Contents | < Browse | Browse >
/// Usenet Review: Commodore Dynamic Total Vision
Commodore Dynamic Total Vision.
Now known as Amiga CDTV since a remarketing strategy, and "You
what?" by most non-Amiga followers.
Erm... er... Audio CD and interactive software player based around
Amiga 500 engine with CD-ROM drive and cut-down I/O peripherals, which can be
added on via the usual Amiga expansion sockets? Read on.
Since the CDTV first appeared on the market in August 1991, there's
been much confusion -- from the public, Amiga users, the magazines and
Commodore's marketing team themselves -- over what the machine actually
capable of, and which markets it is aimed at. So, to put the record
straight, it's time to give a full breakdown of the CDTV, as I don't think
anyone else has done so yet. Tsk.
KEEP IN MIND THAT...
The author has moved to the CDTV from an A500 <0.5 meg Chip RAM, 1.5
meg Fast RAM, 2 drives>, a Technics stack, a desire to own a 'Pizza box'
machine, and a break-in... so the move was obvious. AGA, Kickstart 3, and
ARexx won't get much of a mention. The author is also aware of sarcasm and
Name: Commodore Business Machines, Inc.
Address: 1200 Wilson Drive
West Chester, PA 19380
Name: Commodore Business Machines UK Ltd.
Address: Commodore House
Maidenhead, Berks Sl6 7XA
[Commodore has other offices in other countries as well.]
Variable, due to different peripheral and software bundles at a range
of prices. Currently <June 1993> in the UK, it varies from approximately 250
pounds for the standalone machine <Main box, Disk caddy + Tutorial CD, remote
control> up to approximately 450 pounds <same as above, plus keyboard,
mouse, external floppy drive, Lemmings disc, Fred Fish disc, possibly
more>. Shop around, since the prices are being slashed each month, with
better and better value for the buyer. Everyone's waiting for the new
Commodore CD-based console, so stores are clearing stock of CDTVs.
OBTAINING THE MACHINE
I ordered the CDTV Multimedia package from Hobbyte <UK Mailorder
firm> in mid-February of this year, and after a couple of days of waiting, it
arrived, after a few calls explaining that the shop had to wait for another
Multimedia pack to come in. The bundle as ordered consisted of:
<Standard 'vanilla' CDTV pack>
Amiga CDTV main box <Black>
Remote Control <Black> plus batteries.
CD Caddy <Black> with Tutorial CD
Cables <Black> to hook it all together.
And: <'Basic Multimedia' pack>
Wired Mouse <Black>
Keyboard <Black. Quelle surprise>
External Drive <Give you 3 guesses...>
AmigaDOS 1.3 System disks and documentation
Since then, I've borrowed <On very long-term ;-> a RocTec external
floppy drive <Not black. Sobs> with slight personality problems, and that's
the complete system under review, apart from the colour portable TV I use as
Nowadays, the CDTV is best obtained by mail-order, as few computer
shops <'Box shifters'> stock the machine due to lack of large-scale demand.
And so, it is rare to get 'hands-on' play-testing or demonstrations in shops,
resulting in public confusion and scepticism, leaving us right back with lack
of large-scale demand. Great.
The CDTV main box is of similar dimensions as any standard Hi-Fi
'separate' component: 430mm <Width> x 330mm <Depth> x 95mm <Total Height>.
It is completely black, with 15mm high cylindrical silver feet: very gothic
On the front, you've got <From left to right>: Main power switch with
6.5mm stereo headphone jack, the CD caddy slot with eject button and power
indicator <And high-pass audio filter ;-> and CD active indicators in green
and yellow, to the left and right of the CD slot, respectively.
Then the indicator panel with the headphone volume level <Graduated
scale>, CD track number, and realtime clock display both in cyan, and a 'CD'
video indicator, and finally, the CD audio controls along with a soft-reset
switch and a CD/TV video switch.
A trapdoor under the indicator panel reveals a credit-card slot to
allow the use of RAMcards for saving 'data from applications'. <High Score
tables, in other words>. The options are 64K and 256K. I've yet to see them
on sale. A PCMCIA slot would have been far more useful, especially for
The entire design is very swish, and would sit nicely at the base of
a Technics or Denon Hi-Fi stack. 'Cool' is an understatement. It's
gorgeous. Probably the best-looking Amiga machine yet.
Along the back, there's the usual Amiga ports: external floppy
drive, serial, parallel, RGB out, and audio left/right. Because the machine
was designed to sit next to the household VCR, there are appropriate RF
connectors below the RGB socket, according to country of retail. In the UK,
we get RF in, RF out and Composite Video out. In the States, you get
S-Video instead of RF in. The Euromachine gets a SCART socket. The RF
modulator is thus inside the machine, as is the power transformer. The
socket is a standard 'kettle' connection with a mains plug at the other end
of the lead. There's a fan in the back, which sucks air through the machine
from the vents on the top and sides. There's a lot of machinery in the box
<Amiga 500 and CD player in the space of a normal CD player>, so it needs
whatever cooling it can get.
The keyboard socket is a weird miniature DIN configuration, as is the
wired mouse socket. No joystick ports -- a major design screwup. However,
there's a pair of MIDI connections <In/Out> and a removable plate labelled
'Expansion', which can have a SCSI interface <Commodore's own or a third
party widget> installed for adding extra storage. There's an internal
genlock available as well. Good, eh?
The remote control acts as mouse and joystick, and has buttons for
the digits 0 to 9, ENTER, ESCAPE, GENLOCK, CD/TV, JOY/MOUSE. The additional
buttons REW, PLAY/PAUSE, FF, STOP are mainly for audio CDs. Finally, there
are headphone volume controls, a power switch, a joypad, and buttons A and B
for selection, like most console keypads have. Normally, the remote is in
"MOUSE mode," where the joypad controls mouse movement <with autorepeat>, A
and B act as Left and Right mouse buttons respectively, CD/TV switches the
video output between the CDTV's own output and what's coming in via the RF
input <same as pressing the CD/TV switch on the main box>, and GENLOCK
overlays the CDTV output onto the RF input if you've got the internal
genlock. The CD and volume controls have the same priority as the controls
on the main box.
If you switch the machine off from the handset, you have to switch it
back on from the handset. The main power switch is likewise. Same system as
my Technics receiver used to have. Notice that Hi-Fi analogy again.
When in Joystick mode, the only active controls on the remote are the
joypad and the A and B buttons. Problem is, they're very unresponsive, with
no microswitches, and have an extremely unreliable action when playing.
Apart from low-movement games like Lotus Turbo 2, where accurate left /
right / up / down / fire action isn't needed, they're complete and utter
crap. Don't even think about playing Llamatron, Gods, or anything needing
Commodore's answer to this is the 'Brickette', which costs around 45
pounds and plugs into the mouse socket. It gives a trailing lead with 2
standard joystick/mouse sockets at the end, and the intelligence to recognize
which method of input is being used. Because it sits on the mouse port, you
have to buy a new standard mouse to go with it.
There's a third-party solution which relies on internal fitting,
designed by Almathera <Producers of CDPD, Fractal Universe etc.> and sold by
GoldTech, called CD-Joy, which does the same thing and doesn't take up the
mouse port <according to Jolyon Ralph at Almathera, who designed it>, and
sells for about 25 pounds. I've yet to test either of these <some of us
don't have jobs or spare cash floating around>, but I've got to upgrade
soon. As usual with Commodore vs. Third Parties, you must weigh losing your
warranty against better hardware performance. C'est la vie.
The keyboard? Black, virtually identical to the A2000 keyboard, with
a 50" partly coiled cable, and a nice key action. A massive improvement on
the somewhat 'dead' feel to the A500 keyboard, with a 3-position angle
adjust. Oddly, there are two blank keys that have no function and are
documented in an accompanying leaflet as 'not having any function'. Only
with Commodore. ;->
The wired mouse <black> is the next generation from the old
A500/A2000 mouse, having a curved back <like a Naksha, but the CBM mouse is
curved along its length and around the back end> and large buttons that are
flush with the back of the mouse. The buttons are sized in a 60:40
<Left:Right> ratio, very comfortable to use with Intuition, but unfortunately
The external drive <black: what did you expect?> is larger than the
average third-party external drive, has a yellow 'in use' LED to match the CD
drive and the 'CD-video out' indicators <nice touch>, but for some insane
reason, doesn't have a pass-through port. And there are few drives that
match it either in styling or colour. Tsk!
As for the operating system, it's based on Kickstart 1.3, with the 1
meg ECS Agnus, the standard Denise, and 1 meg of Chip RAM onboard. The
processor is a 7MHz 68000. This version of AmigaDOS has been around long
enough that everyone should know what it's about, so I don't need to
reiterate previous reviews, which should come as a relief. It has all those
classic OS bugs you love to hate.
There's a realtime clock, displayed at all times, as witness the
display panel description, but it isn't battery-backed. The machine has
private RAM for internal Preferences settings. This means that whenever you
unplug the main unit, you have to reset the clock. Oh joy. External
preferences are no problem, as the machine uses the standard 1.3
DEVS:system-configuration file when booting from floppy or hard disk.
The 'Hookup' manual is just that. A page of 'Contents of the box',
two pages of 'Plug the leads in here, here and here', and you're left booting
the Welcome disk as the manual switches language. The 'Multimedia' pack
ships with Workbench 1.3, so I got the Workbench boot disk, the Workbench
Extras disk and The Very First, which is the Workbench tutorial disk.
There is no copy of the AmigaBasic manual, nor the equivalent of the
A500 Manual <which documents Workbench usage as well as a lot of VERY useful
schematics, ANSI escape codes and pinout diagrams>. Just the Enhancer
Maybe the others had been forgotten when packing all the bits into
the 3x2x2 foot box the machine came in - I wasn't fussed. I've still got all
my old A500 manuals which weren't nicked with the machine, and rarely need to
refer to them nowadays. Besides, I'd used 1.3 <almost exclusively from the
shell> for nearly 2 years; so once I'd run through the Welcome CD a couple of
times, I skimmed through the Workbench disks to see if anything had changed.
Nothing had, so I reached for my old all-singing-all-dancing system disk and
Lack of documentation is no problem for an old<ish> hand like myself,
but I don't know how 'Joe Punter' would manage.
THE WELCOME DISK
Booting the Welcome disk gives a couple of title screens, a extremely
average soundtrack module whilst loading, and the main menu, offering a 'How
to use CD titles' interactive tutorial, a 'Tech' guide and an 'Available
The tutorial is essentially an explanation of the remote control
functions and how to select options from on-screen menus, which is fairly
obvious anyway, but it's there if you really need it.
The 'Available Software' section is simply a batch of title screens
and voiceovers split into categories like Entertainment, Reference,
Education, etc. Note how some titles don't have a screenful of graphics but
just the title name in a simple font. It'd be interesting to contrast
what's actually been written against the expectations of the disk.
Most useful is the 'Tech' section, which explains the expansion
options and the CD-audio panel. It also shows use of the internal system
preferences adjustment, but doesn't tell you how to get to it. <Press
anything whilst the 'Insert disk' boot animation is showing, folks>
The coding quality on the disk is about the same as that in 'The Very
First'. 'Desert Dream' from Kefrens it isn't, but it gets the job done, with
an initially-cheery-then-rapidly-becoming-bloody-irritating 'ping' at each
selection prompt. Luckily there's a certain amount of logic in the
programming - you can skip irrelevant parts of the audio playback <although
not the loading times> and graphics, and on going back up the disk menu
structure you don't get information repeated. Just as well, given that the
female voice on the disk sounds like she's being indecently tickled, and the
male could pass as a member of the National League of Depressives whilst on
an acid trip. Who ARE these people?
If the truth were known, it's more interesting to hack the disk from
AmigaDOS to see how it's all supposed to work. To be honest, it's a bit of a
botch job, as witness the first line of the s:startup-sequence:
;THIS STARTUP-SEQUENCE IS TOO GODDAMN CLUTTERED ! RE-WRITE IT !
Temper, temper. So much for the glamorous world of programming CBM
introductory software. This isn't all: there's a load of unused demo
scripts, graphics, discarded sound samples and credit screens that should
have gotten wiped before the disk went to print. See what you can find.
The disk uses the preferences as set in the machine's private RAM,
which include: language of user, screen position, screensaver timeout <yep,
there's one built in>, keyclick toggle when using the CD-Audio panel, clock
mode <12/24 hour> and setting, and a video sync toggle. This is downloaded
as the working system-configuration by the program CDTVPREFS.
The audio sections of the disk amount to 49 megs of data split across
444 files. Bear in mind that this is a 58 meg disk, according to c:Info.
All are standard IFF samples, so you can play around with them with the
music program ProTracker. This is why you really notice the loading time
during the longer sentences in the 'Tech' and 'Available' sections - the CD
drive speed isn't really fast enough for file-dependent software. Strange
that CBM didn't just use the 'direct-from-disk' long sample player available
in the public domain. It may be that the data throughput isn't fast enough,
but it'd speed the loading up. Separating the disk into AudioCD and Amiga
partitions wouldn't be worth it - there are too many separate audio sections.
The graphics are all IFF ILBM images - use Mostra or another IFF
picture viewer to skim through them. I recommend a viewer that supports
command line wildcards. The 'voiceover beings' aren't listed in the 'hidden
credits' screens. Probably due to reasons of acute embarrassment and public
ridicule, no doubt.
CDTV IN ACTION
My normal working system is based around the ARP shell and commands,
with CygnusEd <used to write this>, DiskMaster 1.4 <a Directory Opus clone>,
MessyDos and PowerPlayer. All run perfectly, apart from ARP's 'assign' now
refusing to accept multiple assignments in a single command line. Weird.
Programming with SAS/C is just about possible with a meg of RAM and
a single drive, but it would be better if the compiler and header files were
distributed on CD. The boot disk would contain just the shell of
preference, the editor and the user's source code. The header and library
assignments would be linked across onto the CD. To get at the compiler
itself, just add the CD directories to the executable path. Not as fast as
a hard drive, but better than floppy, and easier and more reliable to
The first main thing you notice is that the CD filing system and
handling routines grab 150K of Chip RAM workspace as AmigaDOS boots up.
There isn't an option to switch the device drivers off, either. The RAMdisk
is thus fairly limited. Anything over 400K is pushing it, or there isn't
enough workspace for DMS or LhA to work. Don't bother loading Workbench if
you need RAM workspace. That, or get hold of an external drive with a
pass-through port. It's just as well the machine isn't based around
Kickstart 2.04, since the memory shortage would be chronic.
Multitasking with more that 2 big utilities or hitting the RAMdisk
fragments the memory very quickly - this machine desperately needs a Fast RAM
expansion. There is a hardware dongle <from GoldTech, in UK> that disables
the CD drivers but still allows audio CD playback, but - you've guessed it -
it's an internal fitting. Goodbye warranty....
Some software doesn't like the CD device when running or uncrunching.
Large executables, such as ProTracker and DPaint, can be extremely awkward
when PowerPacked. Assorted demos and games fall over as well, due to either
memory requirements or hardware differences. Sometimes both. Marble Madness
won't run despite the machine's being based around Kickstart 1.3 <could be
the 1 meg Agnus OR the CD drive>, and StarGlider won't format its gamesave
disks. More modern games released since Kickstart 2 are better, due to the
new machines' forcing software compatibility. No problems with ThunderHawk,
Lotus 2 or Pinball Fantasies. The same goes for demos - anything that is
2.xx compatible should be OK co-existing with the CD drivers. 1.3 stuff
varies from piece to piece, but the CD switch should fix this.
When things crash the system, you'll get the usual 'Software Failure:
Retry / Cancel' alerts, but rarely a Guru meditation. What would normally
give a Guru just throws up a soft reset, accompanied by a whirr as the CD
drive resets its head and the screen kicks back to the bootup animation.
Talking of resets - the RESET switch on the front of the main box is
vary badly positioned. I often run a BBC Micro into the back of the CDTV via
the serial port for file transfers to the Amiga BBC Emulator <which works
perfectly>. When checking things at the BBC end <the BBC RF Out goes into
the RF throughport on the CDTV> with the CD/TV switch, I've got to be fairly
accurate with the thumb to avoid hitting RESET and killing the machine. Why
the hell wasn't this switch put under the main power switch, and the
headphone jack moved to here? Gawd knows what it's like when you start
The CD caddy mechanism gives a resounding 'Clungg!' on insertion, and
the manual eject has an action similar to an external drive. You've got to
have a reasonably positive action, or the caddy can jam. Pity it's not a
motorized drawer, given the CD-Audio marketing side, but there's precious
little free space in the main box, and all of that is needed for ventilation.
The fan in the back is quieter than the A2000 fan, and is pretty ignorable.
I'm not sure how expandable the system is re power requirements, but 2
external drives are no problem. This may be the reason the CDTV drive has no
pass-through port - CBM was unsure about PCB burnout due to overload from
external power requirements, so they didn't want to risk multiple drives?
As to the CDTV and Audio CDs - according to the CDTV information
flyers, the sound quality is supposed to be 16bit x 8 oversampling. It's as
good as my Technics stack was, when you run it through the phono jacks into a
stack system, as every Amiga should be used. Through the RF modulator output
to the TV, the audio level is rather low.
The CD Audio panel frontend is extremely easy to use, and has all the
functions of a full CD player, including Time to Disk End, Time to Track End,
Disk Time, Track Time, 10 second Introscan, Randomize and full random
programming up to 16 tracks. It's a pity all these features can't be
accessed from the main box displaypanel, only via the video output, because
it means I've got to lug the TV along with the CDTV to where the good hi-fi
tapedeck is. In another room. After going down a flight of stairs. And
unplugging means losing the clock and internal preference settings. Life is
And that internal screensaver? We can just assume it only applies
when the CDTV internal preferences are being used, as I've yet to see it in
action when booting from floppy.
One thing that the manual doesn't tell you, and this is a biggie, is
that you can start up an Audio CD during ANY POINT of system operation.
<Assuming you're not using the CD drive, obviously.> What you've got is the
CD hardware being under control of software when required, but with full
manual override from the controls on the main box. An example of this is the
Audiopanel mode of the CDTV. Press PLAY on the front of the CDTV, and the
disk will start, but the software doesn't register this, and movement of the
selection cursor will still result in a keyclick. When PLAY or STOP is
selected by software, it doesn't affect the hardware override. Sometimes the
software link to the CD hardware can crash for no reason, but it's rare.
The Amiga audio is directly laid on top of the CD Audio. The Amiga
output has always been at a higher level than most Hi-Fi component output
levels - as anyone who runs an Amiga into a stack system will tell you. Same
with the CDTV. Problem is, the CD output is at normal Hi-Fi levels, and thus
when you run both at once, the Amiga tends to drown out the CD if there's a
constant noise level or tune happening on the Amiga side of the system.
Volume levels aside, we're talking hitting PLAY from ANYWHERE.
Workbench, bootup, or system-trashing games. Seemingly Contradictory Fact
#1: disk-based games are superb on a CDTV!
Having your own choice of CD soundtrack whilst playing games is a
positive boon, and adds a whole new atmosphere. Games that have their own
in-game music <e.g., Turrican 2 and Pinball Dreams/Fantasies> don't work well
with this technique, as the music is usually out of tune/tempo with your CD,
and combining the two sounds dire. Games with only spot-effects or a constant
throb work best. The only thing is the Amiga tends to drown the CD out when
producing throbs. The best results are obtained with CDs that are mastered
with a loud signal.
THP Recommends: If you thought Lotus 2 was good, try it with 'Angel
Dust' from Faith No More blasting out in the background. Or StarGlider 2
with Jean-Michel Jarre? Thunderhawk with Metallica? BLAZEMONGER with Cher?
[MODERATOR'S NOTE: BLAZEMONGER INCORPORATED recommends that you play Bing
Crosby and "Great Head-On Train Collisions Of The 1980's" simultaneously.
As to CD-based games - most use the CD only as a way of avoiding
disk swaps. Few have separate data/audio partitions - the only one of note
is Sim City, where a full studio-mastered audio soundtrack plays during the
game. Obviously, there's only spot-effects from the Amiga side, with the CD
audio being under software control. The Lemmings soundtracks won't improve
<sob>, but at least you can play the game via ParNet.
It'd be interesting to see if the 'Scene picks up on this, and release
any productions <they're not demos any more> that use a certain audio track as
the basis for the design, graphics and coding, with special effects overlaid
by the Amiga audio hardware. The mind boggles.
Back with AmigaDOS, if you start an audio CD before the Amiga goes
over to the Workbench screen, the digital output will hang. AmigaDOS
checking to see which drives are attached and what's in everything,
obviously not expecting to find 'Happiness' from the Beloved in a drive...
The boot preference sequence appears to be the following:
[Floppy?] -> [CD-ROM/CDAudio?] -> [Hard drive?] -> [Bootup Animation]
as the CDTV will recognize Audio and CDTV disks but still check the external
drive first. One big advantage of having all floppy drives fitted externally
is that if the boot drive dies, replacement is very easy, and a wide choice of
replacement mechanisms are available.
Speed of directory access on the CD drive <CD0: comes up on any
standard filerequesters> is slow via the shell, but with the Req or ReqTools
requesters, is very fast. 300 files in 2 seconds isn't bad.
Not quite so impressive is the data transfer rate - a quick shell
utility for timing file access that I hacked together in C reckons a 220K
file takes around 5.15 seconds <average> to suck off disk. The
still-to-spin disk start adds another 1.7 seconds onto that. The disk spin
timeout <a drive motor saver?> cuts in when no files are accessed, or, when
using Audio CD, if the system is paused or not playing for around 8
minutes. OK, these benchmarks aren't breaking any records when compared to
the double-speed drives now available; but if you're not using the system
for file-based games which load massive files all the time, I can't see the
I've yet to test out the genlocking capabilities of the machine,
and the MIDI interfaces and ParNet, due to lack of cash.
At the time of writing, there's no standard way to expand the memory
with Fast RAM, although the 'Blizzard' board <specifications unknown> is
currently being thrashed out and will be with us soon. The CD-Switch may
suffice for those just requiring the full 1 meg. The SCSI adapter <various
suppliers> is an excellent move, making the CDTV useful as a cheap
mass-storage device. Gamers have got to get some form of standard joystick
interface: either the Brickette or CD-Joy. CPU acceleration is only
possible through systems relying on the 68000 CPU socket.
The machine can be expanded to the SuperAgnus with 2 megs of Chip RAM
via the MegaChip board - some CDTV suppliers will fit this as an optional
extra before shipping the machine. It is possible to upgrade the operating
system to Kickstart 2.04, but the CD driver chips also need replacing, and
they currently aren't widely available. Without memory expansion, a
Kickstart upgrade is ill advised.
Because it's still based around Kickstart 1.3, the CDTV is the last
machine to feature the 'classic' chipset. With the CD-Switch, all the big 1
meg demos <e.g., 3D Demo 2> and productions that conflict with the CD.device
will work, although some older works may still require that half meg of
trapdoor SlowFastRAM that used to sit in the A500. A standard joystick
interface is a must, obviously. And at 'scene gatherings, play your own CDs
whilst coding/copying/gfxing, all from one power socket. ;->
'Scene musicians also get a look in, with the MIDI sockets as standard
<can we have them used in the next version of ProTracker?>, and the CD output
plugged straight back into a sampler on the parallel port. Never again
experience that 'Oh f*ck! 5 minutes to the deadline and I need a sample from
that CD back at home!' feeling. Assuming you've got the CD to hand. ;->
It's also possible to jam over Audio CDs via MIDI <either the MIDI
sockets or just into the serial port>, or even playing lead guitar through a
sampler and blasting the output over a CD track. And if we don't say anything
about Karaoke-thru-sampler-over-CD, hopefully everyone will have the good
taste not to try it.
Likewise, Kickstart 1.3 means all the classic games will run,
although the CD-Switch and a 'stick interface are vital. The predicted
'trend' towards releasing games on CD means future compatibility as well,
albeit without the AGA chipset. Versions of Kickstart don't usually make
much difference to game quality. The possibility of selecting your own audio
soundtrack for games is an added bonus. And massive games for the future?
Eye of the Beholder on CD? The original came on 3 disks, and, being
AmigaDOS-based, was hard drive installable. Consider 660 megs of dungeons,
missions and chaos, with no disk grind or swap. Failing that, how about a
CD-quality in-game soundtrack?
Elite 2? Frontier? Whatever it's going to be called, the scale of
this one when released on CD is just IMMENSE. The original BBC version had
2000 planets spread through 8 galaxies, with loads of extra information,
realtime fly-by-wire docking computers, combat, trading and exploration. In
100k. We know Dave Braben's using an A2000 with an 030 as his working
machine, but what about CD? If not 660 megs of planets and missions - how
about an exclusive music score by Jarre or Huelsbeck? Okay then, a selection
of modules from Nuke, Greg, LizardKing and Jester? Either would be great.
Lotus 2, Thunderhawk, F15 and their ilk have been discussed already
with regard to in-game music. CD also stops the drives grinding under
trackdisk, though. Pinball Dreams/Fantasies could be expanded with extra
tables and music. The trick with the audio is to get the relative Amiga/CD
overlay volume levels correct. Software houses - are you reading this?
Communications / Networking
Many people on UseNet are using a CDTV as a CD Fileserver via ParNet
with great success. Add this idea to a BBS machine <often an A2000/A3000
with the multiple serial port card>, and you've immediately got 660 megs of
online downloadable software, which can be swapped for another batch in a few
seconds. Add a SCSI tower case <No restriction of mechanism physical size>
plugged into the SCSI expansion, and that's one HELL of a fileserver. The
speed of CD access isn't so important in this situation, as no modem yet can
download at over 50k/second, so the relatively low CDTV data transfer rate
If AmigaNetworking ever takes off <Ha!>, the possibilities are even
greater. The obvious archive disks such as the Fish collections and the AB20
and AmiNet snapshots would be interest enough; but on a mixed machine-type
system, clip art, samples and typefaces would be a major bonus.
Finally, the CDTV offers an alternative to a normal CD-ROM drive,
when used with ParNet. Printers can still be used by squirting data onto the
serial port of the CDTV through the NET: handler. Given that it's also a
separate computer, it can act as a leisure/hackabout machine, leaving the
'serious' power-machine to run Real 3D, Imagine, Morph, TVPaint, etc., with
no risk of virus-trashing, Lemmings-at-3am urges, and abuse-from-children.
You can even run all those CDTV titles without any compatibility problems
<Surprise surprise! ;->> and not have to bother installing the CDFilesystem.
Best of all, you can do all this with just the basic machine and a
spare external drive. Set up a systemdisk with the startup-sequence running
ParNet and NetMount, and possibly even Workbench and PowerPlayer so you can
play modules whilst you're at it ;->, plug in the ParNet cable, and boot up!
FOR THE FUTURE <Or 'Gripes and Praises'>
If the new CD console is going to be based around AGA and an '020,
I'd like to see:
STANDARD JOYSTICK PORTS! <Auuughhhh!>
More MIDI support
DSP for direct off-CD sampling <Will catapult machine into serious music
market with regard to Atari Falcon>
Keep the design and styling <Superb>
RF pass-through port <Excellent for watching TV/datalink/genlock>
USABLE JOYPAD <Auuughhhh! again...>
Pass-through port on external <PSU problems? Either way, no other drives
drive match it...>
Internal Genlocking <Great concept>
SCSI <Another winner! SCSI2 next time?>
RAM Expansion <Can we have some? Please? Credit Card slot
turned into PCMCIA slot?>
RESET switch <How's the BBC dataliaaaauuuggghhh...>
Real-Time Clock, Internal Prefs <Nice touch. BATTERY BACKING! Sheesh...>
Welcome Disk <More usefulness than comedy value, next
Volume controls for Amiga & CD? <Independent volume levels - much more
flexible for game soundtrack mixing>
All Audio functions on Display <It'd be damn useful - go on, you know you
panel? want to...>
Networking interface? <TCP/IP running over Ethernet. Would make
brilliant entry-level LAN fileserver with
In case it's not blatantly obvious, I'm extremely pleased with the
CDTV and its capabilities. Mind you, it's not that I've got a choice of
another machine. My first upgrade will probably be a CD-Joy and a CD-Switch,
then a long hard look at the Blizzard board when it finally turns up. And
finally, if I ever get some serious cash together, I'd like one of the SCSI
Either way, if I ever get a top-end machine, I'm keeping this one as
THP is not associated with Technics, Commodore Business Machines,
Hobbyte, GoldTech, Almathera, Faith No More, J.M. Jarre, the Beloved, nor
Metallica, in ANY way, apart from being: An infrequent customer / failing
to get a job with them / aware of their products / fan of their music.
<Delete as appropriate>
This review is copyright 1993 by THP, Citrus Inc. All rights
reserved. Permission is granted to copy and distribute this review free of
charge, but it may not appear in any commercial publication, in whole or in
part, without the author's written permission.
...this lunatic for CDTV musings, Psion advocacy, insults at 3am when
you really don't need them, moronic anecdotes, Amiga advocacy, drinking, job
offers on the lines of reviewing, beta-testing, documentation, lugging,
obscure jokes, and references to Absolutely sketches, at the following