By Steve Collins, Contributing Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is a brief description of Amiga Fest '96 which took place November 29 through December 1. The Canadian Amiga show was produced jointly by Amazing Software and the people from Computer Fest. This material is by no means comprehensive and may not be 100% accurate. With that out of the way, here is my take on Amiga Fest '96.
Arriving at the show Friday, I found the Amiga section of Computer Fest (the main show of which Amiga Fest was a part) tucked away in the back corner of a giant warehouse. It seemed to have all the organization of a back yard barbeque, but there was definitely more here then met the eye.
Their slogan "Now things are happening with the Amiga" was basically true. QuikPak introduced two new computers. The A5050 is a tower 4000 computer with a Pentium CPU card, Zorro, PCI, and ISA slots. With a touch of a button, one can swap from the Amiga to the PC side. The prototype on display also had an LCD monitor built into the side of the tower. When flipped on its side the monitor flips out making it the world's largest portable computer. This was a "surprise" feature and would only be implemented if there was enough demand.
QuikPak also introduced the A4060 L which was definitely a hit, at least with me. It is basically a complete A4000 with an attached LCD monitor, keyboard, and 060 processor. The A4060 L was more compact than I imagined. This computer brings the dream of a portable Flyer system to reality. Now if someone would design a portable, hot-swappable, hard drive box, I'd be set. NewTek and QuikPak should get together on this one.
There was also great news that QuikPak is now the front runner for the purchase of Amiga technologies. This would make sense because they have a vested interest in the Amiga. They hoped to make an announcement "shortly."
Don Ballance was demonstrating the Flyer, and even though I own one and use one every day I was still struck by the simplicity and power of its interface.
It was also implied by a source that NewTek had no immediate plans to incorporate Firewire with the Flyer and that this was best left to third parties.
Wolf Dietrich was showing off their Power PC/'060 board. For demonstration purposes Wolf played an MPEG movie in one window while in another window he used a fractal generating program. As Wolf zoomed in and out of the fractals the Power PC chip recalculated and re-drew the fractal in real-time. The MPEG movie being played by the '060 side never missed a beat (can you say dual processing?). Wolf went on to say that the board would be 10 to 20 times faster than an '060 and significantly faster than a Mac running an equivalent chip.
On a side note, Phase 5 is talking to NewTek about possible ports to their Power PC board. When asked if the Power PC board would run Windows NT for the Power PC chip, Wolf replied in a Schwarzenegger accent, "We won't be getting into that; our main concern is Power PC Amiga." He did imply that if someone wanted to get Windows NT up and running on their board he would not stop them.
Wolf also went over the specs for Phase 5's proposed A/Box machine. The A/Box will run an Amiga OS 3.1-compatible operating system. It will also run Unix and Linux, in windows directly from the Amiga-compatible operating system.
Asimware displayed their Audio Thunder software along with their CD recording software and a 100 disc CD-R machine.
Applied Magic demonstrated their very impressive Broadcaster Elite non-linear editor. The quality of their digitized video was excellent. This company's lack of advertising makes me wonder if they are just biding their time until the PC port of Broadcaster Elite comes out.
Anti-Gravity products were on hand along with their President Dan Lutz. While I was videotaping the A5050T, Dan tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to take a look at a computer in his booth. Lo and behold it was a 200MHz DEC Alpha machine running Photogenics in a window right out of Windows NT. This, of course, was due to the fact that the machine was running a new version of the Siamese System by Hi-Q. If parts of Amiga OS were to be ported to the DEC Alpha there would be great possibilities here. I was informed that this was exactly what was happening and that the Amiga Math Libraries would be the first to be ported!
On a side note, Dan Lutz is a knowledgeable Amiga enthusiast. I listened to him turn several Amiga nay-sayers back on to the Amiga.
In conclusion I would have to say anytime you get the hottest developers together at a show, it is a success. Most developers, retailers, and many end users know each other on a first name basis - and it showed. Developers, retailers, and users expressed their interests, ideas and hopes to each other. The Amiga community is a unique one and definitely worth saving. To coin a phrase, the results of the Amiga's death have been greatly exaggerated.