The Amiga Lounge
Many of us at Obsolete Gamer are fans of and owners of the Amiga computer so any chance to talk about the culture and community is a joy for us. In addition we are profiling stories on the Amiga in an effort to assist the Viva Amiga team with their upcoming documentary.
Glen VanDenBiggelaar is the owner of The Amiga Lounge where he shares his love of all things Amiga including his own experiences, collecting, and building of the commodore Amiga. We were able to get a great look into his corner of the Amiga world.
Obsolete Gamer: How did you come to create the Amiga lounge?
Glen: The Amiga lounge came from a need to research the Amiga when I decided to jump into the hobby. Before the Amiga, I was collecting and restoring the TRS-80 Color Computer and built www.thecocolounge.com website . Like the Amiga lounge, I had an on-line store and such, and during that time I was getting frustrated with the limits of the Co Co. One day, I was having breakfast with my best friend and his father, I knew that he had been a veteran at Xerox for over 30 years and he always had some fascinating story about Xerox and computers, and he suggested I look at the Amiga. I then found out he was one of the first people to have a Commodore PET in Canada, and later one of the First Amiga’s in Canada, going right to Commodore to get them. He passed away a few years back and left me all his Amiga’s in his will. Tons of books and software and such. The blog started out as a “Blogger” site, but when Google decide to take away FTP transferring to the blog, I then decided to expand the site to try to make it a “one stop” site with all the information I could find in one place instead of surfing all over the net and book making hundreds of sites.
The “Commodore” pages came after I read the book “ON THE EDGE- The Spectacular rise and fall of Commodore”-by Brian Bagnal. I instantly fell in love with the history of the company and started collecting the other Commodore Computers. I started with the “Ugly Stepchild” of the Commodore line- the TED Series and also fell in love with it. People tend to jump on the Plus /4 as a pile of crap and never really gave that computer its rightful due; they just compare it to the C64. It was never meant to compete or replace the C64, but nobody cared and it died a quick and horrible death because of that. I then got a PET in and so forth, so the website just grew and grew. I still have a ton of work to do on the Non – Amiga pages, just time is not there.
Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your personal experience with Amiga computers?
Glen: My experience with Amiga’s has been great. Back when I was doing the CoCo, everyone had heard or seen a CoCo or new someone who had one, so it wasn’t very awe inspiring. The Amiga on the other hand is a completely different story. If I am talking to a person who used the Amiga, a flood of stories come out at the wonderful things they could do with it. It sounds corny, but these days, a computer is just looked at as a tool, like a hammer for example. No one is truly fascinated at what the box can do for them, or the joy they had discovered making Music Demos or such. The users have such fond memories of the machine, that it is almost legendary. For those people that have never heard of the Amiga, they are usually fascinated to hear that some of their favorite movies or TV shows (computer animation) was done on the Amiga, and always say why didn’t we know about this back then. The best part is showing of the CDTV or the CD32, for even the diehard video game collectors, usually never seen or heard of them. Everybody seems to agree though, that the story of both the Amiga and Commodore is fascinating and sad that certain “forces” are doing their best to re-write history and erase Commodore and the Amiga from it.
Obsolete Gamer: Besides your own blog how active have you been in the Amiga community?
Glen: Besides belonging to a Few Amiga Forums (just no time to Cover them all), I belong to the local user group AMICUE. AMICUE doesn’t really focus on Amiga’s anymore; it’s more of a small social club that its members have been going to for years. I am trying to bring back life to the club, by bringing Videos of new Amiga’s, interviews with the creators and trying to get companies like AMITRIX to make new hardware again for the Amiga. So far, it’s a slow, hard battle, as most members got rid of their Amiga’s years ago. I always feel I can do more though. If work and money were not a driving factor in my life, I would push Amitrix to make more hardware, or create a company and make it myself. It was always my goal for the online store, to put the stuff I can’t use back to the Community, and the (small) profits that I make, all go back into the community, by buying more stuff from the Amiga Vendors. I COULD make tons more money on EBay, but I feel that the greed on EBay actually hurts the Amiga Community then helps it.
Obsolete Gamer: What is it like to be an Amiga collector?
Glen: I consider myself a “Computer Historian” as I am fascinated and could actually teach some computer history. Being an Amiga Collector is a perfect “spring board” for that, as EVERY Amiga or collection I have obtained has a long and detailed story. Most people that used Amiga’s back in the day have gone on to be brilliant computer programmers, famous artists and musicians and what not. I am really kicking myself for not keeping better records of the history of the machines I get in, because most people have no time to talk about them when they bring them in to me.
I usually wear an Amiga shirt about once a week, and I get a lot of people asking about it-sort of remembering it, so being a collector, and letting people know it, you become an unofficial ambassador of the Amiga
Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a collecting story you’d like to share?
Glen: I have so many, but I guess the best I can share with you, is not really a collecting story, but the fact that a few of the original designers, engineers, and programmers, the people that were actually there, have contacted me and taken the time to share stories and corrections about my site. This may sound crazy, but a nobody like me, getting a phone call from these guys really kind of justifies what I am doing, because at times, I just feel like a mad man ranting and raving and collecting stuff that everyone moved on from 20 years ago.
Obsolete Gamer: Which Amiga is your favorite?
Glen: Oooh! Tough question. Owning EVERY Amiga model except an A4000 tower system at one time or another, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, my LEAST favorite is the A500. Die hards will scream at me for this, but as one of the highest selling models of the Amiga, by itself, it is a rather useless machine. You can pick up A500’s all day long for next to nothing. To make them useful, you need some sort of expansion. Be it a hard drive or an accelerator, and those or worth their weight in gold. The same can be argued for the A1000, but the A1000 looks at least like a real desktop and has cool features like the way you can side the keyboard under it. The least popular I can see in the community is the A2000, but the expansion cards are cheap and easy to get.
My personal favorite at this time, is my A3000 tower. The tower is huge and lots of room to work on inside. it weighs a ton though. One of the best things about it, is right out of the box, you can hook up a VGA monitor to it. No paying an arm and a leg for a VGA adapter.
Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your Amiga store?
Glen: Sure! The store came out of the need to clear some Amiga stuff out to the Community. I did not want to part take in the greed fest that eBay provides. My goal is to someday open a museum where everyone can come for free to use and play with the Amiga, and the store was a way to get rid the excess (who needs 9 A500’s). any money raised in sales and donations to the website go right back into the Amiga community. The PayPal Account is NOT linked to any bank account, and I use that money to buy more Amiga stuff that I need and don’t have, from other Amiga manufactures, distributors, re-sellers and hardware makers. You would be surprised, but there are tons of small time hardware makers, making new stuff to make the Amiga more modern. One of the biggest is Amigakit from the UK.
Obsolete Gamer: Did you have a favorite game on the Amiga?
Glen: I try a new game every week (I literally have thousands of floppy disks to go through), but “Lemmings” is still fun, and frustrating. My biggest problem is the controller. Most Amiga joysticks are (please forgive me) pure and utter crap! Trying to play “Golden Axe” with an Epyx 500XJ stick is horrible. The closest that I can find tolerable is the Amiga CD32 pad. I have yet to pick up a Sega Genesis pad, I hear those work well.
Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the Amiga RV Tour?
Glen: Not too much yet. I have been planning a RV trip across the USA and Canada for about 4 years now, to tour the Silicon Valley and visit all the major Computer HQ’s. But the technology to broadcast it live, steaming video feed over the net did not (and probably still doesn’t) exist yet. Coupled with the fact that nobody cares about a lone computer geek’s trek. It did not seem a feasible or sane thing to do.
But, with my love of the Amiga, and wanting to do something to raise awareness of the retro- computing hobby, the Idea evolved into one, that could not only promote the Amiga Community, Give me a chance to “save” Amiga’s and Commodores from the dump.
It also give the opportunity to promote (or create) a whole new untapped technology field. Soon, a lot of baby boomers and such will be retiring and want to hook up their RV, camper and such to the internet, so they will not have to rely on “hot spots” and such to keep up to date. This is a chance to for some company (like Cisco for example) to showcase a new technology that hooks the internet up “anywhere”, not relying on the cell phone companies (as this will be traveling both in the US and Canada) through Satellite or such. Some very smart Company could use this as a test. Also, Looking at the big picture and expanding on the above Idea, a computer company could create a “modular” computer system -let’s say in a shock proof case that could just “plug-In” to the RV. One would only need a TV or Monitor, keyboard and mouse actually on board and the camper could have a full computer system “on-board” and easily upgradeable. The possibilities from this trip are truly endless from a Corporate, or technology point of view.
I know from a recent weekend camping trip, that people were amazed when we had just hooked up an IPhone and networked a few laptops together, and had Wi-Fi out at the camp ground, and we were checking e-mail from fireside.
What I can tell you is we are at least a year away, and depending on actually outfitting the RV, it might be 2 years. The plan is to leave here (Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada) in October 2011 or October 2012 (to avoid the Canadian winter here). Besides the 4 or 5 Cameras on the RV, I will have a hand held, and I have already started making the documentary of the whole thing. Once the tour is complete, that Documentary will be put together and edited on an Amiga Video Toaster unit and the sales (about $10 each) will go to help recoup some of the cost of the Tour.
Obsolete Gamer: What would you like to see covered/talked about in an Amiga documentary?
Glen: I would love to see a “where are they now?” feature of all the people behind the Amiga. Dave Haynie and Bill Herd pop up every so often, but what about everyone else?
We’d like to thank Glen for the interview and if you have a story or website that profile the Amiga sent us an e-mail and let us know.