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FAQ: Amiga

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History

The company which made the Amiga originally was acquired by Commodore (the makers of the famous C64) before the first machines were even released. Thus it became the 'Commodore Amiga'.

When it was first released in the 1980s, it was revolutionary - a top class machine. But Commodore also aimed it at the mass market later, mainly with the A500 and later the A1200. What fewer people are aware of these days is that there were always 'high class' models in this line aimed at the professional market, too. The A2000, later the A3000 and in the end the A4000 should be mentioned here.

The main competitor in the Amiga's heyday was the Atari ST. Compared to the Atari, the Amiga had better graphics (more colours, more modes, better custom chips for specific tasks), but inferior sound (the Atari had a MIDI port by default). Out of this 'war', the Amiga emerged 'victorious' in the early 90s.

At the same time however, PCs had been gaining market share as gaming computers and at the same time, the Amiga had never made it as a business machine (with the exception of the film business). Commodore hadn't released any really improved hardware for several years, so the Amigas were falling back further. When the 'new' generation of Amigas (A1200 and A4000) came out, it was too late in three ways:
The rights on the Amiga changed hands way too often after that. None of these companies made any real attempt to push the Amiga back into the spotlight anymore. And that was it. Was it? As a 'mass machine', yes. There is still both a commercial market and fan-base, even today! You can still but 'new' hardware, new software is being produced. Much of it is probably idealism, granted, but if not at least some people would buy stuff, nobody could live on producing these things - and at least a few people seem to be able to.

So in conclusion, the Amiga is certainly the computer from the 16-bit era (even though that description doesn't even fit it from a technical point of view) which has survived till today and which has turned into the 'most complete' computer with almost all modern hardware devices such as CD-ROMs, big hard drives, Internet connections of all sorts, networking, graphics and sound cards and so on, being available.

Technical Data

I will not list all the individual technical specs of all models which have been sold during the years here (there are better sites for this), but I'm trying to provide some basic insight into the 'generations' of Amigas. This information could be useful for visitors running emulation as well as those who are thinking about buying a used Amiga (ebay is a good source - at least in Europe).

OCS Amigas: This name is referring to the 'Original ChipSet'. Each Amiga, unlike the PC, has a set of custom chips for graphics mainly, taking workload off the main CPU (much like today's 3D accelerators, but not as one-dimensional in their purpose). OCS provided the user with standard resolutions of 320x200 (32 colours), 320x400 (32 colours), 640x200 (16 colours), 640x400 (16 colours) and 640x512 (16 colours) with a colour palette of 4096 (before you judge that as little, keep in mind this was 1985!). The best known machine with this chipset is the A500 which became the 'standard Amiga'. Other models with these chips are the A1000 (the first Amiga), the early versions of the A2000 and the CDTV, a revolutionary CD-based computer which was compeletely mismarketed as a 'new generation of video players' to replace VHS systems instead of aiming at the normal computer market. Most Amiga games are made to run with OCS (because of the dominance of the A500). Unless otherwise stated, the games on this site run with this chipset.

ECS Amigas: This is the 'Enhanced ChipSet' (released 1989). It was first used in the A3000, later also in the short-lived A500+ and the A600 (as well as later versions of the A2000). The changes affecting normal users are only marginal. ECS is of course compatible to OCS, therefore, these Amiga can play all the older games (don't quote me on that - there are some other, unrelated issues which are causing a few exceptions).

AGA Amigas: Originally, this was called 'AA' (Advanced Amiga), but soon renamed 'AGA' (Advanced Graphics Architecture). I'm just mentioning this so you don't get confused in case someone (especially from the USA) mentions an 'AA-Amiga'. The AGA chipset was a real jump (while still staying largely compatible): it can display resolutions up to 1280x512 (including standard ones like 800x600) with 256000 colours at once, from a palette of 16.8 million. Machines using this chipset are the A4000 and the A1200 as well as the CD32 console (another try after the CDTV disaster - and this time, the hardware was actually bought; the lack of software killed it though). Many AGA games are just ports of OCS games with improved graphics, in such cases, you should make sure you get the right version for your machine (for emulation, you can use both - more about this in the next section). All later games (starting approximately from 1995) are made for AGA and will not run on any older Amigas! We try always to mention it if a game requires AGA.

Technical Introduction to Emulation

A note: This FAQ is meant to teach you the basics only. It will not teach you how to use a specific emulator

There are three things you need to run an Amiga program on the PC:

1. An emulator

Choose one from the emulators page. Each has its advantages and disadvantages:
UAE: best hardware emulation, it can emulate AGA, too. Good virtual hard drive handling.
Fellow: faster, but not supporting AGA (ECS and OCS only!). Sound output is better. Has a few more bugs on the whole.

2. A Kickstart file

Normally, you should choose Kickstart 1.3. Only very few games require Kickstart 2.0 or above (for AGA, you should use the highest Kickstart available to you) and 1.3 is more compatible on the whole. It depends on the emulator you use, but somewhere it says "ROM file" or something similar.

3. The game/program you want to run

These are the .adf files you get when extracting the downloaded games. You have to 'insert' them into a virtual disk drive. The first disk of a game has to be in DF0:. That's done by a simple menu. The disk should boot automatically (if you have not set up a virtual, bootable hard drive).

This all may sound quite simple and in fact it is. It gets a bit more complex when you try to optimize the results. The following options can be chosen with every emulator:

1. RAM

This is pretty simple. Normally, you just need 1 MB of 'Chip RAM'. Set the rest to 0. For newer games (1994 and later, especially AGA), set Chip RAM to 2 MB and it can't hurt to add some Fast RAM (not usually required).

2. CPU

The ordinary Amiga 500 had a 68000. So this could be your best bet. The 68020 (14 MHz) would be an Amiga 1200. FPU isn't really important (as long as you only want to play games).

3. Graphics

This is a bit hard to tell. The best settings depend on the program itself. In most cases, a resolution of approximately 640x512 means full screen. At least 64000 colours are quite helpful. 'Double Lines'(better) / 'Insert blank lines'(in case you're using an older emulator) should always be activated. Try to set the emulator to display every frame and reduce it if it's far too slow. 'Aspect Correction' is sometimes important to fit the frame to the screen - just try it out.

4. Sound

Of course you should try to turn sound on. 'Emulated perfectly' just makes everything slower without having a real effect. But sound consumes very much of the CPU's time, so you should disable it in some cases to get more speed.

5. Controls

The safest way is to set 'PC mouse' to Amiga port 0 and the Keyboard to Amiga Port 1 (as a joystick).

How to run these games on real Amigas

In case you're one of the elite users who are using this best of all computers, you probably already know what you have to do. In case you're a 'newbie' to the real Amiga because you only just bought your first one (congratulations on that decision), you might need this - there's nothing wrong with not knowing something :)

You can download the same files offered as disk images which are meant for use with an emulator. Transfer them to your Amiga (if you haven't downloaded them with the Amiga anyway) via some kind of networking device (LAN, parallel or serial cable), a floppy disk (keep in mind that most Amigas have only a DD disk drive by default) or a CD.

On the amiga, use the transdisk program (comes with UAE) to write the disk images back to native Amiga format. "transdisk -w file.adf" writes file.adf to the floppy in DF0:. See the official documentation for more options. There are also other tools for that which are probably faster, more comfortable or something. Search them at Aminet.

Another thing you might want to try is to install the games to your Amiga's hard drive (if you have one of course - if not, you should consider getting one). Most newer games have built-in installation routines which are as easy as it can get. For older games, you have to rely on 3rd party tools such as WHDLoad or JST though. Once you got the hang of it, these are pretty easy, too.

Last but not least, older games sometimes have problems with the AGA chipset. If you hold down both mouse buttons on bootup, you can run your Amiga in OCS or ECS mode from the bootmenu, that solves most problems.

Useful Links

No matter if you're into emulation or real Amigas, if you want to see more, you should check out some of these sites:
The Amiga Games Database: The most comprehensive high-quality review site for Amiga games! No piracy there, so don't bother asking for games.
Hall of Light: A database of (virtually) all Amiga games ever made! Includes release info as well as screenshots, boxscans and misc images. A lot of refined search methods.
Back to the Roots: Amiga Culture Directory Project. Legal source for all kind of Amiga software - huge adf games section!
WHDLoad / JST: These sites are specialising on writing patches for old Amiga games which remove copy protection in order to install them to hard drives. Aimed at users of real Amigas, but also working perfectly with emulators.
amiNET: The online ftp source for all freeware, shareware and ex-commercial software for the real Amiga. If you need a certain tool, if you want to stay up-to-date with your machine, look here.
Amiga Interactive Guide: Technical overview of the Amiga models, the chipsets, release information - basically the first stop if you want basic hardware information.
English Amiga Board: This is the message board for everything Amiga! Nostalgia, current news, games, other software, hardware, emulation - if it has 'Amiga' somewhere in the name, it can be found here.
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