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Posted Sun Mar 03, 2024 11:52 am

A fascinating article was recently uncovered and posted to Reddit that was originally published on May 17, 1994, in The Village Voice. For those that don't know, the Voice was an American news and culture publication based in Greenwich Village, New York City, known for being the country's first alternative newsweekly. The printed newspaper edition ceased publication in 2017, while the online version lives on. A user on Reddit that goes by the moniker 8bitaficionado actually made a special trip to New York Public Library in order to look up an archive of the periodical and laboriously transcribed its contents. The issue in question is nowhere to be found online in its entirety.

In the May 17 issue, Noah Green, in an article titled, "Goodbye Mr. Chips: Could Commodore Have Changed the World?" covered the demise of Commodore and its once-mighty Amiga computer released almost a decade prior.

Article found within the pages of the May 17, 1994, issue of The Village Voice.

Noah Green:
Over on Waverly Place, Ezra Story, a 23-year-old computer programmer, lives in the museum of a future that might have been.

Ezra's sitting in front of his Commodore Amiga 3000, a home computer from 1990. With half the processing power, memory, and storage space of the latest PCs, the machine is playing a mind blowing technorave music video at full-throttle speed. Onscreen, what appear to be Ecstasy-fed Scandinavians dance, their writhing bodies embellished with digital sketch lines reminiscent of that awful a-ha video from 1985. An intricate, grainy Cubist mesh contracts and explodes behind them.

Apple claims it invented movies on a computer screen. But a fully loaded PowerPC Macintosh would need an entire hard drive to store Ezra's video, and would spit it out in fits and starts. Ezra's file, downloaded from the archives of the European hacker culture centered around creating Amiga "demos," takes up less than one megabyte, and runs for 10 fluid minutes.

In another room, Ezra has a partially disassembled Amiga 1000, the original model, a cybernetic senior citizen. Standing in the gloomy light that filters in from his courtyard, we watch this decade old machine play games with better graphics, sound, and speed than a modern Sega Genesis.

The Amiga, says Ezra, "was built to do anything, at any time, anywhere."

Both machines, when they were new, cost about $2000; today, they go for under $1000-much less than the Macs and PCs whose capabilities might come close. Maybe that's why half of Hollywood uses the Amiga for special effects-why the space station on Babylon 5 is an Amiga animation. The secret: three built-in, dedicated graphics chips that Amiga engineers named Agnus, Denise, and Paula back in 1985.

Welcome to the future that may never be: a time when computers provide the user with the most capabilities for the lowest cost; when you won't need expensive, dubiously compatible add-on boards to make movies or compose symphonies, when users won't have to make massive hardware investments to support the bloated software of Microsoft Windows or Apple's System 7.1; when being a samizdat publisher won't be defined by having $895 to drop on Aldus Pagemaker.

That future was indefinitely postponed on April 29, when Commodore International, the Bahamas-based company that created and sells the Amiga, went into liquidation.

Rumors of Commodore's ill health had circulated for years, but they became particularly grim during the last few months. In the weeks before the end, I became a regular attendee of a digital deathwatch in the Internet's comp.sys.amiga.advocacy discussion group. A longtime programmer who had never touched an Amiga before, I was struck by the fierce loyalty, love, and idealism with which the Amigans regarded their endangered species of machine.

"The Amiga computer is the rebel of all computers. It is the underdog, you can't help but love it," said Paul Griswold, a Commodore shareholder from Miami.
The article goes on to grab quotes from several various Commodore investors, analysts and programmers of the times interviewed by Green, including Leo Schwab of then-3DO.

This classic story in particular really presses the dagger deeper into the heart of Amiga fans:
Almost every Macintosh user remembers the scene in Star Trek IV (1986) where Scotty uses a Macintosh on present-day Earth to design the materials necessary to fix his starship. They all remember when he picks up the mouse, thinks it's a microphone, and says "Computer!" to it. The scene was the perfect tie-in, a pop-culture legitimation that would reap big dividends for the fledgling machine.

What few know is that the film's art director, who knew good animation when he saw it, originally wanted an Amiga. Commodore refused to lend Paramount an Amiga, and indefinitely delayed the order when the producers tried to buy one. So Paramount called Apple. A Macintosh, complete with a programmer "to make it do whatever the hell Paramount could possibly want," said one Amiga developer, was driven from Cupertino to Hollywood on the same day.
Green concluded, predicting a scattering of the Amiga's IP into the wind:
Will another company step in, buy the technology, and turn the Amiga into a credible alternative to the Macintosh-Microsoft monopoly?


If not, the Amiga will live on still - in silicon fragments scattered across the latest TVs, toasters, and medical imaging machines, after a flock of corporate vultures buys the technology piecemeal. Agnus, Denise, and Paula will each end up in separate foster homes. And we will enter the future that shouldn't have been, where a small, powerful group of companies forces us to fork over more and more bucks for inefficient operating systems, and kids can no longer buy cheap, programmable computers.
Read the entire article in 2 parts (one post and one comment) here.

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