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Commodore Amiga 500 Basic

Review

Platform

Commodore Amiga 500 OCS

Introduction

The Commodore Amiga 500 is a computer that made the history of computing. Its first appearance on the market took place on January 23, 1987, leaving an indelible mark on the world of PCs and video games. Although more than thirty years have passed to date, the Amiga 500 continues to fascinate and excite a vast community of fans.
With its distinctive design and cutting-edge features, the Amiga 500 represented a major leap forward in computing and multimedia capabilities. Its computing power, combined with high quality graphics, stereo sound and multitasking that still stands up to much more renowned systems, offered an engaging and fun gaming experience.
In this review we will carefully explore the base model of the Amiga 500, analyzing its main features, pure performance and user experience. We will find out why this computer that made history is still so appreciated today and we will discuss its strengths, its peculiarities and its shortcomings.
If you are a technology enthusiast or a curious eager to discover the charm of a computer that marked an era, our Amiga 500 review is a journey through time that you absolutely must not miss.

01

Brief Historical Notes

In January 1987 the Amiga 500 made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, arousing great interest among technology enthusiasts. In the same year the Amiga 500 began its mass production and became available on the market quickly gaining a large fan base. During the 1980s the Amiga 500 established itself as one of the best-selling computers in the world thanks to its power and innovative multimedia capabilities. During the 80s and 90s, the Amiga was also used in the production of films and TV series, in particular its more powerful brothers which we will discuss in other articles. The Amiga was widely used to generate text, graphic effects and complex computer graphics scenes.
In the 90s, despite the bankruptcy of Commodore in 1993 and the decline of its market, the Amiga 500 maintained its dominant position in the computer and video game sector, thanks to the availability of a vast library of titles and applications. Even today the Amiga 500 retains its cult status and continues to fascinate and excite a large community of fans all over the world. In particular, the subsequent Amiga models have contributed to maintaining interest around the Amiga 500 and the Amiga market in general. These new models, with their advanced features and improved performance, have continued to excite enthusiasts and expand the possibilities offered by the Amiga family. Thanks to these developments, the Amiga 500 has maintained its relevance in the technological landscape, remaining a preferred choice by many users looking for a powerful and versatile platform from the past. The Amiga 500 represents an opportunity to relive the emotions that characterized the pioneering era of information technology by reviving the undisputed greatness of the Amiga.
Although often considered an obsolete platform, we at AmiWORP strongly believe that the Amiga 500 and its siblings are living a second life, conquering a solid market segment and continuing to produce new computers, new motherboards, software including games, programming languages, demos and utilities and a wide range of accessories. The Amiga 500 is more alive than ever and we are thrilled to participate in its rebirth… Amiga, like a PHOENIX rising from the ashes!!!

02

Aesthetics of the Amiga 500

The Amiga 500 has a unique and recognizable external design, characterized by a rectangular shape seen from above and a trapezoidal shape seen from the side. This combination of shapes gives the computer a distinctive and modern look.
The rectangular shape with rounded corners of the Amiga 500 contributes to its elegant and timeless aesthetic. The upper body is slightly inclined, creating a profile line that extends from the back to the front, giving a sense of dynamism to the design.
Seen from the side, the Amiga 500 has a trapezoidal shape, with the back slightly higher than the front. This upward inclination helps to improve ergonomics in using the computer, allowing for a more comfortable position for the user, especially when using the keyboard, such as writing a text.
The predominant color of the Amiga 500 is an elegant beige, which gives the computer a sophisticated and timeless look. The keyboard features a dual gradient, with a beige/light gray tone and a gray/dark brown tone. This color combination helps create a visually appealing contrast and reflects the style of the era in which it was introduced.
The exterior design of the Amiga 500 is complemented by high quality materials. The case is made of durable plastic, which provides solidity and durability for the computer. The surface is polished and finished with care, offering a pleasant touch feeling.
Overall, the external design of the Amiga 500, with its rectangular and trapezoidal shape, represents a balanced mix between aesthetics and functionality. It’s an eye-catching design that reflects the innovation and style of the era in which it was introduced, including the detailing of the keyboard with its dual color gradient.
The Amiga 500 mouse, called TANK, has a unique and recognizable aesthetic. Its shell is in an elegant light beige color which gives the mouse a sophisticated and distinctive look.
The design is characterized by rounded shapes and clean lines. The keys are a nice grey/tan. This color combination gives the mouse a contrast that is pleasing to the eye.
The ergonomic shape of the TANK mouse is designed to fit comfortably in the user’s hand offering a stable and comfortable grip. The main buttons are strategically placed to ensure easy access to AmigaOS functions and precise control. The choice of colors and the refined design of the TANK mouse integrate perfectly with the overall aesthetics of the Amiga 500. Both devices feature a combination of neutral tones and captivating shapes creating a visually coherent experience.

Commodore Amiga 500
Commodore Amiga 500
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Commodore Amiga 500
Commodore Amiga 500
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03

Performance and Capacity

The Amiga 500, although introduced in the 1980s, boasted cutting-edge technical specifications for the time that contributed to its impressive performance and capabilities.
At the heart of the system was the 7.16 MHz Motorola 68000 processor which offered fast and efficient processing of instructions. This processor, combined with the architecture of the Amiga system, allowed the computer to handle multitasking and complex operations in a fluid way.
As for memory, the Amiga 500 was equipped with 512 KB of CHIP memory which could be expanded in almost all of its revisions. This amount of memory allowed complex applications and games to run without performance issues.
For data storage the Amiga 500 was equipped with a 3.5-inch floppy disk unit with a capacity of 880 KB. While storage capacity was relatively small by today’s standards, floppy disks were widely used to load games, applications, and data.
As regards the graphics, the Amiga 500 offered an advanced resolution for the time. It was capable of displaying up to 32 colors simultaneously from a palette of 4096 colors. This chromatic capability and the video resolution of 320×200 or 640×200 pixels plus interlaced modes (which doubled the number of vertical pixels), allowed for the creation of detailed and lively images, as well as the possibility of smooth animations.
The general performance of the Amiga 500 system was remarkable. Games loaded quickly thanks to DMA allowing direct access to computer memory and enabling effective data management. The animations were fluid and well defined thanks to the processor power and graphics capabilities of the Amiga 500.
In summary, the Amiga 500 offered state-of-the-art performance and capabilities in the context of the 1980s. Its fast processor, expandable memory, storage capacity and advanced graphics capabilities ensured a high quality and rewarding user experience. The Amiga 500 proved to be a machine capable of handling complex tasks and offering superior gaming performance compared to other computers of the time.
The potential hardware limitations were given by the lack of a battery that powered the internal clock of the Amiga 500 and by the limited RAM of the base model. However, this limit was soon overcome by the various expansions put on the market, many of which implemented a buffer battery for the real-time clock and more RAM that was added to that system base.

04

The Environment of Work

AmigaOS is an advanced multitasking operating system that played a significant role in establishing the Amiga 500 as a powerful and innovative computing platform of its time. To run AmigaOS it needs the Kickstart, which implements the fundamental and most significant parts of AmigaOS and allows the computer to boot. In the Amiga 500 there was the V. 1.2 of the kickstart in the first revisions and the V. 1.3 in the last revisions.
AmigaOS offers a number of distinctive features that differentiate it from other operating systems of the time. Its main features include:

Multitasking: it is one of the most important features of the AmigaOS operating system present on the Amiga 500. This operating system offers an advanced approach to multitasking, allowing users to run multiple applications simultaneously without compromising system performance or stability. AmigaOS implements preemptive multitasking, which means that the operating system manages system resource allocation and process scheduling efficiently. This allows users to open and use multiple applications simultaneously without slowdowns or conflicts. Thanks to multitasking, Amiga 500 users can take full advantage of the system’s power, for example by running a text editor, a graphics program and a media player simultaneously. This opens the door to a wide range of possibilities, allowing users to work productively and creatively without having to constantly close and reopen applications. Furthermore, the AmigaOS offers an intuitive and fluid user interface that facilitates the management of multitasking applications. Users can seamlessly switch between different application windows, resize, move and arrange them as they please. This allows for a smooth workflow and increased productivity.
Another strength of multitasking on the Amiga 500 is the management of process priorities. AmigaOS allows users to set application priorities according to their needs, ensuring that critical or high-priority applications receive the system resources they need to run smoothly. This is especially important when working on tasks that require fast response times or are CPU or graphics intensive. Even today it stands up to more famous and commercialized systems.
Overall, the advanced multitasking of AmigaOS on the Amiga 500 made this platform unique in the time it was launched. It gave users the ability to take full advantage of the system’s potential, allowing them to work more efficiently and perform multiple tasks simultaneously without compromising performance.

User Interface: The Amiga 500 user interface based on AmigaOS is known for its intuitiveness, flexibility and customization. It offers a pleasant and smooth user experience, allowing users to easily access system features and applications. The Amiga 500 user interface is based on a concept called “Workbench”, which represents the user’s main working environment. The Workbench consists of a startup screen and a series of windows, icons and menus that allow you to interact with the system and applications.
One of the distinctive features of the Amiga 500 user interface is the presence of graphical icons, which represent applications, files and folders. Users can easily move, copy or delete icons to organize their files and quickly access desired applications. Icons can also be customized with user-chosen images and colors. In addition to the icons, the Amiga 500 user interface provides an intuitive menu bar, which allows you to access system functions and application options. Users can navigate menus and select desired options using mouse or keyboard shortcuts, making it easier to manage applications and system settings.
Another interesting aspect of the user interface is the possibility of customization. Users can customize the background color of the Workbench, choose different graphic themes, change the size of the windows and adapt the interface to their personal preferences. This flexibility allows users to create a unique and personalized work environment.
Overall, the Amiga 500 user interface is considered cutting edge, offering an intuitive, visually appealing and highly customizable user experience. Even today this feature is considered a key element that contributes to the ease of use and the attractiveness of the Amiga 500 as a computing and entertainment platform.

Graphics and Sounds: The graphics and sounds of the Amiga 500 are a fundamental strength that contributes to the popularity of the platform. Thanks to its advanced graphics capabilities and the power of the dedicated sound chip, the Amiga 500 offers a high quality multimedia experience.
As for graphics, the Amiga 500 is capable of displaying a wide range of colors, allowing for vibrant and detailed graphics. It can simultaneously display up to 32 colors from a palette of 4096, delivering images rich in nuance and detail. Additionally, the Amiga 500 supports video resolutions up to 640×512 pixels, providing exceptional sharpness and clarity for games, graphics applications and general system use. What makes the Amiga 500 even more impressive is its ability to handle motion graphics and special effects in real time. Its dedicated graphics coprocessor, known as “Agnes”, allows you to create smooth animations and stunning visual effects, such as morphing, parallax scrolling, and transparency. These elements make the Amiga 500 games and demos extremely engaging and visually appealing. As far as sounds are concerned, the Amiga 500 is equipped with a dedicated sound chip called “Paula”, which offers superior audio quality compared to other platforms. It can play up to 4 sampled digital audio channels, enabling the creation of complex, high-quality soundtracks for both games and demos, as well as music applications. The Paula chip also supports stereo audio, providing an immersive sound experience.
Thanks to its advanced graphics and sound capabilities, the Amiga 500 allows the creation of high quality games, demos and multimedia applications. It provides an immersive visual and sound experience for users, distinguishing itself from other platforms and earning a reputation for excellence in graphics and sound.

Connectivity: The Amiga 500 offers several options for connectivity and the use of today’s online services. It is possible to use e-mail clients specially designed for the Amiga 500 to send, receive and manage e-mails directly from the system. You can connect to mail servers via dial-up connections or via Ethernet network cards, if installed in the Amiga 500. As for IRC (Internet Relay Chat), there are specific IRC clients for the Amiga which allow you to participate in real-time chats and interact with people from all over the world. The IRC offers a way to socialise, discuss and exchange information on various topics of interest. Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) are still accessible via the Amiga 500. They are online services that allow you to send and receive messages, download files, participate in group discussions and play online games. With the use of special BBS clients installed on the Amiga 500 and a connection via modem or network, it is possible to access a wide range of BBSs to interact with other users and access various contents. Although web browsing as we know it today is not natively supported by the Amiga 500, there are still browsers developed specifically for this platform. These browsers allow you to access basic web pages, read text and view images in any format. Advanced features are missing but we are sure that this limit will be overcome in the future. In conclusion, the Amiga 500 still offers the possibility to connect to online services such as email, IRC, BBS and surf the Internet sufficiently. These options allow users to take advantage of available online resources and interact with the online community in different ways.

User Experience: The Amiga 500 offers a wide range of software and games available to enrich the user experience. The vast library of software for the Amiga 500 offers a wide variety of entertainment and utilities, allowing users to customize their experience based on their preferences and interests. Although the Amiga 500 is often associated with its extraordinary potential as a gaming machine, it is important to underline that it is and remains a real computer, also suitable for work and productivity activities in certain sectors.
The Amiga 500 features an advanced operating system that offers a wide range of applications and productivity tools. Users can create text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more using dedicated software suites. Thanks to its processing power and multitasking capabilities, the Amiga 500 allows users to run several applications simultaneously and perform complex tasks without compromising performance. This makes the Amiga 500 a valid option also for jobs that require a certain computing power and the management of multiple applications simultaneously. Furthermore, the Amiga 500 offers the possibility of connecting to external devices such as printers, scanners and modems, allowing users to manage their work activities efficiently and to access external resources for data processing. Thanks to its advanced graphics and quality audio playback capability, the Amiga 500 can also be used for graphics editing and multimedia production tasks. Users can create and edit images, work on graphics projects, and even develop engaging multimedia content, as long as they have the right tools.
In summary, the Amiga 500 is much more than just a gaming machine. Thanks to its advanced features and its versatile operating system, it is a computer capable of carrying out work and productivity tasks. The Amiga 500 offers users the flexibility to enjoy games while using the system to work and carry out professional projects, demonstrating its versatility as a complete computing platform, even if it falls short of modern standards.

Usage Experience: In general the Amiga 500 is characterized by a combination of ease of use and system stability, making it an accessible and reliable computer.
The Amiga 500 features an intuitive user interface, which allows users to access features and applications easily and directly. The organization of windows and menus facilitates navigation within the AmigaOS operating system.
The keyboard and mouse are ergonomic input tools that allow users to easily interact with the system. Dedicated function keys and shortcuts provide quick access to the most common functions, simplifying basic operations such as saving files, copy-pasting and navigating within applications.
System stability is an important aspect of the Amiga 500 experience. The AmigaOS operating system has been designed to be robust and reliable, minimizing crashes and errors. This allows users to work continuously without unwanted interruptions.
Furthermore, the Amiga 500 offers a rapid response to user actions, thanks to its efficient architecture and high performance. Applications launch quickly and operations run smoothly, allowing users to work efficiently without lags or slowdowns.
Another feature that contributes to the experience of using the Amiga 500 is the possibility of customization. Users can customize the look of the system, choosing backgrounds, colors and themes that reflect their aesthetic preference. This allows users to create a pleasant and personalized working environment.
Overall, the general user experience of the Amiga 500 is characterized by a combination of ease of use and system stability. With an intuitive interface, efficient performance and a robust architecture, the Amiga 500 offers users a pleasant and reliable use experience to perform a wide range of tasks, both work and entertainment.

Expandability: The Amiga 500 is known for its expandability which allows users to customize and upgrade the system to suit their specific needs.
One of the main expansion options of the Amiga 500 concerns the memory. The system is equipped with an expansion slot that allows you to increase RAM memory, allowing applications to run more efficiently and allowing you to manage more complex projects.
Besides the memory, the Amiga 500 offers the possibility to add external devices. There are expansion slots for accelerator cards, sound cards, video cards, network cards and other specific peripherals. These expansion cards allow users to expand the functionality of the system and to use the Amiga 500 for a variety of specific applications.
In addition, the Amiga 500 is equipped with connection ports that allow you to connect external devices such as disc players, printers, joysticks and more. These ports offer greater flexibility in interacting with the system and allow users to make the most of the potential of the Amiga 500.
Compatibility with external peripherals and accessories of the Amiga 500 have contributed to its popularity and its ability to adapt to user needs. This means that users can expand and customize the system according to their preferences and specific purposes, whether it is for gaming, multimedia production or professional work. Overall, the expandability of the Amiga 500 gives users the ability to tailor the system to their needs, allowing you to enhance functionality and use the system for a wide variety of applications. This flexibility contributes to the longevity of the Amiga 500 and to the appreciation of users who want a customizable and versatile system.

05

Conclusion

The Amiga 500 proved to be a cutting edge computer of its time and offered performances that set it apart from its competitors of the time. The combination of advanced features, high quality graphics, immersive sounds and multitasking capabilities has placed the Amiga 500 in a leading position on the market.
Its ability to easily handle multiple applications simultaneously and run sophisticated games made the Amiga 500 a popular choice for game enthusiasts and users who required a computer capable of performing complex tasks. The Amiga 500’s graphics and sounds were top-notch, surpassing many of the other platforms of the time. The ability to display vivid color images and produce high quality sound made the experience of using the Amiga 500 very engaging and immersive.
Compared to its competitors of the time, such as the Commodore 64 or the Atari ST, the various 286 and 386 etc., the Amiga 500 stood out for its computing power and versatility. Its ability to multitask and the wide range of peripherals and accessories available made the Amiga 500 a more flexible and adaptable choice for a variety of purposes. The Amiga 500 achieved great success due to its superior performance, advanced graphics, immersive sounds and its ability to multitask. It became a benchmark in the computing industry and left a lasting impression on the history of personal computing. It is still used today for the most diverse purposes, from videogames to production.

In this same article, a complete list of all the revisions built will follow in order to be able to make a comparison between them. Do you have a revision that is not mentioned in this article?

Contact us and help complete this list by emailing us photos. We will be happy to include them, thanking you for your participation and for the excellent work done !!!

Since the information found on the internet is often inaccurate, conflicting or incorrect, the management intends, in the near future, to buy all the revisions of the Amiga 500 existing in the world in order to personally verify and update all the specifications reported in this article.

Commodore Amiga 500
Commodore Amiga 500
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Commodore Amiga 500
Commodore Amiga 500
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06

Commodore Amiga 500 Mainboard Revisions

In this section you will find all the revisions of the Amiga 500 base mainboard.

07

Thanks to Paolo(M.) for taking the photos and to Alessio(B.) for editing them. Thank you for contributing to the making of this article.

This article represents my personal review of Amiga 500. The Amiga 500 is my property and the photos used were taken by me personally. The design, manufacture, appearance, name and model of Commodore Amiga 500 are the property of the respective rights holders. This review is based on my personal opinions and experiences.

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