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%% Musings and Analysis on the Amiga By: Aric R. Caley %%
%% Operating systems and a plan for the future firstname.lastname@example.org %%
AmigaOS: Is it worth it?
Many people say that AmigaOS has fallen way behind, and that it would
require to much time and work to get it up to speed with other "modern"
OS's. I think they're wrong and here's why.
Commodore computers have historicly done well as home computers. They
are inexpensive and powerful. Therefore, the OS can lack some of the
high end features -- in exchange for being a small, efficient OS that
runs well on a home computer.
Other competing OS's have their share of faults as well.
Well lets look at Ms-Windows, shall we?
It still does not have pre-emptive multitasking, though version 4.0 is
supposed to have it (but it's not out yet).
It does not have memory protection.
It still uses that rediculous MS-DOS format for their drives, even
though it lets you use names greater than 8 characters it must cram them
into the old format. Quite a hack.
It is slow and memory hungry.
How about the Mac's system 7.whatever?
It also still does not have pre-emptive multitasking, and who knows
when it will get it. A massive rewrite will be required to add it.
It also does not have MP.
It's also slow and memory hungry.
Of course I'm being very brief here, but I'm just illustrating that they
lack some important features too.
How about AmigaOS itself?
We have pre-emptive multitasking.
We also don't have MP. While it would be nice to have, it would be
very hard to add. Probably as hard as it will be to add pre-emptive
multitasking to System 7.
We're very small and very fast.
We don't have virtual memory standard, but can add it.
We don't have RTG or DIG standard, but can add it.
OK so we have some problems. But I don't think they are insurmountable.
Consider the market for the Amiga. It consists of:
Home computer users.
Specialty applications: Kiosks, "set top" devices, and other
applications requireing an inexpensive multimedia delivery platform.
Developers for all of the above.
Video and multimedia.
AmigaOS as it is right now is plenty sufficient for most of the above
applications. It's perfect in fact, because it is small and efficient.
I hear Scala is trying to port their wares to the PC, and in order to do
so they are writting an AmigaOS-like custom OS for the PC. Gee, what was
that about their OS's being better than ours? Not for everything, it
For the rest, there are many things that can and should be added to
AmigaOS. So here goes.
What to do with AmigaOS
Several virtual memory programs have already been developed. Simply pick
the best one, and integrate it into AmigaOS. VM problem solved.
Look into the many RTG systems in use by graphics cards. If these small
companies can do it, the new Commodore should have no problem doing it as
a standard part of AmigaOS. Possibly parts of a current system could be
Make the "post.library" a standard system library. Make a Postscript
font engine. Make a Postscript printer driver than can print Postscript
to ANY printer (pass through for those that know PS).
Get all the datatypes drivers that have been written. Clean them up and
include them. Write an MPEG datatype that can use the MPEG hardware
(CD32, Zorro card) or software. How about some datatypes for all the
music formats? Some more text Datatypes would be awesome (RTF,
Wordperfect, etc). And a Postscript Datatype. And get developers to
Implement something like, or get the rights to, Hotlinks. How about a
Hotlinks Datatype? Would this not give us the equivalent to DDE and OLE
Create and publish more standards. We could use some more standarization
of ARexx commands. For instance, there could be a standard basic command
set for a wordprocessor, or a terminal program, etc. We need a good
standard for animation with sound/music. People need to support DR2D (or
we need to create a better standard if necessary), and a formatted text
standard, through the clipboard.
We need more robustness in the GUI. We need a standard for font
sensitive, inteligent GUI's. Something both FAST and small and easy to
use (which effectively eliminates every third party solution I have
How about getting in on the ANSI standards commitee that is hamering out
a standard for REXX? After all, REXX on the Amiga is probably the most
popular (or at least 2'nd behind OS/2) version in wide use. Get William
Hawes to do a new release of ARexx. Put in those proposed
object-oriented extensions I read about in the REXX magazine (yup,
there's a REXX mag, it seems to only recognize the OS/2 REXX though).
Rewrite workbench, please.
Envoy should be part of the OS as standard.
I'm sure you can think of a dozen things to add as well. With all the
talent out there, I think we could add a ton of features to AmigaOS very
quickly to get us up to speed.
The question is, is it too late for the Amiga? Is there any life left?
Can the Amiga be saved even by a company that knows what it's doing?
Ever the optomist, I think it can be saved. I still think AAA is
something special, even though it has been delayed significantly.
So, how to do it. I'm sure everyone has their own ideas about "the plan"
to save the Amiga. I do too. And here it is.
Restart production of the A1200, A4000, A4000T and CD32 immediately.
Deliver them in abundance to everyone. I hear there is a Canadian
company that wouldn't mind buying 200,000 CD32's if Commodore could make
them. Think of what that will do for the price of the CD32? (for those
who don't understand mass marketing, it would reduce the price of the
Ensure dealers, suppliers and end-users that the Amiga is not dead, and
that they are being manufactured to meet demand. Let everyone know that
this isn't the old Commodore anymore, and that the new Amiga is not going
to just play around anymore.
Help developers make the decision whether or not to leave the Amiga --
give them every incentive to STAY. Actively "court" new developers.
Ship all machines with 3.1, of course.
Amiga model Competitor-target
CD32 - $250-$300 Sega CD (haha), Jaguar, CD-I (HA!), 3DO.
A1200 - $250-$300 Low end clones?
A4000/030 - $800
A4000/LC040 - $1000 - Clones, Mac Quadras.
A4000/040 - $1200 /
A4000T/040 - $1500 Quadra tower?
Restart development of AAA and next generation Amiga, DSP card, etc.
Begin advertising CD32 in game mags and during children's prime time TV.
Advertise Amiga's as multimedia computers.
(time frame: late 1994)
Push the price of the CD32 as low as possible. Get CD32 displays into
stores, to show off the games and the MPEG video (fight the CD-I head to
head I say!) Be sure to supply good quantities for X-Mas! CD32 may not
be as powerfull as the 3DO, but it's half the price and has more games.
Get those A1200 and A4000 CD32 upgrade cards out!
Get software developers to support 3.1 features (because of course, by
now, tons of people should have the cheap 3.1 upgrade kits, right?).
Write an MPEG datatype that uses the CD32 MPEG card if you have it. I
want to see multimedia software running in a window on my workbench with
real smooth video in it! I want to be able to cut and paste any kind of
data from any application to any other!
Bundle! Pick a good gfx card and bundle it with "hi-end" A4000's.
Pick a good 040 accelerator (and 060 when available) and bundle it.
Bundle GigaMem. Bundle Ethernet cards and Envoy. There's lots of third
party stuff that is good, why not support them (just stay away from
The bundling could be handled by distributors; cooperate with them by
unbundling Amiga's (sell them motherboards and other parts, separate from
each other so they can put together custom systems cheaply). I'm sure
CEI and Creative Computers as well as individual dealers would love this.
Amiga model Competitor-target
A4500/040-40 - $2000 Quadra 650, 800.
(40Mhz 040, gfx card)
A4500T/040-40 - $2300 Quadra 950
A4500/060 - $2500 PowerMac 7100
More advertising: multimedia! Imagine for example the following print
"Multimedia does not live by CD-ROM and cute speakers alone.."
Many people would have you believe that you can do Multimedia by simply
adding a CD-ROM and a sound card. Well, Multimedia is much more than
that. Multimedia means fast animation, great sound, video, hypertext,
and interactivity. In order to do all these things, you need a system
designed from the ground up for Multimedia.
The Amiga is simply the best Multimedia platform. From the inexpensive
CD32 unit (perfect for Kiosks and consumer use), which costs thousands
less than other solutions, to the Amiga 4000, the Amiga can't be beat
for the price. With the Amiga line, you can reach anybody in your
Not only is it a great delivery platform, it's also a great Multimedia
development system. With advanced, award winning products like the
Video Toaster (3D animation, video processing, and more) you can create
spectacular Multimedia presentations.
You get the idea.
Hopefully, X-Mas '94 will be profitable, with very little investment.
(time frame: early '95)
Work closely with Amiga developers to produce products for the Amiga.
Crank out as many CD32's, A1200's and A4000's as will sell (worldwide).
Get CD32 into toy and department stores, and A1200+CD32 expansion bundles
into the higher-profile places.
Release the DSP card (Zorro III).
Release a revised A4000: better memory system, supports more than 16MB
RAM, SCSI-II, DSP in "DSP slot". Compact case, full size and tower
versions, replace all previous A4000's. "The A4000 that should have
been". "Multimedia workstation".
Release revised A1200: fast RAM SIMM socket, math co socket, clock built
in, Akiko (CD32 chip), 28Mhz EC030. $350-$400. Add CD-ROM for $150.
Might as well do a CD32 with the same processor.. "multimedia on a
shoestring", "Advanced gaming pleasure!".
Amiga model Competitor-target
CD32 - $200
CD32-II - $300 3DO, Jaguar-CD
A1400 - $400 Low end clones?
A1400CD - $550 3DO? Jaguar-CD? :)
A4200C - $1000 Quadra 605/650
(33Mhz 040. DSP optional)
A4200/040-33 - $1200 Quadra 660AV
A4200T/040-40 - $1500 Quadra 840AV
(time frame: mid 95)
Aggressively market the Amiga: Multimedia and Games. A4000 is
multimedia, CD32 is games, A1200 is the cross-over machine. Keep prices
low! Get people to use Amigas. Get people to sell them. Get more
Aggressively develop AAA and new Amiga: Pheonix 5000.
Aggressively develop AmigaOS 4.0 (see my other article about AmigaOS)
Make some profit?
(time frame: late 95, BUT BEFORE XMAS!)
Rollout Amiga Phoenix 5000 series. Work with NewTek to simultaneously
release an AAA based Video Toaster/Flyer(!!). "Toaster 5000"?
* AAA chipset (see my previous article about AAA)
1280 x 1024 max viewable display (non interlaced; at least 8 bits,
maybe 16 max).
Very fast blitter, can do mathematical operations (image processing?)
32/64 bit DRAM or VRAM depending on configuration.
upto 16MB chip ram.
Planar (1-16) or chunky (2,4,8) pixels, 24 bit modes, compressed mode.
8 channels of 16 bit audio.
Now I've heard people whine that "1280 x 1024 sucks, it MUST do
better!". Well, have you checked out the prices of 21" or larger colour
monitors? They ain't cheap. If you can afford one of those, you can
afford to get a fancy (expensive) graphics card that can do better than
1280 x 1024 if you really need it. The standard graphics aren't going to
be able to cover ALL cases of what people need.
The Amigas' niche is video, for better or worse, and AAA is plenty
sufficient for video in the conceivable future (it shouldn't have any
problem even with HDTV resolutions -- something that other graphics cards
WILL have a problem with).
* DSP (possible multiple units)
* 40Mhz 040, 50/66Mhz 060 (with 64 bit localbus)
* PCI only on "low end" systems, with additional Zorro III slots on
mid-high end (ZIII slots would be faster than A4000's).
* No CPU slot -- CPU uses PCI slot. In theory, you could have more than
one CPU card.
* Aggregate system bandwidth of 400-600MB/sec (compared to around 35-48
for an AGA machine).
* AmigaOS 3.5 (will probably be preliminary, a bit buggy, and not
available for older Amiga's till 4.0 in '96). Software to use DSP
(VCOS). Networking, Multimedia extensions (Envoy, CD32 software).
Amiga model Competitor-target
A5000-060 - $? PowerMac 8100 (or whatever comes next)
(8MB fast, 2MB chip)
Continue with aggressive multimedia marketing, with the same theme (that
CD-ROM isn't all you need for multimedia!). The P5000 should be pushed
as simply the ultimate multimedia computer.
OK, so maybe this is overly optimistic. It may take a bit longer than
what I outlined above. But I still think the Amiga has a chance. We're
just farther behind than we should be. It still might be a bright future
[To preserve Mr. Caley's opinions and feelings, I have left this article
largely untouched. However, it is worth reminding that no purchase of
Commodore has been completed and that the architecture possibilities of
future machines vary, depending on who you talk to. AAA may not be
a viable future option-instead, another chipset may take its place. -Ed]
Aric Caley is Amiga programer of 7 years. He is currently attending
Cypress Community College in California working towards a BA in English
(with a minor in Computer Science). You may EMail him at: