People still use the Amiga today, and new Viva Amiga documentary shows why

Many years ago when I began writing the History of the Amiga, I was surprised there were so few accounts of what was truly a remarkable computing platform. Fortunately, time, nostalgia, and Kickstarter have combined to make many more recollections possible. Case in point: director Zach Weddington was able to raise funds in 2011 to make a documentary called Viva Amiga, and it’s now available to watch in 12 languages and several streaming formats. The movie premiered at this week’s MAGfest, an annual games and music celebration outside of DC.

Viva Amiga is a wonderful look at the the history of the platform, the people who built it, and the users who loved it. The opening title says it all: “One Amazing Computer. One chance to save the company. One chance to win the PC wars.” This message sets the stage nicely for a dramatic and passionate tale.

Viva Amiga starts with the dramatic launch party for the Amiga 1000 at Lincoln Center in 1985, next jumping back in time to cover how Jay Miner and his colleagues started the Amiga project. It highlights the Amiga’s strengths in graphics and video, saving a special mention for the Video Toaster. The excitement of Amiga developers and users at the time comes through clearly in the documentary. One of them describes the most passionate users as “people who weren’t striving to be millionaires. [They were] people who were striving to express themselves in new and creative ways.”

People who weren’t striving to be millionaires. People who were striving to express themselves in new and creative ways.

The fall of Commodore in 1994 is covered briefly, as are the many attempts to revive the Amiga platform that followed. An interview with Trevor Dickinson, CEO of A-Eon (one of the few attempts that succeeded), covers the then-imminent release of the Amiga X1000 tower running Amiga OS 4. There is some footage from the AmiWest Expo in 2010 that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Amiga. (Amazingly, I attended this event—I even have the t-shirt—but completely missed meeting Zach at the time!)

Throughout, the film uses both closeup shots of real hardware and painstakingly-crafted 3D renders of the same. This juxtaposition echoes the way that the Amiga existed in two forms: one as a real thing that people could buy, and the other as an idea that ignited people’s imaginations.

The film also has some great interviews with key Amiga engineers like RJ Mical, Dave Needle (who sadly passed away last year), and Dave Haynie. I also enjoyed the interviews with Amiga users, many of whom (like a chiptune DJ living in New York) are still using Amigas today. As one fan said, “Some people think that for the Amiga to be truly great it should die, because then everyone will think it’s a true classic. But I don’t think that way.”

Even all these years after Commodore went bankrupt, it’s remarkable Amigas are still being used, and new Amigas are still being sold. That lasting impact is partly why I’ve been inspired to document the history of this machine and its culture throughout the years. But even as someone deeply familiar with topic, Viva Amiga does a great job of telling the story of why the platform’s legend remains active more than 30 years later.

Via: Ars Technica

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