So who exactly is this lunatic, anyway?

OK. I'm John Shepard (but you knew that) and I like Amigas (you probably figured that part out too).

(Like the ad says, sometimes life calls for deeper answers...)

I'm 21 years old and I was born and raised in Seymour, Indiana - that's John Mellencamp's "Small Town" for those keeping track. I hated school. I hated Seymour. I've been attending IUPU Columbus (the weird bastard child of Indiana University and Purdue University meets a community college) - and at the current rate I was taking classes there, I'd probably graduate in 2016. I'm probably switching to Ivy Tech next year.

Meanwhile, I work at Compassworks, a small but good Web development company here in Columbus, Indiana. Here I live three hops from the MCI Backbone, with two Power Macs on my desk, living on the shredding edge of technology, not to mention surfing the Net with a FAST connection on lunch breaks.

I first heard about the Amiga in 1986, flipping through computer magazines. I'd read in an article not long prior that "some computers can display as many as 256 colors." So here in a yearly computer roundup, I was quite stunned to see, among the specs of the different machines, color depths like "8, 256, 16, b&w, 16, 4096, 16..." and of course my eye was drawn to the four-digit entry. Some new Commodore thing. Weird. I already knew about the Atari ST, but this Amiga thing blew it away - a truly staggering color palette, stereo sound, a Mac-like operating system, and the ability to run two programs at once. Coming from the Color Computer, where you were lucky to load two programs at once, that was cool.

I actually got to see an Amiga up close and personal at a stand in a mall in Indianapolis in 1988 - a local Amiga dealer was showing off the new A2000 - and while the dudes were away from the table, I played with it. I already knew how Macintoshes worked - this was very similar - the color scheme was ugly, but oh the graphics! They had a disk full of pictures and animations, things like the old Shoot the Hoop anim, a picture of a Star Destroyer, several other showoffs... and Juggler. This was the stuff of workstations - stuff that should not have even been technically possible. Just one teensy problem: there was no way in hell I was ever going to afford an A2000.

I joined a local computer club in 1989, and was forced to defend my poor little 128K Color Computer against the laughs and ridicule of all these Amiga and PC owners. Even the guy with the Atari 1040ST thought my system was a joke. (Yeah, but at least the CoCo's sound is better...) I saw the A500 do frightening things, and I saw an A2000 with 3MB and a hard drive do multitasking that would scare you - the usual Amiga demo of DPaint III, a spreadsheet, a word processor, a disk formatting, and some smaller things, and just Amiga-M through them repeatedly to drive the point home. Wooooowwww...

A friend of mine in 1993 decided it was time to get an A1200 and sell his aging A500. I offered him $200 for it - and I had my own Amiga at long last. One meg, one floppy, and no monitor... but it was still a hell of a machine, hooked up to a TV and running in black and white, a friend who'd never seen an Amiga before stopped by and saw it, and said "Is this some kind of new Macintosh?" When I told him how much it cost, he was flabbergasted... and he now has an A1200.

I kept throwing new things on the 500, a second floppy, a 2002 monitor, I hooked a Tandy DMP132 up to it, so forth... and then The End came in 1994, the fall of Commodore. Even after that, I continued adding stuff - buying a GVP A500-HD8 and a Kickstart 2.05 ROM from a friend who'd wound up with a particularly trouble-prone A500. The hard drive failed in the HD8, leaving me with a very big RAM expansion with 2MB. And finally some very subtle system problem began to manifest itself - repeated alerts at $002063A2 - which I was unable to resolve. I started shopping again.

The local computer club was breaking up. They owned an A1200 with an 85 meg hard drive - I offered $500 for it. The club treasury was being split up among the members - $125 apiece - and I got my $125 credited toward the 1200. An A1200 with hard drive, after the fall of Commodore, for $375. Can your beer do this?

The hard drive in the 1200 finally died - it was a Connor laptop drive, of which I already had a small collection of broken units. It made a very entertaining sound when it died, too - much like a box of springs being dropped on the ground, followed by the eerie "OOOOOOooooooooohhhhhh." of the drive spinning down... and the more eerie sound of metal grinding as it slowed to a stop.

I replaced it with a Seagate ST5850A, an 850-meg 3.5" hard drive in a 0.75" form factor - the new sub-half-height design that will fit anywhere. It sits happily under the keyboard, with a 44-to-40 pin cable to attach it to the A1200's IDE port, aside from mounting problems and heat dissipation, you'd never know the 1200 wasn't designed for it. And I, of course, began filling it up with stuff.

Long about December I shoved a Microbotics 68030 accelerator in there. Life begins at fifty - megahertz, that is. 50MHz 68030. 50MHz 68882. 4MB Fast RAM. Dream system. Not long afterwards, I put it on the Net with a 14.4 modem.

That 1200 is now home to a 16MB SIMM, a Mac emulator, a Dataflyer SCSI+, and an external high density floppy drive. It's in my car right now, on its way to my new apartment where it will live from now on.

This boring story has told you almost nothing about me. Go here to find out more.

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