July 1985 (A1000), 1987 (A2000, A500), 1990 (A1500, A3000), 1991 (CDTV, A500+), 1992 (A1200, A600), 1993 (A4000, CD32)
The Amiga series of computers was originally developed by Amiga Corporation. Commodore bought Amiga Corporation before they introduced it to market, and began with the release of the Amiga 1000 in 1985. This used the Motorola 68000 CPU (running at 7 MHz), a 32-bit microprocessor, although the external data bus was only 16-bits. Along with the processor, the Amiga used custom graphics ("Denise") and sound ("Paula") chips, and ran a preemptive multitasking operating system called AmigaOS.
The A1000, or just 'Amiga' as it was originally known, had 256K of RAM and a 3.5" double-sided double-density (DS-DD) floppy drive built-in which could store 880K. Optional extras included a 13" RGB colour monitor, priced at $300, although the A1000 came with composite output which allowed it to be connected directly to a TV. On this first Amiga, the core parts of the operating system (known as the "Kickstart") had to be loaded from floppy disk. Later Amigas held this in ROM.
Two years later in 1987 Commodore released the Amiga 2000 and Amiga 500. The A2000 was aimed at the high-end market, but was actually very similar technically to the low-end pitched A500, both having 512K RAM. The A2000 had the advantage of a larger PC-style desktop case with capacity for five expansion slots, known as "Zorro II", two 16-bit ISA slots, a CPU upgrade slot, and a battery-backed clock. It could be purchased with a built-in SCSI hard disk drive (badged the A2000HD) or with an accelerator card made available later that replaced the 68000 CPU with a 68020 or 68030 CPU. A2000s that were sold with accelerator cards were marketed as the "A2500".
The A500 was designed for the low-end home computer market, and was the variant that sold in the greatest quantity. It was pitched to compete directly with the Atari 520ST. In 1989 in the UK it was bundled as the "Batman Pack" which contained a variety of titles including Deluxe Paint III, Batman, F/A18 Interceptor and The New Zealand Story. Following the Batman Pack, many other bundles were put together to drive sales of the A500 to high street consumers.
In 1990, Commodore released the A1500 which was a variant of the A2000 with a second floppy drive in the hard drive bay. An A1500 could be upgraded to an A2000 with the addition of a hard disk controller card and a SCSI hard disk. It was released to the UK market only.
Commodore also released the A3000 in June of that same year to succeed the A2000. The A3000 came with a 68030 CPU running at either 16 or 25 MHz, 2Mb RAM, a math coprocessor, the ECS graphics chipset, a built-in SCSI hard disk (40Mb, 50Mb or 100Mb), and a built-in flicker fixer that allowed the computer to work with a VGA monitor. A Unix variant was also released, called the A3000UX, and also a version in a full-height tower case, called the A3000T.
In March 1991, Commodore tried to enter the games console market with the CDTV. It was one of the first computers that came with a built-in CD-ROM drive. Physically it looked like a hi-fi seperate, designed not to look out of place under your CD player and VCR, and it came with an infra-red remote control. Internally it was an A500 without the floppy drive and with 1Mb RAM. The CDTV did not sell well, however, since most of the existing Amiga community were expecting an external CD-ROM drive to be released for their Amigas.
Commodore succeeded the A500 in late 1991 with the A500+, which came with new versions of Kickstart/Workbench 2.04 (with the new AmigaOS 2.04). It also came with 1Mb of RAM and new versions of the Agnus and Denise custom chips which formed the ECS (Enhanced Chip Set) for minor improvements in graphics. It also got a battery-backed real-time clock, which was lacking in the original A500. The A500+ was cost-reduced with changes to the motherboard to simplify the design and reduce component count.
In March 1992, Commodore introduced the Amiga 600. Essentially a redesign of the A500+ and intended to give a much-needed sales boost of the A500 line before the forthcoming 32-bit A1200. It came with a few notable additions such as the built-in PCMCIA Type II slot and a built-in ATA hard disk controller to support the addition of an internal ATA hard disk. The A600 was physically smaller than the A500/A500+ with no seperate numeric keypad. It came bundled with the more user-friendly AmigaOS 2.0. Despite its smaller physical size, CPU, memory and drive upgrades were possible.
In October 1992 and early 1993, Commodore replaced the A2000 and A3000 line with the A4000 series. These consisted of the A4000/030 (with Motorola 68EC030 CPU) and the A4000/040 (with Motorola 68040). Continuing with the similar PC desktop-style case of the A2000 and A3000, the A4000 supported 5.25" and 3.5" drive bays at the front, an IDE disk interface, came with a high-density floppy drive, and PC-compatible memory (with was 50% slower than older Amiga memory). A tower version was also released, called the A4000T. The A4000 came with 2Mb memory and was the first Amiga to introduce the new AGA chipset (Advanced Graphics Architecture). This provided colour depth of 8 bits per pixel, allowing for 256 colours or 262144 colours in HAM mode displayed simultaneously from a total palette of 16.8 million. The previous chipsets (OCS and ECS) allowed a maximum of 32 colours from a palette of 4096. AGA also provided super hi-res smooth scrolling, and 32-bit fast page memory fetches.
Also in October 1992, Commodore introduced the A1200. Pitched directly against the new Atari Falcon, but intended as a full home computer, it also inadvertently competed against entry-level PC market and 16-bit games consoles. It came with a Motorola 68EC020 CPU and 2Mb RAM. The A1200 sold very well before Commodore went bankrupt, reportedly selling over 1 million A1200 in the first year.
In September 1993, Commodore reentered the games console market, this time with the Amiga CD32. A true 32-bit CD-ROM based console, it made use of the AGA graphics chipset, and was essentially an A1200 under the hood. Unfortunately, Commodore was plagued with component supply problems and so could not keep up with demand for the new console, and despite it being successful in Europe the demise of Commodore into bankruptcy in April 1994 forced the discontinuation of the CD32.
Commodore's assets were bought by Escom, who relaunched the A1200 in 1995 with an updated operating system and a floppy drive made by a different manufacturer. Unfortunately it was overpriced and suffered compatibility problems with the new floppy drive, resulting in very poor sales.
Many Amiga were shipped as bundles. Some of the more common ones are listed below:
Your Imagination is the Limit (UK only) - Unexpanded A500, Photon Paint.
A500 Cartoon Classics (UK £359, July '91 - September '92) - A500 with ECS chipset, 1MB of ChipRAM. Came with Workbench 2.04, The Simpsons, Captain Planet, Lemmings, Deluxe Paint III.
Desktop Dynamite (UK £350, 1993) - Wordworth 2.0 AGA, Deluxe Paint 4 AGA, Print Manager, Dennis and Oscar.
This page was last updated on 11th January 2015.
14 September 2016Commodore Free Issue 94
Issue 94 of Commodore Free, the magazine dedicated to Commodore computers is now available for download. The magazine is available in the following formats; PDF, ePUB, MOBI, HTML, TXT, SEQ and D64 disk image.
19 July 2016Amiga Future mag
A new edition of the English and German Amiga magazine, Amiga Future, has been released.
23 May 2016Ron Gilbert asks for Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion IP from Disney
Earlier this month, Disney announced that it would be getting out of games development and cancelled its Infinity line of games and toys. Instead of creating new games internally, the House of Mouse would license out its properties to third party developers. New Star Wars games are on their way, and we can no doubt expect games based on Marvel Comics characters and ones centered around classic Disney franchises.
29 April 2016Commodore Free 92 out now
The latest version of the popular Commodore Free online magazine is out now.