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

Jimmy Maher
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book 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.

Product Description


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

About the Author

Jimmy Maher is an independent scholar and writer living in Norway.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 4569 KB
  • Print Length: 344 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (13 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007V5BVJG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #169,205 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 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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7 of 10 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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