Thanks for playing my riddle, everyone. :) I'm posting the answer here if anyone is curious about all the clues I had in mind when I wrote the letter.
A letter to my girlfriend, she would have been thirty this year
The Amiga 1000 was released on July 23rd 1985. 'Amiga' means female friend, rather than girlfriend, but that would make for a less interesting title.
Hello... I miss you. We all do.
Many people still fondly remember the Amiga (1000 or otherwise).
You loved to paint. A personal passion: it brought out your brilliance.
The Amiga was well known for its graphical capabilities. In a world of gaudy colours and attribute clash entered a machine capable of high-resolution, programmable palette displays, for the first time at a price that people could realistically afford. Two of the most popular paint packages for the Amiga were Cloanto Personal Paint (also Cloanto now own most of the Amiga rights I believe) and Brilliance.
I remember when I first met you, I saw your painting of the mask of Tutankhamun.
Though most Amiga users would be more familiar with Deluxe Paint (which came with many Amiga systems) and readily recognise the image of Tutankhamun from the DP box.
You loved Europe, too. And they loved you back. We travelled to the States together, but it never seemed right. It was your home I think, but didn't feel right to be there.
Commodore was founded in Canada, but headquartered in the United States, but unlike the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga was more popular in Europe than the US. The Amiga line was more popular than some consoles in Europe, and many demoscene productions from were from around there.
You were never far from your workbench, surrounded by drawers filled with tools and gadgets I could never hope to understand.
The Amiga's graphical interface was called Workbench. What most folks would call 'directories' or 'folders' were called 'drawers', and programs often known as 'tools'.
You weren't an aviator, but you said you knew your way around the bits of a plane. (Seriously graphic language ensued...
The Amiga didn't have chunky graphics like most common IBM PC VGA modes (one byte index = one pixel colour), or hardware tiled graphics like consoles (set up small graphics and repeat them over the screen), instead it had 'bitplaned' graphics, which split the bits of a palette value into contiguous regions containing the values of a specific bit position across the screen (you'd have a block of bit zeroes, then a block of bit ones, etc). These were known as 'bitplanes'.
things went wrong often, meditation rarely helped. You'd throw your work away and start over.)
The Amiga's ROM crash handler would bring up a message titled 'Guru Meditation'. Rarely this would be titled a 'Recoverable Error' and claim to let you save your work first before rebooting (it would never work...). Most of the time it would flash on, and the whole computer would reboot and you'd lose everything.
I hope you're happy; you're with your family now.
The Amiga 1000 was the first of a range of computers. All the Amiga systems are long since past their time.
Do you remember the time your younger sister (the one who loved those cartoon classics)
The Amiga 1000 was 1985. Amiga 500 came out in 1987, Amiga 500+ in 1991. One of the Amiga 500 bundles was called Cartoon Classics and included...
brought all those pets home from Scotland in, 1991 was it? Hundreds of them! Running backwards and forwards, all over you, all over her, digging holes in everything, making a mess. I couldn't even tell them apart, we never got round to giving any of them names. We finally gave them a good home. (As many as we could I'm sad to say.)
One of the Amiga's most popular games was Lemmings. The objective of Lemmings was to lead the creatures to an exit doorway by assigning them commands, such as 'dig' or 'build'. Without your intervention, they would simply wander left to right and back again. All the Lemmings were identical, and although they could be highlighted to show their role, they didn't have names (yet). The Lemmings levels are full of traps that would kill the Lemmings in various graphic ways. It's not possible to save them all.
Wasn't there even a statue of them?
I remember seeing them around from time to time, holidays and Christmas. They're everywhere...
Lemmings has been released on pretty much every platform under the sun over the last twenty five years, most recently on the PS3 and PS Vita. Two expansion pack releases for the original Lemmings were Holiday Lemmings and X-Mas Lemmings.
we even gave one to Terry Pratchett, regrettably. It seemed like a great idea at the time.
From http://www.lspace.org/books/apf/interesting-times.html : The icons for controlling the Red Clay Army are immediately familiar to anyone who has ever played the computer game Lemmings, in which you have to use similar controls to guide a group of brainlessly wandering lemmings across intricate and dangerous underground labyrinths.
When this was first remarked upon by readers in a.f.p, Terry wrote:
"What? Lemmings? Merely because the red army can fight, dig, march and climb and is controlled by little icons? Can't imagine how anyone thought that...
Not only did I wipe Lemmings from my hard disc, I overwrote it so's I couldn't get it back."
Yep, Terry permanently and absolutely obliterated all his Lemmings.
(Oh, BTW, those same men who gave you them went onto a life of crime in America; it was all over the papers, surprise surprise.)
Lemmings was created by DMA Design, who also created Grand Theft Auto (and of course went on to become Rockstar North ). The GTA games have rarely been out of the newspapers since the first game in 1997, being responsible for instigating absolutely all crime ever by this point.
At times it seemed like you could do anything. It's cheesy, but... you made things possible.
At the time, the Amiga had the best, most affordable graphics and sound technology available in a home computer. It could do business software, 3D rendering, multimedia and be expanded to do video titling. The Amiga even had its own theme song: Only Amiga Makes It Possible.
But you didn't do it on your own. Do you remember your friends? That part-time copper who kept you in line and Denise... they showed you how to paint. And punk musician Paula... crazy as hell, sometimes it seemed like she could play four instruments at once!
The core of the Amiga was the custom chipset that provided all the special features, including Agnus, Denise and Paula. Denise fetched graphics data and prepared it for display, and part of Agnus provided the coprocessor (or 'copper') which provided a macro-like language to provide quick graphical effects at timed positions across the screen as it was drawn. Paula contained the sound hardware, which could indeed play four sampled sounds simultaneously.
We tried learning a new language together, the three of us: you, I and Amos. We went through the magazines together... learning as we went. It seemed like everybody was doing it. Does that ring a bell?
Two popular hobbyist languages that came out for the Amiga were Blitz BASIC, and AMOS BASIC. Versions of both were often found as free coverdisk giveaways on magazines, which would also be followed up by lengthy tutorial series spread out over many issues. In the 90s, magazines also carried games (some small and simple, some very ambitious) made in AMOS and Blitz by 'bedroom programmers' (the original Worms was a Blitz game originally). Like many BASICs, AMOS provided a basic BELL 'bing' sound effect, common in quick and dirty games.
I barely saw any of the rest of your family. Your next youngest, (Agatha, maybe?)... the sophisticated one. I met her seven years into our relationship. She was smart, but I never thought she could all the things you could. I would have liked to meet the others, but they were always too professional. Too focused on their important work. Ivory towers and all that.
The A1200 came out in 1992, the next major upgrade of the 'wedge' series of Amigas. It included the Advanced Graphics Architecture, or 'AGA' chipset. It had an improved processor and improved graphics, but it wasn't fully compatible with Amiga 1000 or Amiga 500 software much to most players' chagrin. Alongside the 'wedge' computers like the Amiga 500, 500+, 600 and 1200 that would be familiar to Atari owners, were the 'workstation' style units, the Amiga 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000 which were built into a box case like an IBM PC, with their own upgrade options. Wedges, which were used as games machines, were far more common among families than workstation machines, which were used for productivity. Workstation machines could also be installed vertically. Amiga machines came in light grey or white, but the plastics are prone to discolouration over time, making them literal ivory towers.
I still think back to the games we used to play together. I sometimes have flashbacks to those times, but its so long now it seems like another world. It wasn't easy keeping up with you, but that's what I liked about you. (Those trainers you gave me helped! You can't get trainers like that any more!)
The Amiga had a diverse range of games over the years, including Flashback and Another World. 90s games were known for their punishing difficulty and reluctance to provide 'continues' for the player, often kicking them right back to the start of the game when they lost all their lives. Hacked versions of Amiga games sometimes contained programs called 'trainers' which edited the game to provide extra lives, level skips or invulnerability. (Cheating like this is rare but still possible in some PC games, 'aim-bots' and infinite ammo cheats in competitive first person shooters, and so on.)
I hope you're all at peace now, wherever you are. Love, J
The Amiga project was started by Jay Miner.