- amiga history guide Supporting Amiga and compatibles since 1997 -
- banners - disclaimer - faq
- - -
- -     -
recent updates
amiga history
amiga models
internet links



© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved



Amiga: The Next Generation Atari?

It has fallen into Amiga legend that in 1983 Atari made a bid for the Amiga technology from the recently renamed Amiga, Inc. If this single event had come to pass it is difficult to say how the computer industry would be shaped now. Commodore may have still existed selling Windows and Unix-based systems, and Atari may have still existed. Who knows the possibilities and repercussions? Whilst it has been assumed that Atari had made some offers for Amiga and their "Lorraine" prototype only to be beaten to the post at the last moment by Commodore, the transaction had actually gone further with an agreement being signed between the two companies. In co-operation with the Atari Historical Society, Amiga History Guide is able to bring the actual signed agreement into the Amiga community.


On November 21, 1983 Atari and Amiga signed an agreement that allowed Atari complete access to the Amiga "Lorraine" prototype that was currently being developed. In exchange Atari would give an undisclosed sum of money to assist development. The Amiga system had always been intended to be a better version of the Atari 800 using the same multi-processor design (one processor for graphics, another for sound, etc.). The hardware based scrolling, sprites, display lists, and other features were developments of previous experimentation. As part of the agreement Atari would gain access to the Amiga chipset and design its own version of the Amiga computer codenamed "Mickey", after the Disney mouse, "Minnie" was the name given to a 256K memory card.   As part of the agreement, Atari would sell "Mickey" as a game console without the keyboard for 1 year. After that, Atari could then sell a keyboard add-on and sell a full computer "Mickey" system to the public. One ex-Atari Corp. also discovered proposals for a Unix-style GUI kernel for the "Mickey" project. How much of this was the original AmigaOS system is unknown but it is likely that it contained information on the Amiga EXEC and Intuition, with some kind of custom "AtariDOS" additions. Unfortunately the whereabouts of these documents are currently unknown.

Until recently it has been assumed that Atari did not have time to develop a system before Commodore bought Amiga, Inc. During 1984 rumours were abound on a new computer known as the Atari 1600XL. Remarkably, the system coincides in many ways with some of the features highlighted by Dave Haynie and Jay Miner in many interviews. These include a built-in disk drive, Apple ][e compatibility and the possibility of an Intel 8088 daughter processor for IBM compatibility. As Amiga historians know, the Lorraine featured a cartridge slot for a number of expansion boards including an IBM PC-on-a-card. These puzzles have recently been solved with the recovery of a number of logbooks by the Atari Historical Society that suggest Atari were developing a system derived from the original Lorraine prototype that would come to be known as the Atari 1850XLD.


TOP SECRET:  Confidential Atari-Amiga Agreement









1. AMIGA CORPORATION (the "Company"). and -ATARI, INC.                   ("Recipient") are engaged in discussions in contemplation of or in furtherance of a business relationship.

2. To further the business relationship, Recipient may have access to and have disclosed to it certain valuable information relating to the Company which is of a confidential nature (hereinafter referred to as "the Company Information") concerning any or all of the following: trade secrets, know how, inventions, techniques, processes, algorithms, software programs, schematics, software source documents, contracts, customer lists, financial information, sales and marketing plans and information and business plans.

3. Recipient agrees that it shall neither use the Company Information nor circulate it within its own organization, except to the extent necessary for:

(a) negotiations, discussions and consultations with personnel or authorized representatives-of the Company; and
(b) any purpose the Company may hereafter authorize in writing.

4. Recipient further agrees that it shall not publish, . copy or disclose any Company Information to any third party and shall use its best efforts to prevent inadvertent disclosure of the Company Information to. any third party.

5. Recipient's obligations with respect to any portion of the Company Information as set forth above shall terminate when recipient can document that:

(a) It was in the public domain at the time it was communicated to Recipient by the Company; or
(b) It entered the public domain through no fault of Recipient subsequent to the time it was communicated to Recipient by the Company; or
(c) It was in Recipient's possession free of any obligation of confidence at the time it was communicated to Recipient by the Company; or
(d) It was rightfully communicated to Recipient free of any obligation of confidence subsequent to the time it was communicated to Recipient by the Company.

6. . All materials including, without limitation, documents, drawings, models, apparatus, sketches, designs and lists furnished to Recipient by the Company and which are designated in writing to be the property of the Company shall remain the property of the Company and shall be returned to the Company promptly at its request, together with any copies thereof.

7. The work product of any services performed by the Company or of any writings, discoveries, inventions and innovations resulting from such services shall be and remain the property of the Company unless otherwise agreed in writing signed by both parties hereto.

8. This Agreement shall govern all communications between Recipient and the Company that are made during the period from the effective date of this Agreement to the date on which either party receives from the other written notice that subsequenl- communications shall not be so governed, provided, however, that Recipient's obligations under Paragraphs 3 and 4 shall ccntinue unless terminated pursuant to Paragraph 5 hereof.

9. Either party shall have the right to obtain a preliminary judgment on any equitable claim in any court of competent jurisdiction, where such judgment is necessary to preserve property and/or proprietary rights under this Agreement.  Such judgment shall remain effective as long as the terms of the judgment so provide.

10. Any notice required to he given Under this Agreement shall be deemed --received five (5) days after mailing if sent by registered or certified mail to the addresses of the parties set forth below, or to such other address as either of the parties shall have furnished to the other in writing.

11. In the event of invalidity of any provision of this Agreement, the parties agree that such invalidity shall not affect the remaining portions of this Agreement, and further agree to substitute for the invalid provision a valid provision which most closely approximates the intent and economic effect of the invalid provision.




Features Summary

  • Has a Motorola 68000 Main Processor and 128K bytes of random Access memory.  Has a detachable keyboard.
  • Can read Apple compatible disk text files.
  • Can be programmed in BASIC, FORTH or Assembler.  BASIC and FORTH are built Into the basic system.
  • Lorraine BASIC is compatible with APPLESOFT, but adds commands which can take advantage of the powerful new features of this computer.
  • Can handle a large number of different kinds of controllers, which in turn allows for a wide variety of methods of data input
  • Has four Independently controllable sound generators.  Each of these generators may be programmed to produce a wide variety of tones and kinds of waveforms. Many different kinds of musical effects are possible.
  • Can produce 40 columns by 25 lines of text
  • Can produce 80 columns by 25 lines of colored text on a video monitor without adding any extra-cost 80-column cards.  Can mix multi-colored graphics and muiti-colored text on the same display.
  • Can produce dozens of easily controlled multi-colored moveable objects called "sprites" on the screen
  • Can define one or two indepently moveable normal or hich, resolution graphics planes called "playfields".  Up to 4096 color choices for each picture element for normal resolution playfields, or up to 16 color choices for each picture element for a high resolution playfield.
  • Can define whether some of the sprites are more important than some of the playfields, so that if one object is supposed to be "in front of" another, it will appear that way on the display. It also can sense and report collisions between the sprites and the playfields or between individual sprites.
  • Can rapidly move and color-fill graphic shapes.
  • Has a special-effects coprocessor which can produce multiple part-way-through-the-display changes in the system operating mode.


July 19, 1983 -- Page 1

LORRAINE Computer System - Preliminary

Technical Summary


LORRAINE is a third generation, low cost, high performance, graphics and sound system for state of the art videogame and personal computer applications.

        The system includes three proprietary, custom ICs controlled by a Motorola 68000 32/16 bit microprocessor.  These chips provide extraordinary color graphics on a Standard TV or on an RGB color monitor, with resolution and depth to display coin-op quality, first person video games, cartoons, low resolution photographs, or up to 80 character screens.  The sound circuits can duplicate complex waveforms on each of four channels, matching commercial synthesizers in quality.

        The graphics hardware provides a fully bit-mapped image of up to 320H X 200V pixels each, six bits deep for a TV or up to 640H X 40OVpixels each four bits deep for an RGB monitor. Each pixel selects a color value from a 32 entry color palette providing 12 bits of resolution including separate control of up three aspects of the color signal: Hue, Intensity, and Saturation.  The hardware supports slicing the bit map into two levels of playfield plus background, with automatic priority overlay of the playfields.  In addition, the hardware supports eight programmable "sprite processors", each providing an arbitrary number of images 16 pixels wide, arbitrarily tall, and two bits deep which can be rapidly positioned anywhere on the screen with selectable overlay priority.   Pairs of such processors can be "attached" providing 4 bits of color depth for each sprite image.  The resulting screen image can be scrolled s in both the vertical and horizontal directions.

        The color depth of the image may vary from place to place on the screen. Saving both memory space and bandwidth in those portions of the image not requiring many simultaneous colors.  In addition, two of the six color planes may be used in the "hold and control" mode to select between normal indexing of the color palette or direct setting of one of the color components (Hue, Intensity, or Saturation) while preserving the other two components from the pixel immediately to the left.  The hold and control mode allows the construction of very detailed images involving either grey scale shading,  pastel hightlighting, rainbow color effects or any combination of the three.  The Display Instruction Processor (described below) may also be used to change the color palette on the fly.

        LORRAINE supports hardware detection of "collisions" involving either of the playfield images and each of the 4 sets of attachable sprites.  For purposes of collision detection, each of the playfield "objects" may be further refined, indicating that only collisions with a given color or excluding a given color are to be detected. The collision accumulator can be polled and cleared at any time, allowing the detection of separate collisions in different portions of the image.

        LORRAINE includes a hardware "Bit-Blit" co-processor, which may be used to create and move several dozen additional objects in the bit map each frame time, saving and restoring the background as necessary.  The Blitter also provides hardware support for line drawing and polygon filling functions From a personal computer perspective, the Blitter provides a generalized hardware capacity for "desk-top" window management, easily surpassing the software mechanisms underlying such systems as the Apple LISA (TM).

        Each LORRAINE audio channel plays an "audio map" of arbitrary length with frequency and volume set separately.  The audio maps consist of 8 bit "delta" samples describing the waveform to be produced.  Each map array be "played" at a sampeling rate of up to 30 KHz, or any slower rate selectable with fine resolution.  Left alone, each channel automatically repeats its audio map an arbitrary number of times, making the generation of sustained tones a trivial task involving very little memory.  Since each map describes an arbitrary waveforrn a three or four note musical chord can easily be generated by a single channel. LORRAINE produces stereo sound output, normally by summing pairs of audio channels.  Alternatively one audio channel of each pair me be configured to modulate the other channel both by amplitude and frequency.  Since the modulating channel may be sampled at a rate distinct from the normal channel, envelope functions and frequency modulation synthesis effects are easy to achieve.

        Frame synchronization, control register updates, sprite repositioning and automatic color palette and audio channel updates can all be performed by LORRAINE's programmable Display instruction processor.  The DIP acts as yet another co-processor, freeing the 68OOO to execute program logic.

AMIGA Corporation Proprietary and Confidential


July 19, 1983 -- Page 3

        Other built-in I/O includes a keyboard controller, two Atari (tm) compatible game controller with trakball/mouse logic, a serial port to support a modem, and a mini-floppy disc controller.

        The standard configuration includes 128K bytes of graphics/audio/general purpose RAM and 64K bytes of resident firmware ROM.  LORRAINE may be cartridge extended with up to 256K bytes of additional ROM or RAM.   In addition, all 68000 data, address and control lines are accessible, allowing LORRAINE to be integrated with a wide variety of memory, peripheral, and bus-mastering devices.

        LORRAINE includes both high and low-level support for graphics and audio synthesis.  Particular emphasis has been placed on convenient high-performance access to the hardware for video game applications.  LORRAINE will be packaged with a general purpose operating system, a BASIC interpreter, a FORTH interpreter, and several general purpose utilities.


AMIGA Corporation Proprietary and Confidential


Thanks go to the Atari Historical Society for their painstaking research into the former company as well as allowing this document to be reproduced here.




Latest updates to the Amiga History Guide. (more)

· Amiga Hardware
· Amiga History.de
· Amiga Magazine Rack
· Amiga-news(en)(de)
· Amiga.org
· Amiga World
· AmigaOS 4.0
· Amiga University
· Commodore Retrobits
· Dave Haynie archive
· Lemon Amiga
· MorphOS Support
· morphos-news.de


Other interesting items in the archive!



home · changes · amiga history · features · amiga models
magazines · technical · interviews · internet links · downloads

Hosted by:
Bambi - The Amiga Web Server