It's been quite a while since I've written to an Amiga publication, but here goes anyways.
Some of your readers have mentioned how outdated and/or behind our Amigas are in comparison to the vast sea of MS-dominated IBM PC clones, which is a fact that will probably never change til the cows come home (Texas thing). Well...perhaps we forget at times why we have Amigas and why things are the way they are. I for one am proud to have my Amiga; it has stood the test of time. For example, my PC is a 486 and I got it less than a year ago...STATE OF THE ART! Wow, blazing. Now what is it? I use it and it's painfully slow for nearly every piece of software out there.
I've had an Amiga 3000 for almost 5 years. It doesn't have the fastest nor the prettiest graphics. However, it performs things on which my PC would bog down, and it makes much better use of 18 Megs than my PC ever, ever would.
I still feel that feeling I first felt so long ago with my first A500. I get giddy everytime I'm using this old Amiga 3000. Old...well, still the best. Even a 10-year-old A500 is hard to consider as being that ancient. Imagine a 10-year-old PC...?
My system is still constructed around an old A500, so I know what you mean. Somehow, I suspect many other people out there do too. Let me differentiate: a number of computer platforms are, without a doubt, simply outdated, although they are still fun and useful for hobbyists or enthusiasts to use. Amigas, on the other hand, still fall into the "modern computer" category. This is due in part to a number of factors: the devotion of the users, the fundamentally good design of virtually the entire system, and the 3rd-party development support. Those companies have done the technologically impossible: they have continued to make computers from 1992, 1990, and even 1987 (and if they were so inclined, they could go all the way back to the old A1000 from 1985) perform on a par with the latest offerings from the IBM PC and Macintosh world, and all at a very reasonable price. But give credit to Amiga Inc. and Commodore: no computer without a superb design could ever be stretched to such limits.
Possibly even more amazing, however, is what you can do with those old machines as they are. The latest version of the Amiga OS will run on any Amiga except a totally unexpanded 256K A1000; Amigas with only a little extra memory, and even some stock machines, can be made to access the internet, something they were generally never meant to do in the first place.
The Amiga has, as you say, stood the test of time; but in a closed system, entropy always increases, and the Amiga can't be left out in the cold forever. Let's just hope that a little added momentum from a serious company can truly restore it to its total technological superiority as well.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
I'm a member of the group called DSP that are making the game Almagica. First of all I would like to thank you for reviewing our game. And if you are interested in our progress you can find information on this homepage:
Secondly, a little complaint: you have gotten my name and E-Mail all wrong. ;)
My name is Bjorn Hagstrom; my function within the group is to program an internal editor, design algorithms, and generally coordinate the project. I have studied Electrics [sic] Engineering for two years, and I'm currently studying on the second year of a three-year Programming/Engineering course.
My E-Mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
(Note that I spell it "orgin," not "origin." ;-) )
The main programmer is named Jimmy Westerlund; he does all the hard programming concerning the game itself. He is studying Electrics [very sic] Engineering and is on the last of three years.
His E-Mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Well, if you have any questions about our game, or any other questions , your are welcome to send any of us an E-Mail.
Oh dear...How did I manage to bungle up the E-Mail addresses for you guys? Well, folks, note the correction and check out their web page to keep up with their progress. I know I will.
Ariel Magnum (what a name) from Tel Aviv (!?) wrote in "Feedback 10/96" the following: "You cannot expect games like DOOM (Amiga clones are a joke!)..." I expect that he never played Alien Breed 3D II, The killing Grounds, or Nemac IV. I have an A4000 with Cyberstorm 060/50 and Cybervision 64 and I have a PC (486DX2/66), too! So I can compare the games; against "Alien Breed II", "Doom" is just a waste of time...
Here at The Amiga Monitor, we get E-Mail from every corner of the globe. It says something about the Amiga's universal legacy, and I would strongly discourage any one user from raising questions about another's name, home city, etc. I don't like having to say this, because it sounds condescending, and because I shouldn't have to.
But back to the point: I can't speak much from personal experience on this because an A500 (regardless of processor) doesn't exactly texture-map like the wind, but I have been watching with interest the developments in the "Amiga Doom" scene over the last few years; there are now many 3D texture-mapped games for the Amiga, and a number of them have apparently been regarded as quite good. It's difficult to judge in terms of performance, and some cynics would undoubtedly say your point is invalid because you are comparing a top-of-the-line Amiga to a mid-range PC, but since Doom runs more or less at full speed on a 486DX2-66, that doesn't really matter. Judging the quality of a game is more subjective, and it should be noted, in view of what you said here, that many Amiga gaming enthusiasts are, in fact, quite pleased with the current range of Amiga 3D games.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
In your reply to Ariel Magnum's letter in the October issue, you stated that you agreed "PPC isn't a good choice right now." This truly surprised me. I run a PowerWave 604/132 -- a PowerMac 9500 clone -- and it did indeed cost me $5,000 last year. But this year you can get a 240Mhz/603e PowerBase system from the same manufacturer with 32MB RAM, 4MB VRAM and a 17-inch Sony monitor for $3,600. This is little more than the cost of a similarly configured Pentium 200 system from Gateway 2000.
In reality, PowerPC chips are less expensive than Pentiums in lots of 1,000, and they're getting less expensive all the time as more clone makers get going. Moreover, BYTE magazine's early tests of the 603e and 604e CPUs revealed them to be considerably more powerful than Pentiums and Pentium Pros of the same clock speed.
This tends to confirm my own experience. I recently purchased a Maximus
Magna Graphics ProMedia P-166 with 512K cache, 32MB of EDO RAM and a 2MB
Matrox Millenium card. It proved a great platform for Duke Nukem 3D,
but when run under Win95 it was painfully slow by comparison to the
PowerWave 132. Yet, it's one of the two fastest P-166 systems ever
tested by PC Magazine. It proved to be such a complete, sluggardly pain
in the [expletive] that I sold it to get money for an A4000T '060 (still don't
have the cash for it yet
Also, I can't help wondering where Ariel can buy a 'top of the notch' PC for $1,500. They certainly aren't US dollars! It's clearly not a Pentium 200 system, couldn't possibly have much RAM or a very spacious hard drive, and clearly needs to leave out such niceties as a 17-inch monitor. You can only approach this price if you buy a 'headless' box and have monitors and stuff you can hook onto it. Moreover, a factor often overlooked when comparing prices of PCs and Macs is that the cheaper PCs are IDE systems, whereas PowerMacs have a dual SCSI bus. When you put SCSI into a PC the price gap narrows dramatically. You can easily spend $4,000 plus on a Pentium SCSI system with top-line components. Try the online configurators at Micron, Dell, Gateway etc. if you find this hard to believe. You'll be a believer in no time.
My advice to Amigans is to hang in there. It won't be that long before PowerPC accelerators are available. Add some RAM, wait for ShapeShifter to be compiled for PowerPC, and before long you'll be playing the Mac version of Quake (due in 6 months!) on your Amiga. You'll undoubtedly be happier than you could possibly be with WinSlug 1895. :-)
Just to clarify what I said, since you brought it up in your letter:
I realize that the PPC is a very good processor platform, and I believe that that is the direction in which the Amiga should head in the future. In fact, your letter provides a lot of useful, interesting information/statistics to that effect. Particularly, the information you provide about prices of PC's versus Macintoshes (and, transitively, Intel 80x86 and clones versus Motorola PPC) reveals something we often overlook. Yes, you can buy a reasonably-configured PC for under $1000...but it will be effectively obsolete in 6 months. A true top-of-the-line PC with any decent measure of longevity can easily reach the $5000 mark; Dell's back cover PC Magazine ads have constantly illustrated this. It's a wakeup call for PC advocates.
However, I strongly believe that the Amiga's only hope for survival is for new models to be developed NOW, and I say that the best way to do so is to build a new line around the AAA chipset and 68030, 68040, and 68060 processors. Yes, that probably is a dead-end line (only by Motorola's choice, however), but at this point, they are still comparatively fast processors, and the power of the 68060 has only begun to be realized (once you start overclocking it and taking full advantage of its advanced architecture, it truly flies).
The reasons for continuing to use the 680x0 processors for now are:
Since there is NO revenue right now, any development work is basically useless without some solid financial and industrial backing. A new line of 680x0-based Amigas would allow the new owner (VIScorp...taking thine time?) to quickly gain a foothold in the market; funds generated from the sale of these new systems (and believe me, there are a lot of Amiga users who would buy them, if they were priced reasonably...something Commodore, you may recall, was able to achieve) would support work such as porting the OS to PPC code.
Potential buyers of these systems, otherwise possibly fearful of quick obsolescence, would not have to worry, especially if it was GUARANTEED that they would eventually be able to get PPC-based accelerators for their systems. This is not hard to do.
So yes, I agree with you 100% that the PowerPC is THE way for the Amiga to go...but I fear that by doing so now, and basically compounding upon 4 years (!) (that's a lot in the computer world, even in the Amiga part of it) of stagnation, they would lose any chance of reviving the market. Which is why I advocate design of a new 680x0-based line of Amigas. They would be significantly more powerful, on average, than current offerings, and most importantly, could be introduced with a minimum of delay. Because the PPC port could be done two ways: 1) the right way, which will take time, and 2) the quick way, in which much of the OS will be running in 680x0 emulation, and thereby actually be slower than a current 680x0 Amiga...Apple did this, by the way. For Mac: big mistake. For Amiga: the final blow.
In reference to running Quake on ShapeShifter: SS is an extremely useful product, and it's all well and good to run great software through emulation, but let me just take this opportunity to say, for what it's worth, that we shouldn't have to emulate other computers in order to run great software. Amiga Quake would run extremely well on a 68060/AAA system; if only we could get things in gear and attract some big-name developers, we could have all this great software. I must be careful what I say though...who can forget the last time Microsoft wrote something for the Amiga? It was called AmigaBASIC, and it was the champion of OS-noncompliant, buggy software. For those of you who never saw this OS v1.x program, don't worry...you don't want to. And all due respect goes to existing developers: they have done very well with what many have called a dead market, and we very much appreciate what they are doing.
But I must reemphasize that I believe you are right: that Motorola has chosen to sink its own 68000 ship, and that the best vessel to board at this time is called the PowerPC. But the lifeboat that will get us there is called the 68060.
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief