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Amiga 2001 show report
« on: April 09, 2001, 11:00:00 AM »
The Gateway Amiga 2001 show in St. Louis has become inarguably the most successful Amiga show in the Western hemisphere, and this year was no exception.

The show officially began Friday afternoon, and the day was filled with classes, show registration, and the obligatory gathering of Amiga geeks. Unfortunately the Amiga.org team began arriving later in the day around 2pm, so there isn't much that we can accurately report about Friday morning. After our respective travels of anywhere between 4 and 11 hours, we weren't in much condition to do much more than greet fellow 'family members' and enjoy a refreshing drink or two (or in some cases, eight).

The Keynote

The show kicked off very early Saturday morning with a keynote speech led by Bob Scharp, the show's ever-present organizer. Bob talked about the history of the show, from start to present, including a few stories about the initial resistance to the idea of holding a show at all. We're glad he was able to convince them that it was a good idea.

Next, Ryan Czerwinski of Merlancia Industries came out and discussed their plans for the future, most notably including:
  • Tsunami:
       A full PPC-based, Amiga-compliant desktop machine. ('Amiga-compliant' means that Tsunami will run any Amiga applications circa 1993 or later, which were written strictly to Commodore's programming specs (read this as, 'applications that don't directly hit the Amiga hardware')). Ryan had a few of the brushed-aluminum cases throughout his display, which did look fairly substantial as well as pretty.
  • Hurricane:
       An 'ultralight' PPC-based laptop with lots of RAM and lots of expandability.
  • eClipS:
       A fully compliant Amiga handheld device. Not many details of this were available, and no pictures were around.
After Ryan's announcements, Nova Design's Bob Fisher took the stand. His speech, while reportedly unrehearsed, was actually rather inspiring. He detailed the history of Nova Design's involvement with the Amiga and his company's current works, and reacknowledged Nova design's commitment to the future. (There was more, but our site manager Wayne Hunt will be using the lessons learned as the basis for an editorial which should be coming very shortly.)

The show floor
On Saturday in particular the show floor was packed with Amiga fans waiting to hear the promised 'big' announcements from Amiga Incorporated. In fact, considering the crowd and the lack of elbow-room, we would venture to say that the attendance was sharply up from even last year. Enthusiasm was running eerily high, as the hype for the show's announcements had been building since Amiga promised them in early February. Many attendees (and Amiga fans all over the world) we talked to considered Amiga's forthcoming announcements a make or break turning point for the company.
\n\nFueling excitement even further were the plethora of former Commodore and Gateway Amiga employees that were present at the show, including Joe Torre (who was showing around a new optical Amiga mouse), Petro Tyschtschenko, Leo Schwab (who currently writes device drivers for BeOS), and Dave Haynie who sported a business card from Met@box as his show badge.

Said veterans were -- by all accounts -- treated like royalty, especially Dave Haynie, who hadn't been to an Amiga show in at least five years. (Haynie toured the show with an ever-present but ever-changing entourage; attendee Lee Stanford noted that Dave looked like he was 'holding court').

Sadly, the weekend also marked the final official appearance of Petro Tyschtschenko as a member of the Amiga, Inc. staff. Petro responded by providing a lunch-time pizza party for all attendees, replete with beer (provided graciously -- if not coincidentally -- by Merlancia Industries). (More on Petro's retirement in a moment.)

Sunday morning, Dave Haynie played a slightly remastered version (mostly the sound had improved) of his Deathbed Vigil video. The two-hour video chronicles Commodore's last days after several bouts of layoffs and the company's bankruptcy   liquidation from the perspectives of Amiga engineers who, by the end in 1994, pretty much universally loathed the highly paid and seemingly incompetent executive team at Commodore led by the company's last CEO Medhi Ali.

The banquet
The banquet hall this year was physically smaller than last year, but the food was excellent and the night's entertainment alone was well worth the money. After eating, a few members of the Amiga community got up and roasted Petro Tyschtschenko to celebrate his hand in keeping the Amiga alive since the demise of Commodore, and to wish him well in his retirement from Amiga Inc. (For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a 'roast', it's a peculiar Hollywood tradition where the person being honored is placed in the center of the stage while others give tribute by way of fond -- and sometimes embarrassing anecdotes.)

The 'roasters' - that is, those giving tribute -- included Joe Torre (former Gateway Amiga engineer), Charles Meier (Amiga St. Louis), Randhir Jesrani (CompuQuick), Kermit Woodall (Nova Design), Juergen Haage (Haage & Partner) and Bohus Blahut (Legacy Maker, Inc.). Their topics included stories beyond imagination, ranging from Petro's penchant for driving at light-speed down the Autobahn to his never-empty pockets full of Amiga paraphernalia.

Two films were shown during the roast, including a wonderful retrospective and a hilarious animated short film done by Kermit Woodall of Nova Design. All we can say here is that if you weren't there, buy the videos which should be available shortly. We don't normally insert a plug for products into a show report, but this film was that memorable.

Upon each roaster's departure, gifts were presented, and Petro even reciprocated with a special gift to the person he considered to have been the best roaster of the evening, Bohus Blahut, who had the entire banquet hall rolling in laughter for almost half an hour.

Eyetech's first AmigaOne boards
After saying farewell to Petro as managing director of Amiga Inc., the speeches began with Bill McEwen introducing Alan Redhouse of Eyetech. Mr. Redhouse talked about the future of Eyetech's product line, the seriousness of their commitment to the Amiga community, and outlined the actual dates for product delivery. (Redhouse said that the boards would be released for beta testing this summer, with a final release to follow [also this summer].)

To back up his claim, he showed one of three already-fabricated AmigaOne PPC motherboards and actually let people take a look at it for themselves when the speeches were over. (Interestingly, Leo Schwab was actually first in line to take a look at it. Leo Schwab also noted that he was skeptical that EyeTech would be able to ship the AmigaOne this summer, estimating they wouldn't get it out before October or possibly even December. 'Hardware is always delayed,' said Schwab. 'It never turns out right the first time; you send it off to be built and something's always wrong with it when you get it back.')

Amiga Inc. breaks the silence
Once the Eyetech announcements were done, Bill McEwen returned to the spotlight and went through what was possibly his most point-blank, straight-forward speech yet, outlining Amiga Inc.'s strategy, the company's goals, their focus, and how they intend to get us there. Among the highlights of Bill's initial presentation was his showing of the Amiga MMC 'prototype', which Bill called something like 'a damned fine wood carving,' referring to the fact that the prototype was literally just that - an empty promise.

Following are highlights, by topic, from Bill McEwen's banquet announcements:
  • Sharp:
       Amiga Inc. is partnering with Sharp to bring AmigaDE applications to Sharp PDAs. Already released in Japan is the new Zaurus PDA, the first Linux-based PDA ever to be released, as well as the first to host the AmigaDE. The Zaurus device will be released in the U.S. soon, and more AmigaDE-enabled Sharp devices will follow.

  • Psion:
       AmigaDE software will run on a soon-to-be-released Psion notebook device (Psion dominates world PDA markets other than the U.S. market (the one market where Palm OS dominates).
  • PocketPC:
       AmigaDE also runs hosted on PocketPC devices. With a simple-to-use, separately available upgrade card, PocketPC users will be able to run AmigaDE applications. Further, although WindowsCE does not natively support Java, running AmigaDE enables Java on WindowsCE-based devices.
  • Amiga DE:
       Amiga will use the AmigaDE (which is based on Tao's Elate OS and intent Java platform) as a distribution platform for Amiga content. Even with the announcement of Amiga OS 4.0, developers will likely still be compelled to write applications for the AmigaDE because, while DE apps can be run on Amiga, Windows, and Linux machines (and more), programs written for the Amiga OS 4.0 will run only on Amiga OS (or an Amiga OS emulator).
  • Amiga OS 4.0:
       Amiga Inc. has reversed its previous position on the future of the Amiga OS. The plan had been to create a desktop implementation of the Amiga DE for the AmigaOne computer, but CTO of Amiga Inc. Fleecy Moss says that the AmigaDE is not ready as a desktop system yet. Amiga OS 4.0 will be the first version of Amiga OS to be native to the PowerPC processor, the first to implement memory protection, and will have an all-new TCP/IP stack which is due for release by the end of the year. OS 4.0 will be used for desktop systems such as the AmigaOne computer.
  • The AmigaOne computer:
       The AmigaOne will first surface as a PowerPC upgrade for Amiga 1200 and Amiga 4000 systems , supposedly this summer. and the AmigaDE will likely be used on everything else. Eventually the AmigaOne boards will be released in ATX form factor for use in PC towers and cases. The AmigaOne will use Amiga OS 4.0.
Commodore veterans were even impressed (or at least, not depressed) with Amiga's announcements. Dave Haynie said that he found the news 'fairly compelling,' and that he was considering the possibility of running the AmigaDE as a secondary \nOS on Met@box's set-top device. (Met@box natively runs an OS developed by Met@box called CAOS, an OS Dave says was designed in the spirit of, but not to copy, the features of the Amiga OS.)

Fellow Commodore engineer Leo Schwab said that he found the announcements 'very interesting,' noting that he would 'definitely be paying more attention' to Amiga and their doings in the future.