The AUI Interview: Jay Miner – the father of the Amiga

JAY MINER 'The father of the Amiga'

The Commodore Amiga is a now-legendary series of home and business computers that had its origins in the fertile minds of some very inventive and creative people who got mixed up in the computer wars between Atari and Commodore back in the early 1980s.  The first of the line Amiga A1000 was years ahead of its time and was an important milestone and  pointer to the future of computing.  The Amiga remains one of the most popular hobbyist and creative computer systems ever, and is still beloved of thousands of retro-computing enthusiasts and hobbyists, occupying a proud place in the history of computing.  We enjoy its legacy today in many ways.

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

July 2015 sees the thirtieth birthday of the Amiga A1000 computer itself, and that will be loudly celebrated around the globe, but before that, a very special group of Amiga fans, organised through a Facebook group, decided last year to dedicate an annual day, International Amiga Day, to remembering and using their Amiga computers in memory and celebration of the late Jay Miner, the remarkable engineer who is generally honoured with the title ‘father of the Amiga’.

Our editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, is proud to have been a regular contributor to the now-defunct Amiga User International magazine ‘back in the day’, and we are therefore delighted to be able to re-publish this interview from the pages of AUI, both in tribute to Jay Miner and to the much-missed Amiga User International, in this thirtieth year of the Amiga.

Amiga User International masthead June 1988
Amiga User International masthead June 1988

Sadly, there is no indication in the June 1988 issue of Amiga User International, where this interview was first published, as to who conducted the interview.  Possibly it was the Managing Editor and Publisher Antony Jacobson, but credit was not given, and we would be glad to hear who it was if anyone out there knows.

Nonetheless, it stands today as one of the most interesting and insightful slices of computing history from the twentieth century.

THE AUI INTERVIEW

JAY MINER – ‘The father of the Amiga’

 

Jay Miner, 1988 (pic Amiga User International)
Jay Miner, 1988 (pic Amiga User International)

‘The father of the Amiga’ – the man most credited with its initial development gives AUI an exclusive interview in which he tells how the computer came into being, says some very tough things about how it nearly never happened, and predicts what may come next.

I completed six months of Electronics Technician School in the Coast Guard, and then I spent three years on Coast Guard in the North Atlantic Weather Patrol repairing radars, radios and also the Captain ‘s Hi-fi. That’s how my interest in electronics got started. After the service I studied engineering. I graduated in 1958, with a major in the Design of Generators and Servo Motors.

The first thing, however, that I was asked to do after graduation was to design a Computer Control Console with a Video Display, I had to teach myself transistor circuit design and logic design out of the few books which were then available. This was an advantage however since it was easy in those days to learn enough out of one book to become the company expert.

In 1964, I went to work for General Micro Electronics, the first spin off in Fairchild devoted exclusively to MOS chips. Again it was easy to become an expert in this field, because the field was so new. We designed sixty-four of their chip register chips and the world’s first MOS Calculator with twenty-three custom chips.

In 1974 after ten years of calculator, watch and computer chip design at a lot of different chip companies, Atari was just starting up and needed a chip designer. My friend Harold Lee was already there and he introduced me to Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari). Harold had done the chip for the first video game and Nolan Bushnell asked me to do a chip for the video game twenty six hundred system. You probably know how successful the twenty six hundred or the Video Computer system as it became called, was, so in 1977 they asked me to design the new Atari computer the 400 – 800 model. I directed the architecture and the chip designing of this new machine and this too was a huge success.

The year was 1979 and Atari was rolling in money. However, they made a decision to write off all of the development costs in that first year production. This allowed them to show just enough profit that year to not quite trigger the bonus payment they promised to the engineers and programmers. The chief programmer on the project’s name was Larry Caplin and a half a dozen of his team went off to start Activision.

Continue reading The AUI Interview: Jay Miner – the father of the Amiga

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A blast from the past for International Amiga Day!

This Sunday sees the celebration of International Amiga Day, traditionally marking the birthday of the ‘father of the Amiga’, the late Jay Miner.

Retro Computing News will also be joining in the celebration on the day, by publishing a very special early interview with Jay Miner, first published in the June 1988 issue of Amiga User International magazine, here in the UK.

Jay Miner and his dog, Mitchy
Jay Miner and his dog, Mitchy

In this AUI exclusive, no-holds-barred interview, Jay told how the Amiga came into being, and had some very tough things to say about how it nearly never happened.  He also predicted what he thought might come next.

Our editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, is proud to be a former regular contributor to AUI ‘back in the day’, and is pleased to be able to re-publish this interview from the pages of AUI, both in tribute to Jay Miner and to the much-missed Amiga User International in this 30th anniversary year of the launch of the Amiga A1000.

Stuart is also launching a personal blog, ‘AMIGA meditations’, showcasing his work for AUI on Sunday, and this will be announced in Retro Computing News on the day.

Watch this space!

BYTES & PC’S

Digital Amiga News

I thought that now would be a good time to circulate some updated information on what we’re about at Retro Computing News, as we continue to expand our coverage of the computing history and retro scene.

WHO ARE WE?

We’re the online magazine that aims to cover retro computing, history of computing, retro/indie retro gaming and allied subjects. Our primary focus is not specifically on games, because there are other online publications which already do a fantastic job in that field, but we do cover games to some extent because that’s as big a theme in retro computing today as it was back in the day.

Since we’re based in England, we naturally have a UK focus, but we have an international outlook too, and are always watching for interesting news from around the globe. World-wide readers are equally welcome, of course!

NEWS

We’re keen to help publicise and cover relevant events, happenings and exhibitions, plus product news and launches, and we feature places of interest such as museums,  as well as highlighting anniversaries and personalities. Also relevant technology, hardware, software, media or literature including science fiction, science and robotics. In fact, anything of potential interest to our readers.

REVIEWS

We’re also now looking to preview and review relevant retro-themed computing and gaming hardware and books, so if you’re a manufacturer, publisher or author looking to raise the profile of your work, do get in touch!

SOCIAL MEDIA

To widen our coverage, especially internationally, we also relay a whole load of additional info, especially international, through our linked Twitter and Facebook feeds – some of which might not reach these pages!

WE NEED YOUR NEWS!

If you’ve any news, or would like to contribute a feature (regrettably, we can’t pay, but will give full credit and a byline) we welcome contacts, press releases and good quality photos.

Please contact me, the Editor & Publisher, Stuart Williams, by email via:  retrocomputingnews@gmail.com

I hope you’re enjoying what we’re doing now, and will stick with us for the future as we move onward and upward.  Looking forward to hearing from you!

Stuart Williams

Retro Computing News, Walsall, England

23 May, 2015

Come join us on social media!

 

Pacman has 4 followers

Retro Computing News is trying to build up our social media and community side, away from these pages, to make things more interactive for our readers.  So, we’d love you to link up with us on Facebook or Twitter!

We’re always glad to hear from our readers and followers, especially if you’ve got any news you think we ought to be reporting on, no matter how small!  Social media allows us to monitor and respond in a more interactive way than email, too.

What’s more, our Twitter feed and Facebook page are linked, which means that we can directly relay news and interesting info – some of which might not reach the pages of this magazine – that we follow from many sources globally on a daily, or sometimes even hourly, basis.

So, there are loads of things linked to on our social media output that you might not see here, from sources which you may not yet know about! One of the great additional benefits of joining the RCN community through social media is easy access to this flow of information.

To Like our Facebook page, go to: https://www.facebook.com/retrocompnews

And to hook up with us on Twitter, follow us via: https://twitter.com/retrocompnews

We’d love to meet you online!

International Amiga Day is coming!

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

In 2012 we saw, and rightly celebrated, the thirtieth birthdays of the remarkable BBC Micro and Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the two main stalwarts of the British home computer revolution of the 1980s, which remain hugely popular today with retro-computing and retro-gaming enthusiasts.  Another great milestone in computing history is now imminent.

This year, 2015, now marks the thirtieth birthday of the first multi-tasking multimedia computer, the astonishing, years ahead-of-its-time Commodore Amiga.

The first model of that much-beloved series of computers, the A1000 (pictured, above), was launched in July, 1985, by the American developers Amiga Corporation , having been bought by Commodore International (creators of the legendary Commodore 64 and others).  In production for just two years, the elegant and powerful A1000 was succeeded by the even more popular A500, A2000, A600, A1200, A1500, A3000 and A4000, together with other variations from the ‘mainline’ of Amiga production such as the tower computers and CD32.

The Amiga A500
The Amiga A500

More than twenty years ago, back in August 1994, Byte Magazine attempted to describe the impact of the Amiga:

“The Amiga was so far ahead of its time that almost nobody—including Commodore’s marketing department—could fully articulate what it was all about. Today, it’s obvious the Amiga was the first multimedia computer, but in those days it was derided as a game machine because few people grasped the importance of advanced graphics, sound, and video. Nine years later, vendors are still struggling to make systems that work like 1985 Amigas.”

Derided, perhaps, by the blinkered business community, but not by legions of home computer enthusiasts looking for a step up in computing power and versatility, and certainly not by artists such as Andy Warhol and TV series creators such as J. Michael Straczynski, who used a group of networked A2000’s with Video Toaster boards to create the revolutionary digital special effects for the equally legendary sci-fi series ‘Babylon 5’.

Babylon 5

Sadly, the original Commodore Amiga series ceased production in 1996, and their successors have apparently not seen any great commercial success in the hands of various companies, though Amiga enthusiasts live in hope.

The Amiga A1200
The Amiga A1200

Today, the legacy of the Amiga mostly exists in the hands of retro-computing and retro-gaming fans and collectors preserving and enjoying the remaining original hardware and prolific range of software – and in emulation, where variations on the original Amiga operating systems and more advanced successor software and cloned hardware are still in use today as a niche product, largely for enthusiasts.

Still, the legend and spirit of Amiga, which is irrepressible, remains, and despite the original Commodore company now being long-defunct, the flaming torch of the Amiga continues to be held aloft by a dedicated band of followers and retro computing enthusiasts, world-wide.

International Amiga Day 2015

Which is why, just a little over a week from now, we, and they, will be celebrating International Amiga Day – on 31 May 2015, the birthday of Mr Jay Miner, who was head engineer of Amiga Corporation, and is seen as the ‘father of the Amiga’.

Jay Miner and his dog, Mitchy
Jay Miner and his dog, Mitchy

If you visit the Amiga Day Facebook group founded last year by the late Dragon “Gyu” Gyorgy, who sadly passed away at the beginning of 2015., you will discover the admins and members of the group ‘keeping the flame’, and they have made this declaration:

Amiga Day 2015 banner (courtesy Amiga Day Facebook group)
Amiga Day 2015 banner (courtesy Amiga Day Facebook group)

“This year, 2015, the Amiga will be 30 years old!

We celebrate on the 31st May, Amiga “Father” Jay Miner’s birthday (1932).

We, Amiga users hereby declare the 31st of May as international day of the Amiga, the Home Computer that made us so much fun, that made us begin a career, that made us think differently about computers and games and made us a lot of friends with Amigas.

Amiga is Forever and We really want that to happen. Please share the idea with your

Amigan friends to keep the Amiga flame forever!”  Dragon “Gyu” Gyorgy, 2014

International Amiga Day: 31st May 2015: How to join in:

It’s easy: On International Amiga Day do any of the following Amigan activities:

  • Switch on at least 1 Amiga computer.
  • Run at least 1 Amiga game (emulator is accepted).
  • Pamper your Amiga: Repair your Amiga; “Whiten” a yellowed Amiga; Change the condensers … do the job you need to do to make your Amiga function better!
  • Make a working Amiga from all your spare parts!
  • Wear your Amiga T-shirt.
  • Use your Amiga to make a demo, a graphic or music …
  • Take a photo of your Amiga collection.
  • Most importantly, be imaginative and do something special with your Amiga and share with the group!!”

Why not take the opportunity, this coming International Amiga Day, to find out more about this remarkable series of computers and software, and the equally remarkable community which keeps its legacy alive?

Better yet, get your own Amiga – and join in the fun!

Check out the Facebook group now: https://www.facebook.com/groups/amigaday/

Meanwhile, watch this space for more about International Amiga Day and more…

Computing curiosities on show in Swindon!

Simply weird and wonderful! (pic: Museum of Computing)
Simply weird and wonderful! (pic: Museum of Computing)

This Saturday 23 May 2015 sees the opening of a fascinating  display of oddities from the collections of the Museum of Computing in Swindon, Wiltshire.

From programmable peculiarities to the avant-garde of gaming, the volunteer-run, not-for-profit museum, based at 6-7 Theatre Square, SN1 1QN, have dug out their most unusual and rarely-seen artefacts.  In fact, many will be on display for the first time!

It’s a feast for the inquisitive including:

  • Extraordinary inputs – How do Nintendo 64 games respond to your heart rate?
  • Quirky, not qwerty – How does the keyboard with only six keys work?
  • Dangerous computing – What kind of husky can you program?
  • Pyramid of processing – Who built this outlandish prototype?
  • Surfing while actually surfing – Why does this thing even exist

Visitors will have the chance to experience uncanny consoles, silicon strangeness and the electric eccentric by dropping in and perusing the remarkable selection of computing gadgets and goodies over the next six months.

The Museum of Computing in Swindon is full of fun! (pic: Museum of Computing)
The Museum of Computing in Swindon is full of fun! (pic: Museum of Computing)

And there will be regular updates about what’s on show, via the museum’s Facebook and events page as well as their website.

For more info on the museum, including opening times, admission fees and directions, check out their website: http://www.museumofcomputing.org.uk/

And on the exhibition’s Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/816997541702170/

See also the Museum of Computing’s general Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MuseumOfComputing

 

 

Retro computing fun from RCM at Snibston!

Snibston Event Photo (Pic: Retro Computer Museum)
Snibston Event Photo (Pic: Retro Computer Museum)

Our friends at the wonderful Retro Computer Museum in Leicester are coming out of their shell next month for another fun for all the family foray to the Snibston Discovery Museum in Ashby Road, Coalville.

And the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 20-21 June 2015 will see a fantastic hands-on opportunity to discover and play on a range of historic home computers and consoles from the last 35 years, including machines from:

Acorn, Sony, Amstrad, Atari, Commodore, Ninetndo, Sega, Sinclair, Dragon, Apple – and of course some other, rarer kit!

Also, as part of the great value ticket price (see below) you can also explore the Snibston Discovery Museum – the region’s largest science and technology museum.

The event opens 11am-5pm on Saturday 20 June and 10am-4pm on Sunday 21 June.

Advance tickets can be purchased from the venue up until the day before, or via the ‘Donate’ button on the Retro Computer Museum’s Home Page – please state what days and the ticket type you are purchasing in the comments box – until Thursday 18 June 2015.

Ticket prices are:

  • Adult Single Day £10.50 (£12 on the door)
  • Adult Two Days £15.50 (£17 on the door)
  • Child Single Day £6.50 (£8 on the door)
  • Child Two Days £9.50 (£11 on the door)

Contact details for the Retro Computer Museum:

07519 816283   info@retrocomputermuseum.co.uk

Website: www.retrocomputermuseum.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/RetroComputerMuseum

Facebook Event Page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/797749890331815/

Contact details for Snibston:

01530 278 444    snibston@leics.gov.uk    www.snibston.com

 

Go adventuring in Cambridge – and create your own world!

Go with the flow - and build your own adventure (Pic: Centre for Computing History)
Go with the flow – and build your own adventure (Pic: Centre for Computing History)

Text adventuring is one of the oldest and greatest of retro-computing game genres – and now modern computer fans can also discover how such ‘interactive fiction’ games play out – after building their own!

The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England is offering visitors the chance to build an adventure game using a special system known as ‘Twine’, during a workshop next Wednesday 27 May.

Twine is a brilliant online tool for constructing interactive stories, and the museum in Rene Court, Coldhams Road,  is inviting adventurers of all ages to come along and learn to use it to build a tale of dragons, spaceships or spies (or maybe all three in one story!) that you or your friends can then play through. You’ll be able to let your imagination loose and maybe learn a thing or two about coding whilst you’re at it.

Entrance to the Centre (Pic: Centre for Computing History)
Entrance to the Centre (Pic: Centre for Computing History)

This workshop, which starts at 2pm, is aimed at children aged seven and up.  Adults are welcome too! Please note that all under 14’s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

If you’d like to see an example of Twine in action, try playing The Amazing Tale of the Storytelling Workshop, a Twine game that the Centre have put together themselves.  You’ll discover lots more about the workshop that way and have a fun adventure at the same time!  It will open in a new window and will play in all common web browsers.

Standard museum entry fees apply:  £7 for adults, £5 for children, and £20 for a family (2 adults and 2 children). There is no additional charge for this event.

Although the booking is for a specific time slot, entry to the museum is permitted all day.  The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm.

Tea, coffee and snacks will be available from our Pac Lunch Shop.  And, plenty of seating for parents 🙂

Places are limited. Tickets must be booked in advance.  Follow this link to book:

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/37672/Build-your-own-text-adventure-27-May-2015/

Payment is taken by PayPal immediately. Please print a copy of the receipt that is displayed at the end of the payment process and bring it with you as your e-ticket.

For more about the Centre, check out their website:

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/