Contents | < Browse | Browse >
Amiga '97 St. Louis Show Report
By: Jason Compton
I first started going to Amiga shows in 1995, when AmiJam '95 was held in
Calgary. Since then I've been to several, including the most recent
Cologne show in Germany. I thought the Gateway show would be a good
opportunity to relax, see the sights, and have a good time.
It definitely was a good time, although there wasn't much time for
relaxing. It was the first show where I came not just as a press guy, or
as a representative of a company, but as a full-fledged exhibitor. I, and
the others at Amiga Legacy, had a table set up showing off our upcoming
videotape-based Amiga magazine. This has the effect of taking a LOT of
your available time away from you. As a result, I wasn't even free to see
everything at the show!
This is pretty unusual. Typically, by the end of the second day I'm at a
show, I've seen everything, talked to everybody, and am just waiting for
the teardown to come so that the people I've got plans with for the evening
can get it over with and be free to go out on the town. :) This time it
was different. Not only was I also helping to man a table, but the show's
hours were VERY short (6 hours the first day, only 5 the second). This
might not have been so bad if I wasn't also trying to manage an online
conference from the show (which turned out badly for reasons primarily
outside my control.)
However, I did get around to see quite a bit of the show.
The organizers, the St. Louis Gateway Amiga Club lead by show chairman Bob
Scharp, did a great job of promoting the show for over a year. As a
result, they had very good exhibitor turnout (including an overseas visit
from Hisoft) and something quite near an attendance of 1,000 over the two
day period, not at all shabby. Scharp was also promoting his
limited-edition temperature-change coffee mugs, and filled a last-minute
vacancy with a long table known as "Scharp Software", which seemed to
consist of endless boxes filled with various Amiga disk magazines (Amiga
Animation, Best of Amiga, etc.)
Inside the show itself, the biggest single attention-getter seemed to be
Canadian dealer National Amiga, which had the largest single display area
and a large variety of products, including their new Insert104 keyboard
adapter. Greg Scott and Joe Archibald of National were constantly busy
selling off tons of stuff, although curiously enough none of the A1241
Q-Drives (which only recently arrived in North America) were sold.
Nearby was one of National's American contemporaries, Randhir Jesrani and
CompuQuick. They, too, were doing a brisk business, including their stock
of AT 14 and 17 inch monitors.
Next to CompuQuick was Don Hicks and Amazing Computing. Don was pushing
very hard to get attendees to subscribe or renew their subscriptions to the
US' only newsstand Amiga magazine. Hosted in the Amazing area was Keith
Siders from ProvTech with his AmiFast A3000 SIMM card, as reviewed in a
recent Amiga Report.
On Saturday, Richard from Hisoft sat in an area near Amazing, showing off
the latest Cinema4D and IBrowse for the Amiga. I had a chance to talk with
Richard on Saturday night, he seemed far more enthusiastic about the Amiga
than he did in our conversation at Cologne a few months back.
Silent Paw was onhand showing off, what else, a PAWS A1200 unit. There
weren't the copious amount of PAWSTrac trackballs that I saw in Ohio, but I
heard them mentioned once or twice anyway. Not far away sat Anti-Gravity
Products, who had Paul Nolan and his Siamese System on display. They had
an Eagle A4000T, which was quite an attention-getter since they're far more
attractive than the QuikPak units. The Siamese RTG system is not yet
complete for commercial sale but it was on display, and I have to admit
that it's very, very impressive. The Siamese System seems to be the
implementation of the old "Put the Amiga on a PC card", but in
reverse. Much as I'm not a fan of Microsoft and their operating system,
it's quite neat to see Cinema4D Amiga rendering on a Windows95 screen.
Not far away was Nova Design, with a very black booth showing off their
latest demo tape and selling ImageFX 2.6 at a VERY low price of US$190.
Aladdin 4D, almost ready for re-release, was unveiled at a special meeting
on Sunday, but I was unable to attend.
Newtek was indeed at the show! Company president Tim Jenison was not, but
a number of sales and marketing people were indeed there. They made a
strategic mistake in choosing to demonstrate Lightwave 5 on an Alpha rather
than an Amiga. In one way, I can see their thinking: "We are showing off a
product, so we should show it off running as fast as possible." However,
the correct thought, given the crowd they're trying to appeal to, would
have been, "We are showing off a product at an Amiga show, so we should
show it running on an Amiga." Full marks for the effort, though, and they
did donate a Lightwave 5 Amiga as a door prize as far as I could make out,
so bonus points for that.
Dale Larson's IAM was next to Newtek, and he and Janet McIlvaine were kept
very busy shuffling copies of IAM's books, Connect Your Amiga and Torn
Shapes of Desire: Internet Erotica, along with the SYA DiskSalv/MRBackup
combo. The Amiga logo promotion was, as always, a big hit with customers,
as were the Commodore stickers Dale put on everyone who walked by. Dale
sold out of MegaBalls and MegaBall T-shirts before the end of the show,
prompting a few more people to make the bold claim that they, too, are
possessed of mega balls.
Y/C Plus, who specialize in add-on cards for Toaster systems, was there. I
didn't get much of a chance to investigate their area, but they were
selling rebadged Philips televisions which accept video and multisync VGA
inputs. Decently priced, too, considering their Amiga capabilities. The
27" models were competitive with what Toshiba TIMM 20" monitors used to
cost, although I just got a report that the TIMM is being blown out on QVC
for $300 each. Near to Y/C Plus was the Oregon Research area, marred
somewhat by the fact that Oregon Research could not attend in person, but
president Bob Luneski sent a candid letter explaining their need to buckle
down and work on products.
SoftLogik had a single person onhand promoting their product. She
alternately looked overwhelmed with people and worn out so I didn't get a
chance to muscle in for a conversation.
Micro R+D had a number of products on hand, including the GPSoft line
(GPFax and DirOpus). They were situated near Amiga Atlanta and AmiTech
(Ohio), two user groups sharing space and cross-promoting the Atlanta
banquet video of a year ago and Eric Schwartz t-shirts, among other things.
Grafica Software was giving personal demos of their MoneySmart personal
finance program at the show. Quicken compatibility is promised very soon
in an upcoming version of the program.
One of the more talked-about items at the show wasn't even shown, we just
had some flyers to look at--a company is promising an Amiga ethernet card,
SANA-II compliant, for US$100 retail. Stay tuned.
I was unable to talk at all with the rest of the exhibitors I can find
listed, but they deserve mention: Brewster Productions, FASTRAX, NASAU,
OZWare andPJ Nordmann-FX. (The latter produced the Amiga '97 television
ads which were screened at the show's Saturday night banquet.)
Ah, yes, the banquet. On Saturday night, a banquet was held for those who
bought special Amiga'97 banquet tickets. Most of the exhibitors and
luminaries from the show were in attendance, as well as a number of
intrepid users. A panel discussion was held, because everybody loves a
panel discussion--Randhir Jesrani, myself, Dale Larson, Don
Hicks, Kermit Woodall from Nova Design, and Greg Scott were involved, as
After the banquet, some of us lingered behind. One thing lead to another,
and before long you had a dozen or so Amiga luminaries sucking down
hundreds of balloons of helium in front of a video camera. Exclusive
footage will be in the first issue of Amiga Legacy, for those who are
interested in this sort of mayhem.
This sort of thing kept the usual ritual of going out and drinking to a
surprising low. Despite the show's short hours, somehow it managed to keep
everybody in the hotel for just about all of the time. It helped that the
hotel bar was open later than most.
Sunday morning, there was a meeting of developers run by Kermit Woodall.
Not surprisingly for the first attempt, there were a lot of ideas thrown
out and a lot of focus on specific details rather than a bigger picture,
but the general mood of the group shows that there's at least some
potential for cooperation, if only people will get over their xenophobic
aversions to GUI creation tools.
At the show, Nova Design also showed off their new PowerPC developer
daughtercard. Unlike the commercial boards which will be standalone, the
developer boards are daughtercards which plug into existing Cyberstorm Mark
II units and house the PowerPC and 68060 on them. Nova's wasn't plugged
into anything, and it wasn't much to look at, but it represents the next
leap in processing power for Amiga computers.
Partially because there was less drinking than usual, there aren't quite as
many outtakes to share (aside from the balloons, of course.) But there are
a few delights...
Robert Hamilton (lostman on IRC), a member of Amiga Atlanta who designed
the disturbing "claw clutching the boing ball" logo, introduced the Amiga
Report/Amiga Legacy team to the phenomenon that is the Waffle House. For
those of you unfamiliar with the American South, Waffle House is a chain of
"restaurants" (and I use that term loosely) which dot the countryside once
you get as south as Missouri. They specialize in using as much butter on
everything as possible, and making doughy molded waffles. But we still
think Robert is great.
The Amiga Legacy video monitor was covered in random objects hot-glued to
it in order to attract attention. It worked pretty well, especially the
orange compressed-air hose and the 8-track Marvin Gaye stuck on the side.
The Harley Hotel, where the show was held, is owned by Leona Helmsley. For
those of you who missed it, she's one of the more deplored people in the
world, who got in a lot of trouble a few years back for thinking that
paying income tax was for people who didn't make a lot of money. This
wouldn't be so notable if virtually everything in the hotel wasn't covered
with stuff like "Proud to have the Helmsley touch." The font the hotel's
logo is cast in is pretty scary and imposing, too. Not really the sense of
warmth and comfort I want when I'm on the road.
Lamar Morgan, the president of Amiga Atlanta is universally described by
those who know him as the most determined and stubborn Amiga advocate there
is. Once he latches on to an idea, it's nearly impossible to change his
mind. This was clearly evidenced as he tried to educate a very
bored-looking hotel clerk about the nuances of the Amiga as he checked out.
(And BTW, we captured him with some helium on tape, too.)