AMOS was the Amiga port of STOS, a BASIC for the Atari ST written in assembly language by François Lionet. Not just a procedural programming language, but a batteries-included IDE that supported the emerging multimedia pipelines of the day - Deluxe Paint as a pixel painter and animation tool, and the array of audio editors and trackers, and later on even supported 3D graphics created by the likes of Imagine 3D.

AMOS - The Creator

Back in 1993 I’d saved up my paper round wages, pooled birthday and Christmas money, sold my ZX Spectrum and got my hands on an Amiga 500+ and a portable colour TV. My high school years were defined not just by playing pirated games shared by the one guy in school who’s dad had BBS access, but by creating them in AMOS and sharing them too. Not that anyone wanted to play them - they were shit.

Ramblings about multimedia

The 90s were a beautiful time for multimedia. Moving from a time where hard drives were an expensive luxury, low bandwidth cassette tape and low capacity floppy disks ruled the day. Then the CD-ROM came along with 800 times as much space, we went from an era of extreme resource constraints to one of egregious bloat and wastefulness.

In the good old days graphics and audio weren’t just created, they were engineered. You’d carefully craft the palette as well as paint the pixels, knowing that 16 colours looked naff, 64 were painfully slow, and 32 needed some tricks to make things fast enough. You could swap the colours out in realtime very quickly - abuse duplicate colours and swap them out for animation effects as the electron beam scanned down each line. Compression mattered, bytes were counted, sizes aligned to hardware widths, you had to keep ahead of the scan line when filling the graphics card’s output memory or you’d get tearing, lest take the speed and RAM hit of double-buffering. Apparently the reason BMP files are upside down is because a subtraction operation took less cycles than an addition.

Audio was similar, chip tune was standard. You couldn’t just record into a mic at 11khz mono and get 30 seconds of audio on a floppy disk; you want a couple of tunes in your game. So instruments would be crafted by breaking them up into start, loop, end, and pitch shifted on the fly by banging the metal, interleaved to fake more than 2 channels, and the snare drum would take up more space than everything else combined.

Then the CD came along and the public were wowed by the voice acting and full motion video, while we looked on in utter disgust.

Some projects

I don’t think I can switch my old A1200 on anymore, so some of this may be lost to time. And older stuff from before I had a hard drive might be on rotten floppy disks. They means I can pretend that they were all finished and polished, which they mostly weren’t.