The name amiga is the Spanish and Portuguese word for “female friend”, from the Latin amica.
The name Amiga was used by its developers as a sort of decoy to avoid industrial espionage. When in public places the developers used to talk about the prototype referring to it as “our common Amiga”, or using the codename “Lorraine”.
The Amiga was originally intended to be a workstation. When the A1000 was released, it was advertised as a business machine, but it didn’t make it, until it began to be used as a videogame computer. (Reference about this can be watched in the Amiga 1000 advertising videos).
As of 2006, the Amiga still has a very strong user community, particularly outside the United States.
The TV game show Lingo from 1987 used the Amiga computer for the Lingo cards and the randomly selected five-letter words.
Amiga’s three-finger salute, (CTRL plus the two “Amiga” keys), which reboots the system (but doesn’t erase or reload the kickstart software) is actually implemented in hardware, unlike the software-based forms in many OSs. If the OS software doesn’t acknowledge the key sequence in a short time (perhaps because the OS has crashed), the keyboard hardware will forcibly reset the CPU. Another kind of three-finger salute (CTRL plus the two “Alt” keys) was introduced with AmigaOS 4.0.
When AmigaOS crashes, it displays a flashing red box with a mysterious Guru Meditation number — two 32-bit hexadecimal values. The number is usually the 68000 exception number or one of a list of error numbers, and some other piece of information, such as the address of the task that was running at the time the crash was detected. Lists of these errors codes were published regularly by Amiga magazines, so experienced users could use it as a useful reference, and the Guru Meditation system still proves nowadays to give the user more precise information than Blue Screen of Death used in Windows.
The three most popular low-end models of the Amiga – the 500, 600 and 1200 – each have the name of a B-52’s song written on their motherboard. The most widely cited reason for this is the designers having been fans of the band. The motherboard of the 500 says “Rock Lobster”, that of the 600 says “June Bug” and that of the 1200 says “Channel Z”. No other models have song names on their motherboards.
The Original Amiga – the A1000 – has the signatures of the development team members moulded into the underside of the plastic top casing.
Steve Jobs was shown the original prototype for the first Amiga (Amiga 1000) before it had been purchased by Commodore, and said there was “too much hardware”. He was working on Macintosh at the time.
Two of the designers of the original Amiga, RJ Mical and Dave Needle, would later go on to design the Atari Lynx, giving it a framebuffer based display with a blitter very similar to that in the Amiga. The two would also go on to work on the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer.
When Great Valley Products first released their 68030 accelerator board for the Amiga 2000, it ran Apple’s MacOS faster than any real Mac. Apple soon caught up, though.
In 1999 an announcement was made claiming that a German company named iWin was designing new computers that were compatible with both classic Amigas and IBM PCs. The only source of information about these computers was iWin’s own website, which contained some technical circuit diagrams about them. Upon closer inspection, the circuit diagrams were revealed to be completely unrealistic. After a few months, the supposed “iWin Amigas” vanished without a trace, without ever being publicly presented or released into the mass market. The general consensus of the Amiga community is that iWin never had done any real design, but were simply trying to pull a hoax on the eagerly-awaiting Amiga fans.
Today, many TV stations and broadcast corporations are still using A3000s and A4000s for their real-time video effects.
Many programs have also been written for creating “fansubs” of foreign films and Japanese animation.
Many competing products have been created for the Amiga’s video capabilities ranging from simple genlocks that allow you to simply switch the RGB overlay feed on and off, to more advanced devices like the Supergen which has faders, and the ultimate expression of the Amiga’s native power, NewTek’s Video Toaster.
Other interesting products such as Mandala Interactive System from Vivid Group that use the genlock capability enabled users to do motion tracking and interactivity, 20 years before similar products like the Sony EyeToy for the PlayStation 2 video-game console. These systems were used in science museums to study gesture recognition capabilities and also featured in multimedia artistic exhibitions. See also: Vivid Group Mandala System.
Due to its ability to genlock, that is, adjust its own screen refresh timing to match the signal from a VCR, the Amiga also has a niche market among biologists analyzing video recordings (kinematic analysis) of organisms in motion at a time when other systems capable of doing similar tasks cost an order of magnitude more.
Amigas were used in some NASA laboratories to keep track of multiple low orbiting satellites, and were still used in 1999. This is another example of long lifetime reliability of Amiga hardware (and one of its ubiquitous capabilities), as well as its professional use. See also: Reportage: l’Amiga à la NASA; Obligement (Fr).
Amigas are still used in many theme park installations, mainly at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Florida and Disney World, using Richmond Sound Design’s show and sound control software (see the related Wikipedia article on Amiga software).
Early episodes of the television series Babylon 5 were rendered on Amigas running video toasters.
In the motion picture Waynes World 2 the character Garth is seen wearing a Video Toaster T-Shirt. Dana Carvey, who played Garth, probably got the t-shirt from his brother Brad Carvey who worked for NewTek.
A Japanese composer by the name of Susumu Hirasawa uses Amiga computers to compose some of his songs.