The Amiga 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.

There are generally 2 separate version numbers for each version of Kickstart, there is the major and minor version number – such as 1.2, 2.0 and 3.1, and there is the internal version for that kickstart, such as 31.34, 37.350 and 39.106.  Here at the Amiga museum, we will be referring to the major and minor version numbers, but referencing the internal version numbers for the different versions on the appropriate pages.  This is for reasons of clarity, as many people may only be familiar with the version 1, 2 and 3 numbering scheme.  Also if we go by the internal version numbers, they start at 31 with Kickstart 1.1 (there were versions before that, but Kickstart 1.0 didn’t have a proper internal number, and versions of Kickstart prior to Kickstart 1.0 were not available to the public, only to developers before the launch of the Amiga), and go up to 34 for Kickstart 1.3, and jump to 37 for Kickstart 2, because of the big changes and multiple revisions  that happened between 1.3 and 2.0.  Kickstart 3.0 is 39 and Kickstart 3.1 is 40.  Notice how it’s not a simple linear progression?  Where possible, the appropriate versions, even if they didn’t get released to the general public are included, such as Kickstart 1.4 (v36).

  • Kickstart 1.0 (v30?)
  • Kickstart 1.1 (v31 for NTSC, v32 for PAL)
  • Kickstart 1.2 (v33)
  • Kickstart 1.3 (v34)
  • Kickstart 1.4beta (v36)
  • Kickstart 2.0 (v37)
  • Kickstart 3.0 (v39)
  • Kickstart 3.1 (v40)

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.  And on all machines, it contains the code to start from a 3.5″ double density floppy disk – even on machines such as the CDTV and CD32 that didn’t have a 3.5″ disk drive – and in the case of the CD32, didn’t even have an appropriate connector to attach one.

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.  Even some command-line programs that can be used in a CLI or Shell are a part of Kickstart and thus do not need to load from a storage device.

Kickstart can be patched by software, to fix errors in Kickstart, or to add new features not required to start up the machine.  Most notably, this is what Workbench 2.1 does, upgrading Kickstart v37 to Kickstart v38.

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