left Amiga + Right Amiga.

The name amiga is the Spanish word for 'female friend', from the Latin amica.

See also: Amiga Demos, Amiga Games, SCA virus

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List of Commodore microcomputers
MOS Technology 6502-based (8-bit):   MOS/CBM KIM-1 | PET/CBM | CBM-II (aka B series) | VIC-20/VC-20 | C64 | SX-64 | C16 & 116; | Plus/4 | C128
M68K-based (16/32-bit):   Amiga 1000 | Amiga 500 | Amiga 2000 | Amiga 500+ | Amiga 2500 | Amiga 3000, UX | Amiga 600 | Amiga 1200 | Amiga 4000