Amiga's history includes something called "Ranger" that supposedly was either meant to be the next generation system to be released after the Amiga 1000 was released, or the codename for the next version of the custom chipset.

The name was in use till 1987, when the Los Gatos labs were closed and development of the Amiga was moved to Pennsylvania (and Jay Miner left). Today, the slow-fast memory area is still occasionally referred to as the "Ranger" RAM.

Ranger is certainly not AGA, since that should be a later project started around 1990.

So... what is known of this system/chipset? Was it ever officially mentioned in (for example) developer's documentation or DevCon papers? Was there ever a description of the intended features?

Ranger was to be the next generation Amiga, which the original West Coast Amiga engineers began working on in 1986-87, following the release of the Amiga 1000. Jay Miner improved the graphics chipset for Ranger to address the twin problems of chip (i.e. Graphics, Sound, DMA) RAM memory space and bandwidth in the Amiga 1000.

The Original Amiga chipset (OCS) allowed a maximum of 512K of chip RAM. This was recognized early on as too limiting, and the Ranger was enhanced to support 2M chip RAM. Additionally, Ranger was designed to make use of VRAM in order to improve the memory bandwidth available for graphics. This would allow for more bitplanes (up to 7) and higher display resolutions (up to 1024x1024). According to the Wikipedia article on Ranger, work on the chipset enhancements was completed before Jay Miner departed Commodore. Other enhancements such as a full 32-bit 68020 CPU were also contemplated for Ranger, but it is not clear how far that work ever got, and Commodore management chose a different path forward.

Because of the cost premium of VRAM vs. DRAM at the time, Commodore management decided to drop Ranger in favor of the Commodore-West Germany project to deliver a more expandable and professional Amiga system in the form of the A2000, while continuing to use the OCS. Noting that there was still no solution to the 512K chip RAM limit, Commodore quickly followed the A2000 release with an enhanced Agnus chip supporting 1M of chip RAM. Later, through the introduction of the Enhanced Amiga Chipset (ECS), the Ranger capability of supporting 2M chip RAM would be realized. This was first shipped along with the Amiga A3000.

Eventually, the Pandora project gained traction within Commodore. This project sought to offer more graphics bandwidth for enhanced resolutions, colors, bit-planes, sprites, and playfields, much like Ranger had sought to do several years earlier. Pandora would eventually be delivered as the Advanced Amiga Graphics Architecture (AGA) chipset found in the Amiga A4000, A1200, and CD32. AGA accomplished much of what was intended for Ranger, if not more in certain respects. However, it was delivered 5 years later and at a time when other bigger industry players had largely caught up to the Amiga's original graphical abilities. The failure to deliver the more advanced graphics chipset sooner is often cited as contributing to the decline of the Amiga and Commodore in the 1990s.

Dave Haynie created a specification for the never delivered Amiga A3000+ in 1991. This could have been the first machine to use Pandora, and so the specification contains some detailed early descriptions of it.

Ranger would be the next generation of Amiga chipset after Original Chipset (OCS). It was based on 68010 CPU and supports 2MB chipram. New chipset would have 128bit color registers to support 7-bit color depths and would be capable to show 7-bit colors in 1024x1024 resolution. High memory bandwith required for this enhancements would be provided using VRAM chips. Commodore preferred to cancel the project due to the high price of the chipset. This was mostly because of expensive VRAM. Instead they release Enhanced Chipset in 1990 (ECS) which was a slightly improved OCS so that most of the poeple know ECS as 2MB OCS.

They started another project AAA in 1988 for 3rd generation chipset which retains the VRAM idea. When they realize they don't have resources to complete AAA in time, they quickly develop and release a reduced version named AA (or AGA) in 1992 to catchup the competition and they failed.

Presumably, Ranger -if not cancelled- would be something similar to AGA but would be available earlier.

  • 1
    This would be great with some sources – pipe Apr 19 '17 at 22:55
  • It's a fragment from some internet website, I remember the wording. – user180940 Apr 20 '17 at 3:30
  • That said, this explanation never really convinced me. There is simply too much time from 1985 to 1990 (when AGA development must have started). I doubt AAA was started much earlier than 1990 either, since no sources at the time ever quoted it before AGA and AmigaOS 3.0 were out (which is when people started talking about "Retargetable Graphics". – user180940 Apr 20 '17 at 3:32
  • My answer was based on Turkish text about the unfishied projects in Amiga history which I wrote back in 2011 which was also referring to wikipedia and www.amigahistory.co.uk articles and some additional rumors. – wizofwor Apr 20 '17 at 6:33

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