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What is an Amiga 600?

The A600's capabilities

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What the hell is an "Amiga 600"?

This is the Commodore Amiga 600, one of many computers Commodore sold in its "Amiga" personal computer line. The Amigas boasted high end graphics and animation capabilities, good sound (later this combination would be called "Multimedia"), a fast and efficient multitasking operating system (long before Windows or MacOS could do proper multitasking) and a very high overall system flexibility with plug & play capability when PC users still had to fiddle around with IRQ jumpers and XMS and EMS memory drivers. The picture below is from a Commodore advertising brochure and shows well the shape of the A600's case.

Many people however call the Amiga 600 the biggest nail in Commodore's coffin. When the Amiga 600 was introduced, it was far out of date -- similar in technology to the Amiga 500 (or rather the Amiga 500+) that had been in the stores for a long time. The successors to the Amiga 600s graphics processors had long been finished and waited in the Commodore labs for release. But as C= business policy never managed to get beyond the mid 80's 8-bit era, where they could sell five generations of computers with basically the same specifications and still make money, C= based the A600 on the old chipset known from the Amiga 500+ and 3000, rather than releasing the new "AA" chipset. Not surprising, Commodore did not sell many Amiga 600s. This computer therefore may have well been the main reason for the Commodore bankruptcy in 1994.

So why dedicate a web page to this odd little computer? Well, mainly because the computer wasn't as bad as many might have thought. The Amiga 600 introduced SMD technology to the Amiga world. Therefore the computer (which is in the keyboards case just like the Amiga 500 or 1200) is small -- very small. Had it been sold with a LCD display, it could have gone for a good laptop. In fact many people tried and managed to convert A600s into laptops.

Different from its predecessors, it comes with an internal IDE hard drive controller, allowing a 2,5 inch hard drive to be connected. Its PCMCIA port allows for memory expansion as well as network connectivity (and it was a pity that PCMCIA hardware was very expensive at the A600's times -- and WAY too expensive for a small low end computer).

The downside of the A600 is its poor expansibility. Whereas the PCMCIA port allows for some expansion devices to be connected, the SMD soldered internals do not so at all. The little trapdoor expansion port on the bottom of the machine is much less flexible than that of the A500 or A1200 (and incompatible with those as well) and only allows for the expansion of the A600's graphics memory from 1 to 2 megs. Therefore people were stuck with the A600's stock capability -- a 68000 processor running at 7.14 MHz, the ECS graphics chipset known from the highend Amiga 3000 (but already out of date when the A600 was released). Above all no processor upgrade was possible -- well, at least that was what Commodore had planned. As you will see on this page, there were some processor cards accelerating the A600 well beyond its big brothers like the Amiga 1200 or 3000.