In modern computers the operating system consists of the system
software that "makes the hardware usable" and provides shared
components to application software. The operating system normally
"comes with" the computer. In the Amiga, like on other computers,
the operating system consists of a part that is loaded from disk
(floppy disk or hard disk), and a part which is stored in higher
speed and/or read only memory (e.g. ROM or PROM chips on the
CAOS, Tripos, AmigaDOS and Intuition
According to the original plans, the Amiga hardware was to be
accompanied by CAOS, which stood for "Commodore Amiga Operating
System", and was to be built on top of lower-level components like
the Exec kernel. Instead of the complete CAOS, of which the
intended "DOS" library was running late and thus never made it into a shipping
version, the DOS portion (but not the kernel) of a British research project
known as Tripos (named after the chair where Cambridge University exam
candidates had to sit), was ported and merged into the rest of the Amiga
When the Tripos manual was edited,
renaming instances of "Tripos" to "AmigaDOS"
and removing references to the Tripos
kernel, some parts were left in place with
the result that the (renamed) "AmigaDOS" was
still referenced as an operating system
(which Tripos originally was), leading to
some confusion about the name of the Amiga
operating system. This search and replace
operation is the reason why at Cloanto we
have both original "AmigaDOS" documentation
from 1985 and 1986 stating that "AmigaDOS is
a multi-processing operating system designed
for the Amiga", and written developer's
documentation by Commodore saying that
"AmigaDOS" should not be used to refer to
the name of the Amiga operating system.
When the Amiga was launched, in 1985, operating systems, and
the word "operating system" itself, while well known to computer
science students, did not have as strong an identity and
recognition to the broad audience as they would have in the
following decades. "OS" was beginning to be used in engineering
and academic environments, as can be guessed from the "OS" in Commodore's
"CAOS" project naming, its British "Tripos" friend, and even the "GEOS"
software for the C64. But for the public at large, and even for the 1985 Byte Magazine Amiga article (included
in Amiga Forever), which introduced the Amiga to the masses, the
Amiga and its operating system were simply... the "Amiga". (The
article also uses terms like "disk operating system" and
"desktop", but not
"AmigaDOS" or "operating system".)
By the 1985 launch event the Amiga code was still unfinished. The
then-current ROM ("Kickstart") version was 0.7, and did not include a desktop
user interface, but rather booted into a command line window titled "AmigaDOS",
while the screen title bar displayed the capitalized name "INTUITION".
"Intuition" was also a part of the 1985 New York Amiga launch presentations.
Later it was repositioned into a more technical role, not exposed in the screen
title, but remaining documented for developers as the Amiga component providing
user interface functionality (windows features and user interface elements like
menus, buttons and other controls).
As computer users became more aware of what an "operating system" was, and
recognized "OS" as its abbreviation, it was also clear that the "DOS" part of
"AmigaDOS" was somewhat of an understatement for an operating system which
comprised not only a "disk" part, but also substantial multitasking, multimedia
and other components. Also, "DOS" brought to mind IBM and Microsoft's much less
Slowly, "Amiga OS" became used to refer to the Amiga operating
system as a whole, while "AmigaDOS" and "DOS"
retained the intended focus on the disk and file subsystem.
In light of the historical roots of the Amiga operating system
subsequent official company decisions and popular use, we consider "Amiga OS",
which is both generic and formally correct, to be a
better name for the Amiga operating system than the more narrow
"Kickstart" and "AmigaDOS" names.
From Amiga OS to AmigaOS
While other companies too used "OS" as a stand-alone word in their operating
system names (e.g. Apple, for its original "Mac OS" series), somebody possibly
decided that "OS" in itself, meaning "operating system", was too generic. It so
occurred that Amiga OS 4.0 became AmigaOS 4.0 (without the space before "OS").
The name "Workbench" was originally not meant to
express the concept of an "operating system" as in "OS" or
"DOS". Neither Commodore-Amiga nor any of its
successors ever used the word "Workbench" to refer to an operating system. Nevertheless, perhaps also because of the lack of
branding clarity about what ought to have been the "real" name
of the Amiga operating system, and because of Cloanto's
increasing use of this word in Amiga Forever, "Workbench" kept receiving an
increasing preference by the public.
One of the many unique points of the Amiga Forever project is its consistent
use of the name "Workbench" for the operating system, which as such has become
a Cloanto "trademark".
Cloanto's use of the "Workbench" name for
the operating system also helps avoid
confusion with projects like AmigaOS 4.0, as Amiga Forever focuses entirely on "Classic" Amiga
Historically, there are two other uses of the name "Workbench" within the
- One of the floppy disks that shipped
with early Amiga computers was called
"Workbench", while other disks in the
same set were named "Kickstart",
"Extras", "Fonts", etc.
- "Workbench" was also a name used for
the desktop user interface
Never, however, was the operating system
itself called "Workbench", or did Commodore try to use the term "Workbench" as a broader
operating system brand.
The first Amiga, i.e. the Amiga 1000, had an additional floppy
disk, named "Kickstart". The Kickstart disk was needed because
when the Amiga 1000 shipped, the ROM-based part of the operating
system was not stable enough, so the machine was manufactured with
only enough code to boot into the operating system from the Kickstart disk. After
that, the Amiga 1000, like other Amiga models (which had a "real"
ROM chip on their motherboard), could continue loading from other floppy
disks (e.g. games), or from hard disk. Interestingly enough, the Amiga 3000 had
a similar problem (i.e. the hardware was finished before the new
operating system was ready), so that early versions of it loaded
their operating system ROM code from a "kickstart" file (located
on hard disk).
Interviewed by Cloanto in 2015, Intuition
developer RJ Mical described the names used
by the Amiga team in the early development
days. While individual Amiga OS components
had prominent recognition and were referred
to by name, e.g. "Exec" or "Intuition", the
set as a whole, and as such what was seen as
the Amiga operating system, was referred to
as "Kickstart" for a long time.