What is Kickstart?

Kickstart is specific for each Amiga model, and contains within it the heart of the Amiga Operating system, which is called EXEC (designed by Carl Sassenrath).  It also contains within it the window and menu system, called INTUITION (designed by R J Mical).  It performs a basic check of the hardware, with success and/or failures communicated to the user with various coloured screen displays.  It also contains a number of other modules, such as audio.device (for easy access to the audio hardware for programmers), and graphics.library (a dynamic linked library to make drawing graphics easy for programmers), and many more.  Finally, in version 1.2 and later, it contains AUTOCONFIG (expansion.library), which configures all expansion devices automatically, without user intervention or the need for the user to do anything.  In this way, AUTOCONFIG was a predecessor to the “Plug n play” system commonly used today.

Basically it is special software that contains everything needed to make the Amiga computer useful.

On each page dedicated to each release of Kickstart, there will be at the bottom a listing of the modules contained within that version of Kickstart, which also shows the date that was finalised.  When there are several versions, such as supporting different hardware, or several revisions, they will be shown as such and a separate listing available.  There were a total of 22 modules in Kickstart 1.0 for the Amiga 1000, and there were a total of 43 modules in Kickstart 3.1 (40.68) for Amiga 1200 and Amiga 4000.

The reason it is specific for each model of Amiga, is so that it can support the specific hardware within that machine – so in an Amiga 600/1200/4000 Kickstart contains the necessary computer code to enable the machine to start from the IDE interface, while in an Amiga 3000/3000T it has the computer code to start the machine from the SCSI II interface.  On the CDTV and CD32 machines, it enables the machine to start from the CD drives built into the machine.

Most of the Amigas Operating system is held in Kickstart, enabling programmers to make use of it to start their own software.  In this way, Workbench is separate, although closely tied to Kickstart.

Kickstart can be patched by software, to fix errors in Kickstart, or to add new features not required to start up the machine.

Here is a list of all the known Amiga Kickstart versions, along with information about them (size, machine, checksum, etc): here.