There’s a New Amiga, and I’m a Trifle Melancholy About It

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Commodore LLC

Commodore’s Amiga computer may have been the most dazzling PC of the 1980s. It certainly had the most fanatical following. (I was one of the fanatics.) And now it’s back. Sort of. Okay, not really.

What’s new is a machine called the Amiga Mini, from a company named Commodore LLC. It’s a Mac Mini-like compact system, with an Intel processor and a Linux-based operating system dubbed Commodore OS Vision. It doesn’t run Amiga software or resemble any vintage Amiga from a design standpoint.

Other sites are reporting that this new Amiga will go for an eyebrow-raising $2495, although the Commodore site has a $1495 version, with a $345 bare-bones, bring-your-own-motherboard option. (Random factoid: I paid $1250 in 1987 dollars for my Amiga 500, with an impressive 1MB of RAM and two floppy drives.)

The new Amiga is from a new Commodore which also makes PCs named after the iconic Commodore 64 and not-so-iconic VIC-20. Its president is Barry Altman; he also heads a company that shares its name with a famous defunct New York City department store: B. Altman & Co.

Commodore International — the real Commodore, which made the real Amiga — went bankrupt in 1994. Since then, both brands have kept resurfacing, in ways that leave me dizzy. The remnants of the original company have been shuffled around from owner to owner; one of them was PC maker Gateway 2000, which did nothing with the Amiga brand or technology. There’s a modern AmigaOS, but the new Amiga doesn’t run it. There’s a currently-extant company called Amiga Inc., but it’s not the one selling the new Amiga. The Commodore gaming PCs of a few years ago were made, I’m pretty sure, by a company that has nothing to do with any of the other Commodores and Amigas.

None of these various Commodores and Amigas have much of anything in common with the quirky original Commodore or the groundbreaking original Amiga (which, incidentally, impressed TIME back in 1986).

I wish Commodore LLC well, but as a recovering Amiga fanboy, the revival of a brand I once loved doesn’t give me pleasantly nostalgic warm fuzzies. The Amiga was something specific: a machine utilizing unique technologies, running a particular operating system. And it was very much a product of its times.

Seeing the Amiga moniker on a new computer is like learning that a young guitarist has decided to perform under the name Jimi Hendrix. It’s presumptuous at best, pointless at worst and unlikely to delight Hendrix fans.

Or to put it another way: I knew the Amiga. The Amiga was a computer of mine. Amiga Mini, you’re no Amiga.