Watch the video above for a complete deep-dive into this amazing machine and it's unique history.
The original Amiga computer was launched to the public on July 23, 1985, in a legendary demonstration at Lincoln Center in New York featuring the likes of Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry.
Prior to that epic event, however, there was another Amiga - a lesser-known member of the family most have never even heard of. Back in 1984/1985 Commodore created a few hundred “Development Edition” machines called the Amiga Development System. Sometimes, due to a very unique early design, they are also sometimes referred to as “Velvet” which was a name for a particular motherboard layout some had.
Commodore sent these computers to companies around the world in the hopes they would decide to support the new platform in the form of creating software and tools.
Thus, the Development System is a very unique machine most of which have been lost to the sands of time. Prior to this writing it was believed that only 5 Development Systems remained around the world.
Assuming that’s true, there are now six.
Note the Commodore logo instead of the typical Amiga logo and checkmark. Also, the plastic is highly glossy, not matte, like all other Amiga 1000's.
I now have in my possession one of the rarest Amigas ever made - one that was never sold to the consumer market. And this one appears to be entirely unique from its brethren, which I shall soon explain.
The Amiga Development Edition looks almost exactly like an original Amiga (now commonly referred to as the A1000). And from a distance most wouldn’t notice the difference. Only the well-trained eye of an Amiga lover will expose how shockingly different this machine is.
It’s worth noting that a different Development System currently located in Austria (Serial Number D-564) was disassembled with several photographs taken along the way documenting every square inch of the Amiga Velvet. That machine is actually an earlier version than mine (Serial Number D-638) - and I believe the difference in age to be by only a few weeks based on the Agnus serial numbers found in each. However, the one I have is vastly different on the inside, which I’ll soon explain and demonstrate.
But first, some quick history about this particular machine.
In late 1984 or early 1985, one place that received an Amiga Development System was the Hewlett-Packard offices in Colorado.
Ultimately HP decided they were not going to invest in the Amiga.
Around this same time, a man in Colorado named Larry Blakesley had been reading about this new and powerful computer - the Amiga - and was dying to get one. Larry worked in the technology industry and somehow (he can’t quite remember all of the details) heard out about an Amiga that HP was willing to sell.
He made some phone calls and soon drove to the HP offices where a deal was made. At that point in time in 1985 - most likely in the spring of 1985 - Larry was one of the only people on the planet to personally own an Amiga.
Think about that for a second more: Larry Blakesley was quite possibly the first non-Commodore employee to ever own an Amiga. And he got to hold onto that silent badge of honor for several months that year, and ultimately the next 34 years, until now.
And the funny thing? A few months later after the Amiga was launched to the public and shipped to retail soon after, Larry was one of the first people in line to buy one!
A few years later he upgraded to an Amiga 3000 and even ran an animation and effects studio in the early 1990s, entirely on Amiga hardware.
Now, come with me as we look at some of the key differences this incredible Amiga Development Edition has from a stock Amiga 1000. Please watch this video for an even closer look.
Each of the sides of the Development System look just like an Amiga 1000. Only the front really looks different thanks to the logo. However, it's worth noting that the power supply - made by Viking just like in the the retail versions - the power switch rocker is reversed.
The back panel looks identical to the retail version.
Besides the front of the machine being different, the second key drastic change is the inside top cover of the case - no signatures! Completely blank.
The third key difference you'll notice on the outside is a lack of an officially printed serial number. These were actually printed out on paper, cut with scissors and taped to the bottom! I believe my machine is likely one of the last ever made before Amigas were sent around the U.S.A. to retail stores. Note the "card catalog" form glued to the bottom of mine as well noting "mods" made to this particular machine, either by HP or, more likely, Commodore.
The keyboard is very unique. It has several differences: the plastic is a different color - more gray than beige. Also, the ink on the keys is more solid black rather than a very dark blueish color. The red Amiga "A" keys are Commodore "Chicken Lips" logos instead, too. And in the upper-right corner - no checkmark logo! Not even a C= logo. Completely tabula rasa.
A typical A1000 keyboard on top; the Development edition keyboard on the bottom.
Now here's where my version differs from the one in Vienna. My motherboard is almost identical to what went to retail shops. Many of the resistors and caps are different colors and whatnot, but the motherboard layout is what you'd expect to see. There is one mod made at the factory on the Development edition that I can see, but otherwise it's very close. It doesn't even say "Velvet" at this stage. So this shows the Development version was going through a metamorphosis towards the end of its lifespan before they stopped making them.
In fact, my machine has 256KB on-board RAM, and even has another 256KB in the front expansion! This makes this Development System specimen as close to the "real deal" which must have been far more appealing to development houses trying to create software for the upcoming platform. Would you want a machine capable of what future customers would have in their hands, rather than a 1/2-memory version? The Velvet models only came with 128KB on-board, and could take another 128KB in the front expansion. That's essentially what this machine was without the expansion!
Very early model A1000 on the left, Development System on the right.
This Development System has freaking ANCIENT custom chips. According to the serial numbers this Agnus was made 2 weeks after the one on Vienna. The Denise chip is a very early "Daphne" and the Paula chip is a really early "Portia".
Lastly, it's worth pointing out that this machine is fully functional, however the keyboard seems to be in need of a new controller chip. That being said I may just leave it as it is - time-capsuled, so to speak, the way I found it.
UPDATE: I was supposed to have also received a box from FedEx with original manuals for the Dev System. They were marked by FedEx as delivered but never arrived. That box is currently being hunted down. Please send some positive energy in the direction of Seattle in the hopes that it might be found.
Works great, 100% (except for the keyboard). I still need to go through all of the original software I received. I believe I have one of the original (ancient) Kickstart disks, too.
I've been contacted by the owner of a VELVET model who says that mine is actually called "ZORRO", and that only one other is known to exist.
gehtjanix1 on YouTube:
The ZORRO slots were named after this unit, as "no one suggested a better name" and (probably/maybe) the slot had it's final revision with this unit, so they just kept the name. Maybe they mean the "expansion bus" which later went to the inside in A2000's design, keeping the name of the prototype because the spec was finailized here. At least, that is what I heard about it.