Happy 30th Birthday, Amiga!

Thirty years ago today, at the Lincoln Centre in New York, one of the most advanced home computers ever was launched – the Commodore Amiga A1000. And the world of desktop computing was changed, forever.

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

A decade ahead of much of the market as it was then, and rightfully recognised as the first multimedia computer, it and its successors were to find a place in the heart of many who are still dedicated followers today, as part of the retro hobby scene. But it was first and foremost one of the most popular home computers of a generation, and sent a seismic shock around the digital globe.

The Amiga was not only THE gaming machine par-excellence, with more colours and better sound than the competition, in fact neither IBM or Apple had anything to touch it at the time!

But, more importantly, it was to become the top – and equally importantly, one of the most affordable – creative digital content computers of its time.

The so-called ‘industry standard’ IBM PC was then limited to a 16 colour display and the Apple Macintosh, with no Mac II then in sight, only had plain black and white. The new Amiga A1000, which had been taken over by Commodore, had a 12-bit colour palette and was capable of displaying up to 4096 colours (Hold And Modify ‘HAM’ mode) – startling in its day, though it had its limitations as well. The Amiga also had astonishing stereo sound, offering 4 × 8-bit PCM channels.

All this meant that the Amiga was to have an enormous impact on TV and video special effects and music, as well as turning up on space-age projects for NASA!

The Amiga A500
The Amiga A500

Today, after a string of evolutionary successors to the A1000, and despite the end of mass-market Amiga production in the mid-1990s, there is still a huge and loyal community around the world, dedicated to using and preserving surviving computers and software, and to adapting aging Amigas to modern times with aftermarket hardware, software and emulation, as well as using those few Amiga-compatible computers which have since been produced in small numbers.

These Amiga fans can be found everywhere online on websites and blogs, on Facebook in groups and on Twitter, and on forums ad infinitum in cyberspace…

Amiga A2000 (pic Trafalgarcircle, Wikipedia)
Amiga A2000 (pic Trafalgarcircle, Wikipedia)

Now, after such historic 8-bit predecessors as the Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 have already, and rightly, celebrated their own thirtieth birthdays, it is time to do so for the Amiga, and Retro Computing News has been cheering the Amiga on as loudly as anyone.

And, in a very real sense, this magazine site exists entirely because of the Amiga – our own editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, owned an Amiga A1000 himself, and wrote for Amiga User international and Amiga Computing magazines, back in the day!

Today is the day

So, the big day is today, 23rd July, 2015 – but much has already been happening to mark the anniversary of the A1000 launch, as we have reported, and much more will continue to happen over the year ahead.

So, watch this space for more Amiga news over the next few weeks and months. Meanwhile…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMIGA!

The legendary Amiga Boing Ball demo
The legendary Amiga Boing Ball demo
Advertisements

Recursion 2015 repeats success in Stratford

The hall from above - general view
The hall from above – general view

Organisers of an exciting and innovative – but also nostalgic – computer fair which took place at a school in Stratford-upon-Avon, England on Saturday were celebrating another highly-successful repeat event as crowds swarmed in to see everything from retro-computers to robots via Raspberry Pi’s.

King Edward Vi School's Anroid App Inventor workshop
King Edward Vi School’s Anroid App Inventor workshop

The historic King Edward Vi School, where William Shakespeare was educated, was offering a free and fun-packed digital day out dedicated to computer science and computing in education, industry and leisure, to one and all – and were rewarded with a buzzing, vibrant and diverse event for computer fans of all interests, not only gaming. In short, a show of a kind which has been rarely seen since the 1990s!

Recursion 2015 banner
Recursion 2015 banner

The show, dubbed the Recursion 2015 Computer Science Fair, was held in the modern Levi Fox Hall of the Tudor school off Church Street, and delivered a great opportunity for anyone looking for a techno-fix of retro and modern computing, and all things educational. Amazingly, there was no charge for both visitors and exhibitors – but the packed event was definitely worth far more than the non-existent admission fee.

A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall
A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall

There was plenty of time for all kinds of fun and learning, since the fair was open between 11am-4pm, allowing visitors to catch up on the latest community gossip and events, sign up to a user group, find out about robots and computer science –  or just reminisce by playing their favourite games from the good old days.

From Vectrex to Einstein - a tiny sample of exhibits from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester
From Vectrex to Einstein – a tiny sample of exhibits from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester

The editor of Retro Computing News, Stuart Williams, was delighted to be able to attend in person to cover the show this year, and certainly had a ‘grand day out’ amongst the Amiga gurus, the Risc OS evangelists, the preservers of rare computers and historic software, the robot warriors and the gadget makers – and not least amongst the educationalists, teachers, and their students who are the future of British computing.

Our editor was certainly spoiled for choice, from wallowing in nostalgia (back in the 1980s-90s he wrote for several home computer magazines) by chatting to the Amiga experts, to watching the boffinaceous science and engineering antics of the fizzPOP maker crew and robot experts.  He was also excited to see all the new developments in school and university computer education, especially as there were no computers in schools when he left in the mid 1970s!

GEEKY FUN IN THE SUN AND INSIDE

Early British home computers the Compukit UK101 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k
Early British home computers the Compukit UK101 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k

The weather was blisteringly hot outside, but while it was warm inside too, it was actually really cool in so many ways! In fact there was everything for the geek (whether budding or ageing!), the hobbyist, the educationalist and the prospective student of school or university to take their minds off the soaring temperatures – not to mention the handy refreshment area.

From virtual reality learning to school video, there was plenty to interest the educationalist
From virtual reality learning to school video, there was plenty to interest the educationalist
SCHOOLS
Practical Programming Workshop using Scratch in the King Edward Vi School's Show in a Show
Practical Programming Workshop using Scratch in the King Edward Vi School’s Show in a Show

There was a great educational theme threaded all through Recursion, as you might expect in a school which clearly recognises the importance of real computing education and not just ‘ICT’ for pupils’ career prospects as much as its’ cultural connections with the Bard of Avon.

The Android App Inventor workshop
The Android App Inventor workshop

King Edward Vi School had also joined forces with several other schools and educators from the area and beyond, and students and other youngsters were treated to the opportunity to try modern coding by taking part in Android and Scratch programming workshops as well as experiencing the fun and excitement of building, programming and fighting with warrior robots in the Mindstorm Arena – as well as some high-powered modern PC gaming!

Those are the droids we're looking for - busily building and programming in the Mindstorm Arena
Those are the droids we’re looking for – busily building and programming in the Mindstorm Arena
Robots ready to rumble in the Mindstorm Arena
Robots ready to rumble in the Mindstorm Arena

Continue reading Recursion 2015 repeats success in Stratford

Visit Recursion 2015 this Saturday!

Part of King Edward Vi School
Part of King Edward Vi School

A great little show for computer fans with retro, hobby and education computing interests is ready to RUN this Saturday in Stratford-upon-Avon, England – at Shakespeare’s school!

The Recursion 2015 computer science fair is taking place in The Levi Fox Hall at the King Edward Vi School in Church Street on 4 July, 11am – 4pm, and judging by the final exhibition plan released today (click image below for larger version) should be a cracking event – and what’s more, admission is FREE!

In fact, we like the look of it so much that our editor, Stuart Williams, will be covering Recursion 2015 in person for Retro Computing News!

Recursion 2015 floor plan (courtesy Recursion)
Recursion 2015 floor plan (courtesy Recursion)

For more information on the exhibitors and what’s happening at the event, read our recent preview of Recursion 2015 and check out the event website. Download the event programme in pdf form via this link.

Amiga, Acorn, RiscOS, Retro computing and Raspberry Pi fans in particular have much to look forward to, whether you’re into hardware, software or coding – as does anyone interesting in computing education and employment, making stuff – and robotics!

There’ll be exhibitors from universities to user groups, via museums and business – as well as student-led workshops. Something, in fact, for geeks of all ages.

IF you can get there, THEN GOTO it – it looks like a great computing day out – with added Shakespeare!