Amiga 500

Amiga 500 magazine ad from 1987

The Amiga 500 was not the first Amiga model but it is probably the most well known and best selling model and is the one that ensured Amiga’s success. When the first Amiga model was introduced nearly two years previously (the Amiga 1000), it was well ahead of its time. It was a high end machine credited with being the first multimedia computer and it was sold only in computer stores at a cost of $1295 which is the equivalent to about $3000 today.

When the Amiga 500 was released, things were different. While it had all the power of the Amiga 1000 and some improvements as well, prices had come down on components and Commodore had cost reduced it in some other ways. It was introduced at nearly half the price the Amiga 1000 was at only $699 (though the intent had originally been to price it even lower at $595). The Amiga 500 had a similar form factor to Commodore’s previous big success, the Commodore 64 in that the computer and keyboard (and disk drive in the case of the Amiga) were all built in to one unit. Also like the Commodore 64, it was sold at various department and toy stores in addition to computer stores. The Amiga 500 was produced from 1987 until 1992 which while not quite as impressive as the Commodore 64’s longevity, is still pretty impressive. By the end of production, more than 6 million units had been produced.

The Amiga 500 competed directly with the Atari 520ST (and its immediate successors) which had been released around the same time as the Amiga 1000 in 1985. While both used the Motorola 68000 (as did the original Macintosh), the Atari ST did not have the same class of dedicated video hardware nor a true multi-tasking operating system making the Amiga 500 a clearly superior machine. Having said that, the Atari ST was generally cheaper and was popular for MIDI related tasks. Like the Atari ST, the Amiga was probably used for games more than anything else but it was a popular hobbyist computer and higher end models were often used for professional video work (the TV series Babylon 5 comes to mind).

The Amiga 500 contained:

  • Motorola 68000 CPU @ 7.16 MHz
  • 512 kB RAM (expandable up to 9 MB via 3rd party add-ons)
  • Max resolution of 736×483
  • 4 8-bit channels PCM at up to 28 kHz
  • Built-in double-sided, double-density 3.5″ disk drive (880 kB)
  • Side and trap-door expansion slots, plus socketed upgradeable chips
  • etc.