Windows Vista vs Apple Macintosh? Nah – Atari vs Amiga is the real question.

I spotted Mike had posted on Windows Vista and that we find ourselves in a strange place. We have a product that is way better than the perception amongst “those in the know”.

First up – I really was not a fan of Vista on day one of release. I had a lot of issues with drivers and application compatibility which in turn created problems with stability and reliability of my machines. It was a shame – as first impressions do indeed last. The good news was we were already hard at work on a numbers of fixes and on getting Service Pack 1 complete.  SP1 completely changed my view of Vista. I like it. I really do. It is way, way better than Windows XP. I can at last happily recommend it to people I like 🙂

Which then leads me to Windows Vista vs the Mac.  Each has strengths and weaknesses and each is a great OS with a slightly different primary focus. Given Windows Vista is much more widely adopted (outselling 30 times Macs) it isn’t surprising that the much smaller community of Mac users is more vocal. This is pretty much identical to what I lived through during my early days of computing (post ZX80, post BBC Micro) when Atari ST vs Commodore Amiga was the big discussion. My recollection is that the Atari ST easily outsold the Amiga in the UK and hence Amiga users were much more vocal about why their machine was clearly better.

I can’t recall the term for this – but essentially a community that feels itself under siege will tend to be louder and more certain of its convictions. At an individual level it works something like

  • Wow – I have committed so much time to doing X, have felt so much pain whilst doing X, been laughed at by so many others for doing X that either

  • Option 1: X is absolutely awesome, all this pain is worth it and everybody else is stupid for not doing X or

  • Option 2: I was wrong to do X and I just wasted a lot of time and everybody else was right and I am stupid.

Interestingly Option 2 is not easy to accept. Therefore many individuals will go for Option 1.

Now the really important bit – which was best, Atari or Amiga?

P.S. I do not infer that you are stupid if you went for a Mac – but I do if you went for an Amiga 😉 Just kidding...

Comments (32)

  1. steven says:

    Tough choice. My vote went to the ST because it just seemed a little bit more general purpose especially in its OS design and had integrated MIDI support.

    Although both had some very nice capabilities using their custom sound/graphics chips, I think the Amiga ended up mostly being a game machine to end users. (Yes, it was also used to render CGI special effects [Babylon 5, anyone?], but that’s more of a niche market and not something most consumers would do).

    So I went for the ST as the better (broader) platform by a very narrow margin, but there’s really not much between them.

    That said, I no longer have an ST, but occasionally break out the Amiga for some retro gaming.

  2. Kevin Daly says:

    Actually, the debate only raged seriously among kids…

    Those of us who were fully grown at the time knew that the Amiga was a *real* computer 🙂

    (I suspect that one of the things we didn’t like about the Atari was its association with Jack Tramiel, who was to us the living manifestation of Ultimate Evil)

  3. Tony says:

    Well the Amiga was better than the IBM PC. Just look at the new PC with dedicated Graphics Hardware, proper Mutlitasking OS, reliability, etc. Thankfully the PC has at last caught up, if only they could use a proper processor such as the 68000 (or what would it now have been); instead of the intel thing some call a processor, whereas others call a warning to unsuspecting mathemations 🙂

  4. Rob G says:

    Its interesting that there are still 2 or 3 Amiga-OS derived O/S’s floating about, some open source. I don’t see the equivalent for an ST anywhere. In many ways, the Amiga was really ahead of its time.

    Incidentally, since OS X I feel there’s no real competition for the first time. Until then, the Macintosh still couldn’t multitask properly, drastically limiting its potential. It actually took them longer than Microsoft to address this issue, but the Amiga (definitely) and ST (I think) had both sorted this out all that time ago…

  5. Mike Ormond says:

    I fondly remember sitting in the lab at Ferranti in Edinburgh soldering an extra 512K of RAM into my 520ST after everyone else had gone home…

  6. Shane says:

    I’m 33 at the end of the month, and I can definitely remember the ST and Amiga argument.  Perhaps you should adjust the age in your last poll option 🙂

    I started with a 520ST-FM, and despite the Amiga’s superior hardware, I always championed the ST’s faster CPU – so games like Hard Drivin’ always ran better on an ST.

    However, I ultimately backed down and bought an Amiga 600 too, so I had the best of both worlds.

    I’ve been a Windows person for a long time, but since owning a Mac for the last year or so, am definitely warming to its OS, and I prefer it to Vista.

    However, 90% of my computing time is spent on PCs, so I just put up and shut up.

  7. Don says:

    Just as an example of how advanced the Amiga was, you could get an add-on card to make it behave like a PC and run PC code!

  8. Pinooch says:

    The STE and it’s blitter chip and MIDI capabilities were fantastic. I believe some studios still use them today. I always prefered GEM TOS to Amiga’s OS. I think it is still reflected in the latest OSs we use today.

  9. Neil says:

    *Obviously* the Atari was always better than the Amiga (just like the 130XE was miles better than any Commodore 64). The Amiga didn’t even have a proper GUI when you switched it on. But both were firmly beaten into the dust by the ultimately superior…

    Acorn Archimedes

    Now there was a computer, ARM RISC processor, great UI (properly multitasking), and hit F12 and a world of command prompt, basic and assembler lay at your finger tips.

  10. SharpFranc says:

    Exactly – lower the age please 😉

    I’m 29 and I was using ATARI 1040 STE and ATARI 65 XE too :> I remember very well

  11. Mike says:

    What can I say ?

    I began playing with an Amiga 1000 …. those were the days !  I had to get one & then the A500 came along – I was happy 🙂  Moved to the A1500 some time later, got my wife an A500+ and I fannly finished with an A4000 …….

    Guess I’m just a fanboy at heart !!!!

  12. Paul Jones says:

    Without a shadow of a doubt it has to be the Amiga!!! I remember the good old days of Fat-Agnus, Copper Lists and RastPorts… Man, coding that beast was such a joy.

    Paul J.

    Disclosure: I used to work at Commodore on a ‘skunk-works’ graphics project that never saw the light of day (and not many people knew about us… even in Commodore Inc.)

  13. Gareth says:

    Think being 33 is young enough? I’m only 20 and was Amiga all the way (fair enough, that’s where I learned to program at about 4 yrs old!)

  14. Nik Crabtree says:

    I had the Atari ST-E, which was great for sound production with its built-in MIDI support. So much so that I believe they were popular in the music industry for years for sequencing tracks. I never owned an Amiga and I remember the Amiga-zealots banging on about their superiority.

    If you want a trip down memory lane, visit and check out the GEM DOS style design.

  15. malcolm wilding says:

    well, there really is no question is there.  the amiga was the best machine of the time, and if commodore had not gone bust would probably rival the best pc’s we have now…

  16. Matt says:


    Even now I run Directory Opus on XP to give me some of the power I had on the Amiga.  

    There were so many little things that made it great: the RAM disk, being able to ‘use’ preferences to test they worked before saving changes, the logical structure to the file system: libraries in LIBS:, commands in C:

    The way you could run most applications without going through an install routine, just copy stuff to your harddisk and it worked.  

    More than with any other system before or since, the user was in control of the computer and not the other way around.

    Although the hardware sits unused under my desk, I still use my Amiga under emulation at least a couple of times a week.  I love Photogenics for playing with images and yearn for an email program in Windows with the neat features of Microdot II.

  17. Bloke says:

    Amiga best by a long shot, Pet Shop boys used two Amiga 4000s for their sequencing, Babylon 5 for CGI, Shadow of the beast, Ultra smooth parallax scrolling something the PC still struggles with today, Blitz Basic, Zool, Play n Rave, Monkey Island… need I go on

  18. Turnip says:

    Amiga all the way!

    And let’s face it.  It’s not Amiga vs. Atari, nor even Amiga vs Mac.

    It’s Amiga vs. everything.

    And my Amiga may be relegated to propping something up in my spare room, and I may use Windows all day, every day, but you know what?

    The Amiga wins every time, and it always will.

  19. Pinooch says:

    What a great argument that harks back to the days of old! It always makes me chuckle to read the “360 vs PS3” debates that are going strong at the moment (and years to come!).

    The fact is that the older machines were very different from each other. The Atart ST and the Amiga were not ment as games machines and each had its great points. I was always jelous of my Amiga owning mates with their better sound and graphics but I still loved my STE and it got me into the career I have today (or maybe the ZX81 one did…cant be sure!)

    Now, the new bread of “super consoles” are all so similar due to cross platform ports and the vast money it takes to make the software.

    I would take the 8/16 bit era any day. Long live the Speccy vs C64 (Lastt Ninja!! Hmmmmm what a game!), SNES VS Megadrive, Amiga Vs Atari ST, Master System vs NES etc etc….

    I am so proud that I was about in these pioneering days. Dont get me wrong…, I still play on my PS3, 360 and Wii (I hate the Wii mind u!) but something just isnt right….

  20. I have been reading the history of Amiga to try and understand the above. Turns out my view of Amiga was well out of date. I am trying to work out exactly when I had an Atari. I think I ditched mine around 1988 for BSD Unix. At that point Atari was dominant. But the history of the Amiga is fascinating to read. I had no idea it lasted for so so long. I assumed it died same time as Atari to be placed by PC and Mac. Fascinating.

  21. Pinooch says:

    Yea, I heard that Amiga went on for a while. The Atari Falcon hit the shelves but flopped like a sack of potatoes. This seemed a shame since it looked great on paper.

  22. Roland says:

    oh my, did someone mention Acorn Archimedes? I used to have an Archie A440. I never did manage to fill that massive 50mb hard disc though!

    Moving from RISC OS to windows 3.11 was hard to swallow. I did miss the multi tasking, rock solid stability & “instant on”.

  23. Graham says:

    As far as I remember Atari ST stood for… And This Amiga Rival Is Sellotaped Together. Kinda says it all. The Amiga ruled!

  24. Darwood says:

    "Given Windows Vista is much more widely adopted (outselling 30 times Macs) it isn’t surprising that the much smaller community of Mac users is more vocal. … I can’t recall the term for this – but essentially a community that feels itself under siege will tend to be louder and more certain of its convictions."

    I’m sorry but I have to say that is quite a leap of logic. Last time I looked Mac share of the market was increasing and that doesn’t smack to me of a community under siege. Even if it was a small group has much less resources to throw into making any kind of point.

    I would more likely say that a large corporation having spent millions of dollars and countless hours of resources on a flawed new product is likely to throw everything into

    a) fixing the problems


    b) convincing potential purchasers that the prolems don’t really exist and compelling reasons exist to buy their new product.

    Or of course do both at the same time;)

    Just for fun replace the word individual with the word corporation to your logic below

    "At an individual level it works something like

    Wow – I have committed so much time to doing X, have felt so much pain whilst doing X, been laughed at by so many others for doing X that either

    Option 1: X is absolutely awesome, all this pain is worth it and everybody else is stupid for not doing X or

    Option 2: I was wrong to do X and I just wasted a lot of time and everybody else was right and I am stupid.

    Interestingly Option 2 is not easy to accept. Therefore many individuals will go for Option 1."

    I have to say that I work as a professional in the IT industry and I have yet to meet a single Vista user who is happy with it. In contrast I have not met a single Mac user who could be torn away from it.

    BTW I am a Windows user through and through so not biased toward Mac at all.

  25. Saj says:

    The Amiga by far ruled! Yes i am an amiga fan ive had an A500, A600 & A1200, iv still got them somewhere boxed up with loads of games. Its a shame really because it wouldhave been interesting to see how it would have developed if it hadnt gone under 🙁

    We would have had an Amiga on our desks instead of an ibm clone. lets look at he advantages 16bit sound, ram & grafix upgrades, grafix tht were better than any pc at the time, integratd tv modulator, all this at a time when pc’s were running 3.11 & struggling!

    if i remember properlly the atari games worked on the amiga too?

    R.I.P Amiga.

  26. Malcolm says:

    The whole argument about OS bores me.  I just don’t care what the OS is; I just want to connect to the network, printers etc and run applications!

    Roll on the day when all applications will run on all computers and I can get on with some work.

    P.S the Mac is probably better than the PC, but at twice the cost the PC wins!

  27. DaFreak says:

    The Amiga has the better OS (preemptive multitasking, customize gui, performance) and better technology (graphic & sound) as the Atari. The only advantage of Atari was his integrated MIDI-ports. But you can buy Serial-2-MIDI adapter for few bucks.

    Not to mention the terrible soft keyboard of a ST.

    So the winner is: Amiga

  28. DaFreak says:

    Btw, this site loads sooo slooooooow. What server is it? Windows?! ;P

  29. John Klumpp says:

    Let me give you a quote from page 2 of- THE DESKTOP STUDIO: MULTIMEDIA with the AMIGA (Wordware Pub. ISBN 1-55622-215-7 1991)

    `Lloyd Mahaffey, former director of education for Apple Computers, recently said, "In 1986 we tooka long hard look at the Amiga and said, ‘if some smart marketing executive ever decided to make this product a serious threat. . .we’d be in real trouble.’"`

    I’m entering this text with Firefox on a eight-y.o. Mac. Just to my left is a 2003 Amiga PPC which runs AmigaOS 4.0 but which is lacking a modern web browser.  

  30. jonssonj says:

    I just want to inform that the Amiga OS is still alive. The developers (hyperion entertainment) have just released Amiga OS4.1.

    Though I’m sorry to say, that there is no hardware to buy for it. There is a court case going on between hyperion and amiga.

  31. Retrospect says:

    Amiga all the way…

    The Atari was never really popular here but when I was in school everyone had an Amiga.

    I still have my A-1200 somewhere and my computer at home is an AmigaOne running AmigaOS4. I am looking forward to the new OS4.1 release as it is nice to see this old OS get developed further and get many modern functions.

    It’s still the same responsive super fast OS which gives me much more pleasure to use than vista or osx.

  32. Sloar says:

    The affordability of the Atari ST as far as price performance was unparalled at the time. The midi port was a great plus but dont forget many of us bought them because of the SLM Atari laser printer and DTP. The Amiga hands down won out in multimedia and is still used by a handfull of cable companies with the Video Toaster. Mac’s were too expensive for consumer use and even some smaller business. PC compatibles at the time were mainly considered for business and expensive also. As far as integrated technology only one PC compatible comes to mind as equally intuitive as The Atari ST and Commodore Amiga, The Mindset PC. Remember we are talking 1984 – 1985 technology and I encourage as many people as possible to look it up. It’s a shame that for the most part its down to a PC compatible with Windows or Linux and The Macintosh with OSX, innovation will never be the same as it was then with so many choices. I am honored to have had the opportunity to use Amigas and Atari ST computers as well as my trusty old Tandy Color Computer 3 with OS-9 Level II in the mid to late 80’s. If you look at the early 90’s I would have to say that I would choose the Atari Falcon030 over any Amiga at the time due to the Audio/Video capabilities thanks to the Motorola DSP 56001, yes the Amiga 1200 and 4000 AGA computers with a delfina card would be comparable but I am Talking out of the box standard. As far as keeping the legacy going,the Amiga wins with OS4, AROS, Morphos, Minimig, and hopefully soon the Natami. No matter which platform we would choose or have chosen, no one can dispute the innovation and options we had from the 80’s and early 90’s with Computer Technology.

Skip to main content