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1995 World of Amiga, Toronto, Canada
By: Jason Compton
Calgary's AmiJAM broke the North American Amiga show ice and showed that an
Amiga show could be well organized. Montreal's Amiga Convention showed
that you really could bring a decent amount of exhibitors out for the
machine. WOA Toronto showed that you could do both.
The bitter cold of the WOA weekend still drew thousands to the Toronto
International Centre for the first show to call itself World of Amiga in
two years. (WOA New York '94 was cancelled shortly before Commodore bit
the dust.) Organized by Wonder Computers, Inc., launched by a speech from
Petro Tyschtschenko, chief of Amiga Technologies, and spanning three days,
the show brought together an impressive mix of retailers, developers, and
No, really. I was impressed. Katie and I arrived in Toronto late Friday
night, after the show had closed, so we missed Petro's speech. Hopefully,
we'll get a transcript soon but I'm told it was very similar to the Cologne
speech we published in AR 3.20. But when I walked into the show on
Saturday morning, I had to smile. Nothing but Amiga set up in three aisles
across a very long show floor, significantly larger than Calgary and
Montreal. It was Wonder's party, so to speak, and as such they took a
prime positition in the middle of the room for a large retail display,
capstoned by what I called the "Pyramid 'o Softwood", with Final Writer,
Data, and Calc stacked high off the table. (They were selling the three as
a bundle, something Softwood needs to look into doing.) Even though the
retail areas were pretty much always busy (the little A600 that tracked the
sales got a good workout), they were hardly the only attraction. I have to
apologize in advance--I didn't even get a chance to visit every booth,
something I can only look at as a good thing, since I was there for two
entire days. I also don't have a full list of exhibitors here, but hope to
obtain one soon.
That said...what was new at the show? Well, the A4000T and A1200s drew a
good deal of attention at the far end, middle aisle, of the show floor.
SMG and Amiga Technologies were set up here (until Petro's departure midway
through Saturday). The 4000Ts were shown off both in action and with the
case off, and it's clear that Amiga Tech hasn't changed the board screens
at all, since the memorable "Haynie Kludge" jumper is still labeled. The
machine case was rather uninspiring, visibly a stock PC part (given the
Turbo button which disables the 4000T's internal speaker) but it was still
nice to see. The machine in operation was marked up with some sort of
black substance. Oops. The A1200s spent most of their time sitting there
and playing Pinball Mania or running Wordworth, both pack-in items.
Rick Stine of SMG was the big man on the scene, and did not seem to enjoy
himself excessively--apparently, one too many people gave him a hard time
over the 880k floppy issue and the price. He told me that both he and
Amiga Tech did a lot of work to try to get floppies built, but the only
offers they were made called for more floppies than they were willing to
buy, and even that wasn't a definite. My major issue with the 880k floppy
is that it makes the Amiga useless in a disk-sharing environment, since it
can't read any Mac floppies and can only read 720k DOS floppies, a format
in which virtually no new PC software is delivered. The 4000Ts were using
old Commodore-badged keyboards, but Stine told me the shipping 4000Ts had
their own, new keyboards. This remains to be seen.
SMG's not the kind of company to discuss future speculation. So the issues
open to discussion were simply the shipping of units and filling of orders,
something they feel they're doing quite well at right now.
On a side note, SMG's corporate information made it quite clear that they
are not a company that will live or die by the Amiga. While both their old
corporate profile and newer color information sheet speak proudly of the
work they did, providing all of North America's service for Commodore,
they're a multi-service corporation and most of what they do is NOT product
PreSpect Technics had much the same display they did at AC '95, showcasing
their MultiFace IV serial/parallel card and Oktagon SCSI controller. One
of these days, we'll get a MultiFace for review...
National Amiga sat right next to PreSpect. The small Amiga mail-order
business, which does 90% of its business over the 'net, did so well at the
show that Greg Scott, the president and owner, bought the first round of
drinks after the show Saturday night.
AmiTrix, manufacturers of the SCSI-TV and A570-TV products as well as North
American distributors for the Amiga Link SANA-II floppy port networking
system, had their wares on display. Amiga Link now ships with IAM's Envoy
Speaking of IAM, Dale Larson won an AT&T contest and is vacationing in
Australia as we speak. In his place, he sent Hal Greenlee, formerly with
NASA, and Steve [something I can't remember] to represent the company. I
didn't have a chance to discuss sales with them, but they had the entire
IAM line on display, including so many Deathbed Vigil tapes that they
actually ran out of cases and had the tapes shrinkwrapped individually.
One of the highlights of Sunday afternoon was Hal Greenlee walking
pensively through the show crowds with a makeshift placard taped to his
Bruce Smith, Amiga book publisher, was at the JCV booth showing off his
recent titles. We should be receiving the newest 3 for review in AR
shortly. My attempt to get him to do a book on the World League (In
addition to Amiga books, Smith also publishes seasonal sports books) didn't
meet with much success, however.
Legendary Design Technologies (and Distribution, and Entertainment) were
on hand with their Link-It! product, designed for high-speed parallel port
networking between the PC and Amiga. They also were blowing out old
Psygnosis games (and I missed Walker!) and showing off a new game from
their Entertainment division. Upcoming products promised in their flyer
include dataTAX 95, which on CD-ROM will include all US and Canadian tax
forms, a new MOD CD which promises over 4,000 unique tunes, and a PC serial
mouse-to-Amiga serial port adapter kit.
CineReal Pro-Video Productions was on hand displaying the Broadcaster Elite
non-linear editing system. I was unable to stay for the entire
demonstration, but what I saw was impressive enough that I will pursue
having a review done for AR, despite all being shown on a very very small
monitor. The system is PAL/NTSC compatible, so could very well give V-Lab
Motion a run for its money (and be a viable product in markets where the
Flyer is not.)
Speaking of V-Lab Motion, NoahJi's had the Draco on display. The real
thing, running on an 060 in its full glory. Two words: Nice machine.
Extremely quick and responsive, and with an impressive suite of Amiga
software included. The system is of course all designed around the
Macrosystem V-Lab Motion non-linear editor, which is currently a Zorro II
card but will be available as a "Draco Direct" 32-bit version capable of
really high throughput levels. The machine ships in a tower case (much
more attractive than the 4000T's), with Zorro II and Draco Direct custom
slots and a number of drive bays. Eric Kloor and Rick Sulpizio had a very
impressive demo area set up with a camera and monitors, and were joined by
Amiga Report's video columnist and NoahJi's East Coast Sales Manager and
Creative Director Bohus Blahut, who dresses nicer than they do, on
Phantom Development sat near to NoahJi's, showing off their ClassAct BOOPSI
toolkit, largely through showing off Amiga Report Tech Journal editor Osma
Ahvenlampi's new Amiga mail reader, Voodoo. They also had Digital Quill,
the new text editor, for sale in a complete package (At AC '95 they were
selling disks with vouchers for manuals, awaiting their completion.)
Right next door was the WCi (Wonder) Distribution table, showing the
product line available to dealers through the WCi net.
SoftLogik, the publishers of the popular PageStream DTP package as well as
Digita's North American distributors, were on hand with PageStream
3.0something and a very large monitor. They also had gobs of Digita
newsletters and press releases for the taking. Nice people, too bad
they're going to be selling the package for the Mac and PC now.
Village Tronic was on hand, showing off their aging but still popular
Picasso II video card and promoting their entire line of products,
including AmiTCP, now published through them. Hubert Neumeier spoke with
me about the upcoming Picasso IV, a card that promises high performance for
the Amiga. He also seemed concerned when I informed him AR had a tough
time contacting VT's North American distributors for information, so I
expect we'll be able to bring news and reviews of VT products much more
quickly in the future.
If there was one product (aside from the 4000T and Draco) that people
walked away from WOA Toronto, shaking their heads and saying "God, I wish I
could afford that, it's so neat!", it was the MicroScribe. Put simply, the
Microscribe is a very slick looking piece of metal swing arm that digitizes
3D objects. Using Lightwave for the Amiga or PC, you touch the pen end to
vertex points of a grid you draw on your object, and the VertiSketch
software and Lightwave translate these points into an object. VERY clever
and seemingly very easy to use, but it doesn't come cheap. The product was
demoed both on an Amiga and on a PC laptop system.
Lazarus Engineering, Wonder's R&D arm, was showing off Designworks 2.0, the
revamped New Horizons structured drawing program, and the KB-10, a PC-AT
keyboard adapter for Amiga 2000/3000/4000/CD32 (the latter two require a $5
adapter to change the 6 pin port on the machine to a 5 pin). I was
promised that a new 64-bit graphics card would be started after the show
and completed by Thursday, but apparently they were just kidding.
Oregon Research was proudly displaying Cinema 4D, the new low-cost
rendering package for the Amiga. They also had a number of HiSoft imported
products on display, as well as their own Termite and On the Ball standbys.
Bob Luneski and I discussed Cinema 4D (which is apparently doing very well
considering its recent introduction to non-German markets) and the Atari ST
market, which they still do quite well in.
Retailer Zipperware, from Seattle, was on hand to sell product, with an
interesting free gift to customers--a random PC CD-ROM (very popular were
Windows 95 demos and CompuServe samplers) with a universal "No" stamp (the
circle and a line through it, you know what I mean) and a badge on the back
saying "Merry Christmas from Zipperware." Some came with paper clip hooks,
allowing them to be used as ornaments.
Veteran hardware developers DKB were there, with their entire product line
on display, including the new WildFire 2000/060 card, WildFire SCSI
hardcard, and Link UP serial/parallel card. Good news for A3000
owners--the demand for a WildFire 3000 has convinced Dean Brown to go ahead
with the design, meaning that the WildFire 060 will be available in the
fullness of time to 2/3/4000 owners. We will, of course, endeavor to bring
A bit of a surprise was the new educational title for the CD32 entitled
Robokeet, an introductory spelling program with an arcade sequence
interspersed between the learning sections. Very clever, even if the
arcade sequence was not up to Team17 standards--that wasn't the point.
Wonder's IT division had a booth set up demonstrating various Amiga
Internet tools and applications on a really huge monitor. I didn't hang
out here much except when I was frantically downloading Emplant software
before my talk.
The Toronto Pet User Group was promoting themselves and the various
Commodore computers they support, including the C= 65 they had in their
The Amiga Based User Group and Valleysoft were both there--I distinctly
remember their presence, but I didn't get a chance to speak with either of
I suppose I should feel guilty for not talking with the Newtek folks. But
their major display seemed to be a few video monitors showing a looping
demo tape of Lightwave's real-world accomplishments and capabilities, with
lots of Babylon 5 clips.
In the far corner of the show floor sat a local TV production class. They
put together a film of highlights from the Friday show in time for
Saturday evening's official wine and cheese, which all of the show VIPs and
exhibitors were invited to. But many of the teenage students spent their
time at another booth...
...one of the most successful, from my perspective, booths at the show.
That was the clickBOOM booth, displaying Capital Punishment, a new
beat-em-up game almost ready for publication. The head of the clickBOOM
team, Alexander Petrovic, was set up with three demo A1200s, running a beta
of the game that, even though only one warrior was implemented, was drawing
the attention of a number of attendees, including the aforementioned
students. More importantly, it caught Mr. Tyschtschenko's eye, and he
spent a half hour meeting with Alex.
Quite simply, I don't think anybody was really expecting to see new games
at a North American show, even one of a WOA scope. And even though they
saw more than one (remember, Legendary had their own work-in-development),
they weren't expecting to see one with some serious promotional material
behind it. Large, full-color posters with a professionally-designed logo
adorned the walls of their booth, and the sounds of combat drew people in.
Capital Punishment is a very smooth and engrossing game in the Mortal
Kombat genre. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to run the demo on
anything but a stock A1200...hopefully this will change before release.
clickBOOM is actively seeking publishers and apparently received at least
two offers at the show alone, but is still considering its options.
But the booth that, despite selling only one product (and a demo unit at
that), was in my opinion the most gripping of the show was the Phase5
booth. In a sense, it shouldn't have been all that impressive. Only the
company's general manager, Wolf Dietrich, staffed the booth full-time
(although Wade Evans, Manager of MIS for Wonder, helped out). There was
nothing for sale, and he even forgot his demo A1200 card. But he had THE
BOARD, a prototype PowerUP 604 card, in a glass case, a shelf above
Phase5's other offerings. People also got a lot of enjoyment playing
with the CyberStorm 060 and CyberVision 64 cards on display, but the real
talk of the town was the PowerUP card, and it was rare that Wolf had less
than 3 or 4 people at a time clamoring for his attention. But he handled
it all very well, encouraging people to take their product brochures and
PowerUP information booklet and to send in the coupon for information.
The CyberStorm Mark II, 060 for the 4000 and 3000, is promised soon, as is
an upgrade path to PowerPC for those people who have bought CyberStorms
after September 1995.
I had a chance to speak with Dietrich about his company's concept for
"Zorro IV", which would represent a high-power bus system for the Amiga but
allowing for the use of industry standard PCI parts.
This entire PowerPC movement has re-captured the imagination and dreams of
a number of embittered Amiga users. If you're one that is still
embittered, I think a number of your doubts would have been alleviated
after a look at the PowerUP card. Mine were.
The seminars at the show seemed to be very successful. My emulation talk,
as usual, was fraught with technical difficulties. It took the combined
effort of Wade Evans and Bishop Wong ("The Self-Proclaimed Healthiest Amiga
Technician Alive") from Wonder 45 minutes to get the A4000 up and running
Emplant Mac in 15khz NTSC for the projector screen, and that was 30 minutes
into my talk. But I was somehow able to entertain a sitting-room-only
crowd without a screen for 20 minutes, giving them a rundown on emulators
of the past and present.
I unfortunately didn't get in to see any others, but the talks seemed to
draw enough to fill the room they were in (40-50 seats) without taking too
many people off of the show floor, something that detracted from sales at
AmiJAM, where two talks ran at once, which is great for the attendees but
bad for exhibitors.
Where to start? Amiga celebs, bigwigs, and long-time users were all
I was able to meet with Petro...for about 30 seconds. He had been hounded
the entire time he was there by countless people hoping for an audience, so
I barely had time to shake his hand, give him my card, and thank him for
his work for the Amiga before he had to leave for the airport. Hopefully
we'll have more time to talk at the Amiga Atlanta banquet on January 20th,
which he and Gilles Bourdin will be attending, in addition to Dave Haynie
and Wonder Computers, and hopefully other sponsors.
Eric Schwartz was there as well, modeling what should be the next Big Thing
for Amiga users who want to show their allegiance. A self-designed T-shirt
featuring a maniacally grinning Amiga 4000 and monitor peering from atop a
hill, with the very catchy--and accurate--motto, "Amiga: We're Back, And
Amiga Convention '95 organizers Frederik Tessier and Yannick Koehler made
the trek from Quebec to check out the show.
Katie and I had a great talk with Steve [some other last name I've
forgotten] who was there reporting for the Lightwave mailing list. For
some reason, I can't remember the last name of any of the Steves I met at
the show, and for that I'm truly sorry. But Steve pointed out that even
though other computer systems work for video production, the Amiga is the
one that is the most flexible for the budding video producer, allowing a
system to be built $1000 or $2000 at a time, rather than an outlay of
$10,000 at once just to have a usable machine.
Doug Cotton, editor of Commodore World, was the only print magazine editor
at the show. Creative Micro Designs had considered setting up a booth but
the plans never materialized. Still, Doug flew out to see the sights and
have a Guiness or two. He was accompanied on Saturday by Jim Butterfield,
but I didn't get a chance to meet him. CMD's plans to start an Amiga
magazine haven't gone beyond the idea stage, unfortunately. Hopefully, the
presence at the show will give him enough material to push the idea a bit
more to the CMD purseholders.
Giorgio Gomelsky and Livingston Hinckley of the AMUSE NY user group came
out for the show. Giorgio is the AMUSE TV producer, and Livingston is the
president of the group. They conducted interviews and generally tried to
cover as much of the show as possible, including being involved in some
behind-the-scenes meetings with Wonder after the show.
Those Side Notes...
Without Dave Haynie or Dale Larson on hand to cause trouble, the
after-hours scenes were a bit tamer than other trips this year. But...
Karaoke in Toronto? Forget it. All we could find was a Japanese
restaurant in a hotel, where all of the karaoke we saw in there was sung
and subtitled in Japanese.
Katie and I couldn't escape the Amiga people. On Monday, we went to the
Toronto Science Center and ran into AmiTrix. We found a number of Amigas
driving the displays, including the "Land Like a Cat" display. I won our
mini-contest, landing with a force only 1.7 times my weight. Not quite as
rewarding as beating Dave Haynie at Galaga, but...
At each Amiga show this year, one person has enjoyed a Guiness or two while
another said it was a repulsive substance. I finally decided to find out
for myself. It's actually pretty good, as beer goes.
Wolf Dietrich of Phase5 has a voice very reminiscent of Arnold
Schwarzenegger's. He's also got a similar build.
What Came From All This?
As Sunday wound down, I didn't see any unhappy faces. In fact, the mood
of both the participants and exhibitors was upbeat, even if everyone was
dead tired by 6 pm Sunday. I don't have exact attendance figures, but the
day-to-day estimates put it somewhere around 3,000. Saturday was by far
the busiest day, and it did my heart good to realize that I just couldn't
tell what was going on in the booth 15 feet away, because too many people
were in the way. I don't have each exhibitors sales figures, of course,
but a happy face is a face that's made a profit.
I have to admit that I had my doubts coming into the show if it would
really draw a significant amount of people--AmiJAM and AC '95 combined
brought in around 1,000. But Toronto in December was a prospect enticing
enough to pull out thousands of Amiga fans to the show to see what was
happening. Walking away from the show, it has to be said that the mood is
The show floor had old faces with the strength and courage to support the
Amiga market: DKB and Newtek spring to mind. New industry leaders such as
Phase5 stunned the floor. New Amiga strongholds like Zipperware and
Legendary kept the spirit up. In the face of it all, new Amiga machines
were on the SMG tables. A company that was a lone dealership in Ottawa a
few short years ago pulled it all together.
WOA Vancouver, June '96, and WOA Toronto, December '96, are already in
planning by Wonder's IT division. I hope AMUC in Calgary and the Montreal
AC '95 convention organizers take this to heart and go forward with their
own shows next year. I hope the Gateway St. Louis organizers are inspired.
This show was a real milestone for the Amiga in North America, and
Already, I've received a request from a general-interest computer magazine
for a reprint of this article--and I'm not done with it yet! Let the