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Name of the Amiga Operating System



Q: "AmigaDOS", "Amiga OS", "AmigaOS", "Workbench", "Kickstart"... What is the correct name of the Amiga operating system?




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 computer motherboard).

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 operating system.

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-Amiga 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-Amiga'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". The "Intuition" name was also used in 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).

Amiga OS

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 sophisticated "DOS".

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.

By 1991, "Amiga OS" was used as the operating system name in publications like "Amiga OS 2.0" (Wilfried Häring, Markt & Technik Verlag AG).

Version 3.1 disk images released by Commodore-Amiga in 1993 had copyright notices indicating "Amiga Operating System". Following the voluntary bankruptcy and liquidation of the Commodore-Amiga companies in 1994, the operating system was officially released as "Amiga OS 3.1".

In light of the historical roots of the Amiga operating system and of 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.

Sun Microsystems, whose Sun 2 and Sun 3 workstations had been in use at Amiga first, and Commodore-Amiga later, to build parts of the Amiga operating systems, had been branding its own operating system as "SunOS" (without the space) at least since SunOS 3.5 and 4.0 in 1988.

It took much longer for Apple to drop the space in its "Mac OS", which became "macOS" only in 2016.

While the Amiga operating system was still marketed as "Amiga OS" (with the space) in 1994, under ESCOM's ownership in 1995 the name "AmigaOS" (without the space) started being used.

By the year 2000, the "AmigaOS" name was being used quite pervasively by Amiga, Inc. both in the updated copyright notices and in the official operating system file set, e.g. as an "AmigaOS ROM Update" item which was part of version 44.13 of the SetPatch command. It was only natural then for AmigaOS 4.0 to follow without the space.


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 systems.

Historically, there are two other uses of the name "Workbench" within the Amiga family:

  • 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-Amiga 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.

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Article ID:15-108
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Last Update:2019-05-18
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