The Twists and Turns of the Amiga Saga
Since the Amiga was launched it has seen a great many changes many for
the better, most for the worst. Amiga History Guide looks back to the golden age of the
Amiga. Stand by with the tissues.
Select a year by clicking the links below:
1980: The idea
The story begins in an Atari development lab where Jay Miner is developing
8-bit systems, such as the 2600, 400 and 800. The basic design of these machines
rely upon a number of custom chips to drive the audio and graphics display.
At the time Atari was one of the most successful companies of the time, occupying
the position held by Nintendo or Sony today. However, Jay has become increasingly
bored with the machine design. Instead of further refining existing technology,
he proposes the development of a new computer based upon the Motorola 68000
processor. Atari refuse, content with the 8-bit cashcow that they have created
- a fatal error on their part that eventually leads to the video game crash
of the mid-1980s. In frustration Miner quits Atari and moves to Zimast where
he designs chips for pacemakers.
1982: Below the radar
The story picks up again in 1982 when Jay Miner receives a telephone call from
Larry Kaplan - a former colleague who left Atari to create Activision. Like
Miner, Kaplan had become frustrated with the current market and was searching
for investors to start a game company. By luck, Jay knew three dentists who
wanted to invest $7 million into the growing games market. This led to the creation
of Hi-Toro, based in Santa Clara (USA). During this time Dave Morse is recruited
as Chief Executive Officer, who leaves his role as vice-president of marketing
at Tonka Toys to take the job.
However, the continued delays associated with managing a business were beginning
to show on Larry Kaplan, who becomes increasingly impatient with the company's
slow pace and leaves his position as vice president. To fill Kaplan's former
position Dave Morse offers the job to Miner, who is still working for Zimast
at the time. With Miner onboard, Hi-Toro begins to distinguish itself from other
developers. In a 1988 interview with Amiga
User International, Miner indicates that the creation of the Lorraine prototype
was his idea soon after joining Hi-Toro:
I had wanted for years to build a super personal computer based around
the Motorola sixty-eight thousand micro processor. Atari had turned me down
and here was my big chance, as long as it could be sold in a stripped down,
low-cost version version for video games Dave Morse and the financial backers
were happy. As long as it was unlimited in its expandability as a high level
home computer, I was happy"
To enable the development, Hi-Toro was divided into two groups - the Atari
Peripheral group consisted of marketers and manufacturers that developed Hi-Toro's
joysticks and games for the Atari 2600. These include the PowerStick
and JoyBoard - game controllers that demonstrate
the pioneering spirit of game development during the 1980s, as well as a small
selection of simplistic games. The second group was the computer development
team, who would work on a project codenamed 'Lorraine', named after Dave Morse's
wife. Although the group was small initially, they had lofty intentions. The
aim of the Lorraine prototype was to
create a monster game machine that had a 3.5" floppy drive and a keyboard.
It was predicted that third party developers, such as Activision and Imagic,
would be the dominant game designers, so Hi-Toro made it as easy as possible
to directly develop games. This was a radical move for the market; Atari, like
the contemporary Nintendo and Sony were trying to create a closed system and
fight 3rd party developers. Hi-Toro were creating a machine that would reject
this concept, opening the flood gates to hundreds of potential developers. In
the AUI interview Jay Miner describes his experience of viewing of a military
flight simulator developed by Singer-Link. Impressed by what he saw, Miner begins
to consider the use of blitters to improve the graphics capabilities. This is
eventually developed into HAM (Hold and Modify) during 1985. This made it possible
to display 4096 colours at the screen by changing the colour registers. However,
early reports suggest that he was willing to remove these capabilities when
he realized how slow it was. It was only when the motherboard designer informed
him its removal would leave a hole in the middle of the motherboard that he
accepts that it will be present in the final version - a wise decision that
would distinguish the Commodore Amiga from its Atari rival many years later.
A final significant event that took place during 1982 is the company's' name
change. In an attempt to distinguish itself from the Japanese lawnmower firm
'Toro', the company name is changed to 'Amiga Incorporated'. The reason for
the choice of Amiga has become legendary - Miner wanted a 'friendly' name that
would dispel the air of confusion that surrounds most computers. As the Spanish
word for female friend, Amiga fitted this profile. The fact that it came before
Apple and Atari in listings also helped. Although Miner was unhappy with the
name initially, he soon realized the impact that it could have.
1983: From design concept to breadboard
For many businesses in the early gaming industry, 1983 was a dark time. It
was becoming increasingly evident that the market was on the brink of collapse,
a crash so severe that the media were beginning to question if the computer
entertainment industry itself was just a short-lived phenomenon. Even the Warner-owned
Amiga Corp. were tightening their belts, ceasing software and hardware development
in a haphazard fashion. Amiga Inc. were also feeling the effects. Although the
Atari peripherals had generated a steady revenue stream during the previous
year, they were loosing money fast. The Lorraine turned into their only chance
of salvation and they chose to recruit new staff to work on the Lorraine prototype.
This included Bob Burns, Glenn Keller, Dale Luck, RJ Mical (Software Engineer)
, Dave Needle, Ron Nicolson, Bob Pariseau and Carl Sassenrath. The influx of
fresh blood allowed the project team to be split into two groups - hardware
and software. Jay Miner led the hardware development team, while Dale Luck and
his group concentrated on getting the OS working through software simulation.
In an interview
RJ Mical described his role at Amiga Inc:
" I started as Software Engineer at Amiga where I contributed to
the graphics library development. I created Intuition, the Amiga's user interface
and windowing/menu system -- what a haul that was: seven months of 100-hour
weeks to get it finished in time for the launch of the Amiga! I was Director
of System Software for a while too. I didn't help develop the Joyboard (a
joystick controller in the form of a skiboard), but I was a user. We created
a game for it called the Zen Meditation game. The object was to sit in lotus-position
on the Joyboard and move as little as possible for as long as possible. The
goal was to reach Nirvana by accumulating bonus kharma points. It's a long
story; I guess you had to be there... "
By September 1983 the custom chip prototypes were mostly finished- there were
3 in all: Agnus (Address Generator), Daphne, that would later be renamed Denise
(Display Adapter) and Portia, eventually called Paula (Ports and Audio). The
only problem was shrinking them, they looked more like something from a mainframe
rather than the next generation of microcomputer. Amiga Inc. were also suffering
from a severe cash flow crisis. Several employees were forced to take out second
mortgages or find finances elsewhere to support the company. The dream was close
to completion, but could easily have been destroyed.
1984: First sightings
After two years of development the world got its first look at Amiga Inc's
hardware. In an attempt to finance the project, the Lorraine was shown to several
interested investors at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago on January
4th, 1984. However, the custom chips weren't finished and the entire project
was still held together by four breadboards. During the show RJ Mical and Dale
Luck wrote a bouncing ball animation - a demo that showed a red & white
sphere bouncing around the screen. The 'Boing Ball' soon became a symbol of
the Amigas technical prowess and was later adopted as a symbol of rebellion
against the Commodore management. Although there was considerable interest in
the hardware, the show did not produce any conclusive results.
By this time debts were piling up and the Amiga team were forced to place all
they owned on the line, Dave Morse took out a second mortgage on his house.
In an attempt to gain outside funding Amiga Inc. made an appeal to Sony, Apple,
Silicon Graphics, Atari, and many others. Although these companies expressed
an interest in the Amiga, they did not provide a suitable offer. Steve Jobs
of Apple made the excuse that there was too much hardware, even though the newly
redesigned board consisted of just three chips. Only Atari Inc. (managed by
Warner at the time) made a serious offer for the Amiga custom chips, loaning
$500,000 to keep the company alive while a license agreement was constructed.
In a 1992 interview, Miner indicated the deal was
a last ditch attempt:
"Atari gave us $500,000 with the stipulation that we had one month
to come to a deal with them about the future of the Amiga chipset or pay them
back, or they got the rights. This was a dumb thing to agree to but there
was no choice."
The tentative plans between Amiga and Atari incorporated terms that Atari would
purchase one million preferred shares of Amiga at $3 each by September 1st.
However, Atari knew that Amiga, Inc. could not pay back the money and started
to play dirty, reducing the amount offered to just 98 cents per share for the
company. To make matters worse, Atari only wanted the Amiga technology in an
attempt to get into the 16 bit market before Commodore (who were working on
a Unix box) and had no interest in the team that created it. Amiga grudgingly
accepted the offer. However, the Atari deal soon turned sour. On Tuesday July
3rd, Atari employees were informed all 8-bit projects have been canceled and
the Amiga project was on hold. Facing cancellation the Amiga team began to look
around for other options in an attempt to find a buyer.
While these events are being played out, Jack Tramiel leaves Commodore with
half of the engineering staff and is sued by the company for breach of Commodore's
propietary secrets. Just a few days later Tramiel purchases Warner's Atari Consumer
company to take advantage of its existing manufacture and distribution channels
and renames Tramiel Technologies to Atari Corp. He subsequently discovers the
original Atari/Amiga agreement and files a $100 million suit in the Santa Clara
County Superior Court on Monday, August 13th against Commodore & Jay Miner
individually, charging a breach of contract. Atari suggest that Amiga fraudulently
dealt with other potential buyers after agreeing to negotiate licensing specific
microprocessors to Atari Inc. in return for the $500,000 advance payment. In
an attempt to gain revenge on his old company for suing him, Tramiel sought
damages and an injunction to prevent Amiga from delivering or selling chips
to any other company.
Fortunately help is at hand and Commodore decide that the Amiga is worth the
potential cost. Two days later, on August 15th, Commodore International Ltd.
announced they would purchase the cash strapped Amiga Inc. In a moment of rebellion,
the Amiga team persuaded Commodore to raise its bid to $4.25 a share and give
them $1,000,00 to pay their Atari debts. A few weeks the Amiga hardware and
its creators moved to the newly created subsidiary, 'Commodore-Amiga Inc.' and
continued to develop the newly renamed Amiga computer with 27 million dollars
of extra development money. The Amiga had been saved!!!
The newly formed Commodore-Amiga started to upgrade the Amigas design, turning
the Lorraine game machine into a fully fledged computer, that would eventually
become the Commodore-Amiga 1000. The computer shows
many characteristics of a high-end workstation (for the time). The memory was
doubled to 256K and a neat "garage" desktop unit was built that allowed the
keyboard to actually fit under the machine. Jay Miner recalled the early days
at Commodore with nostalgia:
"Commodore was very good for AMIGA in the beginning. They made many
improvements in the things that we wanted but we did not have the resources
to accomplish. The AMIGA originally only had three hundred and twenty colours
across the screen, even in the six forty mode. They also improved the colour
by moving the NTSC converter off the chip. They paid off our creditors including
my loans to the company and they got us a beautiful facility is Los Gatos
and most surprising in 1984, sent the entire company, including wives and
sweethearts out to New York for a grand AMIGA launching party at the Rockerfeller
Centre" (Jay Miner, AUI Interview,
For those familiar with Commodore's later treatment of the Amiga, its early
days were marked by uncharacteristic generosity. Perhaps Commodore genuinely
believed that they had found the holy grail to the 16-bit market. As part of
the arrangement Commodore insisted upon their own schedule. Originally intended
as an entirely mouse driven system, 'Intuition' was taking some time to develop
into a full computer operating system. In an attempt to meet their deadline,
Commodore employed the British developers, MetaComCo
to port a version of Tripos and incorporate it into
the existing code (Note the similarities to the Linux decision during 1999).
However, the results was far below the expectations of Jay Miner and his team,
lacking many of the features that they had intended (resource-tracking, etc.).
1985: Before its Time
While Commodore were focussing their resources into the Amiga, the Tramiel-owned
Atari had not abandoned their goal of 16-bit domination. Through the use of
off-the-shelf hardware and software the company constructed their own 16-bit
platform - the Atari ST - in record time. This used a 68k port of the CP/M operating
system, which was integrated with the GEM user interface. The result was a single
tasking OS that required a love of the colour green to be used over a long period.
However, its quick design made it significantly cheaper and easier to manufacture,
appearing several months before the Commodore AMIGA. In spite of their initial
defeat, Jack Tramiel demonstrated a willingness to dominate his former company
in the market place.
Just 11 months after Commodore had bought the ailing Amiga Inc, they unveiled
the product of that union. The Commodore Amiga (the initial name of the Amiga
1000) was unveiled at the Lincoln Centre in New York on July 23rd in a media
frenzy. For the launch Commodore had hired Andy Warhol
& Debbie Harry (lead singer of Blondie) to demonstrate the Amiga's graphics
capabilities using Island Graphics Graphicraft. This was accompanied by a full
score synthesized by Roger Powell and Mike Boom, author of Musicraft.
The Commodore Amiga was officially launched in September 1985 for £1,500.
The world's first Amiga magazine - Amiga World - was launched soon after. At
the time this price was a major detractor that placed it in the high-end region
occupied by the Apple Macintosh. In comparison, the Atari ST was selling for
less than half the price. It was later recognized that this was Commodores'
first mistake. Rather than promoting the Amiga as a professional machine, they
sought to replicate the success of the Atari ST. However, the Atari ST had built
a steady market since its launch that made it a difficult adversary, with the
Amiga playing second fiddle to the ST regarding game releases.
It is difficult to indicate just how advanced the Amiga was compared to other
systems. Apple had a graphical interface but was largely restricted to the black
and white monitor display, whilst PCs were still horrible text based systems.
The Amiga also had an ace up its sleeve by the fact that it was TV compatible
and could be used for editing footage. A task that even now the Mac and PC cannot
do as standard. The Juggler demo, consisting of a character juggling reflective
balls in a 3D environment, attracted customers to the graphical capabilities.
This spurred Electronic Arts to rewrite their IBM PC package, Prism (which was
an enhanced port of Doodle for Xerox machines) and release it for the Amiga
during September. The rewrite was christened Deluxe Paint and the rest is history.
1986: Creating a Cult
At this early point in the Amiga's history Commodore weren't complacent, and
started developing two new systems based upon the A1000. The first, titled the
A2000, was designed by two teams- the original Amiga creators in Los Gatos,
USA, and another in Germany. However, in a wave of cost cutting the Los Gatos
facility was closed, the original crew were laid off, and the German design
was chosen. . The original Amiga team became increasingly disgruntled with Commodore,
both for their lack of innovation and the way they were selling the machine.
Although it is considered to be technically inferior and was not considered
to be a suitable follow-up to the newly renamed Amiga 1000,
Jay Miner was pleased with the direction that the high-end models were being
taken, with an emphasis upon expandability.
In the market place, the ST, receiving numerous conversions of past titles
was still beating the Amiga. The most successful market at the time was in America,
although Commodore appeared half-hearted about selling the Amiga as a serious
machine. Allowing the likes of IBM and Apple to dominate the industry and move
into the home.
1987: "We sell to the masses, not the classes"
This year saw the first major system upgrade with the release of the high-end
Amiga 2000 and the low-end Amiga 500. The A2000
was promoted as a multimedia machine in the USA. In Europe, the A500 began to
take over the ST's market, finally getting games that used the machines advantages.
Despite its increased cost in comparison to the ST, the Amiga 500 became the
object of desire for many people, promoting the initial move from existing 8-bit
machines (such as the Spectrum and Amstrad) into 16-bit technology. The machine
represented a changing goal for Commodore. They had come upon the Amiga quite
by accident but, through a combination of innovative hardware and operating
system with Commodore's ability to sell to the masses, the Amiga was a sure
fire hit, redefining the home computer market and making so-called luxury features
such as multitasking and colour a standard long before Microsoft or Apple sold
these to the masses.
In the Commodore boardroom dramatic events were unfolding. On April 22, Chairman
Irving Gould replaced Rattigan who was currently in control of Commodore. It
is unclear as to why he was replaced after turning the company around. The company
had posted $28 million in profits over the four quarters ending in March 1987.
Rattigan claimed that Chairman Gould forced him out due to personality conflicts
and that Gould was upset about Rattigan getting credit for the company's turnaround.
Gould argued that the profits in the U.S. were nothing compared to the drop
on market share overseas where 70% of its market was. Under Gould's control,
the North American operation was changed from an independent operation to a
sale and marketing division. The payroll was also cut from 4,700 to 3,100, including
half the North American headquarters' corporate staff, and five plants were
1988: Taking over the world
The Amiga began to overtake the Atari ST in the marketplace with more games
being released that simply could not be done on the ST. In an attempt to challenge
Commodore's purchase of Amiga Inc. in 1984, Atari took Commodore to court claiming
that it had given money to research the Amiga. Commodore won the battle. The
8-bit market took a sky dive as full price games dropped considerably in sales,
only to be revived by a growing budget market, headed by the likes of Codemasters
and Alternative, persuading the big boys to stay with 8-bit for another 3 years.
This was the year that the 16-bit market began to develop in the UK and several
long-running Amiga magazines were launched.
1989: There may be trouble ahead
Cracks were beginning to be shown in Commodores armour as Microsoft and Apple
began to really take over the workplace. Commodore allowed the entire market
to stagnate, safe in the knowledge that their old enemy, Atari was dead in the
water. However, there was evidence that many of Commodore's old tactics were
no longer working. Canadian records for January 31st indicate the company was
charged $40,000 for 'price discrimination' (price fixing). In spite of these
warnings only minor upgrades were made available during 1989, such as the Amiga
chipset being upgraded to allow 1MB Chip Ram. Only the UK market was marketing
the Amiga effectively. David Pleasance, future head of Commodore UK, creates
the "A500 Batman bundle" This sold thousands of
the machine and is largely responsible for the boom in Amiga ownership during
the early 1990's.
1990: Reinventing the system
The Amiga world expanded further with the release of the A3000
on April 24th. A long overdue advancement that boasted 32-bit technology, SCSI
and a major upgrade to the operating system. Unlike the ugly appearance of Workbench
1.x, Workbench 2 finally looked something like a professional system with a
"clean" blue and grey desktop. However, the Commodore management were having
problems communicating product announcements - just 30 minutes prior to it's
announcement, Commodore denied the A3000 existed! This was followed by the launch
of the CDTV for £699 in June. Promoted as the
first mainstream CD entertainment system, the CDTV was basically an A500 with
1MB RAM and a CD drive that was marketed towards the mainstream market. In a
particularly interesting move, Commodore International indicated the unit should
not be placed with five meters of the computing section in high-street shops,
confusing retailers and the public alike. Sun attempted to get an OEM license
to produce A3000UX computers as a low
end UNIX workstation. However, Commodore management lose the deal. In other
news NewTek release their long awaited Video Toaster for the Amiga placing the
Amiga as the definitive kit for the graphic video market.
1991: Standing still
The deep cracks in Commodore turn to huge tidal waves as many people loose
faith in the market. Commodore launch a low-end upgrade to the A500 - the Amiga
500 plus - without informing anyone that they were shipping the product
and the CDTV was canceled. In the high-end market, the A3000T
is announced and launched. The Amiga 3000+
is also shown as a future product. However, it is later scrapped in favour of
the A4000. The console market expands destroying the Amigas' domination of the
home computer market.
1992: The Next Generation
The year begins with the market finally coming to terms with the A500+, only
to discover that the replacement machine, the A600 was
about to be released in March. The A600 was a nightmare of design, using surface
mounted technology to shrink the motherboard while retaining the A500's price.
In an attempt to compete with Nintendo and Sega's growing domination of the
consumer market, the A600 is promoted as a console with a keyboard. Many users
commented that it looked like a white Spectrum 48K, whilst others hated the
lack of a numeric keypad. Early buyers were also annoyed by several price reductions
of the hardware, dropping from £399 to £199. It did, however introduce
the world to PCMCIA technology...
It is widely agreed that the A600 should never have been launched, especially
as a machine with a new chipset was just around the corner. Excitement grew
as news of the A4000 reached the public- a new chipset titled AA (Advanced Amiga)
- was finally confirmed at the World of Commodore in Pasadena, USA on September
11th. This was hailed as:
"the company's most significant new technology advancement in
its Amiga line since the product's introduction in 1985."
For many enthusiasts the news indicated that Commodore were finally taking
the PC/Mac threat seriously. The AA chipset was quickly renamed AGA (Advanced
Graphics Architecture) to avoid confusion with the Automobile Association in
the European market. The new graphics hardware allowed 256 colours to be displayed
at the same time, from a palette of 16.7M colours. The original HAM mode had
also been upgrade to HAM-9 allowing 256,000 colours on screen colours. On the
software side, the updated Amiga OS 3.0 provided
a serious contender to competing operating systems, showing the first indications
that Commodore would drop the custom chipset and move to a retargetable display.
The release featured CrossDOS (allowing access to PC disks), datatypes (an attempt
at adding system-wide plugins), localization (allowing multi language configuration),
a standard installer utility, improvements to the file system (increased speed
using directory caching as well as better support for international, non-English
characters) , and much more...
Two AGA machines were launched during 1992. The chipset first appeared in the
high-end Amiga 4000. This wet the appetite of the Amiga
faithful and disproving the arguments that the new machine would be incompatible
with existing software. By upgrading the product line to 32-bit whilst retaining
compatibility with most OCS/ECS software,the Amiga had decimated the last challenge
of the Atari ST and ensured that the Falcon was doomed to obscurity. However,
developers were looking at it bitterly after seeing the pre-production models
that had been produced, that in most cases were significantly better than the
This was soon followed by the launch of the low-end AGA system, the A1200.
Although significantly delayed until December, the machine was able to replicate
the popularity of the A500. The Amiga product line was finally being upgraded,
but trouble lay around the corner.
1993: Trouble looming
The year was a turning point that would produce both good and bad news. The year began with news of a price cut for most of the product line in February, followed by the announcement that Commodore had broken previous records with over 100,000 sales since the A1200's launch in April. However, the company continued to announce losses. This did not prevent them from diversifying the market further by announcing
a third AGA system called the CD32. Similar to the earlier
CDTV, it was a keyboardless Amiga (in this case, the A1200) that would be sold
to non-computer users. There were indications that Commodore had finally learnt
their lesson; much was made of the machine being the first 32-bit CD-based console
on the market and a great deal of effort had been made to encourage developers
to release products for the console. This ploy seemed to have worked; between
its launch in September 1993 and most of the following year CD32 titles were
outselling other CD formats by a dramatic margin, beating the established Mega/Sega
CD and the upstart PC CD-ROM. However, the machine was labeled as a last ditch
attempt at the console market, in a time when the 16-bit platforms had already
gained dominance. There were also accusations that Commodore had not resolved
the absence of multimedia or educational titles that plagued the CDTV release.
During its early development, this would be the main area of expansion for the
PC CD-ROM market.
The A1200 remained the most highly desired machine of 1993, but the PC was
eyeing the machine with a vulture's gaze, ready to attack the traditional Amiga
market - the home.
1994: Good-bye old Friend
A defining year that marked the end of the Commodore years and the Amigas'
long stay in the wilderness. In March, the company announced a fourth AGA machine
- the Amiga 4000T. However, they were unable to release
it in sufficient numbers. After months of speculation Commodore International
filed for liquidation to protect it from its creditors at 4:10PM on April 29th.
This immediately stranded the remaining subsidiaries by limiting the number
of available machines. Commodore UK issued warnings that their supply would
be depleted by September, creating the first Amiga famine. In many countries
this did not matter, several subsidiaries, notably Commodore Australia had closed
in previous months and many were soon to follow. In an attempt to resurrect
the company, David Pleasance of Commodore UK cited his aim to initiate a management
buyout and operate the company under the name of 'Amiga International'. In an
interview Colin Proudfoot commented:
"There should be no impact in the UK marketplace... The brand is
too strong to die: we're confident that Commodore and the Amiga will come out
of this a better, stronger company."
As time passed and the final stock of Amigas ran out it became increasingly
clear that they may be unable to afford too buy the company, At one point it
was claimed that a large bank was supporting them but this appears too have
come to nothing. Time slipped away and the PC took over the Amigas position
in the home. This was soon followed by the news that Jay Miner passed away at
the El Camino Hospital in Mountain View on June 20th. The cause of death was
heart failure as a result of kidney complications. 1994 was a bleak year...
1995: Back for the Future...
1995 surprisingly began a second after 1994 ended and saw the Amiga in the
same basic position - a computer without an owner. In January, Chelsea Football
club considered taking legal action against Commodore for money they never received
for sponsorship. Buyout dates came and went, until April 20th when the Amiga
and Commodore as a whole went up for sale. Interested parties included Commodore
UK, IBM, Dell, Escom, CEI and Samsung. In the end, Escom walked away with the
rights to Commodore and the Amiga. Although at first they only appeared interested
in the Commodore name, they were forced to bid for the whole thing. An action
that for many people signaled Escom's exact interest
in the Amiga - nothing.
Under their governance, Escom quickly separated the Commodore and Amiga brand
names, badging new PCs (as well as speakers, keyboards, and anything else they
could think of) with the redesigned Commodore logo. Amiga sales and development
would be handled by a new subsidiary called Amiga Technologies, headed by a
number of Amiga people, including Jonathan Anderson. There was even discussions
of Amiga set-top Internet boxes from a company called VISCorp, who had became
the first company ever to license Amiga technology. However, Amiga owners became
increasingly skeptical as promised machines failed to materialize in the shops.
It was finally a rainy day at the end of October when the new Amiga Magic pack
appeared. A4000 wannabes had to wait until February of 1996 just to buy their
machines. There was also concerns that Escom were expanding too rapidly and
making significant losses as a result. History looked set to repeat itself.
Another turbulent year as Amiga Technologies announced they were closing their
offices in Maidenhead and moving into the Escom UK department. Jonathan Anderson
left the company just months after attacking Amiga Power magazine for trying
to kill the Amiga, and Amiga users in general felt that they had been abandoned.
He is quickly replaced by long time Amiga enthusiast, Petro Tyschtschenko. Skeptic's
signaled this was the end of Escoms interest in the Amiga. They would be proven
wrong with the surprise appearance of the Mind Walker
( named after the first computer game Commodore published) and the announcement
of the Power Amiga. The Walker was quite a departure
from the classic Amiga design, looking like a cross between a Hoover and K9
out of Doctor Who. It also allowed expansion through Zorro slots or the cheaper
PCI. There were also a number of announcements from companies such as PIOS
(now MetaBox) and Phase 5 that new Amiga-compatible
systems such as the TransAM and the A/Box were in development. However these
would not be available for another 2-3 years at the best estimate. Elsewhere,
the long time competitor of Commodore over the home computing market, Atari
was bought by JTS Corp, a hard disk drive manufacturer.
As Escom entered its final stages in July they attempted to raise capital by
negotiating a deal with VISCorp too buy the Amiga.
VISCorp announced they would abandon the Walker and continue with their Amiga
Internet set-top box. Any other company who wished to develop the Amiga technology
would be licensed the operating system. However, as the year progressed stories
of Viscorp being unable to pay their own employees cast their Amiga acquisition
into doubt. In October they quietly dropped out of the Amiga buyout. December
saw a surprise announcement from Quikpak, communicating their intentions to
buy the Amiga. These events, however, could not stop the Amiga falling behind
1997: First Goal- Support the existing Amiga community
The Amiga seemed to be finally near the end. In the past year numerous magazines
had closed, the software market was in tatters and the fight over the Amiga
ownership hearkened back to the beginning of 1995. However, Quikpak remained
confident they could purchase the Amiga, announcing their final bid for the
Amiga assets. At the time Quikpak seemed to be the last hope for the Amiga.
They had manufactured the machines for Escom, had new A4000 derivatives in development
and plans to port the OS to Dec Alpha. The announcement of the final decision
was promised before February 28th. As the events unfolded, Amiga developers
were oblivious to the mega corporations circling over the Amiga. The former
bidder, Dell had returned to purchase the product they had missed in 1995. This
was soon followed by Gateway 2000. Both were PC manufacturers and visibly loyal
to Microsoft. At the time they were only interested in the 47 patents associated
with the Amiga. A rare prize!
Whatever the outcome of the legal battle, the numerous businesses fighting
for the Amiga unleashed a new wave of confidence in the platform that resulted
in a second generation of Amiga games. Since the death of Commodore it had been
assumed that the Amiga's role as a games platform was over. However, a new generation
of games appeared in March, spurred by a stream of bedroom programmers. An unofficial
Myst slideshow unexpectedly and an illegal (and very slow at just 4fps) Quake
port appeared on Aminet. Although questionable, both slideshows demonstrated
a demand for new games that used the updated hardware of current Amigas. As
a result clickBOOM picked up both titles and ported them to the Amiga in an
Meanwhile the aftermath of Viscorp's brush with the Amiga were being felt.
Almathera Systems Ltd. announced their closure, citing cash flow problems as
a result of nonpayment by VIScorp for their work
on the ED. Village Tronic were also involved in litigation
with Amiga Technologies over their sale of Amiga OS3.1 Upgrades, leaving the
upgrade in short supply. The only good news was that Carl Sassenrath, creator
of EXEC, CDXL and former Viscorp employee, was busy developing a language called
Lava. The name would soon change its name to Rebol, showing that the ideals
behind parts of the Amiga were not dead. This language would play an important
part in the counter-Amiga movement two years later.
Phase 5 were also continuing to work on the PowerUP boards they had developed
in conjunction with Amiga Technologies. The death of Escom had turned the short
term patches to the existing AmigaOS into a long term development plan. Cautious
that there may not even be a future for the official Amiga, phase 5 set about
channeling the Amiga market into their own A/Box machine.
If the Amiga was to die the market would continue with a PowerPC computer that
represented many of the ideals. The Retargetable Graphics market was also picking
up with the release of CyberVision 64 and Picasso IV. At the time the competition
between graphics cards was as fierce as the PPC kernel would be in future years.
After months of waiting the fate of the Amiga was settled and the winner was
Gateway 2000. At the last minute Dell had decided
against the purchase and had registered a no-bid. Although the company were
originally bidding for the patents, the inclusion of several million Amiga users
attracted Gateway's attention. Gateway's relationship with Microsoft was going
through a rough patch at the time and in an attempt to tweak the nose of both
Intel and Microsoft they set up a new subsidiary, renaming Amiga Technologies
to Amiga International. For the moment, Petro Tyschtschenko remained in charge
of the company.
At the World of Amiga 97 in Novotel, London, the new company outlined their
plans for the rebirth of the Amiga. First on the agenda was the development
of a new version of the operating system by spring of 1998. Petro indicated
they would take the majority of the software from the existing Amiga market,
incorporating PD enhancements such as MCP, as well as standardized support for
Retargetable graphics and sound. It was also planned to include a TCP stack
and Universal Serial Bus (USB) support. This would eventually cumulate in the
release of AmigaOS 3.5 two years later (although Amiga
owners were waiting for USB support until 2002). Beyond the 68k processor, Amiga
International committed themselves to the PowerPC
once again, promising to port the AmigaOS and release it during the second half
of 1998. The company were not intending to develop the hardware themselves,
but would license it to others, such as phase 5 and PIOS for use with the A/BOX
and TransAM. However, Amiga International soon
had their first turnaround, deciding against their software-only policy and
announcing they would also be developing a 'Power Amiga'. It was a decision
the company would agonize over for some time.
The purchase of the Amiga by Gateway 2000 invigorated the market more than
Escom had ever done. The first sign of Amiga International's influence was felt,
with the licensing of the Amiga technology to a range of companies. For the
first time Amiga Clones were making their way onto the shelves under a new logo,
"Powered by Amiga". The clones were simply repackaged A1200's in a tower case
but it was a start. There was also news of Index Information developing a new
Amiga called the Access, aimed at Point of Sale platform.
The company had a hard time developing expansions for the Amiga (see
CD32x) during the Commodore time so it was good to see them finally using
the Amiga to their advantage.
Later, at the Computer '97 show, Petro Tyschtschenko would expand on the reasoning
behind this policy, revealing two tiers to their plans for the Amiga. The main
functions of these were:
- Support the existing Amiga community and leverage the technology through
- Assist in developing new products based on open standards to the home computer
and video/graphics market.
The first two areas were covered by Amiga International during 1997 and the
beginning of 1998. Alongside this Amiga Inc. were busy developing new products.
The fruits of the labour would be first shown at the World of Amiga '98 with
the introduction of Digital Convergence to the Amiga market and develop into
the Amiga OE.
Who owns the Amiga?
The sale of the Amiga to Gateway was followed on July 17th by a press release
announcing the acquisition of the far east rights by Lotus Pacific. Surely Gateway
had not sold the Amiga already? The confusion continued when the company announced
the release of the WonderTV A6000 multimedia computer.
The purchase was quickly refuted by Gateway. As
the story unfolded it became clear that the acquisition was based upon a deal
made with Escom two years previous. An examination of the original Escom press
release indicates a license was only given for production and trading, not complete
ownership of Amiga patents in that area of the world. At the time there appeared
to be a huge court battle looming over the Amiga again, until the two companies
reached an agreement.
As had been suspected, the promises of an upgrade to AmigaOS 3.1 by the end
of the year were exaggerated. Amiga International simply acted as a representative
of Amiga, they were unable to develop software themselves. The first signs of
progress from Gateway came in September with the founding of a second subsidiary
- Amiga Inc. Taking its name from the first Amiga company, their primary concern
was the future development of the Amiga, leaving Amiga International to take
care of sales and marketing. The general manager of the new subsidiary was Jeff
Schindler. He had worked for Gateway for some time, developing the Destination
for them and had a knowledge of Commodore products. Along with the announcement
Petro Tyschtschenko made another release date for the newly named AmigaOS 3.5
during Spring 1998 at the latest, with new hardware following in the Winter.
Yet another unrealistic release date was set, surprising few when it was broken.
The company got off too a good start, meeting members of the ICOA to brainstorm
ideas for the new Amiga and show the world that there were people in charge
that actually cared about the product. Andy Finkel, who many will remember from
the Commodore days, was invited to give his view on the future of the Amiga,
as well as introducing Joe Torre and Fleecy
Moss. Names that would go down in Amiga history.
As the year drew to a close optimism was high in the Amiga market. The purchase
of the Amiga by Gateway 2000 had given developers new hope and a range of new
software and hardware was being developed. The revelation of new 68k Amigas
appearing for the first time since 1994 (BoXeR, DCE A5000, Micronik A1500) was
showing that the Amiga was not dead yet. The promised PPC boards from phase
5 were also finally arriving, allowing the Amiga to begin the transition from
68k to PowerPC. Problems relating to Amiga emulation and piracy were also confronted
with the licensing of the Amiga OS and ROMs by Cloanto. Behind the scenes, talks
between Amiga Inc. and Be were going on, regarding licensing part of the BeOS,
but no one was saying anything yet.
Behind them was a successful year that had allowed the company to keep the
Amiga market alive and provide fresh supplies of Amiga parts. In front of them
lay the future - a future that would move the Amiga into higher circles and
once again take on fresh challenges. But as current Amiga owners know, it took
them a while to work everything out...
1998: Second Goal- Assist in developing new products based on open standards
At the end of 1997 everything seemed to be set out - supplies of existing Amigas
were available and the future promised an Amiga revolution. Now that the future
was finally here it did not look so bright. On January 1st, 1998 an announcement
was made on the Amiga Inc. web site that the future of the existing Amiga lay
in a combined 68k+PPC solution. This already existed in the form of the phase
5 PowerUP cards. It was suspected that this would premeditate the release of
fast PPC-based Amiga clones. It seemed an official endorsement of the current
state of the Amiga market. This lead to an announcement of cooperation between
Index Information Ltd, Blittersoft and Phase 5 to develop PPC expansion for
the planned Boxer system. The news was followed on
March 10th by the announcement that phase 5 had licensed the AmigaOS and were
developing the Pre/Box - an AmigaOS 3.1 compatible
computer that would use a 68k and 4 PowerPC processors, allowing extremely fast
rendering time. However, Amiga Inc. would later distance themselves from the
announcement stating Joe Torre did not have authorization to make such a choice.
HiQ (later known as Siamese Systems) also announced the development of Project
Alpha, an effort to port the AmigaOS to the Alpha chip. A similar idea had been
suggested by Quikpak the previous year. At the time the processor was one of
the fastest on the market, making it ideal for the Amigas efficient multimedia.
There were also plans to develop an Amiga on a card called the Inside Out (later
known as Siamese PCI). The idea had been around since the Escom days but this
was the first definite proof that one was being developed.
The software market was also particularly buoyant. The source code to Doom
and Descent had been released, leading to a series of Amiga ports, Myst had
already been announced, and now Quake was getting the official treatment. The
game was worth the wait when it was finally released but the lack of PowerPC
support resulted in many people downloading an illegal copy (FastQuake, etc.).
The release of the Netscape Navigator source code also lead to suggestions it
could be ported to the Amiga. After a few months of nothing, FreeAmiga picked
it up and began the arduous task of rewriting the code to work on Amiga. Finally
after being left in the cold for so long, the Amiga seemed to be attracting
new software to fill the gap.
In a separate announcement, 'Gateway 2000' shortened their name to just 'Gateway'
and announced a shift in how customers use PCs. In a press release, Ted
"More than ever before, consumers and business users are looking
for solutions that are tailored to their specific requirements - technology
that adapts to them, rather than forces them to adapt."
It soon became clear that this unrelated announcement would play a major part
in Gateway's role with the Amiga, promoting it as one many potential successors
to the desktop market.
Change in direction
In retrospect the first signs of things happening came with the Joe Torre PPC
announcement at the beginning of the year. Although Amiga Inc. were unwilling
to perform the task themselves, they were open to the notion that it be ported
to a non-68k processor. This was soon followed by comments made by Jeff Schindler
at the St. Louis show that Amiga Inc. were more interested in developing software
and leaving others to the hardware. A statement that would cause an uproar when
it was reiterated by Tom Schmidt in September 1999. Rumours circulated that
the company would make a big announcement at the World of Amiga show in London.
However, the news came as a shock for everyone when Amiga Inc. contradicted
previous statements that PowerPC was the future and instead indicated the next
Amiga would be aimed at the Digital Convergence market - a new term that referred
to a range of embedded devices aimed at the general consumer market. Examples
of this include the microwave and stereo. Under the umbrella term all electronic
hardware will be recognized as a computer capable of running a stripped down
OS that is capable of performing tasks.
In a move that appeared to have been greatly influenced by their parent company,
Gateway, they announced the next generation Amiga would run on a top-secret
processor and use a third party kernel. The company were planning to make an
announcement on who the kernel partner was, but at the last minute were forced
to pull out due to an unspecified disagreement between the two. It was later
revealed that the OS partner would have been Be, leading Amiga Inc. to use the
BeOS kernel as the basis of their operating system.
There was also talk of an unnamed chip, dubbed MMC (Monster Mystery Chip) by
the Amiga community. Performance indicators suggested the chip was capable of
400 million pixels/second.
At the time it was indicated that the first stage would be the release of a
x86-based developers system, running a beta version
of the final OS. Confusingly this was to be called AmigaOS 4.0, although it
had little to do with previous versions and would only act as a predecessor
to the finished product that would be labeled AmigaOS 5.0. This developer system
was planned for release in November, leading many to dub it the "November Box".
The choice of an x86 processor angered many Intel-phobics. At the time Usenet
and mailing lists were awash with angry words of betrayal or comments that they
would no longer support the Amiga. Amiga Inc. immediately issued a damage control
explaining that AmigaOS 4.0 (later becoming OS5Developers, AmigaSoft, and then
Amiga OE) was to be a transitional platform that
would only be used as a development platform for the final product that would
be launched in the year 2000. Responses to the news was mixed. Many perceived
it as a betrayal while others saw it as the only way for the Amiga to survive.
If Amiga Inc. were to develop new products based on open standards as they had
planned, the Amiga must die and be born again rather than hanging onto the past.
The effect of this quickly became clear for many Amiga users at the WOA 1998
show. As far as Amiga Inc. were concerned AmigaOS 3.x legacy systems would go
into "graceful" retirement once the new Amiga was released. To avoid confusion
with the new Amigas existing 68k and PPC systems were dubbed "Classic
Amiga". Fortunately some good came out of the announcement. Recognizing
it would mean an end to the existing Amiga market altogether phase
5 and Haage & Partner buried the hatchet over the PPC kernel debate
and produced a unified alternative to the development system. Working until
early in the morning, they proposed to develop a Classic
Amiga PPC development system. Under the new deal, phase 5 would produce
the hardware while H&P produce the software. Although history has indicated
that these events never came to pass, Haage & Partner
briefly resurrected the idea at the end of 1999.
Over the next few months information and speculation about the new Amiga began
to come out. It soon became clear that the specifications were not set in stone
and things were liable to change. Towards the end of 1998 the 'MMC' took the
back burner, and the specifications were claimed to be the target rather than
associated with a particular card. At the time Fleecy Moss stated that the hardware
was no longer important as the OS would be the major driving force. However,
he would comment just a year later that there was a 'MMC' graphics card in existence
but the company that produced them had been bought. The producer behind the
Mystery chip seemed to be clear, it was Chromatic. They had been bought by ATI
soon before the announcement that the OS was the driving force.
Meanwhile the Amiga community were growing impatient over the lack of news
regarding an OS partner. While it had become common knowledge that a deal with
Be had fell through, the 30 day limit on a new announcement had long since past.
An announcement was finally made at the Computer '98 show on November 15th,
revealing the new OS partner as QNX (pronounced Q-Nix).
The QNX Neutrino kernel was welcomed by the Amiga community. Although few knew
anything about it, the OS was seen as a true successor to the AmigaOS. The highly
efficient design meant the kernel was just 50k in size. It could even run a
web server as well as a number of utilities from a single disk. A task that
even the AmigaOS cannot perform! However, the good news was soon followed by
the bad when it was announced that Fleecy Moss had been sacked from Amiga Inc.
Fleecy was in control of a number of projects, leading to fears that AmigaOS
3.5 had been canceled. After much discussion this was eventually contracted
to Haage & Partner. However, Fleecy's treatment led turned many developers
away from Amiga Inc. damaging the OS3.5 project.
The year represented the Amigas move towards developing a new product. No longer
would it be the damned offspring of Commodore. For the first time in 5 years
plans were being made to turn the Amiga around. However, the development had
come at a cost that would eventually lead to the market being split between
QNX and Amiga. The company had been burnt a few times but had come out wiser
and stronger. Once the Amiga market accepted the current situation, the merits
of QNX became clear. The future looked promising but would soon become tarnished
with poor choices as the Amiga was grasped as a marketing concept.
1999: The End
It was the year of announcements, clarification, cancellation and contradiction.
The year when the Amiga company finally moved into high gear in developing the
technology once again, but in the process sacrificed the users. Perhaps the overriding
theme was the new found sense of community in the air. Programs that had been
abandoned were taken up by other authors. The classic compression format, Lha
was picked up by another author. Like Doom in previous years, the source code
to Herectic/Hexen was released, and part of Newtek's Video Toaster Flyer became
open source allowing third parties to tie their product into the hardware. This
sparked a debate on open sourcing the AmigaOS and influential figures in the Amiga
world were grabbing the mind share of the Amiga users. After his departure from
Amiga Inc. Fleecy Moss had joined forces with Dave Haynie to develop a new operating
system called KOSH. Carl Sassenrath was also making his presence felt with the
latest release of Rebol. A language that was getting glowing press attention.
In many ways Amiga users adopted an independence that had not been felt before.
After listening to numerous announcements, people had stepped forward to lead
the Amiga user base to the edges of their world and the mysteries that lay beyond.
In the background the political situation of Amiga developers would play out,
drastically affecting the unfolding events.
The mess that had been made of the Be announcement and the sacking of Fleecy
Moss led Gateway to evaluate the subsidiary. For a time it seemed the company
would have been closed altogether. It was only the introduction of proper leadership
in the form of Jim Collas that the company was
saved. Recognizing the philosophy behind the Amiga, he took a significant pay
cut to drive it forward. This came in the form of a fast track plan to develop
a new Amiga. As part of the move Gateway recognized their part in the lack of
action, allowing it to become an entirely independent subsidiary rather than
controlled by the slow movement of their parent company. This would allow Amiga
Inc. to develop the technology needed for the expanding convergence market.
This was soon followed by news that Amiga Inc. were planning to develop
an Amiga computer themselves. The announcement was promising but it would soon
become clear that Gateway did not want its child to stray too far.
Just a month later the first signs of the Amiga's rebirth could be seen,
with recruitment adverts appearing to attract developers to the new Amiga operating
system. The first of those appointed was Richard Lipes
who became software engineer for graphics and Audio/Video, and Dr.
Rick Lefaivre as the new Chief Technology Officer. Both had an established
background, working for the likes of Apple and Silicon Graphics.
The duplication of effort that came from having two separate Amiga companies
was also improved, leading to the merging of the German Amiga International
and the American Amiga Inc. into one company, simply called 'Amiga'. On the
17th March, the Amiga.com and amiga.de sites merged. Previously both sites had
been updated separately, leading to differing reports and news on each site.
However, the merger was never entirely convincing for the user and it soon dissolved
when Jim Collas left a few months later.
The Convergence market began to hot up with the announcement by IBM on 28th
March that the PC era was over, Information Appliance type devices were be the
next big thing. Suddenly the people that were laughing at Amigas plans for Internet
Appliances stopped and began to take notice of the company. Over the next few
months the eyes would widen with shock and amazement at every twist and turn.
March was also the month that the first unofficial support for the next generation
Amiga was revealed. Com-Digit Journal published an article on the Amigas rebirth,
indicating Corel would support the Amiga. This created
a great deal of excitement at the time. The company were known for their WordPerfect
suite, leading to speculation that it would soon be ported to the new OS. There
was also speculation that Transmeta, the mysterious hardware company was also
working with Amiga. At the time both of these rumours were rejected by Amiga
as completely untrue, but just a few months later Corel
officially announced support for the Amiga. However, many developers were afraid
to support a non-Windows operating system. The only alternative they would support
was Linux. This lead Amiga Inc. to evaluate Linux for the third time to see
if it could be made to fit in with their plan, while keeping the front they
were still committed to QNX.
Meanwhile, Amiga had not been standing still. The company had previously decided
upon a monthly update on their web site, detailing the events of the month.
The May edition of Amiga Format indicated the concept
designs were almost complete, and showed the first of several. Dubbed "Kyoto"
the design showed little that had not been seen before. Jeff Schindler's influence
was clear, the device looked more like a PCTV than an Amiga. In the first of
the magazine-first policy, Amiga revealed all of the images in the August issue
of Amiga Format. These demonstrated an assortment of designs, ranging from webpads
to kitchen-top devices.
Despite Amiga's demonstration that they were finally meeting their goals, shadowy
figures at Gateway were beginning to question the actions they were taking.
In an interview with the UK Guardian newspaper, Ted Waitt (Gateway CEO) indicated
Amiga were not a computer company. The sentence released a stream of email to
Jim Collas, president of Amiga. Accusations ranged from deliberately misleading
the community to personal insults. Jim Collas attempted to repair the damage
suggesting that this was Gateway's interest in the company, but Amiga was working
with a range of companies to provide a wide ranging solution. The assurance
worked but it could not hide the cracks that were beginning to appear in the
Amiga armour. Gateway were taking great interest in the direction of their subsidiary
and were making efforts to reassert control over their direction. Events were
leading to a breaking point but few would predict it would come so quickly.
Of course this did not affect the Classic market. Excitement was growing for
the release of Fusion PPC. The emulator would finally allow Amiga users to run
PowerMAC software. The latest specifications for the Boxer
were also released. The project first began as an OEM Amiga clone based upon
the AGA chipset, but after a fallout with Amiga International, led to the hardware
being redeveloped, using technology from the AA+ and Boxer 2 designs. This turned
out to be a wise move. After years of pushing the A1200 motherboard to its limit,
a new "Classic" Amiga based upon a new design would blow the old bottlenecks
away. The specifications promised AGA on a chip, no Chip RAM restrictions, a
port for 64-bit PPC expansion, and 4x Active PCI slots. Many people committed
themselves to buying one even if the Amiga market died. Sadly the Boxer never
lived up to expectations.
The year was also a milestone for those seeking to expand their Amigas. The
first commercial Amiga PowerPC game was announced during April. Unfortunately,
Eat The Whistle from Hurricane Studios was delayed and the PPC-only WipeOut
2097 became the first of many. Power Computing released a version of the Power
Flyer able to read DVD disks and announced a Zorro USB card. Although the hardware
would require a PowerPC and an MPEG decoder to make the most of it, the expansion
opened a range of possibilities. This was followed a few days later by the announcement
of Shogo for the Amiga by Hyperion and Digital Images. The port of the LithTech
3D engine used in the game also opened the possibility of similar games making
their way onto the Amiga. Digital Images also opened talks with Binary Asylum
about the possible development of Zeewolf 3, the sequel to the 1996 classic
helicopter game. However, the Zorro USB & Zeewolf 3 contracts were later
It is appropriate that July - the month of the American Independence Day -
marked the beginning of a move away from the official Amiga owner and the beginning
of what became a new age of independence and a stand for the community's goals
that would eventually lead to Amino buying the Amiga. The month began with news
of a Java-like technology called AmigaObjects.
Indications suggested it was an object-orientated language. The company's expansion
continued with the hiring of Dave Curtis as Director of Object Technology
and Transaction Services, and Dr Jim Miller in charge of Amiga User Interface(s).
The press attention to the Microsoft case reveals their relationship with Gateway.
Jim Von Holle, a former Gateway employee, describes how the company tried to
punish Gateway for the type of software they shipped. Although largely in the
background, it became increasingly clear why Gateway chose to develop
an alternative to the Windows market. Unfortunately, just a few months later
Gateway's relationship with Microsoft regarding their set-top box would have
a dramatic effect upon Amiga's plans. Who could have guessed Microsoft would
play a major role in the Amigas downfall?
"Delivering on our Promise to the Amiga community"
On July 8th, Dan Dodge posted an announcement
to their web site stating they had silently been working over the last 7 months
to bring the Amiga community a new and exciting system. The project was now
ready for beta testing, leading QNX to open, what they described as the
"Developers system for Amigans". The news was greeted with enthusiasm as screenshots
were finally released of the new environment. But for many users the announcement
was curiously low-key. Only QNX made an announcement, Amiga were expected to
make it first or at least on the same day. Also, the screenshots did not represent
an Amiga look and feel. The Voyager web browser shown on one image would refer
to the Amiga web site rather than QNX's own if the product really was a joint
effort. This hinted that there was something seriously wrong and partnership
had been over for some time.
The next day (9/7/99) Amiga issued an announcement that QNX were no longer the
OS partner for the AmigaNG. Instead they would use the Linux kernel. The day
was quickly dubbed BLACK FRIDAY by Amiga users everywhere. Why had Amiga traded
the scalable and highly acclaimed QNX for the monolithic Linux kernel? Fingers
pointed at Amiga and accusations ranging from professional malpractice to personal
insults, and even some death threats were made. The community split between
those that supported Amiga and those supporting QNX. Jim Collas quickly issued
an open letter hoping that the community would
one day understand the choice made and pointing towards the release of the Technology
Brief during the following week for answers. The words did nothing to stop
the anger and over the next week web site editorials expressed a sense of betrayal
at the decision.
The Brief turned out to be misnamed. As a Technology Brief it was lacking in
any real information on the technology. The AmigaObjects section consisted of
sales jargon, making it almost impossible to guess its working. There was nothing
more added to support the use of Linux over QNX. Apart from statements upon
increased performance under Linux the reason seemed to be a marketing, rather
than technological move. Linux was chosen to link in to the momentum it has
created. Mainstream developers would not support QNX. Of course the Technology
Brief did confirm a number of things, including the existence of an Amiga computer,
based upon an ATX board. Despite their desperate attempts, loyalty had split
between QNX and Amiga, with QNX appearing to win for the moment.
Out of the ashes rose a new partnership consisting of QNX
and phase5. Both had been jilted by Amiga in the past. The two companies
promised to develop the Neutrino OS for phase5 PPC cards. This would allow owners
to use legacy Amiga applications and develop for QNX. It was a cunning move
to shift the Amiga userbase onto the QNX OS. This announcement was followed
a few hours later by another, indicating the developing of a new QNX-based PPC
system called AMIRAGE K2. Sympathy for QNX gave them
the upper hand, potentially damaging Amiga's image. Here was a company that
really cared about Amiga users. Dan Dodge and a number of other QNX employees
even took it upon themselves to join Amiga mailing lists and newsgroups. Although
Amiga had promised to port the Amiga OE to PowerPC
platforms, at the time it seemed an alternative would move the tide if released
Weeks later arguments were still raging whether Amiga could regain their tattered
image. Anxious to move the community onto their side again, Amiga made an announcement
confirming their relationship with Corel. This came
as no surprise but an official declaration of support bolstered morale. This
was followed by the publics first look at the the Amiga
MCC (Multimedia Convergence Computer) prototype case at the World of Amiga
and AmiWest shows. Visually it confirmed the company's move away from the computer
into the convergence market, looking more like a video recorder than a computer.
The appearance of the Transmeta name also caused
surprise at the show, seemingly confirming the relationship between the two
companies. Despite the name dropping Transmeta denied they had anything to do
with Amiga. It was known at the time that Linus Torvalds was working for Amiga
on the Linux kernel so a link between the two seemed fairly strong.
Amiga users thought they had seen it all. Unfortunately fate had chosen Amiga
as the fools of 1999. On the 16th of August an unknown company called Iwin Corporation
announced the release of two new Classic Amiga clones. The clones supposedly
offered either an 68060 or 604 CPU, 8Mb of Chip RAM, 3D acceleration, 16bit
sound, USB, and much more. Amiga users were mystified; how could a company produce
a machine that seemed to have been impossible for so many? The Amiga is more
than simply an 68k processor- the custom chips are the very foundation of the
machine. As Dave Haynie commented upon the prospect, it would be impossible
to create an emulation of the chips without breaching patents, which Iwin claim
not to. Furthermore no one had heard of the company before. Contact with some
of their past customers revealed nothing, only that the president of the company
had worked as a programmer. It seemed a simple hoax, but in this time of desperation
many people believed in it.
As August drew to a close, Amiga felt the repercussions of publishing the Technology
Brief so early. Gateway ordered the company to withdraw major product announcements
from their web site and take a vow of silence. Their web site announced,
Speculation on what the company were doing indicated that this was quite normal.
Jim Collas had referred to Gateway's concern on Amiga giving away too much information
away before the product was launched. This was quickly confirmed by Amiga vice-president,
Petro Tyschtschenko stating they have decided to modify information politics to
prevent too much detail of AmigaNG development spreading to competitors. No one
thought anymore about it, but behind the scenes dramatic events were unfolding
that would lead the company to change direction again.
"'for the next several months, the Amiga staff will be focused on implementing
our business and product plans. We will not be discussing or commenting on
future company directions during this time."
On August 30th the first of Amiga's post-Commodore
patents came to light. This confirmed what many had thought. Amiga were moving
towards multi-processor systems. The patent described multiple CPU clusters
passing tasks between themselves. This was soon followed by 17 TV-related patents
making it increasingly clear that Amiga were moving towards digital TV.
It is coincidental, whenever there is a high note with the Amiga it is soon
followed by a loss. The liquidation of Commodore was followed by the death of
Jay Miner, and the QNX announcement was tempered by Fleecy Moss being 'let go'.
Along with the news of the Amiga patents came the announcement that Bill McEwen
had left Amiga. He has been described as one of the last people sympathetic
to the old Amiga community, even describing himself as an Amiga evangelist.
At the time he was working on Amiga's PR, developing a number of links to the
community, including a regular newsletter (Amiga Insight) and working closely
with the newly formed Amiga Advisory Council (AAC). For a few weeks he had been
expecting a promotion to a more permanent position (he was working under contract),
but was given a days' notice that he would no longer be working for Amiga. A
Gateway employee, who cannot be named, indicated Bill was let go because of
his hostility to some of Gateway's orders. He would tell it as it is, when sometimes
a businessman would have to lie. Sacked for being too honest? A strange occurrence,
but as the history of the Amiga shows, it seems to attract bizarre behaviour.
Bill's departure was followed just a few hours later by that of Jim Collas,
just nine months after taking on the job. The reason behind his leaving slowly
began to slip out, with stories of internal disagreement over the company direction
and role of the community were major points that led to his resignation. According
to sources at Gateway on many occasions Jim Collas was overruled by others who
would go over his head. The growing intervention of Gateway regarding the direction
has also been cited as a reason for his departure. Suddenly it all became clear
why the company had taken a vow of silence. As part of Jim's fast track plan
in February, it was intended to spin Amiga as a separate company, with some
financial support from Gateway. When it became clear the convergence market
would be a sure-fire success, Gateway realized they could not let this happen
and took control. The news was soon eclipsed by the removal of the "Amiga Insight"
bulletin board and the US staff bios. In the darkness that had surrounded Amiga,
whispers of other departures and a change of direction to embrace the digital
The unfolding events have more in common with a Shakespeare play than a computer
company. The removal of the bulletin board and email addresses cut the company
off from the rest of the world. The only forthcoming information was that Amiga
had a new president, Thomas J. Schmidt. His original intentions were to continue
the previous efforts of developing the Amiga MCC, but with a very limited staff,
even less in resources, and no monetary backing from the board of directors
of Gateway, he was forced to prepare the Amiga IPO for buyouts or proposals.
The first news of Amiga's change in direction came on September 10th with a
comment by BusinessWeek that the MCC had been scrapped. Just a few days before,
a news story revealed that Gateway were to sell a Microsoft low-end system called
the X-Box. Given the timing of the announcement it is no surprise that many
Amigans considered the two to be linked. Is it possible that Gateway canceled
the Amiga MCC because of their relationship with
Microsoft? A few days later Amiga stepped out of the darkness to confirm they
would no longer be developing an Amiga computer. Their new focus would be upon
software, with hardware being left to 3rd parties. The new
update also suggested that Amiga software would now run "on top" of many
operating systems, indicating that the Amiga OE
had morphed into a standard Linux distribution and that AmigaObjects were the
only revolutionary technology to come from Amiga. Once again, the Amiga was
Light in the darkness
In times of old when the ship was in danger of being dashed against the rocks
in the storm, there were always people there to light the way and guide the
ship to safety. Similarly, out of the confusion of the AmigaNG came two organizations
intending to lend a hand. Formed from conversation on the Team Amiga Mailing
List they were created to ensure the Classic Amiga had a future beyond the World
of Amiga 98 announcement. The Phoenix Consortium
and A.Q.U.A both appeared to provide a clear
transition path from the Amiga to another Amiga-like operating system. The acronymic
A.Q.U.A. (Amino Qnx United Architecture) was a partnership between three companies;
Amino, QSSL, and Rebol.
All three seemed to be the living embodiment of the Amiga spirit- QSSL represented
the past as the former OS partner; Rebol were the present, a multi-platform
language that relied upon its simplicity; and finally, Amino were the future.
The guiding force that would turn these disparate pieces into a solution worthy
of the Amiga. The alliance was short-lived, when Amino unexpectedly dropped
connection with the other two.
Under the guidance of Fleecy Moss and Bill McEwen, and with the financial assistance
of Tao Group, Amino Developments were able to buy the remains of Amiga
Inc. and take the Amiga forward once again. A leaked announcement on the
31st of December indicated that Gateway had sold all rights to the Amiga (with
the exception of the patents). The Amiga Inc. team, headed by Tom Schmidt, was
integrated into Gateway product development.
As panic over the 'Millennium Bug' reached fever pitch the Amiga community
had taken an unexpected breath to consider what the next year would hold. The
dead and the dying lay scattered around the scene, cynicism had overcome the
remaining Amiga users' and developers. It would take a miracle to save the Amiga
Miracles sometimes happen.....
2000: Fallout and the Rebirth
This was the year of endings and new beginnings. For the past 5 years the Amiga
market has remained buoyant, in spite of predictions to the contrary. In the year
2000, the Amiga 68k market had finally slowed to a crawl, yet even in its death
throes the Amiga market was able to surprise everyone. For the third time in 5
years the Amiga had been bought, this time by an upstart company of ex-Amiga employees.
On the 3rd of January, CEO Bill McEwen made his first announcement, changing the
company name from 'Amino Development' to 'Amiga Inc'. This was followed four days
later at the CES show that Amiga Inc. had chosen the UK-based Tao Group as their
OS partner. For many Amiga watchers the speed at which the new Amiga were making
announcements was a surprising change, it had taken the Gateway-Amiga a year to
make the same OS partner announcement.
Two weeks later Amiga Inc. clarified their intentions, indicating their plans
to focus effort on two areas: the Convergence market was unsurprisingly a major
area, dubbed the Domestic Digital Habitat (DDH). The AmigaNG would also be sold
in the desktop market, soothing fears that Amiga Inc. would attempt to imitate
Viscorp's marketing strategy. This would be followed in later months by further
announcements of developer boxes and consumer machines.
The news of the Amigas' purchase came too late for many parts of the market.
Longtime developer, Phase 5 finally filed for liquidation
on January 26th, and the writers behind the Amiga Web Directory (1/1/2000) and
Amiga Yellow Pages announced they would retire their services. This was soon
followed by news that Amiga Format would finally
close after 12 years.
If Amiga Inc. had been told that the Amiga market was dead, they probably would
have laughed in your face. During February Amiga Inc. announced their move to
the Snoqualmie Ridge Business Park and the hiring of several known Amiga developers
and community figureheads. Andreas Klienert (AK Datatypes), Wouter Van Oortmerrsen
(Amiga E), Gary Peake (Team Amiga), and Dean Brown (several Amiga accelerators)
were hired to develop Tao Group's Elate into a consumer operating environment.
This was coupled with news that the company had initiated three market relation
Amiga Advisory Council - the assorted group of Amiga developers,
journalists, user groups, and dealers that were selected by Gateway-Amiga Inc.
a year previous are back. Amiga Inc. will be using these people to assess their
position in the market, providing a vocal point for Amiga users.
During a keynote speech at the 'Amiga 2000' show in St. Louis (April 1st), Amiga
Inc. dispelled rumours that they were April fools by announcing their future plans.
Amiga CEO, Bill McEwen indicated that the company would move away from the Amiga's
hardware heritage, by producing an operating environment that would support a
range of devices. The concept, similar to Sun Microsystem's Java, would allow
Amiga software to be written and executed without the need for recompilation on
a different processor.
Amiga Dealer's Network - a channel for Amiga distributors and dealers
to communicate with Amiga Inc.
Amiga Developer Support Network - Amiga will be providing support
(documentation, bug fixes, etc.) to Amiga developers.
As part of their promise to support the existing market, the company announced
partnerships with several Amiga developers and made reference to a number of hardware
manufacturers. Haage & Partner, Epic, Titan, Met@box, and Hyperion would be
working with Amiga Inc. to produce transitional products and familiar products
that would enable the user to move to the new platform. Red Hat, Corel, and Sun
Microsystems were also mentioned as supporting Amiga's efforts to produce the
digital environment, though the exact nature of this relationship was unclear.
An Amiga DE ports of Warp3D was announced, as well as an expected (but not officially
announced) OS update.
As the first part of their plans for the Amiga DE, Amiga Inc. announced their
Software Development Kit (SDK) and unveiled the Amiga
Developer box - a standard AMD x86 box - that would be sold by several Amiga
dealers. It was originally indicated that Amiga Inc. would only provide the
SDK with the Amiga-approved developer kits, but this
rule was changed a few days later. As the developer box was basically a standard
PC, the dealer or user was able to configure the exact specifications according
to their need. This resulted in several interesting variations
of the machine.
During the last few months the Classic Amiga market had continued to shrink,
becoming a fraction of its former size. However, Amiga Inc's example appeared
to have created a sense of adventure. Several long-promised hardware and software
announcements/launches made 2000 a fantastic year for the Amiga. In particular,
the first of two OS releases during the year created a stir.
Announced in April, The MorphOS team (former Phase
5 employees) had performed a feat that Haage & Partner were legally
unable to perform - develop a clean Amiga-compatible operating system
for PowerUP boards. Any doubt that MorphOS was a fake were dispelled when beta
versions were released on the MorphOS site. The MorphOS kernel owes many ideas
to the existing AmigaOS, but implements them in a clean fashion. This will avoid
many of the problems encountered when updating the 68k AmigaOS source, allowing
the implementation of virtual memory, resource tracking, and many other capabilities.
In the absence of an official AmigaOS PPC port, MorphOS will become an interesting
method of continuing the Classic Amigas' development
to a standalone PPC system.
The Amiga hardware market was also going through a long awaited revolution,
moving away from outdated Commodore standards to cheap, available hardware.
Antigravity bought the Boxer and hired Mick Tinker to continue its development.
The extra injection of cash may hurry development for a 2001 release. A1200
& A4000 were also treated to a range of expansion opportunities. For Zorro
fans, the Apollo Z4 bridgeboard was launched, providing a cheaper, faster method
of using Zorro 2 and nubus-style 'Z4' cards. This was followed by the announcement
of two PCI bridgeboards for the A1200 & A4000;
the Elbox Mediator, announced in June, was launched just three months later.
The potential for empowering existing Amigas is astronomical. Instead of the
costly Zorro cards, Amiga users' can now take advantage of cheap, standardized
PCI cards. Several graphic (such as Voodoo 3) and network cards can be used
with suitable drivers. The Mediator PCI announcement was followed by a similar
one from Eyetech. The Predator promises PCI and, more surprisingly, AGP support
for Classic Amigas. It soon became obvious that the existence of two competing
products in a shrinking market would cause some problems. Both companies attempted
to sabotage the others' campaign to promote their product, resulting in a situation
reminiscent of the PPC kernel war of 1997. The war is set
to escalate further during 2001 when Eyetech and Elbox launch their respective
G3 PowerPC cards.
Whatever, the outcome of this war, the influx of new PPC owners will benefit
the remaining software developers. While the Amiga gaming market produced
half the number of games in a year than was released in any given month during
1990, the games were of an incredible quality. For the first time, the vast
majority of announcements and reviews focussed upon PPC boards. The sale of
Wipeout 2097 (the first commercial PPC game) had encouraged developers to take
the plunge and release other games that would use the hardware. Several ports
of the newly-open sourced Quake appeared, followed by Heretic 2 (March), and
the long-awaited Simon the Sorceror 2 (December). High-end 68k gamers could
enjoy a new version of Foundation Gold, and Nightlong (November), Bubble Heroes,
and several other original titles. The Amiga has not been a games machine for
many years, so it was not unexpected that it would so few titles. However, several
announcements indicated that 2001 would be an interesting time for PPC Amiga
and AmigaOne gamers.
Over the year two ghost from the Amiga's past reared their heads as a reminder
of what the Amiga may have become. The first, QNX Real-Time Platform (the official
name for QNX Neutrino) was made available for noncommercial
use as a free download during May. Two years previous the OS kernel was announced
to be the basis of the Gateway Amiga OE. Since the cancellation of the Amiga
MCC, the Phoenix Consortium has been working with QSSL to prepare their OS for
release. Amiga users' were finally able to try the OS that could have been the
In the aftermath of the Amiga sale, many people wondered what had become of
the technology developed by Amiga Inc. Over the course of 2000, it was revealed
that it would form the basis of the AOL TV set-top box, and related products.
The product bears much resemblance to the current plans of Amiga Inc, aimed
at the convergence market. However, early reports are critical of the device.
Perhaps it is fortunate that the Linux-based MCC
was never launched.
Meanwhile Amiga Inc. had performed a minor miracle by releasing an actual software
developer kit. The launch of the Amiga SDK 1.0 for
Linux on the 3rd of June symbolizes the end of the failed announcements that
have characterized the Amiga's recent history, a turning point that will attract
developers and users' in the long-term. Though incomplete, buggy, and containing
a confusing license agreement, the Amiga SDK provided developers' with the opportunity
to produce software for the new platform at a fraction of the cost demanded
by other corporations e.g. Sony. This was soon followed by the announcement
that they had a hardware partnership with Infomedia (8/2000) & Meternet
(20/9/00) to produce set-top boxes, and news that
Amiga Inc. had entered into a partnership with Matrox. The company has placed
a great deal of emphasis upon this relationship for their future goals, providing
indications that they have access to current and future plans for their technology.
By October Amiga Inc. were preparing for the consumer launch of the Amiga DE.
As a guide to dealers, the company issued a minimum specification for the desktop
market. Codenamed Zico, it provided a guideline
to the type of machine the Amiga DE was intended for. As expected, there was
no mention of a specific processor, only a mention of an unnamed 'Next Generation
Matrox graphics card' and various USB, Firewire, and PCI slots. This was followed
by announcements that Eyetech and bPlan would produce AmigaOne PPC motherboards,
as upgrades to existing A1200/A4000s and as standalone units. The Windows version
of the SDK and an update to the Linux version were
also launched. The scope of Amiga Inc and Tao Group's relationship with other
corporations was growing dramatically, engulfing several large Japanese corporations
In between the announcements of new relationships, partnerships, and products,
Amiga Inc. were quietly scaling down their German business, Amiga International
with the retirement of Petro Tyschtschenko and closure of the Langen Office.
The subsidiary was the last remains of the Escom management that had been set
up 5 years previous. Since 1998 it had become a European distribution network
for existing Amiga dealers and played little part in the Amigas' development.
For many years it had been run almost single-handedly by Petro himself, who
was its sole employee during Escom's liquidation.
A second ending came in the form of AmigaOS3.9. The operating system was launched
in December 2000 to much surprise. No one had expected an OS upgrade and given
the amount of time they had been given, no one expected much from the product.
While the OS upgrade offered enhanced PPC support, drivers, and media players,
it did not provide any single ground breaking feature. Instead it appeared to
be a tiny OS3.5 update and a few shareware utilities to fill the CD. At the
time it was indicated this would be the final 68k AmigaOS release to provide
support for the Classic Amiga market who do not upgrade to the Amiga DE.
By the end of 2000 Amiga Inc. had laid the groundwork for its parasitic move
into the mainstream. Several developer machines had been launched, the operating
environment was in development, and consumer units had been announced. The combined
efforts of Bill McEwen, Fleecy Moss, and Randy Hughes had surpassed the efforts
of the previous Amiga owners by bringing a product to market.
The next year would continue the company's expansion plans by moving into the
PDA. It would also be the year that the numerous announcements became reality.
However, the Classic Amiga market was in its final death throes, the market
had continued to shrink to minuscule proportions. During the next year it would
take its final breath....
2001: The Amiga microcosm
The second year of Amiga Inc's reign was an eventful period that would change
the world order forever. The events of 2001 would force the world's governments
to forge new alliances and develop a diplomatic solution to many problems. In
the Amiga's microcosm many of these events would be played in miniature, creating
new relationships between Amiga developers and new divisions between the user
The new year celebrations were overshadowed by the announcements that Amiga
Inc. were struggling for funding. This would be a major theme for the technology
sector as a whole so it was predictable that the Amiga market would suffer the
effects to a certain extent. In spite of these problems, Amiga Inc. predicted
a successful year for the company. On the Amiga Support Network web site, the
company made a prediction for the coming year:
"There is tremendous potential for distribution of your applications,
games and other content for one of the world's largest manufacturers of PDA
hardware. The projection is for more than 7 million units to be sold by the
end of 2001 and there are already several million units on the market at this
Although the announcement was intended to create confidence that Amiga Inc.
were actually developing the Amiga DE, the announcement
caused further confusion.
The figure quoted is significantly higher than any single manufacturer - over
two million more than the current market leader Palm sold in 2000. The only
way to achieve this degree of market penetration would be through several PDA
developers using the Amiga DE.
The questionable statements made by Amiga Inc. were quickly becoming an annoyance
for many developers, resulting in fierce competition between the official owner
and several third parties who did not take kindly to the new kid on the block.
Although Amiga Inc. have the right to control their property, the absence of
a central organization for so long has resulted in several 3rd parties making
a personal investment in shaping its direction. The accusation that Amiga Inc.
sought to disrupt these efforts through the threat of legal action (as stated
by Ralph Schmidt of MorphOS) did not create a positive
image for the company. In addition to these claims, there was also serious criticism
regarding the company's desire to run Amiga DE as a desktop operating system:
the implementation of a memory management system was proving to be more difficult
than expected, leading to fears that the new Amiga would suffer from the same
stability issues as the original. In an attempt to solve these problems, Amiga
Inc. looked to the past...
Announcements at St. Louis: AmigaOS4 and beyond
The announcements at the Amiga 2001 show on April 1st took many by surprise.
Although there had been an indication that Amiga Inc. were examining solutions
to their problems, few suspected that it would result in the resurrection of
the AmigaOS. As part of their plans to resurrect
the 68k operating system, Amiga Inc. took control of the OS development and
proposed a novel timeline that suggested it would
be available for the PowerPC by the end of the year, and available for 64-bit
processors by Winter 2002. In preparation for the announcement Fleecy Moss met
with bPlan, Eyetech, Haage & Partner, Hyperion and several others in an
attempt to unify the disparate entities and create a unified AmigaOS. Under
the new arrangement, Eyetech would provide AmigaOne-branded
hardware, while Haage & Partner and Hyperion would work to port sections
of the AmigaOS to PPC. For many Amiga users' the sense of deja-vu was overwhelming:
both Escom and Gateway had announced plans to port the AmigaOS to PowerPC during
1996/7. While Gateway were developing the Amiga MCC,
Petro Tyschtschenko had evangelized the idea, and Haage & Partner had been
given the PPC contract by Gateway at the tail-end of 1999. The irony that, five
years after the original announcement, the PowerPC platform was still a goal
was almost unbearable.
In the midst of the AmigaOS4 news, Amiga Inc.
announced that they had formed an agreement with Sharp
and Psion to develop Amiga DE software for
their respective devices. Both companies were market leaders, producing technically-interesting
devices that distinguished them from competitors - Sharp were developing a Linux-based
handheld for the US market, based upon the Japanese Zaurus M1-E1, while Psion
were market leaders in the palmtop market. It was hoped these deals would propel
the Amiga into a prominent position, acting as a limpet-like entity that would
be carried by these products. However, the news was short-lived when it was
indicated that Psion, driven by disappointing fiscal 2000 results, had chosen
to cancel the agreement and exit the consumer market. Although clearly embarrassing
for Amiga Inc. it was evident that the technology market was spiraling into
recession, forcing several Commodore-sized businesses into receivership. Metabox,
the Germany-based maker of digital TV set-top boxes was one such casualty declaring
insolvency, putting an end to hopes that they would release a PowerPC card for
Bluffer's Guide to the Future
The next few months were particularly interesting for Amiga fans. After years
of waiting AmigaOS PPC would be a reality. On mailing lists and web forums,
the individual elements of the St. Louis announcement were dissected. New terms,
such as Ami2D, Ami3D, AmiFFS2, EXEC-SG, and Amiga Component Model, were entering
the language, promising new solutions to long-standing problems. Excited discussion
focused upon the AmigaOS timeline and the individual components that would be
part of the final product. Several announcements were made by bPlan, Merlancia
and Matay announcing new PPC hardware and support for the Zico
specification. Although these companies would not reveal their products
until 2002, it was a good omen that, for the AmigaOS, the future was almost
The Sharp deal was also producing results with the first sign of Amigas role
in Sharp's plan. At the Tokyo Business Show 2001 on May 23-25, the AmigaDE received
its first public showing as part of the Sharp Zaurus. This event placed the
company in a position to be noticed by an estimated 400,000 attendees and would
produce some interesting subsequent partnerships during the next year. This
news was tempered by the current economic climate. The technology recession
was in full swing, leaving hundreds of companies in its wake. Although the Sharp
deal had given Amiga Inc. a much needed boost and extra publicity it could not
pay contractors. Their earlier decision to manage AmigaOS 4.0 development was
also reversed with the news that Amiga Inc. were handing project control over
to Hyperion. As a result, AmigaOS development was significantly delayed, pushing
the initial release date back to November. Over the next few months the deadline
would gradually extend until the first quarter of 2002. Relations between Amiga
Inc. and bPlan had also failed, resulting in pie throwing matches on public
forums. Although Amiga Inc. attempted to maintain the image that events were
progressing as expected, Ralph Schmidt of bPlan publicly criticized the company's
attempt to unify and control Amiga development. In a repeat of the WarpOS Vs.
PowerUP arguments of 1997, the Amiga 'community' divided into two camps - those
who supported AmigaOS4 and those who supported MorphOS. Both groups would criticize
the other, regularly provoking arguments that would quickly degrade into personal
While these events were unfolding the usual software and hardware releases
were appearing. Although the 68k market had almost completely collapsed, a few
companies were still developing products. Hardware development was a major area,
producing two new PCI solutions to accompany the previously launched Mediator
- the G-Rex appeared in April, followed by the Prometheus a month later. Elbox
had also released software drivers that allowed the use of Voodoo 4 4500 &
5 graphic cards, SoundBlaster AHI drivers, and TV cards. After years of waiting
Amiga owners could finally take advantage of cheap PCI graphics and sound solutions.
Several new USB solutions were announced, including the A1200-based Subway and
Zorro2-based Highway, a third card was announced by AmiSoft, who promptly closed
a few months later. Low-end Amigas were also supported by the hardware-based
MP3 player 'MAS Player'. At last CDTV owners could listen to MP3s!
Software products were thinner on the ground with only a few notable exceptions
- iFusion, the iMac emulator for PPC-based Amigas was finally launched. Unfortunately
a bug in the WarpUP software restricted its use to A4000 PPC owners, alienating
Mac friendly A1200 users. This was followed by the long-awaited GTA clone, Payback
in March, followed by Earth 2140, Shogo, and the award winning Photogenics 5
art package. The shareware scene was also producing impressive results with
the news that AMP - the PPC movie player - supported DVD playback for the first
time on the Amiga.
In a tradition established in 1995, 2001 was not without its share of canceled
products. The closure of Metabox and Amisoft ended any hope that they would
release their respective products for the Amiga. The continued delay of the
AmigaDE, AmigaOS 4.0, and AmigaOne also forced the closure of Amiga
Active - the only remaining UK newsstand magazine. This was followed by
the news that the Boxer had been officially canceled after four years of development.
To fill this gap (Amiga Active's, not the Boxer), the subscription-based 'Clubbed'
magazine announced it would moving to a bimonthly publication and changing its
name to 'Total Amiga'.
In contrast to the dimming Classic 68k/PPC market, the Amiga DE was finally
getting some attention. On June 11th, Amiga Inc. launched a limited-edition
release of the Amiga DE package, available in two variations for the Linux
and Windows platform. The Party Pack provided an insight into Amiga development
at the time, while providing a $100 discount on purchase of AmigaOS 4 or AmigaOne
at a later date. This was soon followed by the launch of a standalone
Amiga DE Player in October, allowing Windows/Linux users to play Amiga DE
games using their existing operating system. Several games were included with
these packages, with the ability to purchase more at the new AmigaDE
shop. The majority of these were simplistic puzzle games, the type that
you would expect on the C64. However, the release of Ami3D in 2002 will open
the market to more complex games, such as the DE port of Payback.
Emulation: The post UAE future
For years Amiga owners had denied the existence of UAE. The thought of a Mac
or PC emulating their beloved platform had become a sore point since it appeared
in 1996. Over the years, as more people migrated to other platforms, disbelief
had become acceptance that the Amiga could be emulated. However, there remained
a die hard minority who rejected the idea that an x86 PC could multitask as
efficiently as their Amiga. These people almost died when screenshots of a new
unknown Amiga emulator appeared in the August 2001 issue of Amiga
Active. The Quake speed test indicated that the emulator could operate at
ten times the speed of a 68060 Amiga. The emulator would later become known
as AmigaOSXL, developed for the QNX
x86 operating system by Haage & Partner.
This was followed by a second emulator announcement by Amiga Inc. that a competing
emulator, written by Bernd Meyer (the developer of the UAE JiT engine) and Harald
Frank (VMC) existed. The emulator, called Amithlon,
uses a modified version of the JiT engine running on a custom ISOLinux kernel.
At the time it was indicated that Amiga Inc. would be selling the emulator in
competition to the still unnamed, unannounced AmigaOSXL emulator. However, in
a moment of divine inspiration previously unseen in the Amiga market, both developers
decided to sell their respective emulators in the same package. Amiga users'
would not have to choose between AmigaOSXL or Amithlon. They could purchase
both and choose between them according to their ability to run a specific application.
However, the spirit of cooperation did not prevent the formation of a third
group in the userbase - those who supported x86 and Amiga emulation. Work on
the open source operating system, AROS also progressed
during 2001, replacing over 75% of the original code. The authors of Amithlon
and MorphOS are both working with the development team to use sections of AROS
code and highlight potential bugs, providing a mutual benefit. It will be interesting
to see how this relationship will benefit all parties.
In retrospect, 2001 had not been a successful year for anyone. The AmigaOne
and AmigaOS 4.0 had not be released and there were still major issues with the
Amiga DE to be resolved. However, it could have been much worse. The economic
crisis and fears experienced in the aftermath of the destruction of the World
Trade Centre could have finished easily a small business like Amiga Inc. The
hacking of the Amiga.com, Eyetech, and Amiga.org web sites in November/December
have also done little damage to their image. One year after the final death
of the 68k Amiga, the AmigaOSXL/Amithlon emulation package resurrected its silicon
ghost, allowing Amiga users' to experience an advanced version of their machine
before PowerPC rendered it obsolete. After six years in the wilderness the next
year would produce the next generation AmigaOS and take the AmigaDE into a new
and completely unexpected direction.
2002: Will the real Amiga please stand up?
third year of Amiga Inc�s reign dealt with the fallout of the previous year.
The market had been badly shaken by the events of 9/11 creating an economic
gloom that could not be shifted. Businesses everywhere were counting costs
and making drastic changes in an attempt to weather the storm. The Amiga microcosm,
already at an all-time low, was not immune to these events, resulting in an
estimated 18 month delay in delivering products.
previous year had ended on a sour note, leaving many people disappointed with
the current Amiga market. Admittedly, new Amiga hardware had been announced,
but that had happened many times before with no tangible results. Fortunately,
2002 did not repeat the process, becoming the year that next generation hardware
were finally launched. The AmigaOne & Pegasos boards made an appearance
in limited quantities, but were limited by buggy software and the absence
of a consumer operating system to run on them.
It was also the year that the Amiga
market turned nasty. As a result of the growing role of Internet forums in
the Amiga market, an odd trend began to emerge � the resignation statement.
Many users would announce they were leaving the market, followed by a detailed
description of how the market had failed. Inevitably, this would provoke reactions,
usually berating the author or declaring that the Amiga market was doomed.
The usual flame wars continued to rage on mailing lists with a shrinking number
of subscribers, arguing the benefits of different vapour-based products. Even
Amiga.org � the central nexus for English Amiga news � did not appear to be
returning. Several power struggles took place that threatened to disrupt legitimate
communication. The central argument in these struggles was control � control
over their own products without retribution or legal threats. This was the
argument made independently by Bernie Meyer and Bill Buck, who were positioned
as David in the David & Goliath scenario. There were also the usual hiccups
and foot-in-mouth events that make great forum fodder for discussion.
Next generation became the theme of February 2002, with a series of status
updates on the Amiga OS4 and AmigaOne projects. The AmigaOne announcement in
2001 provoked a wave of excitement in the Amiga market. In comparison the news
that the AmigaOne project had been cancelled received little attention. Fortunately,
the news was not as bad as first thought. In a show speech at the Alt-WoA show
on February 23rd, Alan Redhouse explained
the original AmigaOne custom southbridge had been rendered obsolete by a new
generation of off-the-shelf chips. Similarly, Hyperion�s AmigaOS 4.0 port had
made great strides, removing the custom chipset dependency of OS3.x. To avoid
these issues, Eyetech had made the decision to rebadge and distribute the Teron
CX board. Although this would delay its release by several months, the AmigaOne
point 5 (later renamed to AmigaOne G3-SE) would result in a delivered product
that was significantly faster, cheaper and of a higher quality than the one
that was originally envisioned. As an example, he indicated an entry-level G3@600Mhz
Teron CX motherboard would cost �350 � expensive in comparison to an x86 motherboard,
yet much cheaper than existing Amiga solutions.
on the AmigaOS were also positive. On February 13th, Ben
Hermans issued the first of several reports, describing their
work on the next generation operating system. In the first update, he defined
the 5 main goals for the project:
Migrate OS 3.9 from 68K to PPC
Untie the OS from the Amiga custom chipsets
Introduce modern functionality
Eliminate key performance bottle-necks
Prepare the Amiga OS as a host-OS for Amiga DE
The report went onto
describe a lengthy process that would enable the development team to replace
68k components with native 68k code in a modular fashion, thus enabling existing
applications to continue functioning on the new hardware. The new code would
offer familiar functionality, while extending support for modern hardware.
To demonstrate their commitment towards retaining familiar Amiga experience,
Ben Hermans confirmed they had purchased an OEM license on October 10th
2001for the P96 team (Alexander Kneer and Tobias Abt) to provide a PowerPC-native
version of their graphics API. At this early stage in development, Permedia
2, Voodoo 3/4/5 and Matrox G450/G550 cards were indicated as being supported,
with Permedia 3 and ATI Radeon drivers being provided by Chris Morris and
Bill Toner respectively.
In an attempt to retain
interest and keep Amiga users informed, regular OS4 updates were made over
the coming months. These took the form of screenshots that demonstrated particular
functionality of the operating system. The first set, released on 24th
April, widespread attention attracting over 50,000 visitors. This resulted
in a total of 17.67 GB of traffic within the first 48 hours of their appearance.
However, the screenshots were a disappointment. Many people had expected a
radical upgrade to the existing operating system. Instead, they saw development
software running on a 68k OS3.9 machine. Although, the operating system offered
a clean reimplementation of OS3.9, expectation were dangerously high. Fortunately
the August 8th feature list offered more food for thought. The
possibility of resource management & tracking and virtual memory provided
a conservative, yet promising list of the possibilities available with a modern
HAL, without sacrificing compatibility. It may be taking longer than expected,
but Hyperion could not be accused of being short-sighted!
Though the AmigaOne offered next generation
technology, there continues to be a market for users willing to upgrade their
existing Amigas. Hardware development continued to be the mainstay of the
market during 2002. Elbox were the most prolific in this market, continuing
their range of PCI products and expanding to other areas. During the course
of 2002, the company launched 5 new Mediator PCI boards (Mediator PCI 4000D,
3000D, 3/4000T, 1200SX and 4000Di), 2 Mirage tower systems (for A4000D and
A3000D computers) and the Spider USB 2.0 High-Speed controller. These offered
an increasing number of PCI slots for inexpensive hardware upgrades. The Thylacine
ZorroII USB card also received attention, when it was demonstrated working
alongside a USB Epson scanner and BetaScan software at the MAUG (Melbourne
Amiga Users Group) meeting in March. This was soon followed by the launch
of the Highway USB card on May 31st. After years of waiting, there were 3
different options for USB expansion!
The homebrew spirit was also alive
and well, with two projects attracting particular attention. began
to attract attention. Unlike earlier attempts to create a C64 follow-up (Web
TV and Commodore Evolution) that combined cheap off-the-shelf hardware with
C64 software emulation, Jeri Ellsworth�s C-One reimplemented Commodore hardware
using modern manufacturing techniques. The machine utilized a 65c816
20MHz processor for 100% c64 compatibility, while extending its capabilities
to offer 3.5� floppy disks, 16Mb Video RAM, PCI slots, and MonsterSID audio.
The result is a strange hybrid of modern and classic architecture in an ATX
form factor. A second, lesser known homebrew was PJ Matthews
and Oliver Hannaford-Day�s Coldfire project. This project was less defined,
promising Coldfire accelerator boards for existing Amigas, but allowing the
possibility for a complete Coldfire board to provide software emulate for
The software-side was also producing
interesting results, with two projects gaining increased
mind share. The Unified Amiga USB Development Effort continued their
efforts to create a standard usb.library that would be available to all USB
devices, while the Open PCI effort offered to do the same for (wait for it)
PCI devices! Of the two, Open PCI has produced the fastest results. Though
the project was only announced on the 22nd February 2002, I suspect it
will continue to play a major role in the development of 68k PCI solutions
during 2003. It is highly recommended for Amithlon users who wish to utilize
100mbit network cards and those wary of Elbox drivers (more later).
Micros~1 want their ball back!
Amiga Inc. remained
a busy, but ever elusive entity in the Amiga market. Bill McEwen�s Executive
Updates promised new & exciting opportunities, but had so far failed to
deliver. The company remained in a catch-22 situation � if they announced
a product and failed to deliver on time, (as seen by the Sharp deal during
2001) they were criticised; if they remained silent Amiga users thought the
worse, spreading speculation on mailing lists & forums.
Though few understood Amiga Inc�s emphasis
upon the portable & media terminal market it was evident that some progress
was being made. In a February 22nd press release, Bill McEwen announced a
deal with Nokia to produce software for their upcoming Media Terminal. He
also announced the company would have a presence at booth #1602 at the Embedded
Systems Show in San Francisco, CA on March 12 - 15th. In contrast to previous
show announcements, the statement was notably coy, avoiding the question of
whom had actually paid for booth #1602�
�Where were you when you heard the news?... I heard the news through ABC-TV,
and was immediately frozen with shock. After the initial bewilderment, I must
admit I felt some slight anger and betrayal. How can Apple, the heart of the
Macintosh universe, make such a deal with Microsoft, the king of all things
bloated? How can Apple betray this loyalty? I mean, Microsoft was the center
of all our bad jokes... �
Since the Apple-Microsoft deal had been announced, Amiga owners have dreaded
the day that Bill Gates would come knocking on their door. This was the company
had written Amiga Basic and were blamed for the MCC cancellation - they must
be evil! Many users were fearful that Amiga Inc. would be bought by the Seattle
giant. The company has a reputation for crushing less profitable businesses
and Amiga Inc. continues to remain in a particularly vulnerable position.
It was therefore a shock when it was revealed that booth #1602 was Microsoft�s
Initially, few believed the news. They interpreted as a mistake, a goof from
the fertile imagination that announced Mario 64 for AmigaDE in 2000. However,
a statement by Gary Peake a few days later confirmed the unexpected turn of
"Yes, Microsoft has asked us to demo DE and some of the developer
applications running on various devices in their booth."
Gary Peake, 25th February, 2002, �Microsoft:
Things are getting strange�
Many tried to deny the validity of the news, clutching to the belief that
it wasn�t true unless it was stated on the Amiga web site. Unfortunately for
these people, confirmation came quickly with the announcement� that Amiga
Inc. would market Amiga games & productivity titles for Windows CE .Net.
This was followed by an appearance by Bill McEwen on TechTV � a commercial
US technology channel � promoting the newly rebranded �Amiga Anywhere� cartridge.
It could no longer be denied�
The importance of the Microsoft deal cannot be understated, providing new
opportunities that had been unobtainable in previous years. The company quickly
became a member of the Mobility Partner Advisory Council and entered into
a contract with Sendo to develop software for their next generation �Z100�
mobile phone. The MPA council, formed to promote and support Microsoft portable
developers, offers significant advantages for its members. Their press
release cites the following benefits:
- Technical resources. MPAC members will receive a significant amount
of technical and development resources from Microsoft, including architectural
support for beta products and early access to development tools.
- Marketing and sales support. MPAC members will participate in a
number of joint "go-to-market" activities with Microsoft's