Saturday, April 24, 2010

Amiga 1.2

Workbench 1.2 (and Kickstart 1.2) was the next big step for the Amiga OS.  Released with the Amiga 2000 and Amiga 500, and available as a Kickstart disk for Amiga 1000 owners, it included many bug fixes and some expanded functionality.  The garish color scheme remained intact, but the disk count had increased by one to two total.  The first disk contained the core OS features and was bootable, the second was labeled "Extras" and was not bootable.

The main Workbench now included a RAM based virtual disk as standard.  This acted as a fast non-permanent disk space useful for storing temporary files, commands that were accessed frequently, and other features that would benefit from the speed increase and not suffer in the event of loss during a system crash.  I frequently used the RAM: device as a place to put header files for C programs I was compiling.  Of course the limit was memory size - put too much into your RAM disk and you wouldn't have enough memory left to run programs!

The Extras disk had three major new features: AmigaBASIC, MicroEmacs, and KeyToy, er, I mean PCUtil.
AmigaBASIC continued the tradition of including a version of the BASIC language with home computers.  A true Microsoft BASIC, it most closely resembled the Macintosh version of BASIC, also written by Microsoft.  It even allowed for low level access to the OS functions through an include-file-like mechanism (FD files).  But, like most interpreted BASIC's it was slow, and had a fatal flaw that would limit its growth: It would not run on more advanced machines.  Microsoft had broken the rules and mis-used the upper eight bits of addresses such that on any machine with greater than 24 bit addressing (such as the 68020 and better) it would malfunction.
MicroEmacs was a port of the Unix based MicroEmacs, and is available for many different architectures.  It was a bold statement and a nod to the workstation users to include it on the Amiga, in effect equating the Amiga to much more expensive machines where serious text editors were normally found.
PCUtil was a nod towards allowing MSDOS users to transfer files to and from the Amiga.  It allowed an owner of the 1020 5.25" drive to read and write from MSDOS formatted disks, as long as they were not mounted as standard drives with the Amiga file system.

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