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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
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LORRAINE

Developer machine prototype
Developer: Hi-Torro/Amiga Corp.
Year of demonstration: 1984

The Lorraine prototype is the product of a Californian startup called Hi-Toro. The motherboard, named after the company president's wife, would later become known as 'Zorro', the 'Amiga' (1985 - 1987), and the 'Amiga 1000' (1987+). The official name for the final product would have been the 'Amiga PC'.  Hi-Torro's original aim was to design a next generation games machine - an evolution of Jay Miners' previous machine, the Atari VCS - but when the games market collapsed in 1983 the Hi-Torro team developed the console into a full computer.

The updated board introduced several new features, including:

  • 128K RAM, expandable to 512K internally and several megabytes externally
  • 64K ROM
  • built-in Apple compatible BASIC
  • keyboard interface (the case design was later altered to accommodate a 'garage' design)
  • 5 1/4 disk drive,
  • 'cartridge port' expansion slot intended for a CPU upgrade or PC emulator
  • Built-in 300-bps (bits per second) modem

The Secret

Contrary to popular belief, the Amiga prototype was not a secret. Several sources report details and rumours of a computer being developed by the Los Gatos Amiga company). Several rumours indicated the machine would support 'Macintosh-like mouse capacity, CP/M 86, MS-DOS (with limited IBM compatibility) and the UCSD p-system'. The Amiga is featured in a detailed account  of the Summer CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 1984 by COMPUTE! magazine.

Excerpt from the COMPUTE!, August 1984 issue

The AmigaOS was, according to press articles of the time, known as Intuition. This may have been a misconception. Intuition is an important part of the operating system but is not a term that could be used to describe the total operating system.

First contact

In an effort to gain additional funding the Los Gatos team prepared the Amiga prototype for transport to the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, held on January 4th, 1984. The prototype consisted of four breadboards that were cabled together, requiring it's own seat on the plane. The prototype would be demonstrated to a select group of interested business people in a 'secret enclosure'. The demonstration was not a secret for long - the Amiga demonstration was located near to a glass lift where casual viewers could observe the events. As a result of this incident, two aspects of of Amiga folklore were born.

Who was Joe Pillow?
Amiga History

Commodore purchase

By 1984, Amiga Inc. required several million dollars to continue development. As a result they sought third party funding from businesses such as Silicon Graphics (who wanted the chipset) and Atari. For a time it appeared that the company would be bought by Atari. Amiga folklore, described by RJ Mical, indicates that Jack Tramiel attempted to use Amiga's poor financial standing to his advantage. In the last few days of negotiation, Commodore executives contacted Amiga Inc. and offered to buy the company and the prototype. As a result of the Amiga-Commodore deal, Commodore abandoned their Unix server machine, the CBM 900. The decision has continued to disappoint Commodore fans who initially resented the attention that the Amiga was attracting.

As part of its evolution from the Lorraine prototype to the final Commodore Amiga (A1000) machine, Commodore initiated a number of changes that would upgrade sections of the design, make it cheaper to manufacture, and increase the speed of development:

  • the modem and cartridge port disappeared
  • Memory was upgraded from 128k to 256k
  • double-sided 3 1/2 disk drive was introduced as standard, ignoring the 320k IBM unit.
  • Finally, the initial OS, codenamed CAOS, was discarded in favour of the integration of TripOS and Intuition
  • The logic ICs were finalized, creating the familiar Amiga chipset (recursively known as OCS - Original ChipSet)

A1000 demonstration

In an attempt to beat Atari in the 16-bit market, Commodore hurried the Amiga's development. In an e-mail to Gareth Knight, Dave Haynie describes the CES 1985 demonstration:

"At CES 1985, they had a fairly complete Amiga 1000. The OS wasn't working fully, so they did have to bootstrap some of the demos from a Sun machine. But everything they did actually ran on the Amiga 1000 hardware. Bil Herd and I met Dave Needle and RJ Mical at that show, and wound up drinking beers and taking the A1000 apart in their hotel suite one night."
Dave Haynie, in an e-mail to Gareth Knight, 2001
The Commodore Amiga launch (recursively renamed the Amiga 1000 with the launch of the A500) was disappointing. At a $1500 price point, the machine failed to captivate the gaming market and fought a four year war with the Atari ST. In spite of these difficulties, the original Amiga produced the cheaper A500 and the more expandable A2000, in addition to several follow-up machines. The Lorraine/Zorro prototype represents the beginning of the Amiga legend.

Concept designs and images

The following text and images are provided by Cameron Kaiser of The Secret Weapons of Commodore.

The concept sketches (five are shown here) are quite fascinating and reflect unique and sometimes wild ideas about how the new wonder box should be marketed. Most of them are variations on a three-tier design, and most have little resemblance to the A1000. Only sketch 5 has a 3.5" disk drive, which the A1000 eventually sported; the others carry 5.25" drives. Interestingly, all except sketch 4 have cartridges prominently shown, indicating the machine's original pedigree as a game system. The chronological order of the sketches or their artist(s) is not known.

The ports in the close-up are labeled, going left to right, KYBD (keyboard), DISK, PARALLEL, CART, TV (presumably RF output), COMP (composite output), STEREO L and R (audio output) and RGB.

Images of the Lorraine breadboards and the developer machine (.jpg)
Portrait (63K) | Ports Closeup (47K) | Daphne and Agnus IC Arrays (110K) | Agnus breadboard (36K)

Concept Sketches of the Lorraine (.jpg)
Concept 1 (33K) | Concept 2 (39K) | Concept 3 (41K) | Concept 4 (33K)

Related Links:
For more information on the subjects mentioned on this page, check out these pages:
Amiga PC prototype | Amiga 1000 machine | Amiga History: 1984

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Last Update: 1/11/2001


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