It was a pioneer and leader in computer multitasking, high-end graphics and shockingly good audio available at a retail level. It was sold to Commodore who then proceeded to sit on that technology for years. They dabbled, but ultimately fell flat in their attempts to maintain the original astronomical lead they had over their competition. And the rest is history.
When the Amiga was launched to consumers in 1985 it came with an innovative, efficient and user-friendly operating system. And the Amiga OS was a very distinctive Commodore Blue. By 1987 in the United States, with the release of the much more economically attractive Amiga 500 and powerfully expandable Amiga 2000, software companies were climbing over each other to get a piece of that quickly expanding market.
It wasn’t until 1990, however, before Commodore made any significant commercial updates to the Amiga’s OS. As a result, the entire software market for over four years was directly aimed at Amiga OS 1.2 & 1.3 and the millions of machines that used it.
Thus, as Commodore slowly rolled out version 2.0 in 1990 with the release of the Amiga 3000, most commercial software still fully supported OS 1.3 while they began to dip their toes into the 2.0 waters. While many might rightfully argue 2.0 brought a more professional User Interface standard to the Amiga, the fact is OS 1.3 was the most popular Amiga OS for years for software developers to target due to its large installed user base in several countries around the world, including the United States.
This explains why, even by the time Commodore died in 1994, many games and software titles still had a base requirement that closely mirrored a stock A500’s environment dating back 7 years. It just made financial sense to cast the widest net. And, except for some later high-end productivity and graphics packages, most software worked just fine on top of 1.3’s architecture.
The titles that targeted A1200 & A4000 AGA 3.0+ machines withered on the vine except in some very localized markets and industries at a time when the ultimate fate of Commodore had already been obvious to many for years.
In 2021, I like to remember the history of where Amiga came from - when its future was the brightest. I like to relive the experience many pre-1992 Amigans actually shared when they turned their machines on for the very first time and loaded up Defender of the Crown or Monkey Island when the games were brand new to the world.
Most saw Old Blue.
The other thing about the Amiga scene that has always been so amazing is the insanely active developer scene it inspired and fostered. Thanks to Fred Fish, user groups, BBSes and cover disks, public domain software provided free or inexpensive high quality programs for thousands of people around the world to enhance their Amiga experience.
If I wanted to, I could create a monster Amiga with millions of colors and shockingly modern comforts (and I have! viewtopic.php?t=1569 ). And that can be a very fun way to go in this never-ending wonderful hobby of retro computing. But for me, I generally prefer using the Amiga the way I originally saw it the very first time and like to live in the world where legacy original Amiga software simply works.
The following is some of my personal favorite software that was designed and developed on, and for, Amiga OS 1.3 that makes the old environment a ton of fun to use even to this day.
The programs I’m going to demonstrate includes the following:
- AmiDock - the original (Shareware)
- DOpus 4.1 - iconified (Commercial)
- WShell 2.0 (Commercial)
- Zoom-Daemon (Freeware)
- MyMenus (Freeware)
- QMouse (Freeware)
- SimGen (Shareware)
- HippoPlayer (Shareware)
- WordPerfect Library (Commercial)
- 64Door (Freeware)
(See: Fred Fish 459)
There are a few programs I install on all of my Amigas now and have them launch when I boot the machines. One is an iconified view of Directory Opus, the other is AmiDock.
AmiDock is a little customizable strip along the bottom or side of your screen that lets you launch apps of your choice with the click of a button. It was created by Gary Knight in 1991 and was inspired by the NeXT dock he saw on those machines.
You can create your own icons to launch apps. If you don’t want to do that, several people in the past created “sheets” of icons in Deluxe paint for you to pull from. The way it works is you actually load DP “brush” files rather than IFF or other standard image files to be used as icons in the AmiDock. You can add or reduce the dock to whatever size you like and load it up with your favorite programs you use often. Having been released in 1991 it supports both non-interlace “old blue” icons as well as interlace 2.0 “glorious gray” icons as well as multicolor palettes if you happen to go that route.
I love this program so much I made an entire video about it.
DOpus 4.1, Iconified
Most everyone knows Directory Opus so I’m not going to spend a ton on time on this exceptional file manager program. I will say this, though. By 1994, the fact that Commodore hadn’t licensed or built their own comparable GUI-based tool for people to perform the most basic tasks of file management is appalling, and one more sad example of how Commodore was completely oblivious to market and technology trends. They basically pressed play on the music CD-Player for Apple and Microsoft to do the floss right on top of their grave. And let’s not talk about CD players, either…
Later versions of DOpus were so full featured they allowed you to virtually embed them as the default file manger into AmigaOS, since it didn’t have one for itself. For me, I prefer the simplified view of 4.1 to move most of my data around even when I’m using OS 3.1. It’s bone dead easy to understand and stunningly robust in its feature set.
DOpus was developed by Australian Jonathan Potter and published by Inovatronics out of Dallas, Texas. Version 4.0 was released in 1992.
Installation is for intermediate-to-advanced users.
One of the most glaring differences between OS 1.3 and later versions is the built-in Command Line Interface (CLI) and Shell. When you’re in 1.3 Land, you lack some of the most basic UI tools that its later cousins earned at birth. For starters, to close the window you have to type “endcli”. There’s no CLOSE “gadget” to click on and kill the window. On top of that, if you perform a LIST command and the results are long, you have to issue a page break to stop and start them up again. No scrollbars.
In 1988, William S. Hawes out of Maynard, Massachusetts, released a much-enhanced yet highly compatible replacement for the Amiga's CLI. He went on to improve the program up to version 2.0 in 1991, which continued to support both OS 1.3 and 2.0. For 1.3 users, it provided the Close gadget and those beautiful scrollbars all the other kids had. But WShell can do so much more.
You want more, you say? How about File Name Completion? Type the first few letters of a long file and hit “ESC” and it’ll finish the typing for you! It also is full of Function Key magickery, like window minimizing and maximizing and z-depth ordering.
You can highly customize it to your own taste and style, from how the C-prompt works all the way down to creating custom “Aliases”, or shorthand, for common commands you may perform.
If you ever wished the Shell could do a particular thing or could be customized a certain way, chances are it can be with WShell.
(See: Fred Fish 498)
Zoom-Daemon is a program that attaches a ZOOM GADGET to each Intuition window which causes the window to expand to the full size of the screen or contract to the window's minimum size when it is pressed. Once the Zoom-Daemon is running, new windows that are opened may include a Zoom Gadget which should appear to the left of the depth gadgets in the upper right-hand corner of the window. And it will only add itself to any window that was designed to be resized in the first place.
It’s that feature you always kinda wanted on an Amiga and simply forgot about it, until you got it back.
It was created by Davide Cervone in 1989 who was in the Department of Mathematics at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, at the time.
(See: Fred Fish 225)
MyMenus is yet another feature enhancement for the Intuition interface that is both extremely powerful and cool. It allows you to create your own custom menus along the top of your Workbench. You can add any Workbench or CLI program to one or more menus, and menus can even have multiple levels if you want to really get crazy.
Since I have some of my most common permanent programs already assigned to my AmiDock along the bottom of my screen, I decided to make a MyMenu for Games.
I did this because, in general, Games have a tendency to rotate depending on which games I’m currently trying to beat. But there are a few I always want at the ready, too, like a nice relaxing game of Ishido. I also added “NoFastMem” to MyMenu since I use that command every time I fire up Rogue, one of my all-time favorite games (which I beat last year).
And what’s even cooler is I can assign an Amiga Keystroke to each menu item. So as soon as I boot the machine I can slap A-P and fire up Pools of Darkness without even opening my eyes, or drilling down into drawers.
(See: Fred Fish 262)
QMouse is an amazing piece of software where its only obvious limitation is its name. It does so much more than affect your mouse.
At its most basic it is a mouse accelerator. If you’ve got a tank mouse or other old roller ball mouse, it will change it to feel as slick and smooth and accurate as an optical mouse. The moment it activates (I have mine launch during boot up) the difference is dramatic and very obvious.
The developer Mr. Lyman Epp of Omaha, Nebraska, must have been terrified of screen burn when he wrote the program back in 1989. Because After boot up if you don’t move your mouse the pointer will disappear after a few seconds. Wait a couple of minutes and your screen blanks, too, giving you a very handy and literal screensaver.
It also provides automatic window activation by just moving your mouse over a window - no more clicking. And you can use the mouse buttons anywhere in a window to push it backwards or forwards rather than use the window gadgets.
QMouse also provides a tiny Clock and RAM counter, customized hotkeys, keystroke recorders, and of course all of this is highly configurable and able to be launched on boot up.
I personally disable the window activation features as well as the clock, since I iconify DOpus on launch which offers the same UI feedback.
(See: Fred Fish 243)
Installation is for intermediate-to-advanced users.
Ever feel a twinge of jealousy when you saw some of the other Amigas around town sporting fancy background images on their Workbench? Well, feel that way no more with SimGen, brought to us by Gregg Tavares out of San Francisco, CA, who “I wasted two nights writing it. ” back in 1989.
SimGen displays a 2 or 4 color IFF picture "behind" your WorkBench. If the IFF picture is a digitized picture it looks much like a GenLocked Display; hence the name SIMGEN for 'SIMulated GENlock' as the background image will “bleed” through normal Workbench windows like the Shell, producing a really cool effect.
SimGen Adds 1 or 2 bitplanes to your WorkBench Screen and loads the specified picture into these bitplanes. Then it sets the colors for the desired effect.
SimGen takes about 25K to run and another 16K to 64K for the picture it loads. It won’t play nice with any machines running 8 or 16 color palettes. The performance hit is not noticeable. In fact other programs like Dropcloth, or simply using more colors, will generate more of a performance hit than this will. SimGen adds colors to the WorkBench's display but it doesn't need to tell WorkBench about it so WorkBench still thinks it is only using 4 colors and therefore performs better.
Download from Aminet
Like Directory Opus, HippoPlayer will be very familiar to most viewers of this channel. It is easily one of the most recognizable music players on the Amiga. What many may have forgotten, though, was that it was developed specifically for OS 1.2 and higher on an Amiga 500. It is a multi-format module player that works on any Amiga model and offers tons of features while not being very resource heavy.
In other words, you can very easily multitask with it in most circumstances. If you’re using visualizer “scopes” while listening, they do perform better if you have a mild accelerator at the ready, but an accelerator is by no means required to use HippoPlayer to listen to eye-waveringly great music on your Amiga.
WordPerfect was a “Big Name” professional word processor that was ported to Amiga. And there’s no shortage of excellent word processors and text editors for OS 1.3. But a lessor known stand-alone piece of software that WordPerfect Corporation also created was Library and was later renamed to WordPerfect Office (back in 1986 - take that, Microsoft!).
It’s basically a very simple and well-designed calendar scheduler. (It also has a File Manager, because...reasons.)
You can create date-assigned memos, Appointments and To-Do lists, and see those tasks populate your GUI calendar view. If some brilliant programmer out there found a way to hook this into my Google Calendar I might die from crying. I’m not holding my breath that will ever happen, but it’s fun to dream. You never know in the Amiga community, you know what I mean?
Instead of Facebook, I get my “social media” fix by hitting BBSes in an almost daily ritual. I actually visit BBSes that are being run off Commodore 64s and 128s, which means they are pumping out PETSCII graphics for those than can see them properly.
It turns out someone made a PETSCII capable terminal program for the Amiga called 64Door back in the day, and it pumps out those BBSes as well or better than can be seen from the Amiga’s 8-bit cousins.
It does prefer OS 1.3 to run, however, but does work fine with WiFi modems and can be installed to hard drives.
So is 1.3 as “powerful” and slick as some of the modern enhancements made beyond 3.0? Not right out of the box it isn’t, no. But there is so much that can be done to enhance the original experience, it does do quite a lot more than some give it credit. Does that make it less usable and less fun than the most modern enhancements out there? Not necessarily, especially if you aren’t merely trying to increase your Workbench resolution and increase your color palettes.
Oh yeah, then of course there’s over 95% of all Amiga GAMES ever made! =) OS 1.3 eats games for breakfast and asks for seconds.
There’s a lot more 1.3 has to offer for the pre-1992 era machines, and for me that’s a place I like to spend a lot of my time. There’s a literal treasure trove of it to be found in both the Fred Fish archives as well as Aminet and SourceForge for the computer archeologists out there like myself looking for some hidden treasures in the deepest waters of Old Blue.
I want to thank the following members of AmigaLove.com for helping me discover and fall in love with some of the software we looked at today.