It Was Always The “Amiga 1000”

Amiga_Logo_1985.svgI have written a number of posts over the years about the Amiga 1000 computer, the first model in the Amiga line, which was released by Commodore in late 1985. I purchased my first Amiga 1000 in October 1985 from Chaney Computer in Newport News, VA (and I have reason to believe it was the first Amiga sold in the state).

When I got home that day with this computer that seemed to actually be magical (it’s hard to convey how dramatically more capable in all regards the Amiga 1000 was than all other computers of the day), I quickly unpacked it, set it up on my desk, and threw the box in the closet. I spent the next several days sitting in front of that computer, having my mind blown time and again by the graphics, the sound, and the multitasking. School (8th grade) was agony at the time, keeping me away from that amazing machine for most of the day. I remember those days vividly.

About a week after bringing the system home, I opened up my closet and pulled out the box to read over it. That’s when I saw something that surprised me. In small text on the side of the box the Amiga was referred to as the “Amiga 1000.” I had read (and re-read) several magazines covering the Amiga in my anticipation of its release, and nowhere had I seen the computer referred to with a model number. I remember then wondering how long it would be before another model of the Amiga was released; the “1000” made the Amiga seem more of a line of computers rather than a one-off. And, of course, Amiga was a line, with the 500 and 2000 replacing the 1000 in 1987 as the first expansion of said line.

Amiga 1000 box side

The reason I am laying all of this out in a post is that I’ve seen it explained, in a number of places on the internet detailing Amiga history, that in 1985 the “Amiga” computer was released and in 1987 when the Amiga 500 and 2000 came to market, Commodore then dubbed the original machine “Amiga 1000.” Several recent articles marking the Amiga’s 30th birthday propagate this fallacy further. But fallacy, it is! I remember reading the text on that box back in late 1985.

Commodore certainly did not emphasize (or even mention?) the model number in early advertising and promo media, and the periodicals of the day likewise referred to the computer as simply the “Amiga.” However, despite the fact that only two small blocks of text on the side of the box identify the model number, the original Amiga was clearly the “Amiga 1000” from the get-go. And, thanks to a few photos that @freakin_frankie posted of his recent Amiga 1000 (in original box) acquisition, I can share the proof with any doubters out there. (I have searched on numerous occasions but never found a photo of the side of the box!)

I believe the Amiga to be the platform that I have most enjoyed throughout the decades that I’ve been an avid computing hobbyist, and that oft-repeated bit of misinformation has long been stuck in my craw. I suppose it’s because I was there, so to speak, from day one.

So, now you know.

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An Interview with CMUCC Members Behind the Apple Lisa’s First Scenedemo, “Le Requiem de Lisa”

Being a long time demoscene enthusiast, I try to keep an eye on new productions that land at the various competitions held throughout the year. Back in 2011 I saw the release of a rather unusual scenedemo — a demo written for the Apple Lisa. It is called Le Requiem de Lisa by CMUCC (the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club) and is the only demo that had ever been written for Apple’s long-abandoned, first MC68000-based platform. Le Requiem de Lisa won 1st place at the Pixel Jam 2011 demo competition (category: “oldskool demo”) and through an odd coincidence I found myself interviewing two of the group members behind the demo, shortly after its release.

After seeing the demo for the first time I headed into my regular IRC hangout, #macintosh on DALnet, and asked the denizens if they’d seen this one yet. One of the regulars, Lincoln Roop (handle “ClarusWorks”) whom I had known online for several years, began giving me a surprising amount of detail about the demo. As it turned out, he was a hardware guy on the project, a member of CMUCC.

Lincoln was up for a few questions about his group’s Lisa demo to be shared here on Byte Cellar, so I fired away. A tidied up version of our IRC interview follows. I regret having sat on this dialog for just over four years now, but better late than never.
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A Quick Tour of the HP-9000 712/100 NEXTSTEP Workstation

Gecko_640February was NeXT Month over at r/Rerobattlestations. Being a huge NeXT fan, I was eager to take part in the event, which entailed taking a photo or video of a retro computer running NEXTSTEP or OPENSTEP. While my first NEXTSTEP system was a high-end 486 66MHz PC that I purchased from a NEXTSTEP for Intel fabricator called eCesys out of Alaska, I currently own two qualifying systems: a NeXTstation Turbo Color setup and an HP-9000 712/100 PA-RISC system. I went with the rather more unique (and powerful!) HP “Gecko” for this competition, and decided to put together a little video tour of the system.

In all, NeXT supported four platforms with the last version of NEXTSTEP: Motorola 68K, Intel x86, SPARC, and PA-RISC. The HP-9000 model 700 systems that supported NEXTSTEP were very powerful for the time and dramatically outperformed NeXT’s own “black hardware” based on Motorola’s CISC processors. The model 712 shown in my video also features a highly unique video subsystem that delivers pseudo-true color video using only an 8-bit frame buffer. The technology is called HP Color Recovery and I go into detail about it in an earlier blog post about my model 712, and discuss it briefly in this video.

The story of how this model 712 came into my hands is kind of interesting. I was at a local shopping center back in 2003 when I noticed what I think the Brits call a “boot sale” happening — a sort-of flea market that picked up in the parking lot, with people selling used things out of the back of their vans: TVs, game consoles, HiFi systems, lamps. As I was walking through, I noticed a van containing a large stack of computers. As I scanned the pile, the distinctive shape of an HP-9000 model 712 slab caught my eye. I recognized it from seeing it pictured in old NeXTWorld magazines that reported on the new HP PA-RISC platform for which NEXTSTEP 3.3 was to bring support (support which was dropped in the next iteration of NEXTSTEP: OPENSTEP 4.0). I asked after it and it turned out to be a model 712/60. The guy sold it to me for $25. When I got it home, I found it had a SCSI drive inside with HP/UX installed. I wiped the drive and installed NEXTSTEP 3.3 on it, though I’ve recently installed HP/UX onto an external drive and have spent some time exploring, which brings back memories of the college HP lab I spent so many hours in, way back when. I’ve also quite recently replaced the motherboard with that of a model 712/100 that I found on eBay, taking the system from a 60MHz PA-7100LC CPU with 64K off-chip L1 cache to a 100MHz unit with 256K off-chip L1 cache. It screams.

So, while the HP PA-RISC architecture was the platform supported by NEXTSTEP for the shortest amount of time, it is certainly the most unique platform the OS ever saw. And was it ever high performance. My Gecko is one of the most prized systems in my collection.

External Links:

Posted in NeXT, Other Platform, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I’m Playing With a Philips Velo 1 H/PC Again

Quick and dirty post, here.

The first Windows CE device I owned was the Philips Velo 1 H/PC. It’s a clamshell mobile powered by a 36.86MHz MIPS R4000-based Philips SOC (what they called a “Two Chip Pic”) that I owned right after its debut in 1998, sold for a Newton MP2000, and reacquired in 2012. It sat in a box until a few days ago when Richard Harris ( @richjharris ), an old DALnet #Macintosh friend, spun me up with his Windows CE fever to bring it on out.

I’m not sure where this momentary re-infatuation will lead. But, here’s a video for you:

Ahh, to have been on the front line of the mobile revolution.

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WHDLoad: The Amiga’s Secret Weapon

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 9.54.05 AM

I’ve been in the retrocomputing scene for about 15 years now and in that time I’ve seen the interest in the pursuit grow more and more. This is in large part due to the evolving technology that has brought devices that have made vintage hardware more accessible to users. One of the most influential class of devices that has made things easier for retrocomputing folks is the flash memory-based floppy disk emulator. No longer are physical spinning floppy disks needed to boot up most vintage systems, thanks to these embedded controllers that allow disk image files sitting an SD card to be used in lieu of physical media. I personally have such devices installed in three systems: an Apple IIe, an Atari 520ST, and an Amiga 2000. In the case of the last, however, the floppy emulator is hardly needed, and that’s because of something the Amiga community has going for it that I consider to be much, much better. It’s called WHDLoad, and it’s a dream come true.

WHDLoad is an entirely software-based system designed to allow users to quickly and easy launch floppy-based games and demos and have them accurately run on the entire range of Amiga hardware. It was originally released in 1996 to address the issue of games running improperly or not at all on more recent Amiga systems featuring more powerful MC680x0 CPUs, the more advanced ECS and AGA custom chipsets, and newer versions of AmigaDOS.

WHDLoad works like this: Once installed, the user chooses a title from the lengthy (and growing) list of supported software and provides the original floppies for it. The system reads the floppies and writes out disk image files to the hard disk and effectively patches them so that they run on the local system just as they would on their original, target spec Amiga.

The video below (not mine) shows WHDLoad in action, running once-floppy-based games and scenedemos on an Amiga 1200.

The main advantages that WHDLoad brings, include:

  • Perfect execution — at least — of games and demos regardless of the local platform’s hardware specifications.
  • In some cases, performance is improved beyond the original title running on its target platform (e.g., smoother framerate, menus adjusted, known bugs fixed, etc.).
  • Customizations can be made and chosen via soft-switch, where provided by the author of the title’s importer patches (e.g., unlimited lives, unlimited firepower, etc.).
  • Nearly instantaneous loading through the Amiga’s Workbench GUI, thanks to hard drive speed and the ability to pre-load disk image data as memory permits.
  • When finished playing, a tap to the exit-key perfectly restores the Amiga to its previous state — no reboot needed.
  • Ability to run certain games and demos within emulators such as UAE, that otherwise would not run easily or at all.

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Posted in Amiga | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Have a Helping of 8-bit Holiday Cheer! (2015 Edition)

‘Tis the season! And that means it’s time for the fifth annual retro computer Holiday demo / music / game collection to help get you into the spirit of the season!

I’ve been a computer guy for a long time now, but I’ve been enjoying The Holidays even longer.

I got my first computer, a TI-99/4A, on Christmas morning, 1982. I was 10 years old, and from that Christmas on, it was games and hardware I wanted Santa to leave me under the tree. On through my teenage years, part of my ritual for getting into the Holiday spirit was downloading and watching Christmas demos on whatever system I had at the time (and every platform out there had a few of them).

Enjoying these demos is a personal tradition that I had, sadly, long left behind until 2010 (the year before I started these posts) when I was inspired to seek out one of the demos I remember best, Audio Light’s 1985 musical slideshow for the Atari ST. With the help of an emulator, I captured it to share online with readers.

A year later, I fired it up again and watched it run through it’s pixellated images and 3-voice musical holiday greeting. As I watched, it occurred to me that it might be nice to gather a few of the other demos I remember from those good ole’ days and present them here, in order to perhaps share some of the holiday cheer that they used to inspire within me.

The following list of demos ranges across a number of platforms of olde and includes the aforementioned Atari ST demo I recorded (see the first video of the 2011 collection). Happy holidays, and I hope you enjoy the shows!

The 2015 collection:

MSX – MSXlegend Christmas Demo 2012

TI-99 – TI-99/4A Holiday Demos (2015) [ contest ]

Amiga – Amiga Xmas Syman (?)

Atari ST- X-Mas MIDI Demo (1987)

Atari 8-bit- Rybagz’s Christmas Demo 2008

Atari ST – Xmas ’88 Demo

PC DOS – Xmas Demo ’90 by Cascada

MSX – Toshiba MSX-1 Xmas Demo (??)

C64 – Merry Xmas from Micronet 800 (1986)

MSX – LarsThe18th Christmas Demo (2012)

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Posted in Multi-Platform | 1 Comment

Holiday Music Week III at r/Retrobattlestations

Once again the season is upon us, and that means it’s Holiday Music Week over at /r/Retrobattlestations. Holiday Music Week III, to be precise.

While I fired up the Apple IIgs for a previous HMW, this year I’ve put the 160MHz AMD 5×86-based DOS box out front, letting it croon tunes of the seasons through its Gravis Ultrasound sound card (with 1MB sample RAM onboard). I made a three-part post during the building of the system in question, and it was motivated by a “new” release of the long-idle but still-excellent CapaMod player [ download ] that can be seen playing the tune in the video. CapaMod or CMOD is a GUS-only player that was originally released in 1994 by Heikki Ylinen (“flap”) of Capacala and maintained until 1996. Then, out of nowhere, an update came in 2008 with an indication from flap that it’s the last update the player will see. (But he’s said that before…)

The track in question is “December” by Necros of Legend Design, a 400K S3M utilizing nine voices — in this case, hardware voices thanks to the lovely Gravis Ultrasound nestled within this 486-class system of mine.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in DOS / Win PC | 1 Comment

On Being Featured in Retro Gamer’s “Collector’s Corner”

The bookshelves down in my basement computer room hold hundreds of computer magazines primarily ranging from the late ’70s through the mid ’90s. Taken together, they more or less completely chronicle the “home computer” era; they detail the technology of the day as it advanced over the years. Despite all of the history preserved in these periodicals of periods past, one of the magazines from which I learned most is the one I’ve been consistently reading the longest. What’s more, it’s a modern publication. Well, modern in the sense that it’s being published today — and in no other. The publication I speak of is Retro Gamer magazine, published by Imagine Publishing out of the UK. I discovered issue #6 on the shelf at a local Barnes & Noble eleven years ago. I’ve read every issue since.


I grew up here in the states seeing the home computer era of the ’70s and ’80s unfold before me, but it wasn’t just happening in the U.S. It was happening at the same time in different parts of the world, and many highly influential developments were taking place in the UK. Over the past eleven years, Retro Gamer has provided me with a vivid and fascinating picture of what was happening on that other side of the Atlantic, way back when. While I was starting out with my TI-99 and Apple //c, kids over there were tinkering on their ZX Spectrums and BBC Micros. There was overlap, but there were many differences between the US and UK scenes and it’s been lovely having a window into that alternate past. The magazine covers modern game and hardware releases relevant to the retro crowd on both sides of the pond, as well.

With that bit of background out on the table, you can imagine how happy I was when Retro Gamer reached out to me a few months ago and asked if I would be interested in being featured in their monthly Collector’s Corner column which highlights the gaming collections of a different reader each month. Of course I was interested, so a short interview followed and, well, have look at the piece for yourself.
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Posted in Just Rambling, Multi-Platform | 1 Comment

We See Farther: A Tribute to the EA that Once Was

EA_LogoSome of my most treasured items in the basement computer room or “The Byte Cellar” (cue my daughter rolling her eyes) are on the wall. The room is full of system setups from the ’80s and ’90s, and I love spending time in front of all of them, but the items I’ve collected, framed, and hung on the walls are some of the most special things in my collection.

One of my most prized retrocomputing possessions is a 1983 poster that celebrates the “software artists” of Electronic Arts. To quote myself in a blog post about the piece,

[Around 1984] the most compelling home computer game studio was Electronic Arts. Back then they spoke of their developers as “software artists” and produced a series of ads that depicted them as rockstars. Their game packaging even looked like an LP sleeve. I recall those ads well and they fed into the mythos that was the Electronic Arts game studio. I had so much fun with Archon, Pinball Construction Set, Music Construction Set, and Seven Cities of Gold in those days it’s silly.

The poster came as a fold-out in the November 1983 issue of Electronic Fun with Computers and Games magazine. Back in 2009 I acquired the poser from an acquaintance on IRC, and since then I’ve kept my eBay eye out for other copies of that magazine. I grabbed one a year ago and gave it to a San Francisco acquaintance with whom I had chatted about the poster at a GDC party. And, about three months ago, I saw another one and grabbed it, not really sure what I wanted to do with it. I ended up trying to sell it on eBay to fund some iOS device purchases, but it didn’t work out, and I felt strange about waving around such a notable artifact of computing history to make a fast buck, I have to say.

So, the auction ended — no takers. And then, a day or so later, I get an email from a guy who said he missed bidding before the auction ended and that he had a great desire to own the poster. He spoke of his appreciation of Electronic Arts’ history as a pivotal publishing house (way back when) and it was clear that he “got it.” Reading his reasons for wanting the poster in his collection, I quickly agreed to send it to him for a rather modest sum. I no had that mildly slimy feeling for having tried to peddle this piece of computing history for large-ish profit, and mailed it off with a smile. And, that was the end of the story…or so I thought.

And then a few days later, the guy emails me a photo of his arrangement of the framed poster on his wall, flanked by six of the LP-style EA game sleeves, and it’s one of the most impressive sights paying homage to the days when games were games that I’ve ever seen. It just blew me away, and I had to share it.

EA tribute

I responded in awe and asked him about his gaming past, to which he told me the following. (And he has asked to remain anonymous.)

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Posted in Gaming, Multi-Platform | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

1997 Wonders: Is There a Future in the ARM SoC?

This morning I reached over and pulled a random issue of Pen Computing magazine off the shelf to use as a backdrop in a photo I wanted to take. After getting the shot, I scanned the cover and noticed the feature article entitled “StrongARM-1100: The Soul of the New Machines?” The issue in question is from October 1997 and details the release of the StrongARM SA-1100, a chip resulting from a collaboration between ARM and DEC that took the original StrongARM SA-110 CPU (used in the Apple Newton Message Pad 2×00 and the Acorn RiscPC) and turned it into a System-on-Chip (SoC), one of the first in the world. The chip was extremely performant for the day and delivered a then-unprecedented 1000 MIPS/watt ratio. The author, after laying out all of the details, opines that the the chip has a bright future.

newtoniphoneToday the ARM instruction set architecture is the most widely used in the world. It’s the same DNA of the StrongARM featured in that Pen Computing mag that lives within the processors that have powered all of Apple’s iOS devices and those of most of their competitors. And that is why, looking down at my desk before putting the magazine back on the shelf, I was suddenly struck by the sight of my iPhone lying on the cover, 18 years after I picked it up off the rack at the Charlottesville, VA Barnes & Nobel. Back then my mobile device was the Apple Newton MP2000 with a 162MHz SA-110 at its core and here today, sitting right beside the StongARM headline on the cover, was my new Apple iPhone 6S Plus powered by the Apple A9, a 1,850MHz dual-core 64-bit ARM processor of Apple’s design that contains that same DNA. Hundreds of times faster, mind you, but the same DNA.

The juxtaposition grabbed me, and I thought I would share.


It’s worth noting that things didn’t begin with the StrongARM. Acorn RISC Machines developed the first ARM processor in 1985 in order to, first, expand the BBC Micro computer and, second, to power the Acorn Archimedes system that arrived in 1987.

Earlier, related post: It Occurred to Me That a Lot Has Changed in Mobile Computing over the Last Fifteen Years

Posted in Just Rambling, Other Platform | 1 Comment