Adi, Meet My First Girlfriend, The Amiga

by Mike Levin

Monday, May 02, 2022

Once upon a time Adi, your daddy didn’t like computers. I fancied myself an “art person”. I had an Uncle Mort who said I should like something because it had lots of screens and stuff. He’s a suburban sprawl developer who turned himself into some sort of Rolls Royce-driving Palm Springs Florida royalty who didn’t want to communicate with friends and family. I took offense to his labeling me, but years later I did fall in love with computers, screens and stuff. It wasn’t video games. It was for art-work. It was the merging of art and computers. Here’s a video that sort of captures it.

They called it a WIMP interface, Windows, Icons Mouse and Pointer (or pull-down menu). I guess I was sort of a wimp. I fell in love with the Amiga computer in particular, and this was one of the mixed-blessings of my life. I actually went to work for Commodore Computers in Westchester, Pennsylvania where the US office was headquartered. I was the ultimate fanboy, leading the local Philadelphia Amiga Users’ Group that met out of Drexel University where I went to college and helped secure the room for our meetings.

Then the Amiga died and everything I learned was lost effort. Or so I thought. It turned out that everything other than the WIMPy parts of this computer were based on something called UNIX. Unix is all that magical incantation stuff that the presenter said you didn’t have to deal with anymore. Ironically, I drifted away from art and towards the geeky computer stuff. And so it’s not really the graphics or the screens or the animation that did me good. It was the text. It was the vim text editor. It was piping data. It was the command-line interface.

I am typing this to you now because of that. I don’t do much hero-worship, but when I do, it’s Jay Miner.

Jay Miner is a subversive. He is The Alchemist, a real-life John Percival Hackworth. Please read Diamond Age someday. It is the ultimate Alice / Dorthy story.

I gave my 2nd-to-last Amiga, an Amiga 2000 decked-out with a 68030-card, Video Toaster and Mandela virtual reality system to a friend, Steve Elsner. I wonder if he still has it. He made a profound impact on me when I tried pulling him into my projects in his youth, and he said he had another project and showed me a picture of his new baby. And now I’m writing this to you.

Adi, regardless of my love for the Amiga, computers and tech, I think you should continue with your art. It’s way more fundamental. Please continue pursing your art-work with and without computers. You are a wonderful artist and I am so proud of you!

The geeky stuff will come later if you care to learn it.

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