The History of the Amiga and
The Amiga and Atari make strange companions. The Atari-Commodore
computer war during the late 1980's make it difficult to imagine
that both companies shared a similar vision on what a computer
should be, targeting a small company that symbolized this dream.
After founding Tramiel Technologies, Jack Tramiel was offered the
Atari consumer business, which he bought to gain control of the
manufacturing plants and distribution channels. A few days after
the purchase he became aware of the Amiga deal with Atari. The
technology seemed perfect to follow the Atari tradition, being
designed by an ex-Atari employee, Jay Miner. The hardware was an
extremely powerful (for the time) 68000 processor as well as a
number of custom chips; similar in design to those found in the
Atari 400 and 800. The new Atari company made a deal with Amiga
Corp to buy the technology but they did not want their creators,
something that was unacceptable to the Amiga team. To add insult,
Atari would continually drop the bid for each share at each
meeting. With little choice bit to accept the Amiga team thought
that they would once again be unemployed.
Many Atari enthusiasts attempted to mimic the Amigas abilities
by showing that it was possible to produce real world physics, even
on an Atari 8-bit. However, the logo "Power without the price"
perfectly summarizes the concept behind the Amiga- a powerful
multitasking OS that was able to perform tasks that machines four
times as expensive could not perform.
Under the deal Atari announced plans to use the Amiga technology
through the release of a console. This would have mostly likely
used an altered version of the cartridge slot found on the Lorraine
prototype in order to play games. Other peripherals such as a
keyboard and disk drive were to be launched during the year
allowing the console to be turned into a full computer. The
full-scale computer based upon the Amiga technology would be
launched a year later, during first quarter of 1985. How this would
have affected the computer landscape is difficult to say. At the
time Commodore were developing a Z8000 UNIX system effectively
moving Commodore into the business market where they would have
competed with the likes of IBM and Silicon Graphics. Atari would
have had the 16-bit market to itself.
Fortunately, three days before they were due to sign a contract
with Atari; Commodore stepped in and bought the company for $4.25 a
share- over 4 times the amount Atari would have paid. As far as
Atari were concerned the fight was not over. On August 13, 1984
they filed a suit against Amiga for breach of contract and use of
technology that Atari had paid to be developed. The suit was
eventually settled in 1987 with both companies claiming victory.
The exact nature of the result, however, remains shrouded in
What would this have done to the Amiga?
The Amiga would have been a dramatically different beast under
Atari. Even the current definition of an Amiga would not exist, and
the name would have been altered to Atari's standard numeric
titles, most likely becoming the Atari 1850XLD. According to Steve
Bristow and Ken Warren's logbook, obtained by the Atari
Preservation Society, the Lorraine-based system was to be released
during the first quarter of 1985 (Spring). The AmigaOS would be
integrated with a Unix kernel rather than the adapting the British
TripOS as Commodore did. The Atari version of the Amiga appears
surprisingly like that produced by Commodore indicating that many
of the features of the A1000 were based upon the decisions made by
the original Amiga Corp. As part of the deal, Atari were also to
release a console version of the Lorraine a year later. If we were
to hypothesis, the Amiga Lorraine-based console would most likely
be based upon the original Lorraine specifications, with 128k of
Chip RAM and 64k ROM. The Basic and Forth interpreters would also
be included, allowing the system to be programmed. Of course this
is pure speculation and Atari could have moved the system into any
market. Whatever would have happened, it would have resulted in the
current Atari ST computer line never being created. If Atari had
bought the Amiga they may have even abandoned the platform in the
way that they abandoned the Atari ST and Falcon and the computer
may not have had a future.
Image of Atari Engineering Logs
(112k), reproduced with permission from the Atari Preservation Society.
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Last Update: 1/11/2001
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