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The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga

(Platform Studies)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  176 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Long ago, in 1985, personal computers came in two general categories: the friendly, childish game machine used for fun (exemplified by Atari and Commodore products); and the boring, beige adult box used for business (exemplified by products from IBM). The game machines became fascinating technical and artistic platforms that were of limited real-world utility. The IBM prod ...more
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published April 28th 2012 by MIT Press (first published April 13th 2012)
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Koen Crolla
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
The series returns to form. The Amiga, though a general-purpose PC in the end, started its design phase as a video game console, and retained many idiosyncratic features in its final form. Maher examines how these features helped the Amiga make such a tremendous impact on image editing, video processing (both commercial and in the demoscene), and gaming.
The focus is mainly on the hardware, and its features are mostly revealed piecemeal over the course of the book, as the discussion reaches userl
Marcin Wichary
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Follows in the footsteps of “Racing the Beam” as the second book in the MIT’s Platform Studies series, this time talking about the maligned Commodore Amiga. Again, a terrifying read, even for those never particularly familiar with that platform. There’s some technical details here, a lot of levelheaded insight about its weaknesses and strengths, and just the right amount of nostalgia.
Brian Clegg
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I discovered the field of Platform Studies with Super Power, Spoony Bards and Silverware on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), and couldn't resist the earlier entry in the same series, The Future Was Here, which examines the Commodore Amiga.

I had an Amiga 500 at home at the same time as working with IBM PCs at work, so this was a fascinating trip into the past for me. Unlike Dominic Arsenault in the SNES title, Jimmy Maher chooses to focus far more on the technology, plus a fair amo
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Originally ahead of its time, this multimedia machine didn't grow with the market. This book focuses on the software far more than the hardware, including a chapter on the cracker and demo "scene". I wanted more about the customer chips that defined and ultimately limited this PC.

That hardware and some of the software was pretty amazing for the time. This book also details how Commodore did next to nothing for the platform, which eventually couldn't compete with CD-ROM, 3D graphics and an open a
May 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A very competent (competent to a fault?) overview of the ill-fated Amiga PC line and the culture surrounding it. The Amiga's innovation and its niche status lends the platform to much mythmaking, and Jimmy Maher makes a sobering analysis that pokes holes in some of these myths while giving due credit to the platform.

The writing style is mostly academic, and there's an unusual amount of space used to discussing the nitty-gritty technical aspects of the hardware. Fair enough, as the Amiga had a pl
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Future Was Here is an attempt to put into context why the Commodore Amiga has such a legendary status among personal computers of its time. Indeed, the title couldn't be more apt. The Amiga truly was ahead of its time, but Commodore managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and the Amiga is now just another "failure" on the road to modern computing in the early 21st century.

This book dives deep into what made the Amiga great: its unique hardware architecture and the software. The au
Matt Musselman
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
One of those books that's an interesting read because of its uniqueness, even if the execution lags at times. I found myself quoting it and referring to it a lot despite the fact that I didn't necessarily enjoy reading it, if that makes sense.

Written by classic computer game blogger Jimmy Maher, The Future Was Here is, at least to my knowledge, the only comprehensive history of the Commodore Amiga computer, and one of very few books in total about the golden age of the personal computer in the 1
Nathan D. Riggs
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Before actually reading the book, I was afraid it would be just another variation of the story of how the Amiga barely made it to production, and while there is *some* of that in the book, The Future Was Here provided a lot more information about the platform itself, in a technical sense, than I was expecting. For those engaging in platform studies, I'd highly suggest this book; it does a good job balancing between the technical (which doesn't bother me) to the academic (which doesn't bother me ...more
William Anderson
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was just an amazing an tremendously fun read. Aside from the history stepping through demos applications, and concepts, on a semi-technical level gives distinct insights into the platform. The authors tone is inclusive and the content is comprehensive. Read if you love technology, tech history, or are looking for inspiration on how to solve technical problems in what are now unconventional ways.
Muhammad al-Khwarizmi
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: computation, history
Pretty good and gave me a wider perspective of the history of the Amiga platform than I had before, which is very valuable information for retro-computing with that platform. I had a few gripes though. Describing Amiga internals or the like in purely narrative format is clunky and probably no one's going to read that. Also use of "she" in contexts which historically were mostly "he" is a little irritating; use "they" if you want to be gender-neutral.
Chris Chinchilla
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Some wonderful details, but in need of some copious editing
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Amiga is an inspiration of a design given the technology of its time: preemptive multitasking without memory segmentation, a message-passing OS, and hardware-assisted 2D graphics. Its advantage was in being a platform of both hardware *and* software, sort of a console-meets-PC, which gave it a great technical boost at its birth but ultimately shortened its lifespan as the hardware advantages became obsolete.

This book should be the go-to guide for what an entry in the Platform Studies series
Steve Sarrica
Jul 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Maher's "The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga" is a volume in MIT's Platform Studies series and does a good job illuminating the Amiga platform. My major criticism of the work is that spends comparatively little time talking about the development of the hardware and spends a great deal of time detailing the development of the Amiga's software. The development of the custom chipset at the core of the Amiga both defined the platform and, ultimately, limited it. I wanted to learn much more abou ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-read
ok, i think i get amiga. some of the bits and pieces i picked up:

- demo scene. i heard the term before, but finally i found out what it is all about
- bitplane graphics. damnest thing, but it seemed to work well for some time
- ray tracing
- mod music. i distinctly remember playing those files on my pc
- sprites supported in hardware
- it's funny how c programming was considered slow in late 80s
- game level workings of one particular game (side scroller)

all in all. amiga was one huge hack, and it wor
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
The book is well-written but rather technical at times. As it nears the end it sadly becomes more sloppy with both typos and factual inaccuracies. If you are interested in the Amiga, the technology behind it and its userbase it is, however, an intriguing read.
Philip Hollenback
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of personal computing history, and this book did not fail to disappoint. Excellent overview of the development of the Amiga, and why it eventually failed. My one complaint is that the coverage of the demoscene was kind of boring.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Maher’s book is not an easy read, but for those motivated enough to see it through, it’s a thoughtful, well-detailed examination of the history of the Amiga and computing in general.
Richie de Almeida
Jan 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: computers
Computer chips with people-names, signatures inside the case... Truly the Amiga put the "personal" in personal-computer.
Robbie Crossfield
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent reading, very in depth technical analysis of some software, giving complete insight into how sown games came about
Gerard Braad
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nice overview and history of the Amiga from a slightly different perspective; some demonstration applications are explained and describe what made the graphics look like 'magic'.
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“If Jobs and Wozniak had believed that IBM was the be-all and end-all, there would have been no personal computers.” 0 likes
“Doom, meanwhile, had a long-term impact on the world of gaming far exceeding even that of Myst. The latest of a series of experiments with interactive 3D graphics by id programmer John Carmack, Doom shares with Myst only its immersive first-person point of view; in all other respects, this fast-paced, ultraviolent shooter is the polar opposite of the cerebral Myst. Whereas the world of Myst is presented as a collection of static nodes that the player can move among, each represented by a relatively static picture of its own, the world of Doom is contiguous. As the player roams about, Doom must continually recalculate in real time the view of the world that it presents to her on the screen, in effect drawing for her a completely new picture with every frame using a vastly simplified version of the 3D-rendering techniques that Eric Graham began experimenting with on the Amiga back in 1986. First-person viewpoints had certainly existed in games previously, but mostly in the context of flight simulators, of puzzle-oriented adventures such as Myst, or of space-combat games such as Elite. Doom has a special quality that those earlier efforts lack in that the player embodies her avatar as she moves through 3D space in a way that feels shockingly, almost physically real. She does not view the world through a windscreen, is not separated from it by an adventure game’s point-and-click mechanics and static artificiality. Doom marks a revolutionary change in action gaming, the most significant to come about between the videogame’s inception and the present. If the player directs the action in a game such as Menace, Doom makes her feel as if she is in the action, in the game’s world. Given the Amiga platform’s importance as a tool for noninteractive 3D rendering, it is ironic that the Amiga is uniquely unsuited to Doom and the many iterations and clones of it that would follow. Most of the Amiga attributes that we employed in the Menace reconstruction—its scrolling playfields, its copper, its sprites—are of no use to a 3D-engine programmer. Indeed, the Intel-based machines on which Carmack created Doom possess none of these features. Even the Amiga’s bitplane-based playfields, the source of so many useful graphical tricks and hacks when programming a 2D game such as Menace, are an impediment and annoyance in a game such as Doom. Much preferable are the Intel-based machines’ straightforward chunky playfields because these layouts are much easier to work with when every frame of video must be drawn afresh from scratch. What is required most of all for a game such as Doom is sufficient raw processing power to perform the necessary thousands of calculations needed to render each frame quickly enough to support the frenetic action for which the game is known. By 1993, the plebian Intel-based computer, so long derided by Amiga owners for its inefficiencies and lack of design imagination, at last possessed this raw power. The Amiga simply had no answer to the Intel 80486s and Pentiums that powered this new, revolutionary genre of first-person shooters. Throughout” 0 likes
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