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/// The Emulation Examiner
By Jason Compton
Or: Whatever else I decide to ramble about
Hello again, everybody. I'd like to take this article as a chance to leave my
rapid-fire emulation evaluation format and propose a course of action for the
future of the Amiga, involving (what else?) emulators. Since I have a
mindless job, I have a lot of time to think, and I managed to come up with a
plan so detailed I was even able to come up with names for the products I
propose. I know that Commodore marketing suggestions are a dime a dozen, but
please, hear me out. If I'm right, this plan could well snag all of the
people blindly lured into buying IBMs or Macs, by giving them what they think
they want, and getting them an Amiga to boot. Throw an 030 Amiga (I've
decided in each case which Amiga computer would be ideal to launch the model
from) at customers bundled with the computer the neighbors have. Put a bloody
hard drive and monitor in the package so you don't confuse and scare off the
people and look less impressive than the competition in the process.
Without further ado, I unveil my line of suggested products, and even analyze
how their cost could come out...just in case there's any misunderstanding, I'd
like to say up front that none of what I'm about to talk about is based on ANY
fact. These suggested product lines are COMPLETELY the figment of my
imagination, but I think they're a very good idea.
The Commodore Amiga Double Dimension line-
Offering not only the power and versatility of the Amiga computer and
Commodore's Workbench environment [note: I really don't care if it's 2.x or
3.x at this point], as well as stunning compatibility with the IBM-compatible
or Macintosh line of computers, all in the space of one desktop computer.
Suggested models include:
The Double Dimension Plus:
Using an Amiga 3000 (or even an ECS 2000, which would be much cheaper but
would involve restarting the 2000 line), a hard drive in the 120-250meg range
(SCSI), a high-density floppy drive and ReadySoft's Amax-IIPlus board, the
Double Dimension Plus would deliver the power and speed of the Mac II line at
a greatly reduced cost, considering you get two computers out of the deal.
The Mac side would emulate a Macintosh Plus, able to access virtually any
Amiga peripheral, or adding its own dedicated Mac hardware. The 3000's
display (or the 2000's ECS Productivity) would give a flicker-free screen with
much greater resolution than the real Mac Plus.
Cost: Simply putting together the cost from magazine ads, taking (these may
vary wildly from source to source, I simply want to get an idea here) the 3000
030/25mhz/5meg/105meg at $1000, a usable monitor at $400, AmaxIIPlus at $300,
and 128k Mac ROMs at $130, we've got a $1830 system here. Obviously, not
anything to get REAL excited about, since used Mac Pluses would go for much
less. Selling all of this as a package, however, the unit costs would be
less, so the price could conceivably drop by a couple of hundred. That's not
bad, considering you get two rather nice, rather fast computers.
The Double Dimension II
(For evaluation purposes, I'll use an Amiga 4000 as the example computer)
Based off of Commodore's AGA and Workbench 3.x systems, the Double Dimension
II offers all of the features of the 4000 (a quarter million color
simultaneous display possible) and other incredible graphic, sound, and
productivity possibilities, and includes Utilities Unlimited's Emplant board,
which offers a fully-functional Mac II-series computer which can multitask and
share peripherals with the Amiga. The Amiga provides a Mac color display of up
to 256 colors, and the Emplant accepts Mac boards to increase that display
Cost: This setup is difficult for me to price. Commodore would have to do some
shuffling of its 4000-production to include a SCSI rather than an IDE drive,
but let me provide some rough figures. A4000/030/120meg (listed as IDE, but
let's assume SCSI) is $1750. A well-featured Emplant board is around the
$400-$450 mark. Get a good monitor for around $400 more. 256k Mac ROMs, call
it $300. Estimated cost of putting this thing together piecemeal is $2850.
Remember, again, putting all of this together as a system would reduce the
cost considerably. Nobody said buying two computers would be cheap, but this
DOES come out less expensive than buying both. And I never claimed that
people wouldn't have to be sold on the Amiga too. That's an integral part.
This plan would make them feel like they weren't giving anything up in buying
an Amiga. Let me forge forward...
The Amiga Double Dimension 386
Here's where my plan gets complicated: For the IBM models, I propose
restarting the line up on 2000 production. It's got the most drive bays. I
also propose that all 4 PC slots be made 16 bit on the line, rather than
leaving it as a hack for users. Using any model above the 2000 is somewhat
wasteful, unless you're after AGA...
This Amiga model would provide the flexibility and expansion of the Amiga 2000
(the original Toaster platform), as well as full access to the PC world
through a 386/25 bridgeboard. While I use the term "Bridgeboard", since
Vortex's Golden Gate 386 is the only 386 board still in production (Commodore
is welcome to restart their 386sx line, but I feel that the Vortex board is
superior), it would be the logical board to use.
Cost: Again, tricky. Take a 1 meg ECS 2000 (the clearance models now) at
$500-$600. Add an 030/25 board with an 80 meg HD for the Amiga side. I'll
call that $550. Add the Vortex board, around $450. Since we've now got 3 free
16 bit slots, add an SVGA board, IDE floppy controller (HD is on the Vortex
board) and a port card at leisure, which will run no more than $120. Better
throw in a rather large IDE drive for the space-inefficient PC, say, 170 megs
for around $250. The 2000 will, naturally, need to come standard with a
high-density drive to support the 386 with, but I'll let C= nail that price
problem out. Add a SVGA monitor, around $350 tops. Add some SIMMs, say, 4 or
6 megs worth (and it doesn't particularly matter where you put them, since the
Golden Gate board allows considerable memory sharing between the Amiga and
386), which puts us around $250-$350. Rough total on this, just putting it
together like I have been, is $2170. That, of course, is what 486/66s have
been going for lately. But I can't stress enough how much it needs to be
stressed that these are TWO good computers for the price of one.
Finally, the top of the line...
The Amiga Double Dimension 486
Actually, I can't say much else about this model that I didn't about the model
above, except that it would be either a 486/25 (Golden Gate) or 486/33 (if
they go with the EMC 486 board, an offshoot of C='s 2386sx BridgeBoard). The
major differences occur in cost...
Cost: Take the system I described above, but substitute $900 for the
BridgeBoard in question, and take into account this: The EMC board is not
expandable by use of SIMMs, and the Amiga cannot use EMC board memory. The
EMC board can use Amiga memory as EMS, however, so memory placement is more
vital than with the Golden Gate. In addition, EMC's board comes with a floppy
controller rather than a hard drive controller, which could jack up the price
a little. With all said and done, we're about in the $2600-$2650 range, more
expensive than many 486/66 systems, but we're at half the speed. Once again,
say it with me, everyone, you've got to sell the consumer on the Amiga, too.
In summary, these packages look a lot more expensive than their Macintosh or
IBM counterparts, with good reason, because you're getting an Amiga. I do not
mean to suggest that the Amiga should simply be a beast of burden for IBM and
Mac emulation, but I think that Commodore has lost such a huge group of
customers that they must be won back with the very same machines they're
flocking to. Just make sure they get the Amiga. Sooner or later, they're
bound to use it.
I say we grab these people with ads...preferably not television, since that
didn't seem to work too well last time, but if television is the media of
choice (maybe combat Apple's MTV ads), produce it on an Amiga, and tell
Final Note: I had planned to sum up a second line, proposing that both a Mac
and IBM emulator be enclosed, but the cost would be rather high. It might be
something to seriously consider, though, when PowerPC comes out and the clone
makers crank out really expensive models. Jump in with the Amiga Triple
Alliance, and smugly say, "We've been able to do that all along." Better yet,
beat PowerPC to the punch. Do it now, preempting any real serious need for
PowerPC. Why bother buying a system that can run cross-platform software when
all you need to do is Amiga-M to the computer you want?