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What is an Amiga 600?

The A600's capabilities

How to upgrade an Amiga 600...

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The A600's capabilities

The A600 is based on the second generation Amiga chipset called "ECS" (Enhanced ChipSet). ECS was introduced first with the Amiga 3000, then found its way to the Amiga 500+ and the last generation of the Amiga 2000. The last ECS machine was the Amiga 600 which was introduced when ECS was long outdated.

ECS is capable of displaying graphics modes up to 1280x512 pixels (on a PAL screen at 15 kHz, with "Overscan" using the border areas even more) and is capable of displaying 4096 colours, in "HAM" mode all at the same time. This was amazing especially when the first Amigas were introduced. When the Amiga 600 came out, VGA graphics cards were already available and therefore the Amiga 600's graphics capabilities were nothing revolutionary anymore albeit still pretty good. This was even more a pity because the successor to ECS, "AA" (Advanced Amiga) was already in Commodore's labs. Some strange product politics however prevented the release of AA when it would have been a monster.

The Amigas graphics system is "bitplane" based. Bitplanes were a smart way to level out memory consumption, resolution and number of colours when memory still was expensive and limited. You add a bitplane, you get twice as many colours for only a little increase in memory consumption. However, bitplanes proved to be a big speed barrier later on as every pixel is spread across all bitplanes. Chunky modes (1 pixel is represented by one or more bytes and not spread across bitplanes) like those of VGA and Amiga graphics cards were much faster.

The Amiga 600 inherited the Amiga 500's sound chip which has got four voices that can play 8 bit samples. Although the Amiga sound was not the best possible from a professional perspective, the machine sounded very impressive and the Amiga was the first computer to have speech synthesis built in its operating system..

A stock Amiga 600 can be equipped with up to 2 MByte "chip" (graphics) memory and up to 8 MByte "fast" memory through the PCMCIA slot (but as you will see, the upgraded Amiga this site is dedicated to, boasts 32 MBytes of 32 Bit memory) and has got an internal IDE controller to use a 2.5 inch hard drive. These were expensive at the time, so hardly anybody used a hard disk, keeping the Amiga 600 mainly limited to diskette based games and applications. 

The Amiga 600's operating system is small and fast. The Amiga was the first desktop computer to have "real" pre-emptive multitasking combined with a fast GUI. The fastest 68K Amigas (running at 50 MHz which seems slow today) have much less processing power than current 1 GHz+ machines. AmigaOS however feels as responsive and acts as quickly as Windows XP on those new machines. This high speed was one of the biggest benefits of the Amiga. The Amiga 600 was shipped with a OS 2.05 ROM and can therefore use Amiga OS up to version 2.1. With the ROM replaced by a 3.1 ROM, it can use the latest Amiga OS 3.9 which was introduced in 2001. This is Amiga OS 3.5 running on my Amiga 600 (click on image for large version!):

And if you aren't satisfied with the applications available for AmigaOS: The Amiga is a very good emulator! Use "Shapeshifter" or "Basilisk II" (see Links section) and you'll have a fast 68K Macintosh, running MacOS up to version 8.1, bringing (older versions of) Internet Explorer, Netscape and Microsoft Office on your Amiga. This is Mac OS 7.5.3 running on my Amiga 600 at PAL Hires Lace 16 colors (click on image for large version!)...

...and this at 1024 x 768 monochrome, ideal for word processing and DTP B-):

Or install Linux. The "Debian" distribution of Linux m68k is constantly being updated and available for download.