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Call for Amiga Developers: Kickstarting PowerPC and 68k software development [pdf] (a-eon.biz)
78 points by doener on Oct 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments



I owned an A500 and later a pimped out A1200 (with an 80Mb hard drive!) back in the 90s and really loved them. I learned programming using AMOS and Blitz Basic. I dabbled with 3D modelling and rendering using Imagine. And of course there were so many awesome games - Lemmings, Populous, Civilisation, Monkey Island, Mega-lo-Mania, Speedball 2, Worms, Sensible Soccer, Hired Guns, the list goes on...

But around the time Doom was released on PC, it seemed like the Amiga's graphics performance, once so ahead of its time, had fallen far behind. I switched to a Pentium 60 PC and apart from the occasional twang of nostalgia have never looked back.

I'm really curious what the motivation is for those die hard Amiga fans and hackers now, so many years later. Is it nostalgia, the community, the technical challenge of working within the system's limitations? What is keeping you around?


I had an Amiga 2000 with 2 floppy drives and 3 MB of RAM and later an Amiga 1200 with a 120 MB hard drive (ha! beat you!). This setup suited me well also after I got to the university for doing programming homework on them and using the university Sparc machines for internet surfing. I only got a Linux machine in 1999.

So I'm not really part of the active Amiga community but I'm following loosely by reading http://amiga-news.de/ and listening to BoingsWorld, a German Amiga podcast (http://boingsworld.de/).

I think there are about 3 different groups of Amiga fans.

1. the hardware group 2. the emulation group 3. the demo group

IMHO the hardware group is the one group who wants to run something Amiga-like on their vintage (68k) or slightly vintage (PPC) hardware. Those people get a kick out of having a useful and fast system without all the cumbersome and inefficiencies of modern systems.

The emulation group just wants to use the old software or play the old games. Those usually don't care about the non-68k systems as it is much easier nowadays to emulate the old systems with one of the UAE forks.

The demo group uses whatever system they have to produce stunning demos. Getting new cool effects out of 30 year old systems is really amazing and shows what an incredible machine the Amiga still is.

I think A-EON mostly serves the hardware guys.


It's even more sub-divided than that... It's really fragmented.

On the hardware side you have people that want something they will deem as "classic enough". Basically it at least needs to be 68k, possibly with PPC card, and various extents of modern expansions (some of which may not leave much of the original machine in actual use...)

You also have a number of people who care about the architecture for various reasons, but don't care about the actual hardware. There you'll find a number of FPGA projects. There is some overlap here, though.

Then you have the PPC crowd which is split between MorphOS and OS4. OS4 users has been A-Eons primary market given that they are selling actual new PPC hardware (with a second design underway), though they've lately started adding more products for classics, and have been courting MorphOS people too. MorphOS runs on various second-hand PPC hardware.

Then as you say there's the people who are fine with emulation.

Then you have AROS, which is largely hardware agnostic (ports to ARM, PPC, 68k, x86).

Within this there really are a lot of different motivations. E.g. you find classic users who just want to play games, but there are also hardcore classic users who try to use classic Amigas as their main computers.


Out of interest, is Natami still a thing? Anything come of CloneA (aside from that scan doubler that used some of its AGA implementation)?

I haven't followed Amiga developments for a while, last I remembered it appeared the Natami project was parked due to some differences in direction, with the project to create a new 68k FPGA CPU splitting off into a separate project.

I noted that the Minimig AGA core reached v1.0 this year, which is good news, is compatibility fairly good now?

https://code.google.com/p/mist-board/


Who knows what's going on with Natami. Basically they've went off in different directions, and lately the forum for the Apollo core (the 68k FPGA cpu) was wiped. Whether that means they've given up or just decided they don't want to talk to anyone is anyones guess... I would say that at this point any good news from that camp will be a nice surprise rather than something anyone should hold their breath over.

I've not kept up with the Minimig cores. I'm more interested in AROS (though I check in on the FPGA projects now and again because I find them fun to read about), but have had very little time for that too lately.


Oh, how could I forget AROS? I had a few years ago a blast during a week-end while porting NetHack to AROS. The development tools at the time weren't up to current standards but I got a kick out of "programming like it's 1989". For 2 days at least. I wouldn't have to do it on a regular base. :)

AROS is a bit odd, as they are trying to build a full-blown OS although most of the people are probably running it in the hosted version on Linux.

IMO using one of the free unixoid OS as foundation with AROS on top would make more sense. I'm sad that Amithlon didn't work out.

Using classic Amiga as main computers is a hardcore task. I can see that it is not impossible to achieve with PPC Amigas and MorphOS or OS4. But for an 68k Amiga, I don't think it's possible without severe limitations.


I still build stuff for my favourite computer which was 8-bit from the 80s. I owned Amiga's after that but they did not give me the same feel. For me to stick to those massively underpowered computers seems to be that I find the hardware more interesting; with my limited free time I still understand all the hardware and can extend it, work on it; you can create mostly anything with 74series ICs and understand why it works after that. The closest comparable experience are FGPA/CPLD's but 74series are 'free' (you can find cubic meters of them on boards at your local garbage disposal or 2nd hand market or almost free on 2nd hand sites) and they look much better :)

This goes for the software as well; I understand that system in and out and I can build a simple OS from scratch (in assembler or C) and low level demos from scratch in days. The limitations make it interesting what the possibilities are; being clever with assembler and hardware can lead to very interesting results 'formerly not possible'.

For me the best 8-bit example is the actively developed; http://www.symbos.de

Then again; I would not know why you would make new hardware instead of going for the originals; it's not really the original feel / idea at least for me.


I really don't get it.

Although I personally did not own one, all of my friends did. I was the PC dude of the group.

So I got to use it when we gathered for some coding/gaming sessions back then.

The whole experience was awesome, how the OS and hardware were integrated together, the programming hardware that was available, some of the OS concepts like the libraries.

However in 2015, given the current computer architectures, I think nostalgia could be the only reason.


I was the same, yet I continued to invest in the Amiga in the vain hope that it would come back from the brink, in hindsight I should have jumped ship then too, I stuck with the Amiga until the 2000ish


The Amiga 1200 is the only computer I really took from The Netherlands to China. The rest could be bought and replaced... nostalgia can not ;-). I had almost all of the machines and still left many back at my parents home (several A500, CDTV, CD32, A2000, etc).

I hope my kid will appreciate some of those games as mentioned in other posts. sighs


It's not a surprise considering when Doom was out, Amiga (Commodore) was in its last days. Amiga 1200/AGA was a beast in its day. I still have that mental image of it being powerful. Which is funny, considering that system is barely (not) able to play an mp3. Consider that fact for a moment.


To be fair, the parent's Pentium-60 was also struggling with playing an MP3 file during that time as well.

It wasn't Doom that convinced me to switch from the Amiga to Wintel, it was MP3. My P100 was adequate but you weren't doing a lot of other things during playback.


To be fair, the parent's Pentium-60 was also struggling with playing an MP3 file during that time as well.

Of course. I find it amusing that a machine that we deemed as so powerful (020/AGA) and on which we saw such nice graphical exhibitions isn't powerful enough to run 44KhZ/128Kbit mp3. It's more of a testament of time and Amiga itself (it was powerful!).


The Amiga had a far superior OS and user experience than PCs at the time, and for a long time in fact.

I think the hardware was really fun to work with. It had the copper processor and blitter which were programmable and powerful, and their use/abuse enabled really cool looking effects which drove the demo scene.

The 2d games still looked better and moved faster than on games for a good few years until directx and graphics cards started to catch up, and of course with 3D the pc win with brute cpu power


You just described exactly my 90s computing experience. AMOS was great wasn't it? The only difference is my hard drive was 60Mb and the PC I switched to was a Pentium 100.


I still use my Amiga machines, but I want nothing to do with AmigaOS4. A new desktop proprietary OS simply makes no sense in the present world, even more so if it only runs in special hardware.

AROS (free implementation of AmigaOS3) and Minimig (free implementation of the hardware for FPGA) is where it's at.


AROS runs on Minimig? That's incredibly cool.


As of a few years ago, it runs on classic Amiga hardware.

But graphics performance is poor without a graphics card.


Yep, there are a number of contradictions in the Amiga scene at the moment. One is that, and the other is Amiga being now some sort of nostalgia effort to keep outdated tech alive when it was pretty much the opposite: cutting edge and clever engineering.


The vitality of the Amiga community never ceases to amaze me.

I actually headed over to A-Eon's page. I've been postponing getting one of their systems for about three years now, for various reasons, and I finally thought I'd say yes.

Sadly, it turns out they're all discontinued: http://www.a-eon.com/?page=products .

For all the awesomeness of AmigaOS 4, the hardware continues to be sadly elusive, as it has been ever since the demise of Commodore.


I was an Acorn person, rather than an Amiga one, so I can't comment on the state of the Amiga community; but as the Acorn community shrank it became weirdly inbred and insular and more and more zealous. Eventually it was populated entirely by people who can most charitably be described as having non-standard personality traits. Every now and again I have a look at the old Acorn newsgroups and it's... strange.

I will admit, though, that even at its strangest, the Acorn community never produced anything as mind-numbingly strange as this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szMGxqwfxiI


> Sadly, it turns out they're all discontinued

You can probably blame Apple for this, the CPU was from PA Semi.


> You can probably blame Apple for this,

Amiga fans the original Apple haters. I loved running the Mac OS emulator and getting fast performance with a slower chip.


I remember running a CBM 64 emulator inside a MAC emulator running on my Amiga 1200

I used to be unofficial Amiga support for Prestel/Telecom gold back in the Day.


> "Amiga fans the original Apple haters."

Probably just jealous that Apple had decent management that didn't throw away its performance lead.

"When the Amiga came out, everyone [at Apple] was scared as hell." (quote from former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée, Amazing Computing, Nov. 1996)


Well it wasn't differences in management as much as internal Thermal Nuclear War. Great reads to be had here http://arstechnica.com/series/history-of-the-amiga/

Apple was a big bunch of haters on anything Amiga and told big fat lies about their own machine or the future machines that were right around the corner that would blow away the Amiga. (If around the corner was six years than they were not lying).

On an Amiga had a Motorola 68000 chip just like the Mac, but the emulator on my 1 mhz 68000 would out preform System on a 2 mhz 68000 family chip.


> "on my 1 mhz 68000"

Did you mean 7 MHz 68000?


Yes 7.09 MHz My bad it was soooooo fast at the time now I laugh. I really thin the move from anything to Amiga at the time was just leaps and bounds greater.


You should look into Apple's history a little. Their management at the time was not significantly better than Commodore's, and Apple wasn't too far away from going under the same way Commodore did.


Apple's management at the time may not have been great, but they were leagues ahead of what Commodore had (after Thomas Rattigan anyway).


I wonder how many Amiga users are left by now. I remember the heated discussions (on ANN) about whether Amiga should remain on the PPC track or go x86 (remember Amithlon?). Didn't stick around long enough, but it must've been a shock when Apple announced they were dropping PowerPC in favor of x86. Ah well...


In hindsight, by the time all those discussions happened on ANN, the platform (as a meaningful alternative to Apple or Windows) was dead anyway. A lot of energy was wasted on the comments section of ANN in those days that could have been spent on more productive endeavors.


ckemp1, as in Christian Kemp, creator of ANN.lu?

I know I wasted too much time participating in flame wars on ANN in those days. In hindsight, I wish I had abandoned the Amiga much sooner and walk away with with mostly good memories.


That's me. (As in, creator of ANN and also someone who should have walked away sooner - although I did switch to Windows quite a few years before closing ANN).


Even by the last days of commodore the platform was already dead, dying, or at best on life support.

The Video Toaster may have extended the Amiga's usefulness by a few more years, but for most users by the early 90s a spiffed out 386 or 486 PC clone with vga and a sound blaster offered comparable performance & features to the AGA Amigas.

It was an amazing machine vastly superior to its competitors from 85 till the early 90s though.


I can certainly agree with that, I invested far too much time and money in the Amiga long after it was relevant. But I still have a fondness for the machine, it was elegant in a way that just isn't necessary anymore, time and moores law stands still for no man


Played kick off 2 the other week, and sensible soccer. Boy my reactions are not what they were.


The modern Amiga community is weird. I get the nostalgia kick it brings, but there's too many differently vectored "purity" movements all concerned with carving out their own slightly different piece of a rapidly shrinking pie. There's what, 4-5 different OS projects?

Even stranger are the commercial software projects -- for which there are dozens. The creators will never come close to even making their time back with sales of very complex apps, so why not just release everything as Open Source or Freeware? There's no business model in the world where it makes sense to sell Amiga software anymore, and with the massive OS fragmentation any given port must sell in the low dozens even for very popular titles.

It absolutely doesn't make sense and seems very self defeating for what could be a more vibrant hobbyist platform.


If you want to see how it all ended, Dave Haynie documenting the last day of Commodore. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaTjwo1ywcI&feature=youtu.be


If someone from IBM is watching, it would be a really fun project to try to port some form of Amiga OS to run on POWER8. All of the POWER chips add complex instructions to the ISA but are all fully compatible with PPC COM(mon).


Getting AROS to run certainly would be possible. The biggest question would be "why", as though there's been some very experimental work on SMP for AROS and claims of work on SMP for OS4, currently all of the alternatives are still stuck using just a single core.


A hobbyist could do that. It's not an enormous system, but $3k buys you a Power8 system (http://www.tyan.com/campaign/openpower/).


Only the X1000 ist discontinued, the X5000 (Mainboard: Cyrus+) is coming soon and a new lower priced A1222 (Mainboard: Tabor) is coming too.

http://www.a-eon.com/?page=x5000

Some background infos and also Pics from Cyrus Board: http://blog.a-eon.biz/blog/


"we have created a dedicated SVN resource"

I'm surprised to see such out-dated technology still being used today.


I know that git is the standard these days, but my guess is that the majority of devs don't need a distibuted version control system. I personally find git powerful, but often overly complex.


I think git is pretty easy for easy workflows (add, commit, push). I just use subversion for old projects, where porting them to git would not make any sense.



It's for people who still write Amiga apps...


That was the joke.


From what I can gather, it doesn’t seem like it runs on PowerPC Macs. Too bad, I would’ve liked to try it out.


You can run MorphOS on some PPC Macs.

What's MorphOS? That's a long story. To save you the convoluted history, let's just say it's an Amiga-like operating system from the Amiga community.

According to the FAQ on the website, MorphOS runs on 'Powerbook G4, iBook G4, Mac mini G4, eMac, Power Mac G5, and Power Mac as well as on computers and systems based on EFIKA, Pegasos I, Pegasos II and Sam460 mainboards.'

http://www.morphos.de/faq

Here's a video of MorphOS booting on a PPC Mac:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB2pT7QiNr4


Man, I thought I was an Amiga die hard when I gave up around 16 years ago.




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