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The world around the Amiga 500

While the actual story of how the Amiga came to be wasn't exactly fluid, and it was not purely a product of Commodore, it was after all a Commodore computer, and it does come (somewhat) after the glorious Commodore 64; meaning this could be considered on of the best next generation product launches ever.
Many would argue to death that the Amiga was the best personal computer ever made (I do). This machine did not just set a new standard. This machine defined what the home computing standards should be for the next 10, 15, maybe 20 years. There is only one machine that could be compared to the Commodore Amiga in terms of innovation: The Xerox Alto. But that was not something most of us could get.
Once you got an Amiga, you would fall in love with its graphics, video capabilities, sound, multitasking, and of course, its games. And once that honeymoon period was over, then came the peripherals, and you could fall in love over and over again.

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Amiga Genlocks

Of course, the Amiga had all the usual (suspect) peripherals (printers, drives, monitors, etc). How about starting with something more unique, more Amiga, more unlike any other home computer of the time...
Amiga genlocks open a whole new dimension of video production on home computers. Amiga graphics were exceptional, and it did make sense to use the Amiga as a character generator and simple animator.
A genlock is, in simple words, a device that allows to synchronize the video output of a computer with an external video source, such as a video camera or VCR. With a genlock, you can overlay the video output of the Amiga onto a video signal, effectively allowing you to incorporate the Amiga's graphics and animations into video productions. Just like that. Ta Da!
So, for little money you would plug in genlock, on to the back of you Amiga 500, plug in your composite video input, and play a VHS with a movie you created that morning on VHS. And voila, the output would have whatever was on the screen overlayed, and that is it.
Of course, today, you have all kinds of video tools, filter, and effects, all on your smart phone, plus all video is digital. Back them, this was magic.
Genlocks came in all flavors, from the very basic, with just a Video-In and Video-Out to studio level consoles, and prices could go into the thousands. TV and movies studios and other pro-quality setting will probably end up with an Amiga 2000 and something fancy like Video Toaster, or some other professional solution. The Amiga 500 did make a dent on home production, and the semi-professional video producers on a small budget: wedding videos, and events, which were filmed on S-VHS could very well benefit from inexpensive genlocks.

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Amiga Genlock

Amiga Hard Drives

For many of us, the first time we had a hard drive at home was with the Amiga. Previous generation computers, like the Sinclair ZX48 and Commodore 64/128 were not really designed to use hard disks. These 8-bit machines did not even have a standard Operating System, so of course a hard drive would have been a complex proposition. But with the Amiga, hard drives started to make sense.
Pricewise, it was also feasible to get one. This was basically the first generation of computers that had affordable disks. Meaning that HDs of many sizes were available for the Atari SE's, Amigas, and Apples of the time. Welcome to a new world of home computing.
The A590, Commodore's official HD for the Amiga, was usually sold with 20MB of memory, and you could replace the actual disk by a standard 80MB disk. The actual drive was a neatly designed piece that attached to the left expansion port of the Amiga. With time, the left expansion port, and the idea of a hard disk evolved into an all-in-one expansion unit, which will provide more RAM, a faster CPU, and the HD, in one unit.
Needless to say, the drive made everything easier on the Amiga. It was significantly faster than loading from disk, and allowed user to store data files, audio, graphics, and programs on disk for fast access.
Many companies made SCSI and IDE controller for the Amiga, and these were quite popular.
There was a point through the life of the Amiga that the label 'home computer' was not appropriate anymore. Hard drives, among other devices helped the Amiga 500 come of age, and graduate to Personal Computers.

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Amiga A590

Video Digitizers

Video digitizing was a big deal back then. The ability to scan and digitize an analog video signal into an image was something that was unheard of (in the world of home computers) at the time. Yes, I said image. We are not talking about 30 FPS video. This is not your fancy multi-core, 5G, QHD, HDR smartphone. We are talking 1987.
Digitizing analog video was also possible, but a pain. Keep in mind, it is analog video, out of a VCR or camcorder. It is not neatly packed digital data. It was slow and required real computing power (today that power would be equivalent to your AirPods, first generation). Why was this so complicated? So, what you needed was to sync the image (meaning figure out the right timing to scan), and then you scan it at the right moment, and fast enough. Not easy, you needed a fast processor, cache, and fast bus, and you needed to process and to compress very quickly. All this was now technically possible because of the Motorola 68000, a bunch of custom chips, and a wider bus. You still probably needed some extra memory, and HD to save all this, and possibly an accelerator.
There were tons of digitizers for the Amiga 500, offered in all price ranges, and with different levels of functionality. Suddenly, possibilities were endless. And once again, this was not just your average home computer.

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Audio Samplers

Video was complicated; but our friendly "super" Amiga could do it. Audio: like a breeze!
I got a sampler for my Amiga 500 for 30USD. I probably paid too much. I later discovered an issue of Amiga World (magazine) that provided instructions of how to make your own audio sampler from Radio Shack components.
It was fun. The sampler did not even require a lot of memory. It was decent: you could sample an entire song or part of it (low sample rate of course) Then you play your samples back with you sampler/synthesizer software. Why not throw some rhythms? And maybe use the MIDI interface to produce something with your Yamaha DX7 synthesizer? And you though Garage Band was cool.
This was one area where if you have a memory upgrade, and a hard disk, it could make a significant difference. And if not... I managed to put an entire song from The Police in a diskette once. quality was so-so, but still. I was not really a visionary back them. I could have started Napster myself.

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Aegis Sampler

Amiga 501 - 512KB memory expansion to 1MB and other memory expansion devices

The most standard accessory sold for the Amiga: a 512KB expansion card that was installed on the bottom expansion port and would take the 500's memory to 1MB, and make everything a little more fluid.
There were multiple revisions, that varied mainly in the size and number of memory chips that were installed to get you to 512KB on board. The card also had a battery supplied clock, that would keep date and time current. Apparently, some early versions of the memory expansion card did not have a battery and clock.
Most games, and applications would work OK with the standard 512KB memory. However, certain application will certainly notice the difference. For example, Deluxe Paint IV, which included a simple but nice animation functionality could not hold many frames in memory. Also, most 3D image generation software would need at least 1MB to begin with, and you could not do much with either. For Audio, you certainly needed at least 1MB to sample.
The extra memory also allowed to multitask better and allowed for more colors at high resolutions.

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512 Memory Card

Accelerators (of all sorts)

It is only natural that one would one to extend the life of this jewel. The novel audio, graphics, and video capabilities of the Amiga outlived the most generous forecast.
So as the 68000 (Motorola) chip aged, and newer and faster incarnations came along, there were kits, mods, cards, and all kinds of gizmos, that increase the overall performance of the A500. To be fair the 68000 was great, but it aged faster than the custom multimedia chips the Amiga had. And those chips could very well benefit from a faster CPU; they still had a lot to offer, since no other machine was even remotely close in terms of video, graphics, and audio.
This is true even today. Many third parties (obviously not Commodore or Amiga International) and enthusiasts are still coming up with internal and external contraptions that increase the power of the 500.
In itself, we are talking about variations of the 68000 family (020,030,040), overclocking, wider buses, more memory, graphic accelerators, and of course, an OS that can efficiently manage all these. As time evolve, this accelerators were combined with RAM, and sometimes with an Hard Disk, to create, some sort of all-in-one wonder expansion/acceleration/disk adaptor, that would solve all problems.
So basically the Amiga 500 (an all other) were keep alive for quite longer than their predicted lifespan, and you could say they are still alive today, on some sort of eternal life support, by a group of devoted enthusiast that manage to continue to improve performance, and port the OS and software on what used to be the most magical of all computer architectures.

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Mega Midget

Amiga monitors, flicker-fixing devices and scan-doublers.

Depending on how you think of it, the Amiga hi-res modes were either too much to handle for regular CRTs, or the implementation of hi-res modes was done by a mad scientist (or something in between). Standard CRT monitors or TVs were not meant for 15hz refresh.
Whatever you used, a SCART, Composite Video, RGB, you will see flickering in some way, shape or form. Better monitors dealt better with it; some LCDs (digital) could adjust to the weird 15Hz, others just look better for because they trick you. And of course, you could add funny film filter on top of the monitor to create the illusion of a non-flickering image. The problem was still there.
So basically, there were many monitors available for the Amiga, of better or lesser quality, but most would still flicker on high-res. The 1084, in all its different versions was probably the most popular monitor out there. Commodore also made some experimental devices that mask the flickering by some complex phase shifting. Once again, the problem was still there. And this was troublesome if you wanted to output video for anything professional.
Scan doublers, and other flicker-fix devices actually solved the problem, at a cost. So, the truth is that the Amiga was not perfect, and suffer from these problems, which I choose to think are due to the fact that this computer was at least 10 years ahead of its time. Just trying to find excuses.

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Stop The Flicker

Modems and Network Adapters

With the Internet quickly evolving, the success of BBSS’s, and the fact that Amigas were quickly becoming popular in professional environments, network connectivity became of essence. But the Amiga 500 was from 1987, meaning connectivity on home computers was achieved via a modem. The Amiga had a standard serial port, so problem solved there. Get you US Robotics 56K modem and connect to any BBSS of your choice.
Now, if we are talking about ethernet; well, that may not be that easy.
Later Amigas were more equipped to have network adapters, but the 500 was not necessarily ahead of it times in terms of connectivity. There were some solutions at the time to connect to ARCnet, but that was quickly becoming useless. What everyone really wanted was Ethernet, and that was not that simple on the 500.
Eventually many third parties, and homemade solutions came by, and today you may find a number of them on eBay, or some specialized niche retailers. Back then, you would just use a modem. But the early 90, which is when the internet really expanded, well, Amigas stared to die.

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Ethernet Adaptor

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