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%% CeBIT '94 by Dr. Peter Kittel %%
%% peterk@CBMGER.DE.SO.COMMODORE.COM %%
Here the CeBIT 94 as I experienced it. Forgive me when others already
reported the same, but I'm many many hundred articles behind in the net,
because I had no time for it for nearly the last two weeks during CeBIT.
On our own booth we only had two (or even one) really new devices: the
A4000T and the CD1200, the latter still a handmade prototype.
The CD1200 is the CD32 add-on for the A1200. I could not look at its
internals, so that I couldn't verify the existence of those SIMM Fast
RAM sockets. An interface board is plugged into the trapdoor expansion
slot and a cable leads from there through that breakthrough at the right
back to the drive which looks like a white, half CD32. This cable means
no standard drive interface, but something custom, faster. As the
expansion slot is already occupied, no turbo boards or other expansions
are possible. For space reasons, there's "yet" no MPEG part attachable.
(This "yet" means that perhaps in some years the MPEG circuitry can be
made so small that it fits into this space. If the A1200 will have a
comparably long product life as the A500, there should be a chance.) But
there were again incompatibility problems of the nasty hardware coder
kind: They had provided some Fast RAM expansion for this A1200 via a
PCMCIA card. This was enough to let some *new* CD32 games crash!
(Without the card they were said to run.) This makes me rethink my
aversion against death penalty...
The A4000T came already with OS 3.1 installed. It was a newer version than
we knew before. In the A4000T user's manual, still OS 3.0 is mentioned.
There's yet no concrete date available for the release of OS 3.1.
The Dutch company Eureka showed their "Communicator", a hardware and
software solution to network a CD32 and any Amiga, so that the CD32
becomes usable as a CD-ROM for this Amiga. Still a bit expensive, but it
works. I'm just waiting for hardware companies coming out with such
solutions that use the CD32 expansion port, making it considerably faster.
There seems to be something in the pipeline.
A German company, P&K from Wolfenbuettel, showed us their expansion box to
bring the CD32 to a full A1200, including all interfaces, IDE drive and
floppy drive. They plan a price of 650,- DM.
Generally, the CD32 and especially the MPEG add-on gained big interest. My
big positive experience of CeBIT 94 was the fact that lots of multi- media
software houses approached us, claiming high interest in CD32 (and mostly
directly coupled with its MPEG add-on) to use it in kiosk applications.
One company was concretely involved in a project where they have to place
60-80 kiosks in a whole town, which also have to communicate. Until now
this is projected with Apple hardware at costs of ca. 20,000 DM for each
kiosk. They interviewed me, whether every needed feature was makeable on
the CD32. I didn't need to pass in a single item :-). So he can easily
save money by a factor of 10 to 20. For one or two installations this all
wouldn't have been an issue, but for 60 to 80...
As I said, of this caliber there were many. What made me so happy with
that was that the message obviously already *had* been around in the
market, that CD32 and Amiga are able to do such things efficiently. Our
marketing can't be that bad...
But what frightened me with several of these "Multimedia Software Houses",
was that they (several, not all) don't program at all in the common sense.
That wouldn't be so critical, as there exist some wonderful authoring
systems. But our all-time experience is that you sometimes have to dig a
bit deeper (by using C, not necessarily Assembler). And for such cases,
these companies don't even have one single programmer at hand! A very
frightening scenario for me. It's my strong opinion that you only can do
"good" applications when you know enough the SW *and* HW internals of your
system, so that you can judge what's an easy task for the sytem and what
puts more load on it.
Especially for CD32 we had arranged a comparison of the game Microcosm on
a Commodore PC 486/33, a CD32 and a Sega MegaCD. On the CD32, the picture
and animation was definitely looking best, the PC version coming very
close. The Sega version lacked extremely in the direct comparison, only 64
colors or some such. It was plain obvious. Pitily, they stole the Sega CD
on the third day and we couldn't get a new one fast enough.
Else we had a number of working places with A1200's and A4000(T). The
accent lay intentionally on video. I could send people asking me about
this field there, being sure they would get a good answer from the experts
demoing their stuff there. Forgive me when I can't give more details about
this area, because it was the far corner of the booth from my place, and I
had very little time to look around there.
Several people spontaneously broke into "back to the roots", when they
recognized typewriters and telephones at our booth. A German company has
licensed our name for these products of them, else it's no Commodore
product at all.
We have a new, informative brochure, its title being translated "What you
always wanted to know about the Amiga". The text was developed by me and
many contributions from the German net and some from the English
developers community. I hope that I can convince my English/US colleagues
to start a similar project. On the fair, the resonance was very positive.
At the Commodore press conference, our General Manager, Alwin Stumpf, said
that he wants to announce new stuff only when he'll be able to ship it
days after the event. Saying this, he didn't want to give information
about new Amigas or the AAA chipset or a coming RISC processor. But he
added that he wants to announce some new devices this year, and other nice
dates for this like the CeBIT could be the WoC in Koeln later in the
What about the competition?
I saw a Power Mac. It seemed to be faster. It opened windows already
nearly as fast as an A500. I was not impressed.
After the last year's rumours about IBM, OS/2, and Amiga/Scala, I went
there. On a big booth they were promoting OS/2. On several big projection
screens they were doing practical demos of how to work with OS/2, but
besides this there was also a small Vidi-Wall and some single monitors,
running a sort of demo. And that was definitely Amiga and Scala: diverse
wipes and text animations only known from Scala, and when one run was
over, the screen was dark for ca. a minute, showing only a typical Amiga
OS 2/3 mouse arrow. I'm sure you don't find this mouse arrow on other
systems. I didn't ask anybody there and also had no chance to look behind
the screen, where I perhaps only would have seen a VCR or a Laserdisc
The 3DO was on show at the Panasonic booth. Really nice, but you obviously
have to have the right applications that make it look good. The best one
was some space shoot-em-up, where you fly arround in corridors of a space
station. This showed the nice 3D texture mapping feature. All the other
stuff didn't impress me too much. It was always very obvious, that they
use only 320 pixels resolution, where the CD32 can do over 1300, when it
needs it. The low res was so obvious, perhaps they had too good
monitors... They also had MPEG, also via an add-on module, but it did not
go inside the case as with the CD32, but did plug to the side,