Is the Amiga computer manufactured today?

This is a cloned article from quora (which I usually avoid visiting whenever they appear in search results).

The reply was written by Dave Haynie, “Electrical engineer and part-time mad scientist”

The original Amiga Computers were a series of advanced personal computers manufactured by Commodore, Inc. Commodore went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in late April of 1994. I was one of the hardware engineers working on this computer, the Amiga 3000.

And you would think, since this starts out with a bankruptcy, the answer would be “no,” but in fact, that’s not quite the case. In fact, strangely enough, the deader the Amiga seems to get, the more options you have available. This will take a little explanation.

About a year later, Commodore’s assets were purchased by ESCOM Ltd., a company based in Germany. Over the course of 1995, they managed to put both the Amiga 1200 and the Amiga 4000T, the most recent Amiga models, back into production.

Unfortunately, ESCOM had been on a buying spree, and basically “guess wrong” about PC technology for the 1995 Christmas season. They were in bad financial shape going into 1996, just as their new Amiga Technologies group was collecting the resources needed to move the Amiga forward (I was a consultant on that project). ESCOM went into bankruptcy in 1996.

So, does anyone remember that PC company that put cow spots on their boxes — and apparently, their offices? Gateway 2000 ultimately bought the Amiga assets from ESCOM. For a short time, they were planning to build a new Amiga computer system and a new AmigaOS, but that never materialized. They eventually wound up doing a bunch of weird maneuvers. They licensed all things AmigaOS to a tiny company in Washington State with no reasonable ability to do much of anything with the operating system. Those guys subcontracted an operating system port of AmigaOS from the aging 680×0 ISA to PowerPC… to a video game company, Hyperion in the UK.

And it just got fuzzier after that for awhile. As Hyperion got close to delivering their version of the OS, they were pretty controlling of which computers could run AmigaOS 4.x (the PowerPC version). This was actually happening in 2000–2001, by the time that desktop-class PowerPC chips had basically become Apple proprietary. The whole idea of the AIM alliance, the idea that PowerPC based personal computer hardware could become a commodity similar to that of the IBM PC, had already failed. And so there was nothing mass produced that the Amiga/Hyperion folks allowed to run AmigaOS 4.x. Pretty frustrating.

It wasn’t until 2006 that AmigaOS 4.0, the first PowerPC version of AmigaOS, was actually released. It’s a bit telling about the whole mess of the project that it took less time to actually develop AmigaOS 1.0 from scratch than to port AmigaOS 3.x to AmigaOS 4.x. The targeted systems for this OS were single-board computers, such as the SAM440EP from A-Cube Systems, based on the PowerPC 440EP SOC from IBM. This was intended for various embedded devices, not really comparable to 2006 desktop systems. But it was certainly more than enough to run AmigaOS, which had not gained much computational weight in the move to PPC.

A-Cube systems in Italy, currently sells the upgraded SAM460EX and SAM460CR boards. These are sold as single-board computers, though the SAM460EX is available as an integrated system called AmigaOne 500.

I’d have to say the first serious effort at building a whole PowerPC Amiga came from a new company based in New Zealand, A-Eon. This company was started by Trevor Dickinson, an entrepreneur and rabid Amiga fan who had the means to create a new Amiga computer company. I was skeptical when these came out — they were very expensive. But as I grew to understand what Trevor was doing, and as an engineer myself, started to appreciate that he had managed to get anything out the door at essentially hobby-computer volumes, I started to appreciate this work. And Trevor became a very close friend, despite the miles.

Their current machine is the A-Eon X5000, based on one of the Freescale/NXP QorIQ processors. This is a line of high-end SOCs designed for high performance networking switches and servers. That’s maybe not as weird as it sounds. Much of the MacOS years of PowerPC were bolstered by the fact that Cisco was using PowerPC in all their routers. So for awhile, IBM and Motorola (later Freescale) were happy to develop desktop-class PPC chips for IBM, Motorola, Apple, and others, knowing that, once the development was paid and the prices could drop, Cisco would take as many as they could make.

This actually stopped working because chips got big enough for high performance CPU cores to go on-chip with high speed networking and interfacing (RapidIO, then PCI Express). The desktop CPUs were going in another direction, and while Motorola and IBM might potentially see some reuse in the CPU cores, once they had all the hardware oriented toward optimizing networks, Cisco and the other networking companies didn’t need CPUs that could match AMD and Intel. Apple did… so Apple starting having to pay for a big chunk of PPC development, and as a result, those chips became exclusive for a few years. Everyone else started looking at other CPUs at the high end. But for lower-end stuff, you had a bunch of choices. And I digress…

So there are quite a number of small operations working on “Classic” Amiga systems, meaning, at the least, some kind of 680×0 processor, rather than a PowerPC chip. This one is called the Amy ITX board — I was given one of these. It’s a modern system design, using the industry standard ITX form factor, but accepting all of the original Amiga chips. One of the problems Amiga users have had is that their 30-something-year-old computers are starting to die of old age. Hey, we tried! But if you have an Amiga 500 or Amiga 2000, your old chips will work in this new board.

Another very, very hobbyist option is the Re-Amiga series of boards. The master of Amiga Reverse Engineering, John “Chucky” Hertell, has created a whole series of re-inventions of classic Amiga boards. They support all your corresponding chips — the ReAmiga 3000 board John gave me will take all my critical Amiga chips. But it can use more recent RAM — on SIMM modules — and it’s using standard parts you can actually get today. The trick here — you have to build it yourself, at the component level. I have not built mine yet, but I probably will…. I think I even have the SIMMs for it here! My original A3000 board is dead. He does this as a service to Amiga fans… you can see he kept all our initials on the A3000 board (Terry Fisher/Hedley Davis/Dave Haynie/Greg Berlin/Scott Hood/Jeff Boyer/Mike Nines.. and he’s welcome on that list, far as I’m concerned!) He gave Jeff Porter, the man who made the Amiga 500 possible, his A500 version at an Amiga show in Germany a few years back… Jeff was blown away!

But what if you can’t get Amiga chips? This was addressed by several projects, but the most successful early on was the Minimig project in 2005 by Dennis van Weeren. This is a re-implementation of an Amiga 500 class system, done in a Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) — a programmable chip. The Amiga chips are in the FPGA, while the CPU is a real 68000 processor. This was released as an open source project, so there are a number of variations and spinoffs. Work is still being done on the Minimig design. A-Cube Systems sells a version of the Minimig V1.1 board.

Inspired by the Minimig, Till Harbaum created the MiST board, with the intent of re-implemented the Atari ST. Unlike the Minimig, though, the MiST implemented the CPU as well as graphics chips in its FPGA. And it can load up a new FPGA “core” from its SD card! This lead to Dennis van Weeren developing an Amiga core for MiST. And by now, there are MiST cores for around thirty systems, including Apple, Macintosh, Amstrad, BBC, Sinclair; gaming consoles, and some arcade machines as well.

Inspired by the MiST board, Alexey Melnikov (Sorgelig) decided to see if there was an easier, more open way to do the same things, and found the Terasic DE-10 board, a board pushed by Intel for development on the Altera Cyclone V SE FPGA. This is a more substantial FPGA than used on the MiST board, and it also contains a dual “hard core” ARM Cortex A9 processor.

Since the DE-10 is a development board, it lacks general purpose on-board I/O, but it’s got a large number of signals going off-board for add-on hardware. So MiSTer systems are built of a stack of add-on boards. There are about 40 computer system cores for the MiSTer on its GIT page, 15 game consoles, hardware for I/O boards, 3D printed cases, all open source.

Edu Arana has created several versions of the UnAmiga board, based on the Minimig… he sent me this one (sorry for photo, it’s just a smartphone snapshot).

Yet another new Amiga board is the Vampire 4 Stand-alone. For some years now, Apollo Accelerators has made CPU accelerator boards for classic Amigas. The trick there is that, rather than use a faster 680×0 processor, they used their own “soft-core” 68K-compatible processor, dubbed the Apollo 68080, which is typically 3x-4x faster than an MC68060 processor.

The V4SA is their first complete computer. The fastest Amiga I have used to date, and it’s powered from a USB power brick. In fact, they even added SIMD “multimedia” instructions to the 68K instruction set, allowing this processor to play back MPEG-4 video, something no hard-core 68K ever dreamt of.

There are also professionally made cases for most of these single boards, if the makers don’t supply their own. In late 2019, Stephen Jones sent me one of his “Checkmate 1500” cases. I didn’t have immediate use for it, but it was a clone of the Amiga 3000, my absolute favorite Amiga! So when it came time to build a work PC for our shore house, I put it in the Checkmate 1500 case.

It will directly take MicroATX and ITX cases, which covers some of the Amiga boards around. But it’s actually a very clever, modular design. My system has a Blu-ray drive, a USB and memory card reader in place of a floppy, etc. There are fitting kits for Commodore Amiga boards, etc.

Now Stephen has the Checkmate 1500 Mini, which is houses a mini-ITX board and a bunch of other variations of Amiga compatible hardware today.

And of course, as well as the original 68K-based AmigaOS 3.x, and the PowerPC AmigaOS 4.x, there’s an open source version, known as the Amiga Research Operating System. You can run AROS in a virtual machine on any old PC these days, if you’re interested.

Paolo Besser has built a really nice distro of AROS, called Icaros Desktop, which, as with Linux distros, collects a bunch of components from different open source projects and gets them all working nicely together. Links below.

You can also dump the hardware altogether — well, the Amiga-specific hardware — and run classic AmigaOS on your PC via numerous Amiga emulators. Some of these will work on tablets and smartphones, too. A popular “distro” for Amiga emulation is Cloanto’s “Amiga Forever” commercial product.

Welcome to the world of retrocomputing! One of the reasons that all of these new Amiga projects exist is the fact that interest in the Amiga systems never entirely died — but the original machines themselves do. But in fact, demand for older computer systems, at least the more popular ones, has grown in recent years, to the point that older machines are often fetching pretty crazy prices. So there’s a small market, oriented to serious hobbyists, for new hardware that runs the old operating systems.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I’m typing this on my 16-core “Big PC” with 64GiB DRAM, 2TB PCIe SSD, dual GPUs, looking at three large screens (a total of over 8,000 pixels across), etc. I could probably fit every program ever written for Amigas… in RAM! Well, pretty close anyway.

I think part of the allure of these machines is, of course, nostalgia. But in part, it’s a better level of understanding and a different kind of computing. When I’m running a the Big PC, I’m writing, working in CAD, working on photos, working on music, etc. It’s all about the applications… and sure seems like “work” is involved quite a bit. But even for hobbies, the computer is a tool to enable those hobbies. Any computer will do as long as it runs my apps. I of course integrate my own — I’ve never bought a commercially made off-the-shelf desktop PC for myself. But even then, I just see them as tools. If one dies, the only pain I feel is in the wallet!

When folks bought personal computers in the 1970s and 1980s, they didn’t necessarily think about applications. Those did happen, but for many people, the hobby WAS the computer. May user completely mastered those computers, knowing every little bit about them. That was possible with the 8-bit generation, perhaps a bit less possible with more complex systems like the Amigas. But you could learn as much as you liked about any aspect of the system, in software, in hardware. In a modern PC, well, just how much do you understand about what’s going on in that nVidia RTX2070 GPU card?

Read More
History of the Amiga
Who bought Commodore – The Silicon Underground
What Ever Happened To Gateway?

The Cult of Amiga Is Bringing an Obsolete Computer Into the 21st Century
Saving your true Amiga legacy
Minimig WARNING SPAMMY LINK “Grattis 50 miljonte Chrome-användaren”) – Open at your own risk:
A-EON Technology Ltd
The A-EON Amiga X5000: An alternate universe where the Amiga platform never died
MiSTer – The MAME of FPGA Simulation Projects
Apollo Accelerators
Checkmate A1500 Plus

Aros, winner of most interesting OS
AROS Research Operating System
How to Emulate a Commodore Amiga on Your PC
Amiga Software, Emulation, Games, History and Support Since 1986

The Impractical but Indisputable Rise of Retrocomputing

View More

I made a film that explains some of the reasons Commodore went under. Best watched with a few bottles of your favorite adult drink, a box of tissues, and your choice of Commodore management villain photos up on a handy cork-board. And darts, knives, or possibly hatchets.

This also relevant reply was written by Björn David Paulsen

Thanks for the A2A.

Today, when we speak of an Amiga, we usually mean one of three variants.

The first is the classic Amiga. This is the OCS, ECS and AGA systems manufactured from 1985 to 1996. It includes the Amiga (later named the Amiga 1000), the A500, the A2000, the A600, the A3000, the A500+, the A3000 and the A4000.

The second variant is the modern iteration. This is the AmigaOne series of PowerPC-based computers produced by Hyperion. Some purists refuse to call them proper Amiga computers, but they are part of the lineage, and they are still produced today. In embracing the PowerPC instruction set, however, these Amigas have abandoned binary compatibility with the classic systems, opting instead to run legacy apps via built-in OS emulation.

The third Amiga type is the Vampire series of Amiga accelerator boards. These are FPGA implemented boards that effectively integrate Amiga functionality, obviating the need for custom chipsets. The last one, the Vampire 4, is a standalone machine, and it is currently in production. It runs its own nonstandard (though largely binary compatible) implementation of the 68000 instruction set, meaning programs written for the classic machines largely can be made to work on the Vampire.

The classic models are, alas, no longer in factory production. However, there is significant refurbishment of old components into fresh machines. The most well-known of these is the ReAmiga project by John “Chucky” Hertell. ReAmiga produces refurbished, fully working Amiga machines from discarded boards. If you’re a purist when it comes to the Amiga lineage, this is probably your best bet for truly authentic hardware.

Further reading
A-EON Technology Ltd (AmigaOne)
Apollo Accelerators (Vampire)
Moving components from a dead A1200 to an ReAmiga 1200 (ReAmiga)

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