Midwest Amiga Exposition Report
Jason Compton

It seemed like a long time in coming, but then when it arrived it seemed like the last one was just yesterday.

Amicon's Midwest Amiga Exposition in Columbus, Ohio on November 1-2 was the first show with good planning and more than a local scope since March's St. Louis show, but time seems to run together when you find yourself at the venue seeing the same people again...

The show brought Petro up to give the opening speech, and he worked his usual Petro magic--taking a small bit of substance and turning it into a long speech that actually sounds pretty good. The substance here was mainly news of the DCE Amiga clones, new machines based around new motherboards that will apparently ship with 040 and 060 configurations, as well as substantial hard drives and memory endowments as standard. He did go on record early as saying that he didn't have any earth-shattering news but that people were welcome to join him in Cologne in what was then two weeks' time if they wanted to hear more. (This got a good laugh).

The Amicon organizers really worked their hearts out to put on a good show. And by and large the show itself was a success. The aisles were fairly well packed, vendors looked happy and a lot of people walked around with new booty. There were also training seminars given, with the time partially but not entirely monopolized by Nova Design-related products ImageFX and Aladdin4D.

A look at the (inevitably not quite complete, but it was the best I could do) attendance list compiled from my notes of the show is below. I suppose advance apologies are in order for the one or two exhibitors I will have omitted.

Nova Design: Nova had a few tables and was pushing ImageFX 2.6 and the new Aladdin 4D 5.0 through Kermit Woodall and ImageFX expert Corinna Cohn, who put on both of the seminars. Kermit was, of course, his usual affable self.

Wonder Computers: Wonder made the trip down from Ottawa with a wide variety of product to sell. Most notable was there large stock of Delfina Lite DSP cards and their fascinating wedge shape, something I've never seen quite like that on a computer card. Or maybe it was the Phase5 PowerUP cards they were selling?

Compuquick: At the other extreme of the hall from Wonder was local dealer Compuquick, who were very well stocked with new machines, monitors, and other Amiga sundries. (I believe, but cannot remember for certain, that it was Compuquick who sold the Picasso IV audio module, which was one of the new products of the show)

Legacy Maker: I managed to hold out on the self-promotion this long. :) I was there along with my partners in Legacy Maker, showing off our latest creation, an ImageFX tutorial video dubbed Catalyzer, along with a couple of other products.

Asimware: Also making the trip from Canada, Asim was showing off their MasterISO CD creation software, which really does look impossibly simple to use.

Amazing Computing: Editor Don Hicks was there, with copies of Amazing Computing, an unbelievably good deal on a stack of back-issues you had to mail away for, and his usual good humor.

The Informer: Editor Fletcher Haug and contributor Jerimy Campbell were there for the Informer, the newer bimonthly Amiga publication in North America. Aside from pushing his own magazine, Fletcher was hosting a couple of other products, including a new tiny external scan doubler which is supposed to sell for just $25. It's not perfect yet, though.

ProvTech: Also in the "neat product" department is Provtech and their "anti-ZIP chip" products, which allow you to put SIMMs in a 3000 or on a 386 bridgeboard.

Gamasoft: Gamasoft had hoped to show off Finale Development's flagship Web Cruiser at the show but that didn't come through in time, so instead they pushed some of Finale's existing Internet tool product line, including Voodoo, New York, and WebFTP. A review of the new WebFTP is forthcoming.

Prowave: Have questions about Lightwave or the Toaster/Flyer? Then Prowave was willing to sell you a ton of tutorial tapes. (One of the Prowave guys was Wayne Hunt, the webmaster behind amiga.org.)

Aurora Works: Canada's "other" Amiga game company, Aurora Works was showing off their H-Bomber game preview and trying to recruit help on other projects.

Aaron Ruscetta and Robert Hamilton: Two boys from Atlanta were at the show sharing a little space. Aaron was selling a RS-422 to 232 converter and other video-related tricks, while Robert had Amiga "License-wear" for sale, a variety of shirts and sweatshirts with Amiga themes. They were later joined by Atlanta expatriate Joe Torre, now a hardware engineer with Amiga, Inc., who set up a contraption that shot a small boing ball up a long plastic tube.

AEMail: A new e-mail client was being displayed at the show by John Zacharias. AEMail can work in conjunction with a variety of other net clients, and supports MIME and UUencoding natively.

IAM: Dale Larson was onhand, pushing the non-Amiga books he has published as well as his full line of Amiga software and support products.

Kidstop: Proving that educational software never really goes away, Kidstop, a very clever program for young children, was being shown off. Although best used with a touchscreen (and there was one on hand!), Kidstop works with a mouse or keyboard as well. It consisted of a variety of mini-games and activities for learning kids, was fast, responsive, and very audiovisual.

Vulcan USA: Steve Ocepek who formerly called his operation Sagittarius Software was pushing the newest Vulcan Software game releases as their official US distributor.

SRE: SRE's main item was the GGBusII+ card, the bridgeboard that doesn't emulate a PC but allows you to use selected PC cards in your Amiga. The price was $125, not too shabby on the whole considering that you can pair it with a PC ethernet card that's practically free and beat the price of damn near any other ethernet solution for a slot-box Amiga. (A1200 and A600 users, damn their eyes, now have a wonderful little driver to allow a range of cheap PCMCIA ethernet cards to be used.)

TUGALUG: If you wanted to check out what a Flyer can do, the Toaster/Lightwave user group was happy to show you. Lots of Toshiba TIMM 20" monitors were on the scene at the show, these guys were just one of the many employing them.

Only Amiga BBS: Don Slane, sysop, had what seemed to be one of absolutely anything and everything for sale.

Rounding out the people for whom I have notes are Amitech (including Eric Schwartz), the St. Louis Gateway User Group (promoting next March's show), NCAUG, FWD Computing, and ASK.

As I said, the show itself was a success. It ended fairly early on Sunday (about 2:30 or 3 PM), but this was actually a good thing--it allowed for a reasonably comfortable teardown period and let people with long drives ahead get out at a decent hour.

Saturday night, a banquet was held (which I skipped out on), followed by a developer conference, sponsored by the ICOA and Kermit Woodall and the faction he represented (which subsequently got absorbed into the ICOA.) On hand for the ICOA were Fleecy Moss, Dean Brown, and Andy Finkel.

What can you say about a developer conference where most of your attendees are not in fact developers? Not a lot of positive things, I'm afraid. While some developers or employees of developers asked questions that related to their business, the evening got bogged down VERY quickly into petty bickering about future OS revisions, their cost, and the upgrade paths. The key issue seemed to be all about spending extra money for a ROM upgrade that may or may not exist.

This sort of format was tried at St. Louis and was not any more successful. I think before the next attempt is made it needs to be given a serious re-examination.

But a small group of us went out for beer after in Columbus' brewery district. That's the great equalizer.

I had a very good time at the MAE this year despite spending a lot of time at the Legacy table. (Shows are overall more fun, and slower, if you're just there to observe and not to push product and sell.) But it was certainly a lot more relaxing than last year, where I was the shell-shocked representative of VIScorp and only a man named Mike Latinovich saved me from being eaten alive. This time I'm really looking forward to next year.


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