Future Decisions

The potential for the Amiga sharing the all-but-gone Genie's fate

By Paul Somerfeldt, Contributing Editor, See staff list for e-mail address

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, ... it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ...."

This passage begins Dickens's work 'A Tale of Two Cities.' It also seems to describe the past couple of years that I have spent online, and also the Amiga experience in general.

Recently both Mike and Sam left the Genie online service for greener pastures. Actually, those pastures had already been travelled to. Funny how things work when it comes to money. When we perceive that we are getting value for our money, we will spend our cash. As that value slowly erodes away, we continue to justify the expenditures based on the remaining value, and on 'tradition.' At what point does the concept of wasted money exceed the feeling of a need for tradition? We all have our own personal thresholds.

They met their personal threshold for Genie recently, and moved on. A few years ago Genie came under new management, and succeeded in chasing its paying customers packing. The halls used to be teeming with life (and death) of Commodore. These days there are too few people around. There are more messages in the Amiga areas on CompuServe in one day than there are in two weeks on Genie. I won't even begin to mention how the quantity of messages on the newsgroups far exceeds that of Genie. On the other hand, with Genie you don't have to worry about the 'noise' of Usenet. No pyramid schemes, nor prawn trollers. If you post a message, you don't have to worry about folks using address grabbers to send you e-mail. No spammers. Genie always had a very high 'signal-to-noise ratio,' but when the signal is so weak that even on the poor s-n-r of Usenet you still get more signal out of it than of Genie, why stay?

As I write this I am having some parallel thoughts running through my mind. I am looking at Genie as being similar to the Amiga. The construction of the Genie service was always (IMHO) better organized than that of the other online services. The folks involved in it seemed more knowledgeable than those on the other systems. Since General Electric sold Genie to another company, there has been no real coherent management of Genie. The service has not marched forward with technology. The modems to connect directly to Genie run at a maximum of 9600 baud. The owners don't care, and the users are drying up faster than dirt in Death Valley. The days of Genie have all but ended.

Here I sit, looking at my Amiga A2000, rev. 4.1 motherboard. I believe it was made and originally sold in 1988. My computer is 10 years old now. As I look around my apartment I can't find a single electric item that I own that is older than that. Except for my Atari computers, of course. How much more life can I expect out of my computer? My truck is 14 months old, and right now I am pondering trading it on a new car. I ask again, how much more life can I expect out of my computer? Put another way, it is time for me to start planning for my next computer. Do I consider a Wintel machine, with all of the baggage that goes along with it? How about a Mac, with the still questionable future that that brings, along with its unique compatibility difficulties? Should I go more high-end, with a WinNT OS, or perhaps buy a Sun workstation? I could always buy an A4000T, but that was designed in 1993, so it is only half as old as my current machine. Well, it is younger than my TV's and one of my telephones. Oh, and my 2400-baud modem.

Having been a diehard Atari 8-bit computer for 11 years, I am well aware of the concept of vaporware, of hardware and software that have been announced, but never delivered. It seems there had been more near misses for the Atari computer than for any other. As a result of this experience, I would prefer not to hear about the new Amigas too early. On the other hand, it has been a year since Gateway bought the Amiga, and we have heard only that sometime in the near future there will be an update to the OS. And that Amiga will not be making new computers. At least until they decide they are going to build some new machines.

Gateway, please, do not allow the Amiga to go the way of Genie. Do not allow your user base to dry up because the users perceive inactivity. It has been 5 years since we saw something new. And most of us are computing on borrowed time. Don't force us to decide between a 5-year-old computer and something that is inexpensive and quite useful.

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