Darcy's history of computing page

Computers and Me

I'm an Amiga user. Have been for quite a while. When I tell people I have an Amiga, they are at a loss of what to say. Do they crack a joke about computer obolescence or console me for my obvious impoverishment or ignorance.

This page is here to tell people why I own an Amiga. I can't really sum it up in a sentence or two. I'd like to say something like "'Cuz I like 'em" or "The PC/Microsoft sucks," but that's really oversimplifying things (though they're both true).

I've invested a lot of time and a bit of money into my computer. To this day I don't regret any of that.

Some history

It was right around Christmas way back in, oh, 1988. I was 13 and, realizing I had a knack for these things, had finally decided that I had to get my own computer. My father had bought me and my sisters (and himself, mostly) a TI-99 4A back in '81, so I couldn't say that I didn't have a computer, but even back in the 80's it was pretty easy to tell when a computer was obsolete.

I had a whopping $500 in the bank and realized my options were limited. I didn't really want one of those clunky PC-compatible things. They were way too expensive, had lousy graphics and only made stupid beep noises unless you shelled out another couple hundred bucks. I didn't even consider that route.

I wanted graphics and sound and cool games and stuff. I was seriously considering a C=64 ($299 at K-Mart!). A couple of my friends had these and I thought they were pretty neat. My mother hadn't gotten over the death of the TI platform and kept telling me not to get a computer that wasn't going be supported in two years. I laughed it off, but something was telling me that the C64 had had its day. Another guy I knew had an Apple ][, but the only really cool thing I could see about that were the little blue disks that the computer shot out by itself. Neat, but not worth the investment. I couldn't see how the Mac would be much better. And if the PC was way too expensive, the Mac was way too expensive.

My parents were helping me in my search for the perfect computer. My father was talking to the husband of one of his co-workers. "You might want to consider the Amiga," he said, "It's probably got everything Darcy'll need for some time." (Little did I know that he would be one of the last Amiga salesmen in Belleville (at the time, he was trying (and has managed some success) at writing science fiction and fantasy and doing a bit with role-playing games on the side). Later, he continued to foster this whole computer and Amiga thing by putting up with me whilst I insisted on hanging out at the computer store where he worked, because I didn't have anything better to do with my time, and by bringing me along to a World of Commodore Amiga show in Toronto).

Doing a little pricing, I could get an Amiga 500 for $450. It seemed a better toy than the C64 too (though I couldn't "borrow" games from people as was the custom amongst C64 users, not really knowing anyone else who had one). I was sold. With a little (well, quite a lot, actually -- he paid for it all) of finacial assistance from my grandfather, I went out and bought my A500. I put my money towards a 2400bps modem some months later.

Happy was I for a good five or six years afterwards. At the end of my highschool days I realized that my faithful 500 was not going to get me through university. I had a bit of money from a parttime job and tried to decide what I wanted to do with it. Upgrading the 500 was an option, but I had my eye set on the new A1200's, even though I was fairly certain that Commodore was not doing so well.

I had considered the PC's this time around. By this time I knew quite a bit more about the computer industry. I knew that even calling the Amiga platform a fringe market was being generous. I was also, at times, a participant in the infamous BBS computer wars which raged for some time between (mostly) the PC and Amiga users. I had quite a few good PC-bashing arguments available should they be needed.

Again, however, my decision was more economic. I would not be able to use any of the computer stuff I'd stockpiled over the years if I switched to the PC, with the exception of my modem (which needed upgrade as well) and my printer. I'd have to go out and by hundreds of dollars in software, since the PC shareware market, my lifeline on the Amiga side, was lacking in most respects and, realizing that I was destined to be some sort of computer professional, piracy equated to taking food from the mouths of my future children. It would cost a lot of money to move to the PC. Despite the much-touted decline in computer prices, the platform was just too expensive to get the graphics and sound and sheer performance that I knew I could get with the Amiga, despite the under-powered processor and lack of harddrive.

My mind was made up. Even though I knew that Commodore was on the verge of bankrupcy, I was going to buy an A1200. I managed to find a guy who had just got one from Toronto, but realized that he needed the expandablility of something like the 2000 after only two weeks and bought my Amiga for $600 cash. I would have preferred to buy a new one, but they were next to impossible to come by and a new 1200 without a harddrive would have set me back $850. This guy was willing to give me his two-week-old A1200 for $600 and the 40Mb HD inside was a free bonus.

I haven't regretted the decision, either. I didn't think that Commodore's liquidation would take more than two years, though. It's really tough getting Amiga stuff. I still haven't picked up a decent word processor, which was one of the things I'd decided I'd get as soon as I upgraded.

I'm not going to deny that the Amiga platform is in trouble. We've lost a lot of ground against the PC. Two years is a long time in the computer industry. I can't say with as much confidence that the PC will never be able to do what the Amiga has been doing since the beginning. They're getting there. Not by the sophistication of the technology, of course. The PC is still little different than it's XT ancestors. It's made it this far by sheer brute force. Faster processors, more memory, bigger harddrives...

I'm still using the Amiga partly because of my history with it, but mostly because I enjoy using it. The way I see it is that I'm likely to be spending the rest of my life using the PC and it's decendants. When I go into work in the morning, I switch one on and watch it go through it's archaic memory test. And this is the point. If I know I'm going to have to use these things anyway, why bother bringing one home? I have met very few PC owners who have no problems keeping their PCs up and running. It's not a very nice platform for users.

I can still do everything I would want to do on my Amiga. Every once in a while I try to figure out what it is, exactly, I want to do with a computer. The phrase that always comes to mind is "muck around." "Mucking around" with a PC isn't for the faint of heart. It's pretty darn easy on the Amiga. I got AmiTCP/IP to work pretty quickly just by tweaking things here and there. You can't do that sort of thing on a PC. Especially Win 95. If it doesn't work, you either give up or re-install. I'm not a big fan of either option.

I'm going to hold on to the Amiga for a while. My sister is going off to university next year and wants a computer. She is by no means a computer expert. My parents suggested that she take my old A500 along with her, but I said that getting everything in proper working order without a harddrive or a monitor would just be too much work and too much money. I'm suggesting they go out and buy a Mac.

<-'Back to my Amiga Page
<-'Back to my Main Page
Last Updated Fri Apr 4 10:28:52 EST 1997.
Darcy Casselman <dscassel@calum.csclub.uwaterloo.ca>