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===========================================================================
                          The World Of Amiga 1996
  Alan L.M. Buxey                                kccil@central.susx.ac.uk
===========================================================================

Finally I regress to my days as Amiga Reports' UK Correspondent for what
was probably the most exciting event for the Amiga in the UK for a few
years!  What am I talking about?  Well, the title of this report says it
all.  "The World Of Amiga" exhibition held in the Novotel Exhibition Centre
in London on 13th and 14th of April 1996.

The place was totally packed, they could have easily booked it for a larger
place....say Olympia or Earls Court and that would have attracted even more
people from both the consumer and the supplier sides of the industry.  As
it was, mid morning the queues were building up outside and announcements
made on the internal system asked whether people wouldn't mind leaving for
an hour of fresh air and come back in with their ticket-stub later on (an
offer that I took up at about 1pm for a lunch break).

So, who was there?  Escom, Amiga Technologies Ltd., Scala, HiSoft, Power
Computing, ZEUS (hi guys!!), Team 17, Amiga Computing, CU Amiga, Amiga
Format, Power Computing, Analogic, Blittersoft, Wizard developments,
Microniks, Digita, E.M.  Computergraphic, EM Magazine, Epic Marketing,
Eyetech Group Ltd., HiQ, ICPUG, SNAP supplies, Siren software, Gasteiner
and more!  (Sorry if I missed you out).   Who was absent?  Silica, Phase 5,
loads of companies that usually sell massive amounts of software packages
(e.g.  Special Reserve and the game companies :( )

Walker!
-------

Of course, the thing on everyone's mind was this new machine from Amiga
Tech.   What would it be like in reality?  How well did it perform?  When
will it come out?  What exactly has it got to offer?  Should I keep my
A4000?  Who chose the design????  etc.

Well.....I liked it!  The design really does look good when you are there
with it.  It looks futuristic (but not too much so) it looks like it can
really integrate into a setup that would make the user appear to be a
computer utilizer rather than nerd.  It would give a large amount of cred
to anyone who owned one (I reckon :) )

There are plenty of documents around the Net already shouting out its specs
and all the recent mags have articles on it, so I wont say much more than
1) I am glad its going to have a HD Floppy and come with HardDrive and
CDROM drive as standard, 2) I am almost overjoyed by the new IO chip 3)
pleased that the power supply is inside and NOT a power brick 4) amazed by
the expansion slot g- it really is a marvel!  (There is no reason why a
third party cannot make a card to slot into it that would give a PCMCIA
port, an A1200 trapdoor slot, a few Zorro III slots and a couple of PCI
slots next to a gfx card slot!!)

But, PLEASE Amiga tech.  what did you think you would achieve by displaying
the "walker" that wasn't encased in a cabinet in such a fashion.  This new
machine was sitting there with just a 4-colour plain WB3-style screen with
no-background picture, no fancy icons..  Nothing!  They didn't even bother
to try to get the thing to run the new "Amiga Surfer" pack :( (More on the
setup in musings down below)

All in all, the Walker looked a great bit of kit to look forward to!

Amiga Technologies Ltd.
-----------------------

Apart from the "walker", AT were showing off an Amiga running scala
presentations - these ran every half-hour roughly (see musings down below)
and there were 4 A1200s lounging around on stands.  All were beautifully
Magic-Workbenched and looked a real treat.  AT had BIG problems getting the
Amiga Surfer display running for the simple reason that the internal phone
system has to have a zero dialled, followed by a pause and hen the number
to connect to (they didn't know this for quite a long time....) The rest of
the Amiga were doing their things (one of them was actually being used to
play some games - which has been supplied by Epic Marketings CD people)

Big news on everyone's lips (well, anyone is the business) was the recent
news of the VISCORP takeover.  A few Escom people knew about it, but when I
approached the AT staff, there was a barrier....until I pulled out my
printed email that had all the details taken from the Amiga Web page
(http://www.amiga.de) (thanks to Mat Bennisson and his cu-announce mail
list!) They then started to talk a bit - but not much.   They said I'd have
to go to the press room and talk to Gilles Bourdin (who was there) but I
didn't have a press card on me so I couldn't :( )

Magazines
---------

All the magazines were there trying to sell latest issues, subscriptions
and a few games....nice to see them supporting the machine they make their
living out of...CU Amiga had either talked to Team 17 beforehand, or they
had basically hi-jacked Team 17 at the show since they shared the same
booth!

Team 17
-------

...were very busy showing off "Alien Breed 3D II - The Killing Grounds"
(and if that title gets any longer, there will be quite a few people
complaining!  :) ).  It looked great running on an A1200 powered by a 50MHz
060 Blizzard card (from Phase 5).  Unfortunately, it didn't go so well on
full screen 1x1 but that can ONLY be blamed on the AGA chipset

Team 17 WILL develop AB3DII-TKG for graphics cards so long as the gfx card
companies can support them!  They are getting NO developer stuff from ANY
of the companies.  They have got access to Cybergfx stuff on the Aminet -
but that doesn't get them a 24-bit card to try as well!

The game was running very well.....when confronted about the speed on an
030 card, the replied "Oh!  Well, when its optimized, THIS will be the
speed it will run on an 030" !!  - wonder what the 060 version will be like
THEN :)

The serial link in TKG worked well, and most of the afternoon on the Team
17 stand was spent holding a death-match competition!

The levels look great - some work needed here and there - but there wont be
a chainsaw among the 10 available weapons but worst of all, there wont be
any Worms in the game to kill!  ;-)

Talking of Worms, the AGA version sounds very nice and won't be long in
coming out.

AB3DII - TKG  will be released at the end of May.

Digita
------

Digita were very busy trying to get everyone to use WordWorth 5 as THE
Amiga wordprocessor and I must say, it looks very nice indeed.  I might
finally have to leave the Softwood stables myself if Digita can keep this
up!  They also has all their other products on display but I was pushed
along to.....

Wizard
------

Wizard developments has all their Amiga gadgets present but most exciting
of all was the demoing in public (for the first time?) of Directory Opus
5.5 This package is really going from strength to strength.  Fortunately I
am a shell man myself but anyone who doesn't know a single command line
argument for any dos command should really get this package - money well
invested (Wizard just mail me a royalty okay ;^))

David Pleasance
---------------

Yep!  the ex-MD of C= UK was there himself too!  We talked for a short time
just before I went off for lunch.  He was selling his "Everyone's
Girlfriend" CD - a tribute to the Amiga.  Nice to see some enterprise from
people using Amigas...why AT didn't pick him up I'll never know (just
because he was competition.....)

ZEUS Developments
-----------------

ZD were almost the closest stand to the entrance and were proudly showing
off their BBS program ZEUS BBS...very rightly so since this really is an
awesome package.   The show price was 90 UKP and if my cashflow wasn't so
tight my credit card would have flown straight into their hands :) Such a
powerful program for the price beating everything else hands down...well
maybe (sorry, cant be too biased reader).  ZEUS even has ZAPP - Zeus
Asynchronous Packet Protocol now (very nice!) For more info on ZEUS BBS,
try the following,

Tel: +44-1273-505474
Fax: +44-1273-382524
BBS: spa..58 +44-1273-474352 24 hrs. 33k6 support
BBS: BoeBingo +44-1273-383524 24 hrs. 22k8 support
email: zeus@mistral.co.uk
    2:441/58.0@fidonet
    39:139/122.0@amiganet
WWW: http://www.mistral.co.uk/zeus

Just tell them that I (Alan Buxey) sent you their way (and that I should
get a free copy 8-) ) - see the bottom of this to find out how I can be
contacted

EPIC marketing
--------------

EPIC were selling a vast range of CDs.  The stand was a couple of people
deep throughout the show (who said that CDROM drive owning Amigas were
rare?) A few cheap bargains for all!

Eyetech
-------

Want a good HD kit?  This was the place to be - the drive, installation and
cables were all available for a very good price.  GG2+ bridgeboard drivers
were also available - use PC ethernet, serial, modem cards etc.  as Amiga
devices!  Videomaster PCMCIA was also being demoed - looked like a good
piece of kit!

HiSoft
------

Surf Squirrel!  Yes, it was on display!  Running the surf-pack that HiSoft
have put together.  This PCMCIA card was linked up to an "Enterprise
28800" modem and it flew!  A very competent piece of kit to own (and a good
reason why PCMCIA should be available in some form on the Walker - just to
support people who upgrade)

Squirrel MPEG - This new device was also on display, showing flawless MPEG
video from a linked up CDROM drive.  No artifacts or jerkiness..surprise
surprise, "Startrek" was being shown when I passed by.

"Cinema 4D" was also being demoed - it really does produce some stunning
images (and is a lot cheaper than "Lightwave 4".....)

The Net/Web software that HiSoft are selling costs 39.99.  It comes with an
old version of AmiTCP, install software (at last!), a news reader, a mail
reader and a version of IBrowse.  The full version of IBrowse will soon be
available from HiSoft and can be bought separately for 29.99 UKP very soon.
("MindWalker", the Web Browser in the "Amiga Surfer" pack from AT still is
ahead of the field though - we are going to see a great battle between
these two products...at least Softwood and Digita aren't involved this
time ;-) )

ICPUG
-----

(when are you changing your name guys/girls?) were at the show too A good
group of people to get to know...I didn't spend much time here though since
I wanted to check out....

MicroniK
--------

MicroniK has so many towers and configurations...its almost unbelievable! 
Case upgrades to suit any upgrade from any Amiga seemed totally possible.
Want to give your A1200 5 Zorro II slots, 5 PC slots space for 5.25" and
3.5" drives?  Get one of these towers!  I must say that these are only for
the real enthusiasts since the price is still a bit too high for such a
piece of kit.  HOWEVER, anyone wanting to buy a good tower from the start
would be MUCH better off buying an A1200 and putting it in one of these
towers than buying an A4000 - the price saving is enormous!

Scala
-----

Scala UK were busy showing off their multimedia products and given huge
reductions on their range - slashing over half the price away on some
titles!

Power Computing
---------------

Want a piece of hardware for you Amiga?  This was the place to be.  One of
the only other Amigas in the show to have games played on it (!) was to be
seen here.   "Breathless" left everyone in that state after they played it
on an 040 card.

-----------------------------

So that was basically it all really.  New products everywhere, new Amiga on
display, thousands of UK Amigans turning up to see everything and make
everyone wonder why this wasn't sooner(!) and in a bigger place.  I think
the show was probably one of the best Amiga events I've been to for a few
years now.  Since my machine is 4 years old now, I was expecting to find my
next machine been shown off....and it was.  Now I am caught between a rock
and a hard place.  "Walker" machine or the PPC Amiga in the next year....it
might just be the "walker"!

Musings #1
----------

There are 3 "walkers" in this world.  They are worth 1,000,000 pounds each
as valuable one-off prototypes.  2 were at the show, one back in Benheim.
One at the show as on display in a case with documents.  One was out on
full display.  Linked up to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. 

I crashed it twice ;-)

This is nothing to do with the machine - or with my flippant use of a
machine that should really have been out of bounds - it was to do with a
desire of getting the thing to look presentable (they had left it bare!) So
I went into the prefs drawer and gave it a background pattern, added some
colours.  Then ran some software.  SCALA worked fine - albeit all in
German.  Wordworth 5SE also worked well.  PPaint didn't, it did some disk
access, then mouse froze up.  We finally decided it was the s/w not the
machine since everything has registration files someone must have been
playing around earlier.

Oh, my proof of crashing it? When it reboot it comes up with a red alert

    Beta test version
Developers only

(or something similar).  Hell, if I buy an Amiga, I want to know whether I
can at least crash the thing!  ;)

Presenter - "The machine actually costs 1 million pounds!"

Me - "Oh no!  I've heard of stupid pricing policy on Amigas before but are
they really planning to sell any at THAT price!!??" 8-)

Musings #2
----------

A group of us near the "walker" machine.

Me - "Its important that this machine gets 2MB of RAM.  It would die if it
loaded up my current A1200 config - there wouldn't be enough ChipRAM"

Man - "No, since if it has no more ChipRAM, it puts it into FastRAM and
displays it from there..."

Everyone - "Err, no it wouldn't"

Man - "Yes, I have a 1.8MB picture file that I can view with no problems on
my A4000 but it doesn't load on my chipRAM only A1200"

Me - "Hmmm......sounds like you've got a gfx card in your machine!"

Man - "I don't know what's inside, I got it for 550 UKP not long ago"

Everyone - "What!?  Oh no!  I want to go home!!" :)

Me - "When it [your machine] boots up, do you see a message such as
`CyberGfx' or `Opalvision' or `Retina' or something?"

Man - "Yes, yes I do! `Opal..something'"

Me - "You got a gfx card!!"

We then discussed what it would look like when he opened up his machine
that night!  8-) Oh, if you don't feel sick enough already at the fact that
he had an 040 A4000 desktop with an OpalVision card an 12MB FastRAM for
just 550 UKP, console yourself with the fact that he could only view
Workbench through a 17" monitor that came with it!  (aaargh!)

Musings #3
----------

Nice to see those software errors happening now and then throughout the
day....eh lads?  ;-)

Musings #4
----------

Large AT stand with massive screen that would be doing Scala/Amiga demo -
WOULD be if it wasn't for the prompt on the screen saying "script not
found".....so I went over to someone manning the stand.

Me - "Err, there are some people hanging around and sitting down but its
doing nothing - doesn't look good"

Man - "Well, its got jammed at some point, Do you now how to run Scala
without a mouse?"

Me - "But of course!" :)

A few key pushes later, the demo was thumping away, a large group has
gathered around and everyone is pleased.

They really do need some good people to sell the Amiga at such shows (oh,
Peter or Gilles, if you're reading this....you know my address ;) )

------------the end-------------------

This report was written by Alan Buxey, a freelance journalist working in
England under the guise of doing a Chemical Physics PhD ;)

EMail kcci1@solx1.sussex.ac.uk
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