There are fewer better known names in the 1980’s video game world than Atari. At the time Atari’s gaming consoles and technology was so far advanced that even the company’s developers battled to explain it to the layman.
Of course, we can now look back and recognise Amiga’s console and as the first ever personal computer, complete with graphics, sound, and an operating system. The story of how Amiga beat the giant Atari reads like a soap opera from the time, complete with betrayal, rises to power, and of course, millions of dollars.
Just A Man And A Dream
Jay Miner was a developer at Atari, which at the time had a number of successful consoles on the market. Jay had a dream of creating a gaming console with a 16 bit processor, and the newest data storage system; the floppy drive. Atari would have no part of it as they feared the idea would damage the sales of their already successful products, and shut Jay’s dream down firmly and fast.
In 1980 Jay’s dream was revived after he was contacted by an old Atari employee who had read about his idea and thought it had real potential. He wanted to create a gaming company which would produce the console, eventually licensing it back to Atari. Excited by the development, Jay roped in a group of dentists of all people, raised 7mil dollars, and thus Hi-Torro was born.
The Console Named Lorraine
Hi-Torro ran with two main divisions; one to create games for Atari, many of which can still be played at NZ casinos online today, and one to work on Jay’s new hi end console. The console project became known as Lorraine, after the CEO’s wife who was wildly flattered.
Flushed with cash for the new project, Hi-Torro spared no expense, fitting the console with the best, including a Motorolla 68000 processor and a super powerful chipset which allowed the machine to display up to 4096 colours. In the midst of all this, the company discovered that a Japanese lawnmower manufacturer had already trademarked the name Hi-Torro, and changed their name to Amiga.
The Great Collapse And Commodore To The Rescue
Early in the 1980’s the entire video game industry seemed on the brink of collapse. Amiga lost a number of investors and had to look elsewhere for funds for Lorraine. The project was ticking along and was slated to be launched in 1984 at the CES show in Chicago.
The technology inside Lorraine was impressive, but the actual console itself was so fragile that Amiga had to buy it its own seat on the flight to Chicago.
Atari was at the show, and although showed no interest in purchasing the project, did offer Amiga a loan in exchange for Lorraine’s motherboard design. No one at Amiga liked the idea but didn’t have much choice. At the time Atari had just been bought by a Commodore expat amidst much drama.
To get back at him, Commodore bought Amiga, and repaid the loan, successfully thwarting his plans to obtain Lorraine for basically peanuts.
Not to be outdone, Atari brought out their own Lorraine. Made from off the shelf components and with nowhere near as much love, the console couldn’t hold a candle to the Commodore project which was happily released with no worries at all.
Atari had failed in their quest to best their nemesis. Lorraine proved more popular even than the Mac’s at the time. Commodore went from strength to strength, falling only to the mighty Windows PC in the early 1990’s.