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The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga (Platform Studies)

The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga (Platform Studies) [Kindle Edition]

Jimmy Maher
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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"At once challenging, rewarding, emotional, and insightful...a compelling read for those interested in the Amiga platform, as well as those interested to learn more about the culture of computing."--John F. Barber, Leonardo Reviews

Product Description

Long ago, in 1985, personal computers came in two general categories: the friendly, childish game machine used for fun (exemplified by Atari and Commodore products); and the boring, beige adult box used for business (exemplified by products from IBM). The game machines became fascinating technical and artistic platforms that were of limited real-world utility. The IBM products were all utility, with little emphasis on aesthetics and no emphasis on fun. Into this bifurcated computing environment came the Commodore Amiga 1000. This personal computer featured a palette of 4,096 colors, unprecedented animation capabilities, four-channel stereo sound, the capacity to run multiple applications simultaneously, a graphical user interface, and powerful processing potential. It was, Jimmy Maher writes in The Future Was Here, the world's first true multimedia personal computer. Maher argues that the Amiga's capacity to store and display color photographs, manipulate video (giving amateurs access to professional tools), and use recordings of real-world sound were the seeds of the digital media future: digital cameras, Photoshop, MP3 players, and even YouTube, Flickr, and the blogosphere. He examines different facets of the platform--from Deluxe Paint to AmigaOS to Cinemaware--in each chapter, creating a portrait of the platform and the communities of practice that surrounded it. Of course, Maher acknowledges, the Amiga was not perfect: the DOS component of the operating systems was clunky and ill-matched, for example, and crashes often accompanied multitasking attempts. And Commodore went bankrupt in 1994. But for a few years, the Amiga's technical qualities were harnessed by engineers, programmers, artists, and others to push back boundaries and transform the culture of computing.

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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A somewhat quirky book on Amiga history 1 Nov 2012
By Buzz
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a strangely written book. It is praiseworthy in that, apart from the mandatory nuts and bolts description of the Amiga and it's hardware/software, it also attempts to look at the larger picture, the technological and cultural era that the Amiga initiated and whose traces are still with us today.
In the attempt to grab both ends of the subject, the general and the detailed, and squeeze them into one coherent result, the result is not always that coherent. I was tempted to abandon the book at one point where I was reading the equivalent of a User Guide for Deluxe Paint, complete with references to select menu items to load images or to select resolution and color depth for a new image. There are cases where we are presented with very detailed descriptions of software implementations, i.e. bitplanes or specific color selections (with verbatim color tables!). No more than 2-3 pages after one such detailed section, IN THE SAME CHAPTER, we read about Commodore sales strategy across North America and Europe. If publication material editing and arrangement is an art, it was not mastered here.
Nevertheless, having not abandoned the book, I discovered much that I did not know, and for the first time, I established proper closure for the Amiga as a phenomenon that came, ran its course and was technologically obsoleted but conceptually far reaching. For all of us who loved the Amiga, and were sad to see it go, this book is a worthy tribute - an objective look at the design wonders, and the limitations, that made the Amiga the special experience that it was.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By 3D71
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The idea of the MIT platform series is sound, as long the author really knows his stuff, and can capture the ideas, spirit and ingenuity of the community that made and exploited and revere that system. They managed this for the VCS but they miss important aspects of the Amiga hardware and software and the way they worked together and created so much more than the sum of the parts - incoherently laced with US anecdotes from mostly early abandoners of a computer they failed to 'get' as the revolutionary platform it was. Brian Bagnall will hopefully do better; there are many great books to be written about the Amiga, but this one is already best forgotten - a missed opportunity.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent platform study in its context 14 May 2012
By Nick L
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book examines the impact and legacy that the Commodore Amiga made and has left on the computing world, particularly from the perspective of how the Amiga deserves to be seen as the first multimedia computer. A common theme is the democratisation of high end functionality - whether music making, computer art, 3D, video production, ... - that the platform provided by giving access to (at the time) high end features on an affordable home computer.

I'd recommend this book to anyone with more than a passing interest in computer gaming and multimedia, as it really does show that the future was indeed here in 1985 with the launching of the Amiga 1000. Die hard Amiga fans will not find shocking revelations in here, however they will find insightful comment with well reasoned argument, and elucidation on a few seemingly trivial topics that illustrate just how closely tied into its custom chips the Amiga's software portfolio (and ultimate fate) was.

I particularly enjoyed how the book made me examine whether my admiration of the platform was purely due to nostalgia and a desire to go back to a simpler time, or whether the platform really was groundbreaking at the time and deserving of recognition: removing the rose tinted glasses, and measuring objectively, the Amiga was revolutionary.

A thoroughly enjoyable book for those who used or programmed the platform, and for those who wonder where the current state of the art came from.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 11 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A brilliantly written look at the future of computing. Which is in the past. No overly technical knowledge is required for reading. Superb.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read for computer historians 26 Sep 2012
By K. Medearis - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book... and dislike it, too. let me explain. In this book, I was looking forward to reading about the development and progression of the custom chipset and OS that made the Amiga a joy to use and envy of all my nerdy friends. I expected to read about how developers/users pushed the machine to its limits to astounding results. Unfortunately, there is very little of that in this book. In fact, the author dedicates chapters to describe limitations and shortcomings of the machine.

I would have loved to have seen a chronology of the Amiga as a platform, from OCS to ECS and AGA and plans for future chipsets (and what related Amiga products are available today, even if only loosely though companies such as Commodore USA). Instead, most of the book focuses on the original Amiga 1000 design and limitations (a machine that was quickly replaced by its successors, so the author's choice puzzles me). There was no serious credence given to the expandability of any of the machines, implying that most owners had little more than the stock amount of RAM and no hard drive.

There is also a strange selection of programs analyzed. An odd amount of text in this book is dedicated to the functions of the Deluxe Paint series. Although mildly interesting, it is not what I had expected to be reading about in this book.

I doubt you'd know by this book that 90% of the Amiga's games even in 1994 looked far superior than most PC games. From 1985-1995, who owned a PC set up that could compete? PC's/sound cards/graphics cards were still expensive. And PC joysticks were crap unless you were playing a flight sim! Playing a game on a PC was an exercise in configuring your machine for hours to execute directX appropriately while hoping that everything you owned was compatible. But these are topics for another book, I suppose.

Why is there a detailed study of Menace? Not the best Amiga game by any stretch. He mentions a far superior looking/sounding game, Shadow of the Beast -- that would have been an excellent study! Why wasn't the CD32 discussed? Or higher end machines like the 4000/040?

Most folks who would be interested in buying this book would likely have used and loved the Amiga, but this book reads almost like an outsider's curiosity of the machine in retrospect, rather than a labor of love. Did the author ever own an Amiga "back in the day?" He admits to using emulators for most of his work on this book. This makes for a rather dry read. And what is with the extremely distracting choice of referring to all Amiga users in the feminine (I've never met a female Amiga user. I suppose some existed. somewhere.) It made me continually read the text again trying to think "who is the author referring to? Did he mention a female user by name earlier and I missed it?"

If you are looking for a fascinating platform study, read "Racing the Beam" -- it's about the Atari VCS (aka Atari 2600). Jay Miner essentially developed both the 2600 and original Amiga. But the Atari book is more fun to read -- how programmers did so much with so little. You find youreself "pulling for" the Atari, the little machine that could. However, "The Future Was Here" reads more like "the little machine that should have." I LOVE the Amiga (I still have my 2000 and it still works), so I just hoped for a little more here.

If you don't mind a rather indifferent view of the Amiga 1000 system and are in need of an Amiga retrospective, check out the book. It isn't bad -- but seems to be "the little book that should have."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amiga Forever! 6 Jun 2012
By Ali son of Khalil - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Amiga was the second computer that I ever knew after the programmable John Sands Sega SC3000H. I fell in love with my Amiga 500 as a child so it holds a special place in my heart. In all honesty no computer has ever left such a profound lasting effect on me.

Jimmy Maher, thank you for explaining away the mystery. I have always known that the Amiga was a beautifully designed and built machine, but I never knew the technicalities of what made it so superior to the Macs, Ataris and IBMs of its time. I have always wished that the Amiga never died, thanks for nothing Commodore.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The platform that deffined our computing generation. 8 July 2012
By D. Raymond Harlan - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great read, I really enjoy the level of detail & research Maher had put into writing the book. Well worth the efforts. If I had to give one criticism I would say he used the pronoun 'she' in place of virtually every pronoun. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, it felt a bit overused in the text. Even in places where he was talking about the overwhelmingly male audience in the demoscene he'd still use 'she' for the examples. I know many will/may disagree but this is just my opinion. But in total a very well researched piece, worthy of anyone with an interest in the platform that revolutionized and brought many new possibilities to the computing options of the 80's.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I like the book 3 Jun 2012
By roman baranovic - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have really enjoyed reading this book. It brings to light many of the events and details about Amiga. I have got my Amiga in 1990 as 16 years old. I lived in Czechoslovakia. At that time I did not have a chance to learn the story about Amiga, it was just a game computer for me. Thanks to this book, I can much better appreciate what I was part of.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book needed to be written. 29 July 2012
By Jeremy Moskowitz - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If I had unlimited time and resources in my life, I would have written this book. It is exquisitely detailed, but not overly so. There are working examples from the author if you care to take a deeper dive. The facts are accurate, and the "positioning" and analysis is thought out and well reasoned. In short, there's a lot to like about this book if you were an Amiga enthusiast. But the more important reason that this book should have been written (and now is) is for when future historians want to take a reasoned approach to understanding why things unfolded the way they were. IN 50 years, this book will hold up with the technical accuracy, attention to detail, cited references, and "just enough" detail to tell the story in an accurate and easy to read way. Thanks Jimmy for the book, and more importantly, future historians of the technology will thank you too.
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