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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

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The History of the Amiga and Atari

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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.

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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.
Mega ST Advert
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 mystery.

What would this have done to the Amiga?
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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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