St. Louis Amiga '98 Show Report
Jason Compton

Everybody loves a good Amiga show.

On March 13-15, Amigan St. Louis held the Amiga '98 convention at the Harley Hotel. The venue was the same as last year, as were the people running the show--Bob and Diana Scharp, who recently took over the show from the St. Louis user group in order to run it as a private organization, giving them better control over the weekend. It paid off, as this year's event felt better organized.

I came down to the show with Legacy Maker, Inc. to hawk our wares, but of course I was there as a reporter, trying to keep up with everyone and everything present. That's impossible, and I will, as always, forget someone I really wanted to mention.

The first day of the show was intended for seminars, intended largely for developers. I missed this--our schedule didn't allow us to make it before Friday night. We expected to go through the usual ritual--find out which of our friends have arrived, what plans they had, and try to find something fun to do Friday night. Last year, that was the Waffle House, so this year we made a pact not to repeat that experience. Ever.

Luckily, Amiga Inc. came to our rescue. In perhaps the single best (and perhaps single, period) PR move they've made, they held a buffet for show exhibitors and VIPs. The entertainment consisted of an open bar and a passable Blues Brothers lip sync act, and it's too bad people didn't get into it as much as they should have. But the crowd wasn't much for dancing...

While I wouldn't describe the show as "routine" it was roughly par for the course as far as content of an American Amiga show: a mixture of high-influence developers, new companies with potential, a few big retailers and an assortment of small dealers and swap tables where you can find that particular old game or gadget you won't find anywhere else.

In no particular order, and again allowing for the inevitable omissions I always make, with no promise of completeness, at the show you could find people like...

Paul Nolan and Siamese Systems: Paul gets mentioned first because I forgot about him entirely in my last show report. Paul wasn't very happy about this and rubbed it in a great deal over the course of the weekend. Paul is a young, vindictive man.

He's also pretty brilliant, and his revisions of the Siamese PC/Amiga hybrid software are getting better and better. His demo of Photogenics Ng (name still subject to change) was quite impressive. It's going to be a very fast, very fun paint-effects program. Paul figured out that nobody else in the computer industry at large can make a very good paint-effects program. "The Photoshop people have it all wrong" he said, or words to that effect. We shall see. Hanging around Paul Nolan was Bill Panagouleas, who was instrumental in getting Pyromania, a CD series full of explosion animations (good for low-budget special effects) converted to an Amiga-friendly format.

[ At one point we thought Paul was going to sell us his socks, but no such luck... -- Katie ]

Amiga Inc.: There were two things you could do at Amiga Inc.'s area.
1. Admire Joe Torre's levitating boing ball device.
2. Yell at Amiga, Inc.

Newtek: An uncharacteristically low-key presence by anyone's standards. Newtek had a table or two with monitors running pretty "Made with Toaster/Flyer and/or Lightwave Systems" demos, and a few people who generally talked up the Amiga in a way last year's crew (who had a nicer looking but more Lightwave-on-Alpha focused booth) didn't. They gave away something like 100 copies of Lightwave 5 for the Toaster, which won them a lot of bonus points.

Amazing Computing: Don Hicks and his flashing Christmas mini-lights were back in St. Louis for the fun. Don's a very hands-on editor when it comes to dealing with the people, which he'd have to be since Amazing is such an institution.

The Informer: Less of an institution with only a baker's dozen issues in print, but still influential, editor Fletcher Haug and the journeyman Informer magazine were very politically situated across the hall.

Dan's Deals: Dan Greathouse is a wonderful guy. He's Legacy Magazine's number 1 fan, no question about it, and all of us at Legacy Maker tried to thank him for it.

Digital Quill: Not the text editor published by Finale, but Chris Holt's Amiga-gear business. Amiga-badged clothing and goodies are a big business now, and Chris is cashing in, with racing shirts, ties, mugs, and a lot of other stuff. He was quite busy...

...as was the distinctive Robert Hamilton, with his collection of Amiga wear, ranging from the on-the-edge "claw-boing" shirt of legend to more conventional shirts and sweatshirts. Soccer shorts coming soon.

Gamasoft: Representing Finale Development at the show. Unable to answer the question "Where's Finale Web Cruiser?"

Nordic Global: I know he put a lot of work into Miami, but it was enough to make anyone green with envy to see people just walking up to Holger Kruse fighting to hand over however much money he wanted. I did it too. :)

SoftLogik: Mostly there to sell the latest version of PageStream, it's not too far of a trip for the SoftLogik folks to get to the St. Louis show. Had there been a prize for the biggest credit card-taking equipment, SoftLogik would have won hands down with their 20+ year old card imprinter/adding machine.

Wonder Computers: Wonder packed as many employees and merchandise as would fit into a big Cadillac and drove down from Ottawa to attend the event. You'd be surprised how much can fit in a big Cadillac.

National Amiga: National didn't drive a Caddy but they brought even more stuff. More importantly, they sold most of it, evident by the glee they took in their very short cleanup after the show.

Nova Sector Engineering: The company promising a lot in the Amiga clone department but presently only delivering rebuilt A4000T motherboards. I still want to see more.

WeemsWare: They had probably the best kick in my malaise I've seen. Called Lips, it's a program that animates mouth movement along with input piped through the narrator.device. Why? Well, first off for fun, but more practically so you can dub over the Amiga with your own speech, leaving the mouth making the proper motions. Very, very cute.

Haage and Partner: Not represented by a table, but director Markus Nerding was making the rounds with great vigor.

MagicBox: Powering the show's projected event-updating system (which, BTW, could use some revamping for next year, it was a bit tough to see over all the people crowding around the stage), MagicBox is still doing a good business with their flagship product of the same name, based around A1200 systems for use by cable and closed-circuit TV systems for infochannel purposes.

Legacy Maker: And then there was us, Legacy Maker Inc. We launched Catalyzer Vol. 2 for ImageFX at the show to a very receptive audience, if I do say so myself.

A more complete (although not error-free) list is available on the official show site, http://www.amiga-stl.com.

The show was an interesting experience. I've seen a range of emotions at Amiga shows over the past few years, ranging from happiness to despair. What I've never seen this much of was outright anger. People were mad at Amiga Inc. For nearly a year of not much productive work.

You'd think that would put them in a bad mood about other stuff, too, but the sales didn't reflect it. Most everyone I talked to (including Legacy Maker) did substantially better at this show than at recent Amiga events. People came mad, but they came to buy, too.

It's never a good Amiga show without an adventure or escapade. Ours came Saturday night when the Legacy Maker folks and the Wonder folks decided to see a little bit of St. Louis. That was the theory, anyway. After a nice dinner in a small restaurant, we wanted to find something which we never did specify--there was talk of finding a magic shop or something like that. So we piled into the aforementioned Wonder Cadillac

At any rate, while on the highway we saw a massive traffic jam in the city below and more than one person remarked "Boy, we'd better stay away from that." It was around a stadium--a hockey game was letting out.

Of course, we wound up right in the middle of the traffic jam. It took about 45 minutes to travel 4 blocks. After that, we took the nice, scenic route through St. Louis to get back to the hotel.

Amiga '98 was quite a good show. Next year will bring a better hotel (the Harley Hotel in St. Louis has perhaps the slowest restaurant in the Midwest), and presumably another enjoyable experience.



Photo Gallery


The ladies of Legacy Maker, Anne Willmore (wine) and Katie Nelson (glasses)


Bohus Blahut (tall) and Kermit Woodall (short) provide unofficial backup to the Blues Brothers.


The Amiga '98 Amiga hand monster.


Asimware's Tammy Lynn Rodley and Richard Giannini


The Amiga's First Couple, Kim and Jeff Schindler.


I can't exactly say I'm proud of having posed for this, but there you have it.


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