When inanimate objects have birthdays…

a4000I didn’t mention it at the time, but last week (July 23rd, I believe) marked the 30th anniversary of the Amiga computer system. And as I was driving home from the celebrations last weekend in my classic Mini, it occurred to me that were a lot of similarities between the two – the Mini and the Amiga.

Not least of which was the fact that I had just attended a birthday party for the Amiga; an inanimate object, a tool or a toy, depending on your wishes, which had just had a birthday party – and has other parties planned around the world to mark this anniversary. Which is clearly a ridiculous thing to do – I haven’t even had a birthday party since I was in single figures!

mini30Way back in 1959, the original Mini broke all the rules of car design to create something new and different. No-one had seen anything like it at the time, but the new ideas it brought – like turning the engine sideways to drive the front wheels directly – quickly caught on and have been used throughout the industry in later years. Perhaps the full colour graphical user interfaces and multitasking abilities we take for granted on our modern PCs would be a digital analogue.

Workbench 1.0The Mini was designed to meet a specific brief, on a limited budget, in limited time; it was intended to be cheap to build, cheap to buy, and cheap to run. A runaround for the District Nurse. And had it been any other car, that’s what it would have stayed. But the Mini was not just a car. It did appeal to the District Nurse, but it also appealed to the Beatles and Steve McQueen. It appealed to Formula One team boss John Cooper – and I’m sure most of us know how that turned out.


The Mini was still in production on its 30th birthday, but was already a cult classic, a car that brought people together like almost no other car. Own a Mini, you are automatically part of the club, part of this massive global community. During the car’s production run it struggled through crappy management decisions, numerous buyouts, and a lack of development (which in the Mini’s case ultimately added to its appeal), and eventually lived well beyond its expected sell-by date, even outliving its proposed replacement, before finally dying along with its parent company.

And much of that last paragraph was echoed on Sunday, by people speaking about the Amiga. At its peak it was about the people, the community. As it struggled on, it’s fans still loved it, and kept it alive as long as possible. And we still love it, the way we could never love a Windoze box or an iPhone. Or a Ford Focus for that matter.

x1000_systemWhat was also said on Sunday, is that the Amiga is still alive. The AmigaOS has been quietly advancing over the years, and new hardware is still in development to run it. You can, in effect, buy a new Amiga – just as you can buy a new MINI.

The new MINI didn’t revolutionise like the original, but it successfully built on what had gone before and went after those who had once enjoyed the Mini experience, but left it for something rather more… modern. The new MINI was much more expensive than its predecessor, but it was also much more up to date, while retaining just enough common ground to attract the nostalgic.

And I think that part of what A-EON’s Trevor Dickinson said on Sunday – about tapping into the latent love for the old Amiga that must still exist out there, and finding that audience for their new models – reflects the same approach. They may not be able to revolutionise like the original Amiga did – after all, there’s only so many times you can turn an engine sideways – but offer enough of the original in a more modern form, and who knows…

Unfortunately Trevor probably doesn’t have BMW’s marketing budget to play with, but hey, the principle is sound.

Sure, in comparison to a PC an AmigaONE seems ridiculously expensive and horribly impractical – a lot like the Mini I bought from the showroom in 1998. And just like that Mini, it’s sure to be a lot more fun than the alternative.


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