The Amiga 4000 Tower: The Operating System

The one, the only, AmigaOS 3.1

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

Indeed, probably the majority of you reading this now are using AmigaOS 3.1. So it's by no means news. On the other hand, probably no operating system can claim to equal AmigaOS for a balance of terrific power and capability with resource-efficiency. I therefore think the OS is always worthy of mention, especially in the context of a powerful new machine like the A4000T.

One of the first things that struck me when I had first powered up the A4000T was that it didn't really seem faster than my A500/A530 system. There was a very good reason for this, however; AmigaOS 3.1 is so fast on a 68030 that the difference achieved by using a 68060 isn't terribly dramatic. At least, that is, until you start demanding more of the machine, in which case the 68060 shines; otherwise, however, the OS simply blazes.

I have been using this platform for a great many years, and I gain new respect for the ingenuity that went into the operating system all the time, especially lately. This system was, and is, so far ahead of its time, it's not even funny; there's no other way to it. And oddly enough, I have had the vast majority of my experience with other operating systems in only the last few years.

The "Competition"

When I say I've used a variety of operating systems, I mean it; I saw MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.1 grow up on the 486, followed by the Pentium explosion and Windows 95. I used OS/2 Warp for some time, and I currently use Windows NT occasionally. More recently, I have gained experience with various versions of Mac OS as well. I've used most of these on "fast" and "slow" systems alike, such qualifiers generally carrying meaning only in the eye of the beholder, especially these days.

But yes, I've used all these operating systems, and in my opinion, not a one of them can begin to compare to AmigaOS. Nobody else seems to be able to figure out how to do it. The only one of the lot listed above that I would chance to call "fast" is MS-DOS, and it's so limited in capability it is funny. The rest are dog-slow. OS/2 is probably the best of the multitaskers in many ways, but it seems to poke along at a good crawl no matter how fast the CPU.

As I see it, there is one way in which any of these operating systems is superior to AmigaOS, and that is "feature count." Yes indeed, with Windows 95 you've got every gadget and gizmo you could possibly need or want...but why is it that both cinematic and technological history suggest that the most innocent-looking "Gizmos" often have the propensity to turn into very nasty "Gremlins...?" Features do not an operating system make. A powerful operating system is fast, lightweight, modular, extensible, multitasking, intuitive, and user-friendly. It's kind of cumbersome to manage that list of attributes, though, so why don't we just change the definition of "Good Operating System" to "AmigaOS?" :)

Seriously, in my opinion, nothing can touch AmigaOS. Nothing even comes close. Yes, I could probably do what I need to do with a Windows machine, but it would be far less satisfying, and generally much more frustrating, than doing the same things under AmigaOS. Believe me, I've been there. Windows 3.1 was reasonbly quick (though not especially spritely), but trying to multitask under it generally made me want to scream. Windows 95 multitasks better, but it is so ponderous. Even if you run it on a fast machine, it hogs resources, and under heavy multitasking, will become a nuisance, and occasionally approach "unusable" status. Windows NT is a more solid system, but just booting it cuts my PC's Norton SysInfo number (a performance indicator) in half. The computer industry seems to be hung up on the idea that lots of nice little features can result in a great operating system. Don't get me wrong; there are some added features I think AmigaOS could definitely use. But it already has the speed, and the power. The other operating systems do not. This is essentially why I use AmigaOS; it may be bare-bones, but at least it has a solid foundation.

I just can't help wondering how all the consumers out there who have seen nothing but Windows and Mac OS over the years would react to something with the power of AmigaOS. Well, actually, I don't have to wonder; I've seen it for myself, whenever a Mac- or PC-only friend takes a look at what my A4000T (or even A500/A530) can do. It's always good for a show, anyway.

Anyway, that's enough OS ranting for now. It's an old story by now anyway, and AmigaOS is probably the Amiga platform's greatest single asset as it proceeds boldly into the future.

AmigaOS Next Generation?

Speaking of the future, I'd like to give a general outline of where I hope to see the OS go from here.

In Summary

In conclusion, I'd just like to make a few remarks about the AmigaOS on this A4000T in particular.

Even though some advantages of the current Amiga hardware persist even today, AmigaOS is the bright beacon on this shoreline. This system is a joy to use, in part for its processing power, and in very large part for the operating system.

I could go on and on about specific experiences, but suffice to say I can have numerous applications running in the background, and not notice it in the least. There's just something nice about a machine this incredibly responsive. When I move the mouse, the pointer moves; when I try to move a window, the window moves; if I bring a window to the front, it comes to the front. Or resizes when resized. Or the screens flip on command. This machine is quick in all the right places, and that makes it intuitive. Sure, heavy-duty applications will sap CPU power just like on any other machine, but rarely is my productivity, or creativity, ever hindered when it comes time to change states somehow, such as by switching applications or moving Intuition entities around.

Yes, suffice to say that there's something truly special about this operating system. I don't know how they did it, but it started out a winner, and has grown better ever since. Here's to an even better AmigaOS of the future.