So, one became four… the fracturing of Amiga

When I left the Amiga-scene in 1998, there was only a single OS that we used: Classic 68k Amiga OS. Sure, proDad tried to make pOS. I remember the pre-release, but it seemed to be highly dependent upon the kickstart ROMs.

I kept an eye out on AROS, then later, I read that 3.5 and then 3.9 were coming out. I played with UAE from it’s first PC version even when it was really “Unusable”.

Well, now we have:

  • Classic Amiga OS (currently sitting at 3.9 with 2 official boing bag expansions and 2 unofficial ones)
  • AROS in many flavors (I prefer Icaros which is at 1.5.x) for many architectures, primarily x86 for super-speed
  • MorphOS (currently 3.4) for classic Amigas with PPC accelerators, bPlan’s Pegasos 1 and 2 and lots of ppc mac’s
  • Amiga OS4 (currently 4.1r6), supporting classic PPC accelerators, bPlans’s Peg 2, SAM 440/460 and A-Eon x1000

    (It’s worth noting that various distro’s of AROS support ARM (raspberry Pi, classic AGA Amigas, and maybe a few other platforms, but I’m focusing on x86 as it appears to be most mature).

    Classic Amiga OS does seem to not only have a life on original Classic Amigas, the the expansions that are available are limited. Besides some accelerators that top out at MIPS ratings that are a decade behind current PC/Mac hardware, a few amiga-specific hardware as well as PCI adapters, the future of classic Amiga can be found in either emulation or related technologies.

    I’ve used WinUAE and it makes for amazingly fast Amiga systems, but it’s hard not to know it’s running on top of Windows. Back in the early 2000’s, there was a pathway to lead to migration to x86 hardware via Amithlon, but the litigious nature of Amiga-land let to that becoming derailed. I have an old laptop running Amithlon and it “feels” more like a real amiga than any emulation. I’ll make a post on that machine soon.

    AROS is probably a great, long-term path for Amiga users, and will probably be the first to have multi-processor support, as well as the power to handle ports of high-end games and apps from other systems. However, it’s slow to advance. AROS has been in the works since the mid 90’s and is only recently feeling like a good, working system. Maybe I need to spend more time testing it.

    MorphOS is a great alternative and, apart from AROS, is the most easy to get started with. Whereas AROS involves nearly any old PC hardware and a burned ISO, MorphOS can be run on cheap, used mac hardware, which can be found on ebay for less than $100 USD. It’s fully working for 30 minutes at a time, is very much structured like classic Amiga OS and supports newer tech like USB and even the fastest PPC Apple machines made, and also runs classic 68k software natively and can even run WarpOS games made for Amiga PPC accelerators. It also sports the most advanced webbrowser right now in the Amiga world.

    Amiga OS4.x is limited to hard-to-find and expensive hardware and appears to be maturing slowly. However, they recently implemented over-the-internet live updates, have ports of QT, X11 servers, a new Amiga Java client, and many more software packages that make life a little easier. No downloadable demos of their OS though.

    I think it was a mistake for Hyperion not to try to get wider distribution by supporting older apple hardware like MorphOS but I’m sure they have their reasons.

    It’s hard to tell now which OS will come out on top or if we start seeing some merging or some dropping out. However, there are lots of available paths to take, depending on your needs and your means. Personally, I have a classic machine (a 1200 tower in progress), an amithlon laptop, a PowerBook G4 (MorphOS) and 2 AmigaOne machines (AmigaOS4.0 and 4.1). I hope to make an older tower into a dual-boot Amithlon/AROS machine and start whittling down my collection.

    Which path did you follow?

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