The Commodore Amiga 500

The Commodore Amiga 500

The Amiga 500 was the second and by far the most popular computer in the Amiga line. It was released about two years after the original Amiga 1000 but at a significantly lower price. When the Amiga 1000 hit the market, it retailed for $1,285. The Amiga 500 was only $699 when it arrived.

While the Amiga 500 was considered the first low-end Amiga Computer, it had most of the same abilities of the Amiga 1000 and even a few advantages. Instead of 256K like the Amiga 1000, the Amiga 500 came stock with 512K of RAM. It had the same CPU and custom graphics and sound chips as the Amiga 1000. The biggest differences between the Amiga 500 and the Amiga 1000 that preceded it were the form factor and boot method. Whereas the Amiga 1000 had a more traditional desktop design with a separate CPU/disk drive unit and keyboard with the ability to place the monitor on top of the CPU, the Amiga 500 was an all-in-one design with the keyboard built into the case as with the Commodore 64. Also, with the Amiga 1000, the core of AmigaOS (Kikstart) was booted from disk as it was still considered too buggy to include in ROM. By the time the Amiga 500 came out, this was included in ROM. Otherwise, the Amiga 500 and Amiga 1000 had pretty much the same hardware including:

CPU: Motorola 68000 @ 7.16 MHz
Graphics: Custom “Denise” chip
Sound: Custom “Paula” chip
Disk: 880k 3.5″ floppy
Ports: 2x DE9M Atari joystick ports, RS-232 serial, DB23F floppy and Centronics parallel port

Arguably, the Amiga 1000 had more room for expansion but the truth is there were tons of expansions and upgrades available for both machines. Capability wise they are virtually identical.

While there were other more expensive and expandable models (i.e. the Amiga 2000) that were popular in the professional video world and certain other places, because of its relatively low price, the Amiga 500 was the model that was most popular with hobbyists and home users. Because of its excellent graphics and sound capabilities, it made for a very good games machine. However, it’s true multi-tasking OS and available scripting language (AREXX) among other innovations made the Amiga line machines that were truly ahead of their time and it could be had at a bargain price with the Amiga 500.