A trip down 16-bit memory lane – Commodore Amigai

Continuing with my trip down 8-bit memory lane, I’ll continue with the 16-bit computers and consoles I owned. First up, my favorite computer of all time…The Commodore Amiga.

Commodore Amiga a500

I remember reading the reviews of the newly released Commodore Amiga 500 in the computer magazines of the time (Commodore User and Zzap64) and longed for the day that I could get my mitts on one. I think I even worked out the number of weeks i’d have to save my paper round/pocket money to make up the initial £799 asking price. Suffice to say i’d probably be still saving even now !


My older brother and wife had just brought their first house and I recall he’d been granted ‘permission’ to treat himself to an Amiga. I remember quite vividly, the night he called me to say he’d brought one and was just setting it up. I also remember overtaking cars as I peddled like mad on my bmx to get round to his house as quick as I could.
He had very little software at the time, but what he did have blew us away. I remember him letting me borrow it for for few evenings and being late for school the next day because i’d been playing games all night – Ikari Warriors, TV Sports Basketball and Operation Wolf (with real speech!).

Even though Commodore dropped the original release price, buying a brand new Amiga was still out of my price range. I used to scour the local classified ads in the hope that someone was selling one cheap.
Eventually I found one priced very low price because it had a semi-faulty keyboard. To make up for this, a huge and extensive software collection was included so I gambled, thinking i might be able to repair it and brought it.
I remember my hands shaking when plugging in the TV modulator, and connecting the PSU brick waiting for it to pop. It never did and the fault didn’t appear to be anything too drastic, maybe once a week the whole keyboard would lock up requiring a reboot at the mains. A bit of a pain but I could certainly live with it. Not long afterwards my brother blew his main board whilst attempting to fit a memory upgrade. The spares from his help me fix mine 🙂

A few month later, I’d finished school and was very lucky enough to land my first job as a trainee IT technician with IBM.  The salary was fantastic and I soon able to buy a whole heap of software and hardware devices. I upgraded the memory to 1mb (£34.00 for just 512k !!) and brought a new external hard drive.
Digital pop music seemed to be new thing at the time and I used to sample/remix old tunes using a sound sampler hooked up to the hifi. I remember mixing Guns n Rose’s ‘Sweet Child’ with ‘I’m singing in the rain’ :-p

A few years later the Amiga A600 was released but I skipped this model. The idea of having the option to install on on board hard drive was appealing rather than the huge external brick I had with my  A500 but my friends A600 was so prone to crashing and many of my games refused to work on it – comments that were often repeating in the computer magazines at the time.

amiga-600

Shortly afterwards, the fantastic Amiga 1200 was released and I brought one  as soon as they were out in the shops. Not long afterwards I added a 80mb 2.5″ hard drive and two external floppy drives.
Games written to take advantage of the new AGA graphics chips looked amazing in all 256 colour mode. I remember AGA versions of Alien Breed Tower Assault and Skidmarks being particularly good examples but the majority of games didn’t come with a hard drive installers therefore you still had to put up with swapping floppy discs. A real pain with some of the later graphic adventure games.

amiga-1200
Over the years I’ve owned many Amiga’s, and fondly recall many happy hours with them. Sadly the last one I owned stopped working a few years ago. Thanks to emulation, via Winuae, I can revisit them again but I don’t think my wife quite understands !! Maybe one day I’ll buy another one – A1200 that is, not wife….although 🙂

In no particular order, here is a list of my favorite software titles that holds special memories for me –
  • Stunt Car Racer – A fantastic game and I remember lugging my A500 around to my brothers/friends for 2-up action via a null modem cable. I guess this is why I like the modern Track Mania PC games.
stunt_car_racer
  • Xenon II – Not particularly a great game, but god, that theme tune was fantastic. I remember the computer store blasting it out on the PA system and buying a copy straight away.
  • Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge – A firm favorite on Saturday afternoons with my brother. I remember very sore wrists as he used ‘Competition Pro’ joysticks that were very…very stiff. I’m sure he used to adjust the tension chuck on mine when I wasn’t looking.

lotus-esprit-turbo-challenge

  • Super Cars II – Likewise, another favorite 2-up game. Stick it to the man with a rocket up the rear!

super_cars_ii

  • Flashback – One of my all time, personal favorites. Amazing when it was first released, equally playable today.  Level 3 ‘Death Tower’ was my favorite. Rotoscope-tastic.

flashback

  • The Secret of Monkey Island – One of the best and funniest graphic adventure games squeezed onto four floppy disks. (I was also a fan of Beneath a Steel Sky and Indiana Jones 3 and 4).

secret_of_monkey_island

  • Cannon Fodder – War is sooo much fun. I remember having a magazine cover disk containing a few demo levels and playing this for hours and days and w…you get the idea. I asked the local computer store to call me as soon as it arrived. I mourned my lost soldiers !

cannon_fodder

  • Hunter – The first game I played that appeared to give unlimited freedom to roam around and do what ever you wanted. Very common now with the likes of GTA but back in the day, an amazing experience.

hunter

  • IK+ – A C64 classic gets a fantastic update. Well worth a laugh with friends even today.

ik+

  • Arcade Pool – Another classic which sits on my laptop at the mo.

arcade_pool

  • Super Skidmarks AGA – I think this was one of the last games I remember owning. A great little game with a huge fan base that released many custom created vehicles.

super_skidmarks

Deluxe Paint III – This edition contained the animation package allowing you to draw frame by frame animations. I would sit for hours animating everything from Star Wars remakes to Kung-Fu stick men fights. The number of frames were limited by the Amiga hardware, so i used to splice multiple animation sequences together on to VCR tape and record them as one continual mini film. Later on when I brought my first video camera, I used Deluxe paint to create intro animations and credits. I’m pretty sure i still have these tapes somewhere.

The Amiga is also famous for it popular demo scene which is still very much alive today. For me, my favorites were the Eric Schwartz animations, Jesus on E’s demo and anything that had animation/pictures relating to Star Wars and Blade Runner.

eric

This list could go on and on.

Happy days !!

For more information and a great source of all things Amiga check out.
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