Game changers: Jay Miner


May 31, 1932 – June 20, 1994

Jay Miner was a designer. Friends would say that his mind was always active designing something. He started off designing digital voltmeters, calculators and portable pacemakers but transitioned to the home computer market when he started working for Atari in the 1970s.

Jay Miner Amiga Founder

Above: Jay Miner

He later created the Amiga, a revolutionary computer for the time that sold very well until Commodore filed for Bankrupcy in 1994.

Atari Days

Jay Miner worked on Atari’s first video game console, the Atari Video Computer System, also known as the Atari 2600. He then worked on Atari’s first home computers, the Atari 400 and Atari 800 8-bit computers. Jay was a chip designer for Atari. His first contribution was the Television Interface Adapter (TIA). This is the computer chip at the heart of the Ataro 2600. The concept behind the TIA was expanded for the Atari 400 and Atari 800 in the CTIA and the GTIA. The TIA, CTIA and GTIA were the heart of the graphics systems freeing my the main processor to do other activies.

Amiga Corporation

Like many Atari employees, Jay was tired of upper management and how they treated their employees and left to start up his own company. Jay set up Amiga Corporation with David Morse, called Hi-Toro. This company would later be called Amiga Corporation before Commodore International bought the company outright in 1984.

Initially, Jay Miner set out to build a 68000-based game console. However, Jay soon realized that they had the foundation of a revolutionary new computer and changed the design in that regard. However, this meant more time would pass and cash flow was a problem. In the early years, Jay’s Amiga Corporation made joysticks and other add ons for the Atari 2600 in order to provide revenue. However, with capital running out, Jay was able to get a 500,000 loan from Atari that came due just before Commodore made an offer to buy the company.

In 1984, Jay sold Amiga Corporation to Commodore International and stayed on as a chief designer. However, due to budget cuts at Commodore, the first Amiga, the Amiga 1000, had a few hardware compromises, one of which was expandability.

The Amiga

The Amiga computer was different from computers of the day, including the new Macintosh, in that it offered the following: preemptive Multitasking, 8-bit stereo sound with four channels, and a top resolution of 640 x400 and offered overscan which was vital for video.

The amiga performed graphics and sound tasks without the need for the main processor, the Motorola 68000. The Amiga, running at 7.14MHz could easily run circles around other PCs running well over 25MHz. The decentralized design of the Amiga is essentially how computers are designed today.

Amiga 1000 Retro Computer

Above: Amiga 1000 Retro Computer

Essentially, the Amiga was the first multimedia company and it took severe years before Commodore realized what they had and how to market it. However, by 1994, after finally understanding the value of the computer and beginning to deliver several multimedia devices, Commodore was bankrupt and several months later, Jay Miner dies of kidney complications.

Hobby Market

The Amiga has one of the biggest and active hobby markets. Hardware is still produced for the classic hardware and several new hardware peripherals have been launched for OS4.0 based computers launch in the early 2000s. OS4.0 is the new OS created by Hyperion and continues to release up dates with plans for their operating system to run on the soon to be releases Amiga X1000.

Amiga X1000

Above: Amiga X1000

Jay Miner is well respected by the hobby market, whose members often dream of seeing the Amiga come back strong once again. Jay Miner’s Amiga allowed many early computers users to do many things including creative activities like 3D rendering and design, video production, music composition and graphics arts.