Once upon a time in Amiga World, or, should I say, AmigaWorld Magazine,
"8 bit art" made in DeluxePaint I, the style of obvious large pixels and limited
color palettes, was the state of the tech. Electronic Arts founder Trip
Hawkins saw output from an early version of King Tut's mask and
he was enraptured
EA execs said "Put that image on all the boxes from now on." The
was an amazing computer which let you make pictures with
a palette of up to 4096 colors in a one bitmap sometimes. The Apple Mac,
which came out at the same time, had
TWO colors: black and white (no grey)
and cost a LOT more to get the same Motorola 68000 CPU and 4094 less
Amiga was essentially the first PC to have a built in
, fast animation capabilities, true pre-emptive multitasking
and an 8 bit PCM stereo sound processor. Originally designed as a game machine
it output interlaced, overscanned NTSC video directly which let people
videotape their animations with just a consumer VCR. Commodore owned the
circuit fabrication factories and designed the custom chips . They made
quality silicon cheaper than anyone else. Unfortunately due to poor marketing,
not understanding what it could do, and the graphics "card" being soldered
to the mobo the Amiga brand was eventually discontinued due to poor sales.
not before the machine and one of its "killer apps" EA's
found widespread use in the video game industry to make 8 bit graphics.
This made sense as it was originally developed by EA as an internal Amiga
art development tool. Unlike Adobe Photoshop, which was released years later,
Dpaint could make full screen animations. Pshop to this day has chosen to
be a paint program not an anim program. DPaint was BOTH from the start.
There was only one canvas, but because of pre-emptive multitasking you could
just run more off them in a stack of what Microsoft would call "windows
desktops." There were no layers, limited undo and you could not make 24-bit
images at first, but you could grab a piece of animation (called an "animbrush
and stamp it down by hand or move the bitmap numerically. MacPaint could
barely flood fill at the time. Dpaint could do
animation, painting of masks/stencils, true color images, onionskin
light table, morphing (popular after Terminator 2 came out) and more by
the end of its life.
BUT low color palettes are a cruel mistress.
Think lean and mean and plan ahead. Most pixels will have to be hand placed
similar to a tile
. You had better decide which sixteen colors you wanted
to use and what resolution you wanted before you even started. Also, video
friendly non-square pixels made rotation of bitmaps tricky and, if the image
was to be broadcast on NTSC, the colors had to be muted. Interlace flicker
was a must if you wanted to be videotaped but it made single pixel horizontal
lines look awful. This was due to the primitive analog NTSC TV signal the
Amiga was forced to adopt, not its own hardware limitations.
founder Steve Jobs thought the Amiga had "too much hardware." But one IBM
exec pushing the IBM PC AT said "We have got to get better hardware. I am
SICK of being shown up by teenage boys and their Amigas!" The
is considered by many to be one of the best operating systems of all time.
Way ahead of the competition. Pre-emptive multitasking: got the RAM? Run
Dpaint five times! You could drag down the top of the desktop (called the
"workbench") to reveal another program running behind it at a totally different
resolution and graphics mode! Thanks to "data types" any program could load
any file without having to know about it. No more adding photoshop file
format conversion plugins, one translation plugin talked to every application.
It featured an interprocess control language called
which let any program with ARexx "hooks" talk to any other program with
hooks! This allowed multi-program macros to be written. A database program
could send info to a spreadsheet application even though they were from
different manufacturers. You could theoretically point a camera at a fish
tank and have the Amiga make stereo sounds based on what the camera saw
using off the shelf software and custom scripts. Here is a
video of the Amiga OS
is STILL being developed by the devoted fanboys who just love the machine.
Last year I ran a free emulator that let me play some of my favorite games
from the period. I owned the models shown above and used them to make my
award winning comedy short "Nick Dixon Private Eye." Yet conservation and
conversion of the 8 bit images below is difficult. The pixels are sometimes
non-square, circles are egg shaped, sometimes the color values have to be
TV safe, and scaling must be done on powers of 2 or you will ruin the checkerboard
halftone pattern. All enlargements must be done in PShop as "nearest neighbor."
But I chose to not even try to convert these images to modern standards
(other than doubling the x and y) to avoid artifacting the checkerboard