One Family, Several Amigas: A Profile

Older Amiga systems still finding extensive use, and the people who use them

By Michael Webb, Editor-in-Chief, MikeWebb@CompuServe.COM, and Eric Ross

These days, in the fast-paced world of computing, it's easy to get caught up in the hype and pressure surrounding the ever-changing and improving (and sometimes "improving", with the quotes implying definitive sarcasm) area of computer technology. It's easy to forget just how useful supposedly "older" technology can be.

There are times, however, when you can see a given Amiga setup, and it is almost as though you are looking back through the Amiga historical archives (and not the kind with the .LhA extension, mind you). The first reaction to seeing such a machine might be "Gee, that's an old computer.", and chronologically, anyway, that may be true. Then, however, it becomes apparent that, as old as the machine is, it still serves as a valuable and quite powerful tool for a variety of applications.

I have the pleasure of being acquainted with a family who has several such older Amigas. Across the humble city of Binghamton, NY, in which I live, lies the home of Eric and Mary Ross, their children, their cats, and their Amigas. They are two kind, friendly people who are actively involved in the arts and associated community activities. Somewhat ironically, my current acquaintance with them isn't really Amiga-related; Mr. Ross is a recording and performing musician whose trade has carried him throughout the world, and he has also been my piano/music teacher for some time now.

The Ross's have several Amiga 500's, some of which, I believe, even use AmigaDOS 1.2 rather than 1.3. The following passage is Eric Ross's own account of the role the machines play in his life and those of his family. It serves to remind us that no matter how long ago a given machine (particularly something as well-designed as the Amiga) may have been manufactured, depending on what one needs it to do, its utility, and the enjoyment that can come from using is, is practically undiminished.

Our Amigas

By Eric Ross

We got our first Amiga over ten years ago. My wife, Mary, a video artist, used the Amiga in video applications, making tapes and for live performances.

We'd used computers in studios in New York and Europe, but the Amiga was good for home use and "demoing up" ideas. Now she uses a PowerBook with the Amiga as a sketch pad or drawing board for videos and stills.

As a composer/performer, I've been involved with electronic music since the late 1960's. I'd used some computers, but was put off by their time-intensive learning curves. About five years ago after the price of Amigas dropped dramatically, we got a second one for use in my MIDI studio.

I enjoy running some music programs such as Deluxe Music Construction Set, Sonix, and Laurie Spiegal's Music Mouse. They give me an immediate idea of a piece's general outline and can be a compositional springboard for new ideas. I've seen other musicians using Blue Ribbon's Bars and Pipes program. This is a professional-level program.

We do much of our word processing on our Amigas. Before, I used manual typewriters. It's obviously more efficient using the Amiga.

The best use of our third Amiga has been by our boys (ages nine and six). They took to it very naturally. Our older son, Steven, uses it to do animations, and one of his sequences was published in Scholastic Magazine when he was in second grade. The younger boy, David, likes to compile word lists of items he knows and can spell. He has become the best computer student in his first grade class and sometimes helps his teachers operate the computers at school. Having computers at home has given them a familiarity and comfort with computers that's invaluable.

Eric Ross - Theremin Homepage - Spotlight Feature