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                           Amigas of the Future
  Eyal Teler                                          teler@cs.huji.ac.il
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After reading the Message from Sweden in AR4.07, I felt that my own opinion
should be heard, as a representative of a different viewpoint. 

I'm a PC owner for almost a year and a half now (a slow 486-66, but still
considerably faster than my Amiga was).  I'm still following the Amiga
scene, because I like the Amiga, although I must say that as time passes,
even PC OSs are getting better in some areas than the Amiga OS (and the
hardware, well...).

I can't say I represent any specific crowd.  Basically, I like cheap
machines which do a lot of things; I don't need the newest, greatest
technology, but I do buy good things when I see them (like the Syquest
EZ135); I play games and do word processing most of the time, but I also
program and run the occasional paint or 3D program.

With the new potential buyout, which means that new Amigas will likely take
even longer to arrive, I'm getting a bit pessimistic, but I'm still
hopeful.  So here's what I think (I tried to keep to the numbering of the
Swedish text).  What I have in mind is a kind of "stop gap" machine.  
Something good enough to convince people that the Amiga is a worthwhile buy
(or at least worth checking out).  I'd love a PowerPC Amiga (or whatever
fast processor) for the future, and I know what I want from it (again, a
cheap price is first on the list), but I think that something is needed in
the meanwhile, and a Walker-like Amiga is a good start.

1.  I always liked the small boxes of the A500 and its kin, but it seems
that most others don't.  Big boxes are more practical, since they allow
more devices inside.  So here I agree with others (and AT, it seems).

2.  Standard components are a good thing, especially if they are advanced
enough.  Again the Walker is a good thing.

3.  SCSI should be optional.  EIDE is cheap, and provides very high speeds.
EIDE disks are cheaper than their SCSI counterpart.  Most computer users
(i.e., PC users) seem to be satisfied with EIDE.

4.  The Amiga should have a large hard disk and a CD-ROM as standard. 
Prices are quite cheap - a quad speed CD-ROM would cost me $60+VAT here in
Israel, so it should be even cheaper in the US, for example.  Don't go for
the latest and greates hardware.  I want a cheap Amiga which is good
enough.  I don't want to pay for technology which I don't really need (like
8x CD-ROMs - even though these should be very cheap by the time the Walker
arrives, so perhaps should be included).  I certainly don't want to be
forced to buy non-standard technology for a high price (like a ZIP), where
I'd rather select it by myself (and get an IDE EZ135).

5.  I'll come back to the bundled software later.

6.  AGA is not very good as a hardware standard.  I'd still say that an AGA
Amiga could sell, because AGA is adequate for many needs.  If possible, a
very cheap PC SVGA chip should be includes (and the two should be
integrated as best as possible).  Even a pure frame buffer with no
acceleration will be enough - it gives a chunky display and low end true
colour (or high colour).  I don't need 16-bit sound.  More voices will be
nice (most PC programs take a lot of CPU time to simulate several voices on
non-wave-table sound cards), but for now the Amiga sound is still adequate
for games, especially with CD sound available through the CD-ROM drive.  A
DSP might be a nice addition, although a Java chip could be a nice
alternative. 

7.  MP and RT can be a nice addition for a future OS upgrade.  I think than
most important for the OS will be support of SVGA cards as standard,
especially if the new Amiga comes with a PCI bus.

10.  A virtual workbench might not be practical (especially with the low
resolutions of today's VR glasses), but built in support for 3D and VR
could be a nice addition to a next generation Amiga.  A VR bundle could be
a nice thing, but will only work if it comes with enough software (i.e.,
games), and is cheap enough to compete with PC offerings.

11.  Put all the cheap hardware you can into the Amiga.  Sound sampling
first.  All PCs have it.  8 bit is enough for now.  Allow both LINE IN and
MIC.  Voice control could be added.  Even if it's minimal, it'll be nice. 
The number of voice controlled games on the PC is very small (I know of
one), strangely enough, so Amiga could have a good start in this area.  
MIDI will also be nice.  If you can have decent quality genlocking as
standard (for cheap), that'll be nice too.  A DSP (or Java chip) are cheap,
too, so might be another option.  Don't go overboard, though - putting a
$200 3D chip and a $200 detachable drive will raise the price too much and
provide too little benefit (PC programmers usually prefer to use the CPU
for 3D anyway, because it's more flexible).

12.  Use a 20MHz 68EC040 as the entry level CPU.  These cost $50 in
quantities of 1000 some 3 years ago.  I don't know the current prices, but
they must be cheap enough, even in the socketed version.  A socketed
68EC040 should on one hand be adequate and cheap for an entry level Amiga,
and on the other hand be upgradable to a fast 68060 in the same socket. 
(PC people will appreciate this.)

13.  Keep the price low!  A low end Pentium multimedia machine costs less
than $1500.  For this price you can get 16MB of RAM and a 1.3MB hard disk,
a 16-bit sound card and 6x CD-ROM drive, a 15" monitor, and some bundled
software.  Sure, it'll be a nameless PC, but it'll survive for a year or
two (by which time it'll be old technology).  The Amiga won't be able to
compete in terms of power, but might be able to survive if it has a low
price point, and comes with an attractive enough bundle.  Price is more
important than features.  Hardware features which are not dirt cheap to add
shouldn't be added, unless current software will be able to use them (like
a MIDI interface, for example).  Take a DSP, for example - it might be a
nice option, but it won't survive into the PowerPC age (as happened to
Macs), and older Amigas don't have it.  Unless the stop-gap Amiga is with
us for a long time, the DSP won't get much use (a Java chip will get more
use, probably).

14.  Bundle, bundle, bundle!  This is probably most important.  This is,
IMHO, what can make the Amiga sell, and can make people write programs for
it.  I wanted to write about this to AT, so I'll kind of address this to
them.

The first target of bundling is convincing people that the Amiga has
software.  This is a very difficult task, considering that the PC has
considerably more software in most (if not all) areas.  Contrary to popular
Amiga misconception, PC software is cheap and powerful (although there are
of course very powerful programs which are also very expensive).  Building
a good software library can be done by buying British PC mags (as in the
case of the Amiga), and Imagine 3 and Vista Pro 3 have already been bundled
with Future Publishing magazines.

IMO, the Amiga should be bundled with as much software as possible.  This
doesn't have to be the latest software, but it has to cover every type of
software imaginable.  And software which is not bundled as a full program
should be there as a demo.  Give everything that was given with Amiga mags.
PC bundles are usually unimaginative - a productivity bundle, a photo
editing (and perhaps morphing) program, a multimedia encyclopaedia, some
games and some educational programs.  The Amiga should come with 3D
programs, MIDI programs (Bar&Pipes, Music X), automatic music creators,
sampling and effects software, image editors, multimedia design programs
(Scala and the like), DTP programs, structured drawing, and, of course,
productivity programs of all types.  Emulators should be there in force,
too.  Mac and PC ones, of course, but C64 and others, too.  Just put
everything.  If there's no place on one CD, use two.  Almost forgot
Internet and networking programs.  Internet is very important.  And don't
hesitate to give good PD programs in the bundle.

Not to be forgotten are games.  The PC is very strong here.  There should
be games of all types included.  The obligatory Doom-style games should be
there, of course, but adventure/RPG/strategy games should be there in
force, too, as much as possible.  If there's one reason I like PC gaming is
the number of strategy and adventure games.  It doesn't matter if the
bundled games are a bit old, but people must know that the Amiga has
everything.  X-COM (UFO: enemy unknown), Sim-City 2000, Frontier, King's
Quest 6, Simon the Sorcerer should be put there.  Even oldies like Eye of
the Beholder could add to the attractiveness of the bundle.  Did Magic
Carpet ever make it to the Amiga?  Any decent flight simulator?  And, of
course, the arcade style games.  These have always been better on the
Amiga.

The number of actual games bundled should not be too great, but they should
be as varied as possible, and there should be as many demos as possible. 
There should also be a CD32 game (or a specially designed CD game), to
prove that multimedia and game animations are known to the Amiga.  Try to
include games and demos which run from Workbench, and can quit back to it.
Windows 95 users will soon see it as a must.

Include a British-magazine-style instructions for the software.  A 200-300
page magazine, with 10 page instructions and tutorials for full programs,
1-2 pages for demos, 1/2 page to 1 page for games and game demos.  And this
mag should include upgrade offers to the full packages and latest versions.

The other way of convincing people that the Amiga is worth something is to
put technology demos on the disk.  If possible, put demos of things the PC
cannot do, or doens't have as standard yet.  For example (the only thing I
can think of that the PC doesn't really have), do overscan video.  Is it
possible to display high frame rate full screen HAM8 (or even just 256
colour) overscan video from a quad speed drive?  I hope that a 68EC040 or a
bundle DSP could do it.  Voice control of some Workbench elements?  Why not
bundle a head mounted microphone for this?  Have a tutorial with video and
speech.  Everything that shows that the Amiga is still at the forefront of
technology (even though it's not) should be put there.

Make people feel at home with the Amiga.  Give as much documentation as
possible.  What you don't give as books give as AmigaGuide docs (or HTML
docs, for this matter).  Have interactive tutorials of both workbench and
the shell.  Have full ARexx docs.  Have tips and tricks.  Show the special
features of the Amiga.  Give online docs for bundled programs.

The last thing that the bundle should do is make people write for the
Amiga.  For one thing, companies will want their programs and demos to
appear on the CDs, and PD programmers will also want the recognition (I
assume that the bundle will change every several months).  But the other
way to convince people to write for the Amiga is to make it easy, and
that's where the bundle comes in.

First of all, give as much documentation as possible.  It shouldn't be too
difficult to create an AmigaGuide version of Includes and Autodocs.  And
giving the latest includes in the bundle will also be nice.  Give
instructions on ARexx programming, have a programming guide for the
Installer.  Everything possible should be there.  I don't expect the
complete books of how to program the Amiga, but the above will give a good
start for programmers.

Secondly, bundle programming languages.  When I said that I want everything
bundled, I meant it.  Give AMOS, Blitz, Devpac, DICE, and anything else
which have been given on coverdisks.  Let the companies offer upgrade
options to the latest, full versions.  Give PD language implementation
(Oberon, etc.).  Include GUI creators.  That's very important - no PC
programming suite will come without one.

If possible, this bundle should be made available to existing Amiga owners.


Okay, that's it for now. Comments are welcome.

  Eyal
--
teler@cs.huji.ac.il
ET's home page is at http://www.cs.huji.ac.il/~teler