The Commodore Amiga 500

The Commodore Amiga 500 was the computer I grew up with. Back in the day, it was the ultimate games machine and I've lost track of all the great games that were available for it.

It's really hard to believe the Amiga 500 is 30 years old this year.

While there were a number of Amiga models over they years, I think the 500 was the one most people owned and it was certainly the most successful. I got my 'Batman Pack' in 1989 and it was my main computer until 1994.

Five years may not seem that long now, but it was an incredible lifespan back then given the rate of change and I think it shows how adaptable this machine was.

Along with its main rival, the Atari ST, the Amiga amassed a huge collection of classic games that you'd still want to play today. Great developers also emerged, like Cinemaware, Psygnosis, Codemasters and The Bitmap Brothers.

From revolutionary games like Xenon 2 to epic, cinematic experiences in the form of It Came from the Desert and Shadow of the Beast, there was pretty much something for everyone. You also had Tobias Richter's classic Star Trek game available as a public domain title.

Alongside these original masterpieces, there were enough movie tie-ins and arcade conversions (mainly from Ocean) to last a lifetime.

The best thing about the Amiga for me is that so many people owned them at the time. This meant that you could come home from school on a Friday with a bag full of new games to explore over the weekend.

You never got bored and there was always something else to try.

There were plenty of releases as well and some cool magazines to learn about them. It was also handy that there were plenty of cheat codes available, as you weren't likely to see the end of a lot of these games without them.

If you wanted to enhanced your experience, a 1 megabyte upgrade was also available. For me, this gave me sound on Their Finest Hour, new bad guys in Dragon Ninja and replays in Indianapolis 500.

It wasn't just about games though, as the Amiga was quite a serious machine.

I personally loved Photon Paint and I was able to come up with some decent images over the years. I also used it for a lot of school work as well, as it looked ok on my early dot matrix printer.

As you can probably tell, I loved this machine and I got far more out of it than what a standard games console, like the Megadrive, would have provided.

It was the perfect machine before the new multimedia PC's became impossible to ignore. They were clearly the way forward, but I can't say I didn't get my money's worth from the Amiga.

I think the most significant thing about the Amiga 500 though is that its success seemed to be one of the key reasons Commodore eventually went out of business.

Despite outperforming the Atari ST in nearly every respect, they seemed to be completely oblivious to what the PC industry was doing towards the end. Instead of innovating, they seemed to think that smaller, repackaged Amiga models were the way to respond. These later models even lacked compatibility with a lot of key titles as well.

Commodore's biggest mistake though had to be the CDTV.

Although it lacked the Amiga branding, the CDTV was basically a repackaged Amiga with an external keyboard, CD-Rom drive and a remote control. It was aimed at the living room as well, as it was clearly designed to be an entertainment machine.

The biggest issue was the price, as it was not only ridiculously expensive, given the lack of software, but consumers also realised it was essentially an upgraded Amiga. They also assumed that Commodore would simply release a far cheaper CD-Rom add-on for existing Amiga, which didn't happen until some time afterwards.

By then, the CDTV had pretty much been forgotten and developers ignored it, leaving owners with public domain compilations if they wanted to use their drives for something.  

The only slight consolation for Commodore is that Phillips also felt the same pain with the CDI. The problem is, they didn't have existing machines out there they could simply upgrade to introduce CD-Rom technology. The Amiga 500 was also compact enough to use in your living room if you really wanted to as well.

Commodore Amiga 500

Overall, I think this shows us that you can't be complacent when you have a great technology product.

There also comes a point where you simply have to move on and while a recognised brand may hold its own against a superior product, a recycled one probably won't.

Despite what happened after it reached its peak though, the Amiga 500 will always have its place in history. For me, it's the perfect example of classic tech and I think you can see it made a difference.