Amiga: The Next Generation Atari?
It has fallen into Amiga legend that in 1983 Atari made a bid
for the Amiga technology from the recently renamed Amiga, Inc. If
this single event had come to pass it is difficult to say how the
computer industry would be shaped now. Commodore may have still
existed selling Windows and Unix-based systems, and Atari may have
still existed. Who knows the possibilities and repercussions?
Whilst it has been assumed that Atari had made some offers for
Amiga and their "Lorraine" prototype only to be beaten to the post
at the last moment by Commodore, the transaction had actually gone
further with an agreement being signed between the two companies.
In co-operation with the Atari Historical Society, Amiga History
Guide is able to bring the actual signed agreement into the Amiga
On November 21, 1983 Atari and Amiga signed an agreement that
allowed Atari complete access to the Amiga "Lorraine" prototype
that was currently being developed. In exchange Atari would give an
undisclosed sum of money to assist development. The Amiga system
had always been intended to be a better version of the Atari 800
using the same multi-processor design (one processor for graphics,
another for sound, etc.). The hardware based scrolling, sprites,
display lists, and other features were developments of previous
experimentation. As part of the agreement Atari would gain access
to the Amiga chipset and design its own version of the Amiga
computer codenamed "Mickey", after the Disney mouse, "Minnie" was
the name given to a 256K memory card. As part of the
agreement, Atari would sell "Mickey" as a game console without the
keyboard for 1 year. After that, Atari could then sell a
keyboard add-on and sell a full computer "Mickey" system to the
public. One ex-Atari Corp. also discovered proposals for a
Unix-style GUI kernel for the "Mickey" project. How much of this
was the original AmigaOS system is unknown but it is likely that it
contained information on the Amiga EXEC and Intuition, with some
kind of custom "AtariDOS" additions. Unfortunately the whereabouts
of these documents are currently unknown.
Until recently it has been assumed that Atari did not have time
to develop a system before Commodore bought Amiga, Inc. During 1984
rumours were abound on a new computer known as the Atari 1600XL.
Remarkably, the system coincides in many ways with some of the
features highlighted by Dave Haynie and Jay Miner in many
interviews. These include a built-in disk drive, Apple ][e
compatibility and the possibility of an Intel 8088 daughter
processor for IBM compatibility. As Amiga historians know, the
Lorraine featured a cartridge slot for a number of expansion boards
including an IBM PC-on-a-card. These puzzles have recently been
solved with the recovery of a number of logbooks by the Atari
Historical Society that suggest Atari were developing a system
derived from the original Lorraine prototype that would come to be
known as the Atari 1850XLD.
TOP SECRET: Confidential Atari-Amiga
CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION
1. AMIGA CORPORATION (the "Company"). and -ATARI,
("Recipient") are engaged in discussions in contemplation of or in
furtherance of a business relationship.
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relating to the Company which is of a confidential nature
(hereinafter referred to as "the Company Information") concerning
any or all of the following: trade secrets, know how, inventions,
techniques, processes, algorithms, software programs, schematics,
software source documents, contracts, customer lists, financial
information, sales and marketing plans and information and business
3. Recipient agrees that it shall neither use the Company
Information nor circulate it within its own organization, except to
the extent necessary for:
(a) negotiations, discussions and consultations with personnel
or authorized representatives-of the Company; and
(b) any purpose the Company may hereafter authorize in writing.
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disclose any Company Information to any third party and shall use
its best efforts to prevent inadvertent disclosure of the Company
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Company Information as set forth above shall terminate when
recipient can document that:
(a) It was in the public domain at the time it was communicated
to Recipient by the Company; or
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subsequent to the time it was communicated to Recipient by the
(c) It was in Recipient's possession free of any obligation of
confidence at the time it was communicated to Recipient by the
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to Recipient by the Company.
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- Has a Motorola 68000 Main Processor and 128K bytes of random
Access memory. Has a detachable keyboard.
- Can read Apple compatible disk text files.
- Can be programmed in BASIC, FORTH or Assembler. BASIC and
FORTH are built Into the basic system.
- Lorraine BASIC is compatible with APPLESOFT, but adds commands
which can take advantage of the powerful new features of this
- Can handle a large number of different kinds of controllers,
which in turn allows for a wide variety of methods of data
- Has four Independently controllable sound generators.
Each of these generators may be programmed to produce a wide
variety of tones and kinds of waveforms. Many different kinds of
musical effects are possible.
- Can produce 40 columns by 25 lines of text
- Can produce 80 columns by 25 lines of colored text on a video
monitor without adding any extra-cost 80-column cards. Can
mix multi-colored graphics and muiti-colored text on the same
- Can produce dozens of easily controlled multi-colored moveable
objects called "sprites" on the screen
- Can define one or two indepently moveable normal or hich,
resolution graphics planes called "playfields". Up to 4096
color choices for each picture element for normal resolution
playfields, or up to 16 color choices for each picture element for
a high resolution playfield.
- Can define whether some of the sprites are more important than
some of the playfields, so that if one object is supposed to be "in
front of" another, it will appear that way on the display. It also
can sense and report collisions between the sprites and the
playfields or between individual sprites.
- Can rapidly move and color-fill graphic shapes.
- Has a special-effects coprocessor which can produce multiple
part-way-through-the-display changes in the system operating
July 19, 1983 -- Page 1
Computer System -
LORRAINE is a third generation, low cost, high performance,
graphics and sound system for state of the art videogame and
personal computer applications.
The system includes
three proprietary, custom ICs controlled by a Motorola 68000 32/16
bit microprocessor. These chips provide extraordinary color
graphics on a Standard TV or on an RGB color monitor, with
resolution and depth to display coin-op quality, first person video
games, cartoons, low resolution photographs, or up to 80 character
screens. The sound circuits can duplicate complex waveforms
on each of four channels, matching commercial synthesizers in
The graphics hardware
provides a fully bit-mapped image of up to 320H X 200V pixels each,
six bits deep for a TV or up to 640H X 40OVpixels each four bits
deep for an RGB monitor. Each pixel selects a color value from a 32
entry color palette providing 12 bits of resolution including
separate control of up three aspects of the color signal: Hue,
Intensity, and Saturation. The hardware supports slicing the
bit map into two levels of playfield plus background, with
automatic priority overlay of the playfields. In addition,
the hardware supports eight programmable "sprite processors", each
providing an arbitrary number of images 16 pixels wide, arbitrarily
tall, and two bits deep which can be rapidly positioned anywhere on
the screen with selectable overlay priority. Pairs of
such processors can be "attached" providing 4 bits of color depth
for each sprite image. The resulting screen image can be
scrolled s in both the vertical and horizontal directions.
The color depth of
the image may vary from place to place on the screen. Saving both
memory space and bandwidth in those portions of the image not
requiring many simultaneous colors. In addition, two of the
six color planes may be used in the "hold and control" mode to
select between normal indexing of the color palette or direct
setting of one of the color components (Hue, Intensity, or
Saturation) while preserving the other two components from the
pixel immediately to the left. The hold and control mode
allows the construction of very detailed images involving either
grey scale shading, pastel hightlighting, rainbow color
effects or any combination of the three. The Display
Instruction Processor (described below) may also be used to change
the color palette on the fly.
hardware detection of "collisions" involving either of the
playfield images and each of the 4 sets of attachable
sprites. For purposes of collision detection, each of the
playfield "objects" may be further refined, indicating that only
collisions with a given color or excluding a given color are to be
detected. The collision accumulator can be polled and cleared at
any time, allowing the detection of separate collisions in
different portions of the image.
LORRAINE includes a
hardware "Bit-Blit" co-processor, which may be used to create and
move several dozen additional objects in the bit map each frame
time, saving and restoring the background as necessary. The
Blitter also provides hardware support for line drawing and polygon
filling functions From a personal computer perspective, the Blitter
provides a generalized hardware capacity for "desk-top" window
management, easily surpassing the software mechanisms underlying
such systems as the Apple LISA (TM).
Each LORRAINE audio
channel plays an "audio map" of arbitrary length with frequency and
volume set separately. The audio maps consist of 8 bit
"delta" samples describing the waveform to be produced. Each
map array be "played" at a sampeling rate of up to 30 KHz, or any
slower rate selectable with fine resolution. Left alone, each
channel automatically repeats its audio map an arbitrary number of
times, making the generation of sustained tones a trivial task
involving very little memory. Since each map describes an
arbitrary waveforrn a three or four note musical chord can easily
be generated by a single channel. LORRAINE produces stereo sound
output, normally by summing pairs of audio channels.
Alternatively one audio channel of each pair me be configured to
modulate the other channel both by amplitude and frequency.
Since the modulating channel may be sampled at a rate distinct from
the normal channel, envelope functions and frequency modulation
synthesis effects are easy to achieve.
synchronization, control register updates, sprite repositioning and
automatic color palette and audio channel updates can all be
performed by LORRAINE's programmable Display instruction
processor. The DIP acts as yet another co-processor, freeing
the 68OOO to execute program logic.
AMIGA Corporation Proprietary and
July 19, 1983 -- Page 3
Other built-in I/O
includes a keyboard controller, two Atari (tm) compatible game
controller with trakball/mouse logic, a serial port to support a
modem, and a mini-floppy disc controller.
configuration includes 128K bytes of graphics/audio/general purpose
RAM and 64K bytes of resident firmware ROM. LORRAINE may be
cartridge extended with up to 256K bytes of additional ROM or
RAM. In addition, all 68000 data, address and control
lines are accessible, allowing LORRAINE to be integrated with a
wide variety of memory, peripheral, and bus-mastering devices.
both high and low-level support for graphics and audio
synthesis. Particular emphasis has been placed on convenient
high-performance access to the hardware for video game
applications. LORRAINE will be packaged with a general
purpose operating system, a BASIC interpreter, a FORTH interpreter,
and several general purpose utilities.
AMIGA Corporation Proprietary and
Thanks go to the Atari
Historical Society for their painstaking research into the
former company as well as allowing this document to be reproduced