Emulate the Amiga home computer with Linux

Last Updated on June 3, 2022

Emulation is the practice of using a program (called an emulator) on a PC to mimic the behaviour of a home computer or a video game console, in order to play (usually retro) games on a computer.

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single non-technical user.

Back in the 1980s, home computers came to the forefront of teenagers’ minds. Specifically, the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST were extremely popular. They were hugely popular home computers targeted heavily towards games, but they also ran other types of software.

The Amiga is a family of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985. The original model is one of a number of computers with 16 or 32-bit processors, 256 KB or more of RAM, mouse-based GUIs, and significantly improved graphics and audio compared to previous 8-bit systems.

The Amiga differs from its contemporaries through the inclusion of custom hardware to accelerate graphics and sound, including sprites and a blitter, and a pre-emptive multitasking operating system called AmigaOS. When it came to graphics and sound capabilities the Atari ST was inferior to Amiga, but it was more affordable and its CPU was slightly faster.

Amiga ROMs

Amiga emulation software is legal. However, a copy of a Kickstart ROM from a real Amiga is required for legal use, which remains protected under copyright laws.

There are some commercial packages which provide licensed versions of Kickstart ROMS for all Amiga models. It’s also possible to use software to extract the ROM from your own Amiga.

Alternatively, you can use AROS Research Operating System (AROS – pronounced “AR-OS”). This is a free and open source multimedia centric implementation of the AmigaOS 3.1 APIs. It offers an almost “feature complete” implementation of AmigaOS. The FS-UAE emulator includes the AROS ROM.

Recommended Open Source Emulator

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Our recommended open source emulator for the Amiga range of home computers is FS-UAE. It comes with an easy-to-use graphical configuration program. FS-UAE will automatically use the replacement AROS ROM if it cannot find a Kickstart ROM.

One of the unique features of FS-UAE is support for cross-platform online play. You can play Amiga games against (or with) friends over the internet. FS-UAE also offers built in WHDLoad support. This allows Amiga games to be run from a hard drive rather than floppies, even games that were never originally designed to be installed to hard drive. It has integration with the OpenRetro database too.

If you’re running an ARM-based board (such as the Raspberry Pi, ASUS Tinkerboard etc), we recommend Amiberry. The code is based on WinUAE but it’s optimized intensively for lower-powered boards. It also offers WHDLoad support, RetroArch mapping, and custom events.

Amiga Software

The Amiga was very popular for gaming. There are several sites that host legal Amiga downloads. And there’s a large range of games and software available in the public domain.

The Amiga was also popular in areas such as desktop video, video production, and show control. The Amiga was capable of performing advanced animation and video authoring at professional level.

The Amiga’s audio hardware supporting four PCM-sample-based sound channels (two for the left speaker and two for the right) with 8-bit resolution for each channel and a 6-bit volume control per channel made it popular for music tracker software.

The processor and ability to access megabytes of memory enabled the development of 3D rendering packages, including Aladdin4D, TurboSilver, Sculpt3D, LightWave 3D, Imagine, and Traces, a predecessor to Blender.

It also inspired a vast demo scene of underground coders and artists, many still creating work today.

Home Computers
AmigaFamily of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985
Amstrad CPCCombined the computer, keyboard and data storage in a single unit
Atari STA popular line of personal computers from Atari Corporation
BBC MicroSeries of computers designed and built by Acorn
Commodore 64Hugely popular home computer
DragonBuilt around the Motorola MC6809E processor running at 0.89 MHz
ElectronA microcomputer sported a Synterek SY6502A CPU clocked at 2MHz
MSXA popular range particularly in Japan
OricThe underrated Oric-1 and Oric Atmos
QLBased on a Motorola 68008 CPU clocked at 7.5 MHz with 128KB of RAM
TRS-80Very early mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers
VIC-208-bit home computer that was released in 1980/1
ZX80Predecessor to the ZX81; ignited the UK's home computer market
ZX81Low-cost introduction to home computing notorious for its RAM pack wobble
ZX SpectrumOne of the biggest selling home computers
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2 years ago

The Amiga was my very first computer.

It was an absolute joy to use and so much more than just a games machine. It sported colour, graphical user interface, a shell, beautifully sampled stereo sound, multitasking, animation, graphics, and much more.

If the Amiga was a work of art it would be Constable’s The Hay Wain.

2 years ago
Reply to  MilesT

It was mot first computer too showing my age lol

2 years ago

I’m looking for a replacement Amiga manual.

2 years ago

It is nice that you can, but WHY?

2 years ago
Reply to  James

For the same reasons for using any emulation software.