The Amiga graced the cover of BYTE only one other time and it was for the launch of the Amiga 3000 in 1990 and the release of Workbench 2.0. The 3000 hit the market in June of 1990, and this issue hit U.S. shelves the month prior to help prime the pumps.
From BYTE's perspective this machine was a really big deal, especially for Commodore's future. They saw it as the company going all-in to try and own the multimedia landscape - a concept really only in its infancy at that time for home computers. As far as BYTE was concerned Apple had used a similar strategy for dominating desktop publishing, and Apple had won handily. The Amiga 3000 and its refreshed OS was seen as Commodore's attempt to take over an entirely different and emerging landscape.
Bob Ryan, for BYTE:
Imagine the ideal multimedia platform. It would have impressive graphics and sound, be easy to use, and work transparently with sophisticated video equipment. Throw in a low-overhead multitasking operating system, and you'd have all the pieces you need to run sophisticated multimedia applications. You'd also have an Amiga from Commodore.
Interestingly, while the first cover story of the original Amiga traversed 11 pages, this article only graced four pages this time around with one being a full-page photo. To be fair, this spotlight was on a more mature product and not deemed as revolutionary; important and kick-ass, yes, but not nearly as utterly mind-blowing. The original unveiling would have been hard to beat.
The article spends a fair amount of time devoted to the 3000's built-in flicker and scan-line remover in both low and high resolution modes, but also points out that it still wasn't the fix that some in the industry were hoping for. While the Amiga's graphics were an obvious strength, it was also still perceived by some as an achilles heel for the future.
Even though part of BYTE's review seems to focus on the cup being half empty for the Amiga 3000, I have to say it's so refreshing to read an article from back in the day with this kind of depth and understanding. Maybe the fact that it wasn't a dedicated Amiga mag helped bring that objectivity. Bob Ryan didn't hold any punches, but in a way I get the sincere feeling he's an Amiga fan wishing he could bend the ear of those in West Chester, PA.Although the new capabilities of the graphics system are significant, they don't address the larger question of how to upgrade Amiga graphics to 8- and 24-bit color while maintaining compatibility with current graphics software. (The tight coupling of the graphics system and the Amiga CPU, which gives the machine its superior graphics performance, ironically also makes it more difficult to upgrade the graphics capabilities.)
Palette limitations on the Amiga 3000 are the same as for earlier Amigas: 32 colors in low resolution and 16 in high resolution, of a possible 4096. Techniques such as extra half-bright, dynamic high-resolution, and hold-and-modify let you increase the number of colors on screen (up to 4096 in the case of HAM), but they either force you to swap palettes on the fly - a serious drain on system bandwidth - or don't let you define each pixel independently. (The latter drawback is actually an advantage when you use HAM mode for video work; because it can take up to three pixels to change from one color to another, HAM mode is naturally anti-aliasing.)
Despite these alternative graphics modes, the lack of native 8- and 24-bit color on the Amiga is a concern. Such capabilities will be necessary for next-generation video and multimedia applications and are already available for many of the Macintosh, MS-DOS and Unix machines.
Well! To each their own, eh? But seriously, he isn't exactly wrong. That was a prevailing perception by 1990, and Commodore did something about it. Ryan goes on to devote a good half-page of copy about just the OS updates that came along with the 3000's launch. Before concluding, he dropped an interesting data point about the size of the Commodore user base. Remember, this is mid-1990 and the deliverer of the news is a noted technology journalist:In the past, many people dismissed the Amiga as an unprofessional machine because of the look of its Workbench interface. When all you saw was a four-color, 640- by 200-pixel screen with visible scan lines between each row of pixels, it was easy to forget the sophisticated hardware and software that lay beneath it.
With estimates of approximately 4.8M Amiga computers sold from 1985-1994, that would seem to imply over 3 million machines were yet to be sold mainly in Europe from 1992-1994, mainly off the back of the A1200 and bargain priced A500's in 1990-91. It kind of boggles the mind Commodore collapsed while pushing that much product out the door those last two years of its life. Assuming Ryan's numbers are correct, Commodore's overhead must have been simply staggering at that point. Worth noting the C64 continued to be produced all the way until 1994. Take that, Bob Ryan!Because the Amiga 500 and 2000 can be upgraded with the enhanced chip set and run 2.0, programs written for the 3000 will also run on most of the Amiga installed base of nearly 1.5 million machines.
And yet, in his concluding remarks he gives the Amiga 3000 very high praise.
If anything, his final shot seems to be directed at Commodore management and marketing, not the hardware or software. At least that's how I read it.With a primary focus in multimedia and secondary pushes in education, government, and productivity, Commodore has at last outlined a strategy that takes advantage of the Amiga's strengths. With the Amiga 3000, it has produced the most capable multimedia platform you can get in a single box. If the machine were the only criterion, I'd already call Commodore's strategy a success.
Want to read it all for yourself? Here you go.