|Developer: Hi-Torro/Amiga Corp.
Year of demonstration: 1984
The Lorraine prototype is the product of a Californian startup called
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
built-in Apple compatible BASIC
keyboard interface (the case design was later altered to accommodate a
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
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
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?
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)
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
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
Dave Haynie, in an e-mail to Gareth Knight, 2001
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
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)
For more information on the subjects mentioned on this page, check
out these pages:
Amiga PC prototype | Amiga
1000 machine | Amiga History: 1984
Last Update: 1/11/2001