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AmigaOS woes show ROS is not alone

Published: 6th Jan 2007, 14:24:14 | Permalink | Printable

Updated OS needs new computer? Been there, done that

Amiga 4.0 screenshotRISC OS's fellow niche operating system AmigaOS 4.0 has been officially released - just one month after the last remaining Amiga-compatible computer went out of production. The substantially overhauled AmigaOS that took years to develop requires PowerPC processor hardware that no longer exists, although some new embedded and dual core kit may be on the way.

The history of Amiga from its early 4096 colour and digital stereo sound beginnings in 1985 to its current state is a glorious soap opera that makes RISC OS's progress look like a casual stroll to the corner shop. It further demonstrates that, in comparison with other niche platforms, RISC OS isn't doing quite as bad as some fear - at least we have Firefox, and a couple of BeOS users have mentioned to us recently that they wish they had an equivalent to the GCCSDK and its Autobuilder.

In an article for INQ, IT journo Liam Proven said: "Twenty-two years after its introduction, the Amiga is not quite dead yet. If you need a low-resource, high-performance Internet-ready graphical embedded or kiosk OS, even in 2007, you could do a lot worse than check out the world of the Amiga."

This humble Drobe hack recalls a recent conversation with Liam, over a drink in a south London curry house, in which he said the personality clashes in the Amiga world were not unlike those found in RISC OS. The chiefs of the hardware manufacturers and operating system developers didn't see eye to eye, apparently, which caused problems. It sounds awfully familiar.


The Amiga is dead, long live the Amiga from INQ
RISC OS vs AmigaOS

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It's not quite the case of "It's worse than that he's dead Jim" - but it does show how RISC OS *might* go if we're not careful. I remember first seeing an Amiga demonstrated on a computer show (on the BBC) and eventually "in the flesh" as it were (nice desktop, more colours than you could shake a stick at, crisp multitasking). If Acorn hadn't brought out the Archimedes when they did I'd probably be an embittered Amiga user cursing his lot instead of being the cheerful Acorn user that I now am ;-)

As to "personality" problems this happens in all of the IT industry, the point is to recognise that winning the argument but leaving your "niche" a wasteland it *not* good.

RISC OS is in a much better state, you have a choice of *physical* hardware to choose from (and cheap second hand kit if you need it), a relatively active development scene, an opensourced (in a fashion) OS on the way and so forth. Still can't help but wish the Amiga guys well, it would be sad to see one of the most innovative platforms cease after all this time.

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 6/1/07 2:41PM
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Why was Amiga OS innovative? What can current RISC OS developers learn from it? For example, are there better ways of developing the filer and indeed everything else about the OS than at worst an assumption of making it convergent with Windows or Mac ?

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 6/1/07 10:50PM
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AW>It wasn't just the OS. The machine had custom hardware to help with graphics (allowed blitting, and 4096 colours) this at a time when most PC's managed 16 colours in highish resolution or 256 in a resolution less than MODE2 on a BBC Model B). The multitasking also seemed pretty effective. It also used a version of the Motorola M68000 (the 68010) that outclassed the 8086 and 286 of its day, it should also be noted that it *predated* the Archimedes. The OS simply reflected those capabilities.

For what it's worth simply copying the Amiga is just as pointless as cogging off the Mac or PC (IMHO), there are improvements that can be made to (say) the RISC OS filer - but it should be pointed out that as it stands it is probably one of the easiest to use/slickest means of moving/copying/deleting files about (and as the Man said - if it "ain't broke don't fix it....").

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 6/1/07 11:01PM
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AW: "Why was Amiga OS innovative? What can current RISC OS developers learn from it?"

It was a fairly efficient pre-emptive multitasking operating system, supposedly based on (or inspired by) TRIPOS. Unfortunately, it didn't have memory protection, as far as I recall, and the graphical user interface didn't look too great, despite various interesting automation/scripting facilities which may have been the inspiration for the parts of Computer Concepts' Impulse which were introduced to RISC OS in the early days of Impression.

Efficient pre-emptive multitasking wasn't a unique thing at that time, however. OS 9 had been around for a while, for example, and was apparently available on the Cumana 68000 second processor for the BBC Micro (according to various reviews at the time).

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 7/1/07 7:18PM
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The main reason for the success of the Amiga was that it had much superior graphics and sound to any other (affordable) machine at the time, i.e., its potential as a games machine. Few people at the time cared about multitasking, and even less about preemptive versus cooperative MT. As for the innovative filing system, it took some flak at the time for being very slow, so I don't think this was seen as a major advantage.

As a consequence, I think Acorn made a mistake by waiting to realease an ARM-based consumer machine until the MEMC (february 86) and ARM2 (february 87) was finished. Using just ARM1 (april 85) and VIDC, (october 85) they could have released a serious competitor to Amiga only shortly after its release instead of nearly two years later. And I know that several of my BBC-micro firends moved to Amiga because they were tired of waiting for Acorn to come out with something new.

Just having a flat memory space without protection or address mapping would not matter in the market at the time, and it would even have the benefit of not being timed to the 4MB limit that MEMC introduced. And given that Arthur was a rush job anyway (after Acorn gave up on a much more ambitious OS project), I don't think the software would have been much inferior. And even if it wsa, it wouldn't matter much: As long as it gave a platform on which you could run games or other graphics/sound software, this would have been enough.

An earlier Acorn machine would also have decreased the defection to PCs.

 is a RISC OS Usertorbenm on 8/1/07 12:16PM
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torbenm: Interesting ideas, but I would imagine that there would still have been a huge difference in the prices of the two machines which would still have left the Amiga as far and away the more common one.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 8/1/07 1:32PM
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from [link]

"Now scheduled for commercial release in early 2005, AmigaOS 4.0 moves the�Amiga Operating System to the modern Power PC chips�enabling the easy use of off-the-shelf components from third party vendors"

To my mind the graphics on the original desktop used to look very chunky and dated compared to the contemporary version of RISC OS!

 is a RISC OS UserCJE on 8/1/07 3:02PM
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& the modern one looks just like a flavour of *nix!

...or is it the other way round?

 is a RISC OS Userepistaxsis on 8/1/07 3:23PM
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AMS: "The machine had custom hardware to help with graphics (allowed blitting, and 4096 colours) this at a time when most PC's managed 16 colours in highish resolution or 256 in a resolution less than MODE2 on a BBC Model B)."

Like the fairly decent graphical capabilities of the Archimedes, the chipset-specific nature of those capabilities eventually set the alarm bells ringing. Indeed, the Amiga scene was even worse off than the pre-VIDC20 Acorn scene: the initially impressive "planar graphics" capabilities at the heart of Amiga games and demos soon proved to be quite an obstacle to those seeking to implement newer trends in games such as texture mapping, and the baggage of that early hardware probably caused subsequent backwards compatible chipset updates to go nowhere for a very long time. Of course, even the RISC PC's VIDC20 only helped the Acorn platform to match the industry's pace in graphics capabilities for a short while, and with the introduction of 3D acceleration the once-scorned commodity graphics card business ended up having the last laugh.

 is a RISC OS Userguestx on 8/1/07 4:53PM
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I feel sorry for those Amiga guys, although recently I used AROS (a reasonably similar Amiga OS clone for x86) and was impressed by it, even tho its not finished, it seemed to have plenty of potential.

 is a RISC OS Userpolas on 9/1/07 6:28PM
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Coo blimey. How did I miss this at the time? Ta for the link, Chris!

It was originally going to be part of a single larger article, the other bit being the story on RO6 which ran back in October:


And Keith "ROHC" Dunlop, you were right - that /is/ a really BeOS-looking screenshot!

 is a RISC OS Userlproven on 17/1/07 3:03AM
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Lovely article on RO6 - enjoyed it at the time. Any chance of you taking over from the schoolboys currently running all things RISC OS? ;)

 is a RISC OS Userlym on 17/1/07 9:24PM
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