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Dave Haynie - October 01, 2003|
I wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer some of the questions we have lined up for you ... Here goes:
Can you introduce yourself?, talk a little about what you did before the Commodore day's and how you got involved with the Amiga and what your projects where ?
Ok. Well, I’m Dave Haynie – folks have probably heard the name here and there.
Before Commodore? Well, I went to school, mostly. I taught myself to program when I was 12 years old, first on an HP desktop calculator – a huge thing, which my Dad brought home from Bell Laboratories (Holmdel, NJ). This was larger than an SX-64 and used core memory and little magnetic cards. Later on, I learned BASIC and FORTRAN on a Cyber-72 timeshare machine. I also found myself hacking into a UNIX system, when they relocated the Cyber-72 (I just “war dialed” – Bell Labs had their own phone exchange, so you knew if it was a Labs number... of course, I didn’t know it was called war dialing back then).
Along the way, I learned photography (I used to print B&W and Cibachrome, back in the old home darkroom), dabbled in electronic instruments, and computers. In 1977, my best friend, Scott, bought one of the first PET computers – there was exactly one store, a single-room office, actually, in all of Manhattan Island that sold the PET. Since I was the only kid in our group who knew programming, I picked up on PET BASIC quickly, even wrote a few games.
In 1979, I bought my first personal computer: an Exidy Sorcerer. It was clearly better, at the time, than a PET or TRaSh-80. I modified a Hitachi TV for direct video input (in those days, you could drive out to the local radio supply store and get a “Sam’s PhotoFacts” on just about anything – that’s actually possible on-line, today, not too shabby). I got a modem, one of the 1200 baud acoustic sort, but there wasn’t much to do with it back then. I wrote a few programs, sold about four to Creative Computing Software, which distributed them, on cassette tape, for $7.95 each, or some-such. Over 10% of the Sorcerer owners in the USA bought my software – sadly, there were only about 5,000 machines sold.
I went to college in 1979, starting in Electrical Engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA). I eventually did a double degree in EE and Mathematics (CS) – they didn’t actually offer a CS degree for undergrads, but the Math/CS was basically the same thing. Had I organized a little better, I might have tried for the hat trick, adding Cognitive Psychology, but I didn’t have the statistics course pre-requisite necessary to take the Psych Lab. My last semester was just two courses, Compiler Design and Robotics. Oddly, I’ve used both, so far, in actual jobs. I worked two summers at Bell Labs – not for my Dad there. He managed to get me an interview with the on-campus recruiter, and he went to bat for me, which was very cool.
I probably would have worked for Bell Labs on graduation, but that year was the year of the AT&T breakup, and they had a company-wide hiring freeze. So I went to work for General Electric, in Philadelphia. A serious Dilbert Zone, and with about 1% Space Shuttle work, 99% nuclear weapons (they sold you on the Shuttle), I just didn’t want it. So I quit after four months, and a week later, I was working at Commodore.
Can you sum up the highlights of your career since of Commodore?
In the Spring of 1994, after Commodore’s bankruptcy, we were all more or less looking around for new work, since no one held terribly high hopes of a bail-out. I interviewed for small companies and large ones (Compaq, which at the time was very clearly another Dilbert Zone, they had 20 people doing the work of one or two at Commodore, and not necessarily as well).
Just aound then, Mike Sinz and Jeff Porter were putting together the US version of Scala, Inc. They were not initially doing any hardware, but wanted to go in that direction, so they hired me – my first startup-company. I initially worked on some development tools, including a curious object definition compiler (for Scala’s OOP-based Multi-Media Operating System), which wasn’t bad work, if a bit of a hot-seat position (everyone else in engineering counted on this compiler). After that, though, I did a series of low-level things: drivers for a Philips TV (with Scala built-in), drivers to interface MMOS to Windows’ TAPI interface, etc. The writing was pretty much on the wall – the hardware guy gets to write lots of boring drivers. The low cost of laptops, and few years of product delay, had pretty much killed Scala’s hardware aspirations.
As it turned out, that last year at Scala, I had found a part-time job, more or less. ESCOM had purchased the Commodore assets, put A1200s and A4000Ts back into some sort of production, hired an East German contract design firm to work up a mide-range computer (the “Walker”), and decided they needed some people to head up their future works. So they contacted Andy Finkel and I, to address the hardware and software parts. This was in late November of 1995.
So Andy and I flew to Germany, they liked our ideas, and hired us on as consultants. I had a design for a $500 PowerPC computer (something Amiga 500/1200-like), though neither IBM nor Motorola were quite ready for that (I really needed a custom system interface around a decent PowerPC core), but we made some headway. Andy got to work at building up a team of programmers (it would take about 30, and that was the plan). One team would be working on the HAL (Hardware Abstraction Layer), which would make it much easier for me to change hardware whenever it made sense. And of course, it would allow 3rd party companies, like Phase V or Villagetronics, to build add-in PPC boards that would actually run the PowerAmigaOS. PPC made perfect sense in 1995, of course. Apple had yet to screw it up.
Naturally, since things were going so well, they had to be messed with – that is the Commodore curse, after all. ESCOM, trying I guess to be the Tandy or Gateway of Europe, had dramatically overextended themselves, and guessed wrong about what would sell for Christmas of 1995. They were hosed. We found out, about a week or two after the 1996 CeBIT, that the Power Amiga project was cancelled, and most of the Amiga Technologies Staff would be laid off.
However, out of those ashes came PIOS Computer. Stefan Domeyer, the Technical Side General Manager at Amiga Technologies (Petro was the sales guy) decided he liked what he saw with us, and went about attracting money to start this new company. So in June of 1996, we formed PIOS Computer – my second startup company, first as a founder. I worked all my vacations, nights, weekends, etc. for free, for over a year, while still at Scala, to set the direction for PIOS. Our idea, initially, was that we wanted to continue to the PowerAmiga, but that didn’t pan out well – no one owned the rights to let us port the code. So we went into Power Macs, which you actually could make at the time.
Along the way, Stefan discovered Be, Inc. (I had actually ordered a BeBox just a few days before talking to Amiga Technologies, back in 1995, so I knew all about it), and decided this was so very Amiga like, we could do everything we sought to do on BeOS. And you could buy it. So I set about making the “PIOS One”, which was to be our Be-only PPC machine.
We went to the BeDevCon, in California, in early 1997, and also took a trip to Apple. I was not a fan of the Mac, truly the “dumb blonde” of the computing world, but yet, it was kind of hallowed ground, because of Woz and the Apple ][. Anyway, there, we met with their CHRP group, who proceed to convince all of us that we just had to have CHRP support in the PIOS One, so that it would run MacOS. This, naturally, would require a revision to both motherboard and CPU module, but hey, it would be worth it. After all, we already sold PowerMacs.
In fact, we OEMed Power Mac motherboards from UMAX, but supplied our own CPU modules. We bought these, too, early on, but before long hired Thomas Rudloff, the PPC designer at Phase V, away to design our boards. He did, and we shipped the first production PowerMac from any company at 300MHz.
Then it about time to some shit to hit a fan somewhere. By late summer of 1997, my wife, Liz, was demanding to pick two out of the three of her, PIOS, and Scala... so I left Scala (on the best of terms). The real hammer, though, fell immediately after – Apple, confounded I guess by the fact that everyone building CHRP machines made them substantially faster than their non-CHRP machines, decided that they were “just kidding” about MacOS licensing, putting Power Computing out of business, costing Motorola a $95 million write off, and IBM untold losses (IBM also stops, at this point, worrying about making CPUs for Apple’s desktop computers).
But PIOS bounced. Actually, bounced into a new name... the company fell afoul of a trademark application race condition, which we lost, and had to change our name. That became Met@box AG, and the product was now a set-top box. I designed our first, which we decided not to make. The second was made simply using OEMed PC motherboards (the Met@box 500), and then a super-cheap version from another OEM. We served the whole STB idea, though: internet browsing via a Metabox run ISP (those two OC3 lines running into the Hildesheim offices were _sweet_, for browsing on the job there), so we had the server and client sides. Thus, the clients could sell cheap, at cost or thereabouts. We also had co-developed a technology for “data push” over analog television. Which made it possible to deliver primitive broadband content without broadband, or dial-up costs... naturally, in Europe, there was no unlimited local dialing. Using a Met@box could actually be cheaper than using a PC.
The third generation STB, code-named “Phoenix”, was done all on the inside. A bit against my better judgement, we used the Motorola ColdFire MCF5307/5407, a capable 32-bit embedded controller, but not highly integrated (I was a fan of some of the MIPS parts, but everyone else liked Motorola). This machine had a tendency to grow new features with every revision , but it was pretty decent by the time it was done. It handled MPEG-2 (DVB/DVD) via a coprocessor/video board, it could do Ethernet, ISDN, POTS, or other networking via another plug-in module.
On the software side, we had CaOS, which was I guess “Carsten and Andy’s Operating System”, written from scratch for STB use, but very, very Amiga-like. We didn’t try for full source compatibility, but exploited what we could. So the graphics subsystem was based on MUI, and we ported (and improved) the Voyager web browser and various other Amiga legacy tools, which were just about ideal for the smaller platform of the STB we were building. We even extended the brower language, so you could do cool things like control video overlays with a few HTML tags. Very good work here, by the whole team.
And as we had gone public on the small board, we eventually made it to the Neuer Markt, which I guess is like the German NASDAQ. My personal shares (which, of course, couldn’t be sold) went to a value of around US$5.6 million in the summer of 2000. Which of course meant that catastrophe had to strike, and quickly, since Andy and I could sell in January of 2001.
That was done internally – the managing bosses, Domeyer, Ebeling, and the board of directors, went bonkers. They spent millions on advertising, sponsorships, toys, a movie studio, and all kinds of things not terribly related to the job of getting the “Phoenix” out the door. Then the stock market started going to hell, and Met@box fell a bit with it. Then there were rumors of scandals at Met@box, problems with customer orders that could not be revealed (by contract), etc. Then internal monkey business, as Stefan arranged to borrow mine and Andy’s stock shares (and some of his own, none of Mr. Ebeling’s), registered with the exchange, to bring a new investor in immediately. And then our shares were replaced with non-registered shares, as the exchange apparently (so we’re told) refused to register them, and the company refused to return what was rightfully ours. Things just went from bad to worse, financially.
In the fall of 2000, I was spending more and more time with the US subsidiary of Met@box, Metabox USA, based in Austin, TX. Our CEO there, Clint (perfect Texas name) was a good guy, and managed to come across a team of chip and system designers, formerly the core team at Aureal Semiconductor (the PIOS One sound chip was made by Aureal), and we had a chance to hire these guys. They could do the level of work that had been impossible to do right, hardware-wise, in Germany, so I was very attentive. As the Phoenix was winding down in Germany, I had time for this, and eventually agreed, with Stefan, that I’d come on full time as CTO at Metabox USA.
We had some surprising interest in the Phoenix, from big names such as Blockbuster (they wanted to put a Blockbuster “branch office” in your livingroom) and Earthlink. Also a brush with Enron, which was getting into the business of buying and selling fibreoptic bandwidth, and needed a good reason for consumers to want it (eg, the multimedia STB). I managed to get a tiny bit of stock money out of Metabox AG, and put it all into Metabox USA.
Tragically, that’s all they got – Germany didn’t follow through with any of their promises for support, nor did Stefan ever restore my shares to the point I could actually meet the funds I had promised the US company. Then, in June of 2001, the AG went into a kind of bankruptcy, similar I guess to Chapter 11 in the USA – a reorganization. Oh, by the way, did I mention that they owed me a bit over US$75,000 in cash and back salary by then.
So basically, Metabox just continued to crash and burn, my former partners (not Andy, he was being hosed like me) happy to occasionally twist the knives they had left in my back. The US company folded in June – the US economy in 2001 was shaky enough that any fear of financial woes sent your customers running (well, I guess maybe Enron had their own share of problems by then).
That leads us up to Merlanica....
Can you shed some light on the relationship you have/had with Merlancia?
I had known Ryan Czerwinski, somewhat casually, through the Amiga community. He made my Summer 2000 house party, I guess I saw him a few other times, like the 2001 Gateway show (I was interested in AmigaDE for use in the Phoenix STB). A weirdo, sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my business.
As I was coming off the Met@box disaster, and not thinking terribly clearly I suppose, Ryan came by my 2001 summer party (also my 40th birthday party) and offered me the CTO job at Merlancia. Far as I knew, Merlancia was a small company based in Arizona, doing a variety of hardware projects, and funded by Czerwinski, who was apparently independently wealthy. Early on, things seemed to support that. For example, I flew with Ryan to meet with Bill McEwan at Amiga, Inc.; Ryan claimed they had about $650,000 ear-marked for his set-top/small computer project. Not a king’s ransom, but a reasonable amount for the work at-hand. So no alarms immediately.
The alarms began soon enough, though. First thing, Ryan was trying to weasel out of the agreement we had (verbal/email, sure, but that’s precisely the same as a full written contract, for the purposes of employment). Secondly, his supposed secretary, Christina, was making executive level decisions about who got paid, etc. Then there was the growing list of former associates of Merlancia’s, all of whom seemed to be owed substantial money.
We brought Skal Loret and Fred Wright on that fall, and that’s where things really started breaking. No one was getting paid. Ryan was disappearing for days at a time. He claimed to be an engineer, yet was stumbling on the most basic of things, and clearly had no concept about how engineering was done, or the time frames involved in product development. I guess, in retrospect, he knew his house of cards was falling, and wanted to get _something_ before it crashed.
I should have got out then, but I stuck it on for a few more months, and the lies just got thicker. The sad thing was, Skal and I had outlined a very real product strategy, using OEMed boards, to deliver a product that Skal could actually sell. Basically, nearly everything Ryan and Christina did from November 2001 to February 2002 could be explained as little other than sabotage.
So I spent some time, dug deep, and discovered that, basically, it was all a sham. Merlancia, as I’m sure some of your readers know, was nothing more than a storefront, with a few Amiga things for sale, and a bunch of that junk that Christina sells on eBay. Christina turned out to be Christina Czerwinski, Ryan’s mother. Ryan turned out not to be rich, but perhaps supported by a trust fund by his father (never married), who is apparently well-to-do and living in Florida.
And as it turns out, Ryan himself was the biggest lie of all. He was not an engineer, or a college graduate, in fact... I have my doubts about High School. He wasn’t 40, as he claimed, or “maybe in his early 30's”, as I guessed, but in fact, 19 or so at the time. So boy, did I feel stupid, being fooled by a kid, even if, as Skal guesses, he’s from Gypsy blood. Thing is, you don’t expect this level of fraud. I mean, he got to make some enemies, destroy any possible reputation he would ever have in the computer business, miss a genuine opportunity to actually BE something like what he pretended to be, probably wind up being chased by the IRS at some point (did he every pay FICA and all that other withholding he took from the little salary any of us got?) and what did he get in return? The right to day “Dave Haynie – CTO” on his web page for a few months. Idiot!
Anyway, I did move on... In the late winter of 2002, after I officially quit Merlancia, my old pal Andy Finkel was putting together a new startup company, called Fortele, Inc. Our project was a very cool one – multimedia home networking. Basically, with a cheapish Linux/PC based server in your closet somewhere, you could hook any and all multimedia devices into a unified home network (either into the server itself, or into satellite boxes throughout the home). Each new device would simply become a node in the network, the server would do routing (sources to destinations, etc), with a hard disc also PVR functions, etc. To each room, you add a low cost (maybe $100 for video, $50 for sound-only) satellite node, and you have access to all of the home’s resources.
One remote control, which a few buttons, a speaker, and a mic, controls everything. You can navigate the various resources on-screen, control components, etc. Or use the voice interface, or voice macros for commonly used things. The system incorporates ALL media – even the telephone is connected, and in fact, the remote can be an intercom and cordless phone. You each get your own remote; the room knows you by your remote, so it can adapt. For example, if I walked into my big-screen TV room, and my kids were watching “Cartoon Network”, it could automatically change for me, say, to an interactive program guide, or maybe the Sci-Fi channel. If I was watching TV in that room, and got up to get coffee in the kitchen, the kitchen audio-only unit could automatically pop the TV’s sound up for me. And of course, eventually the lights could be on the system too, so they come on/go off as necessary (there’s a forthcoming wireless thing called ZigBee, designed specifically for this kind of thing).
The system isn’t simply a universal remote, but a universal interface. The remote doesn’t learn the commands for your devices, it always sends raw commands. The server gets the command, your ID, your locale, and from that and the current system context, determines what “up” or “down” is. So for one, any possible function on any piece of gear can be supported. If you learn to use the system, you learn it for any and all gear attached – one criteria, always missed by the folks doing this elsewhere, is that, when this is done right, it gets easier to use. Our wives/girlfriends had to be able to do anything, easily — currently a problem with my A/V rig.
Anyway, that was Fortele. We actually had some of this stuff working pretty well, like a remote that did all that stuff, a server that could dispatch commands in voice, a macro system for commands, the beginnings of the IR interface, the whole command interface structure complete with IPG, etc. It ran under Linux and PalmOS at the time :-) But Fortele ran out of money... 2002 wasn’t a good year for startup companies, either.
From there I jumped (literally) to Sizig, Inc., where I am today, at least when I’m not doing video projects for my own sideline business (Frog Pond Media – yes, we do weddings). I had actually been approached by Sizig a month or so after starting at Fortele, and I liked their project: home robotics, but with an entertainment twist (eg, not another computerized dustbuster). We also found it hard to get all the investors we needed, but we did get enough to proceed with a longer term strategy. We’re currently spinning off some of the radio/control technology into RC areas not well served by intelligent devices or modern digital radio. This should lead to products early next year, and from there, the full-blown robots.
Do you keep track of the Amiga community?
To some extent. It’s hard, especially as the community shrinks and perhaps fragments. I read Team Amiga regularly, some of the internet newgroups occasionally, some of the web forums occasionally. Of course, being Mr. Startup Guy, I’m both underpaid and overworked, so I don’t have a great deal of time for this.
What do you think of the Amiga ONE?
I’ll tell you when I get one :-) Seriously, I don’t know enough specifics to make any really valuable contributions. I would like to play around with a modernized AmigaOS, no question about it. Whether it’ll be modernized enough to stand up against something like BeOS (OpenBeOS, Zeta, whatever flavor you’d like), we’ll see. The hardware is going to be problematic for serious multimedia work... most hardware is, when you’re doing digital multimedia, and measure the your number crunching in hours or days, on a really fast CPU. PowerPC may have some new legs now, with the PPC970, but that’s also a full-time 64-bit chip (you can run a 32-bit app, but you need a 64-bit OS to boot), and not yet on the AmigaOne horizon, far as I know.
I do think there’s room in the world for another Amiga-like computer. The problem today is that no one will make such a computer, at least not in the sense that the Amiga 1000 was in 1985. I doubt it’s even possible – the project is just too large. Back then, there were companies that made good CPUs, and sucked at most everything else (OS, graphics, sound, I/O subsystem, expansion, etc). So the Amiga, or at least a piece of it, was inevitable. The fact that one company fixed nearly every problem with the personal computer (well, applications aside) in one fell swoop is certainly a credit to the genius (and I don’t use that word often) of Jay and the gang at Los Gatos. That was such a compelling machine, people bought it even though it didn’t do anything much. It was one of the very few times something in the personal computer business surprised me.
The Amiga ONE will not be this kind of computer. At the right price, running a new AmigaOS, it may, on the other hand, be just what Amiga fans want, assuming there really are Amiga fans left who will part with their money, and not just gripe about the lack of something better than Windows. The problem, and it’s one that might be solved over time, is in expanding the market. How do you get people interested in the Amiga ONE, or any “New Amiga” to follow?
What's your opinion on the alternative Amiga-offshoot projects such as Pegasos.
Well, I think most of these are fundamentally “Amiga wannabe” projects. In a healthy marketplace, I wanted (even in the C= days) an open hardware platform, as that’s the only way to ensure it’s immortal. Look at the PC – IBM makes laptops these days, but they’ve basically given up most of the desktop market. But there’s no way you could kill the platform. That’s why I liked CHRP – a PPC standard platform. What happens when it’s all proprietary is simple: too much work for too few people. Apple’s barely making a go of it, with 2% or so of the new computer market. Will the Amiga ONE be profitable enough to lead to an Amiga TWO? I can’t say. And if Pegasos splits the market, we may easily see two fail where one might have stood a chance. Especially given that both seem to be of a proprietary nature (well, as much as you can be using off-the-shelf chips); you won’t have AmigaOS on Pegasos, nor will you have MorphOS on Amiga ONE, last I heard.... I could be wrong, of course.
The kicker to success, the one you use to launch a truly new platform like the Amiga 1000 or the BeBox, is excitement. Something is so exciting about that new computer (I don’t care what), it’s obvious lack of useful applications isn’t a stumbling block. Just yet, anyway. Now, unless I’ve missed a big thing, the excitement over the Amiga ONE is AmigaOS 4, pretty much start and finish. The excitement over Pegasos? Maybe MorphOS? I can’t say for sure... I have yet to become excited over the prospect of a Pegasos computer. The latest thing that’s exciting? Well, I found out today I can upgrade my 800MHz Athlon CPU+Motherboard for a 1900MHz Athlon CPU + motherboard for just under $100. That’s probably going to happen, soon.
Anyway, real success means real applications. Let’s take what I use the computer for. I do CAD work: I need a schematic capture program and a PCB layout program, at the very least. These need to work flawlessly; the wrong bug in the program could cost me more than the program did (well, some, anyway). Add to that the other stuff: development kits for micros, emulators, programmers, analyzers, etc. Much of this stuff is PC, and PC-only. I probably can’t use another kind of computer for the full scope of CAD work.
How about video? I love the Sonic Foundry tools: Vegas, Acid, Sound Forge. That gets me an edited video with effects, clean sound, and original music. I have other tools for graphics (Photoshop) that go in the video, artwork and still captures. Others still for MPEG rendering, DVD creation, etc. That’s a very tall order to support, and taller still to support it at this level. For example, would the video editor for AmigaOS 4 (or MorphOS) support MPEG-2 rendering? N–layer compositing with realtime preview? Arbitrary format editing (MPEG-2, DV, etc)? 5.1 channel audio mixing? Dozens of audio and video plug-ins, unlimited tracks, unlimited audio buses with routing, 24fps and HDTV support? Well, ok, I’m not using those last two yet, but I could. And that’s just the video NLE. What can your DVD tool do?
What do you think of AmigaOS4 and MorphOS?
I haven’t used either of them yet. I would like to play around with AmigaOS 4, as I said, and I suspect I will. I don’t know quite why I would bother with MorphOS. I doesn’t seem to actually do anything new, much less anything I’m currently doing with Windows or Linux tools. It’s not AmigaOS, so I don’t have any particular reason to be loyal and try it, or nostalgic, or whatever. It runs AmigaOS apps I guess, but hey, newsflash: Linux, Windows, MacOS, and BeOS also can run AmigaOS apps. No biggie. I really don’t have a problem with new alternate OS development; I like to see in which ways folks doing new stuff will push beyond Windows (particularly), where innovation is basically all invisible to the consumer and self-serving to Microsoft.
But, and here’s the thing, if I’m going to that trouble, I’m pretty much not going to spend $1000 or so just to taste out this new OS. Just isn’t time, unless you can convince me that hardware is otherwise-useful, and I mean, in a big way: not simply “it can run Linux”, but how about, “it can run Linux better/cheaper than X, Y, and Z”.
The other reason I don’t have a need for MorphOS is the simple fact that they ARE after the Amiga community – they specifically targetted it, with an OS that at least sounds much like an attempted AmigaOS clone. I’m sure MorphOS fans will be telling me, years from now, it’s “so much more”, based on this very interview. But, thing is, that’s not my problem or concern – it’s up to Genisi or whoever to spread the word, to well me why I would want this. I don’t see any reason, especially with AmigaOS 4 on the way – that one comes with the actual Amiga credentials. No, it’s not what you would have had C= not failed, or ESCOM/AT for that matter. But they did, and it’s without question the only real AmigaOS upgrade that’s coming. Ok, maybe AROS, now that the seem to actually, finally, have decided that it’s ok to really pursue AROS; I kind of got excited by the early prospects of it, then disillusions and, finally, disinterested by the lack of committment and fear-of-reprisals that seemed to be attached.
What your opinion of Tullip's plans to revive the Commodore 64?
Jeri Ellsworth’s Commodore One is very, very cool; particularly since it was designed, from scratch, by this one woman. That used to take a whole engineering team at Commodore, after all. A great technical achievement, I don’t know about the sales aspects, but she seems to have hooked up with Jens Shoenfield/Individual Computers. They have always been honest with me, and they’re in business. So perhaps they’ll sell. I’ll probably buy one.
Tulip seems interested in little other than extracting money from the folks playing around with Commodore emulators. Maybe I missed something, but that’s the gist of what I got from their press release. They may well be legally entitled to do so, or even make new C64 hardware, but what’s the point? Taxing a tiny, for-fun thing like the C64 emulators is a good way to finally kill it all off. A C64 cost $150 back when PCs were only 32x-50x faster and cost $3000. Today, PCs are 10,000x faster and cost $500. If they’re going to make new hardware, and sell to other than retro-craze people, I’ll have to take a “show me” approach. I’ll believe it when I believe it.
Do you keep up with old Commodore employees?
Here and there. I’m actually working with one – Bill Koester, former Amiga programmer, is the software lead guy at Sizig, Inc. I still run into the occasional C= crowd at parties and other events – Mike Sinz (Amiga Kernel guy) is throwing just such a party on Saturday. But it’s not a weekly thing anymore... we did keep that going, more or less, until some time in 2002...
Do you have any side projects you're working on that you'd like to share?
Nothing for public consumption at present. I really don’t have huge amounts of time for this stuff, other than the occasional video shoot.
** Next questions are submitted by Amiga.org members **
What were your favourite aspects of the Amiga hardware (OCS, ECS and AGA... other?)?
In the early days, it was the relative level of integration: everything just fit so nicely, wicked cool DMA channels everywhere (the way it should done), etc. ECS didn’t really change much, in HW or SW. Sure, we got a few new modes, but they were not terribly useful.
I guess the best effect of the Amiga hardware was what it did to me. The designs, as done by the Los Gatos group, were just so radical for the time, they made me think about things better, new designs, systems, etc. I was making my transition from Junior Engineer to Really Useful Engineer on the Amigas (specifically, the Amiga 2000), and this was the right initiation. That whole “standing on the shoulders of giants” thing.
Pandora, er, AA, er, AGA was special for me, for other reasons. For one, I brought it up – I designed the world’s first system, I saw it boot for the very first time, I wrote the world’s first AA program (well, the first to actually run on AA hardware, anyway), etc. Naturally, I had the designers (Bob Raible and Victor Andrade) to thank for that, being the systems guy, but it was pretty cool. I liked the improved graphics, naturally, with enough system bandwidth to make the ECS modes useful, etc. AA was pretty much graphics; other stuff didn’t change significantly.
What were your favourite aspects of the Amiga operating system (1.x, 2.x and 3.x)?
A: Well, in 1.x, it had to be that stellar disc recovery program, DiskDoctor. That one gave me a 10-year project (DiskSalv) to work on in my copious spare time.
But seriously, the thing that got me, immediately, about AmigaOS was that this was a REAL operating system. I had learned to program on various large computers, mainframes and supermini computers, running DEC OSs, UNIX, etc. Sure, I also programmed PETs and the Exidy I mentioned, and that’s just it – they were the toys, the ones at Bell Labs, at the CMU CS or EE departments, etc. they were the real computers. I ran CP/M on the C128 for that effect, but it wasn’t really there, either.
So in the summer of ‘85, Bil Herd (the C128 hardware boss) gets this double-secret private book, the first green covered ROM Kernel Manual series to make it to West Chester (lose it under penalty of dismemberment and death, in that order). I borrowed that sucker and read it cover to cover. This wasn’t just an OS for a personal computer that didn’t suck, it was a work of art – better than UNIX or those other “big machine” OS out there. Much better.
In 2.0, I guess I was a sucker for the new look, some of the cool new features done right, to make it easier to write code, and of course, well, the fact it booted up first on the shiny new Amiga 3000 that Greg Berlin, Hedley Davis, Scott Hood, Scott Schaeffer, Jeff Boyer, and I were bringing to the world. And of course, the fact I had been around and involved in the development (even just a bit, such as in the SetCPU code they used to build their version, etc, as well as the usual “hardware guy supports the software guys with fast ‘030 boards” role).
3.0, overall, I found a disappointment... but not what you think. The point of 3.0 was to run on AAA systems, or other things that needed RTG. But that was never completed (the API was, I think, that’s the last I heard of it from Chris Green), and of course, AAA was abandoned before it was capable of even booting AmigaOS.
What was the earilest point you realised that games were going to go heavily into 3D and that the Amiga's chipset was not going to be right for it (basicly when did you want to start work on a chipset geared up for 3D work?)?
Well, of course, I don’t do “big chip” design. I think the point at which we knew 3D would be important was probably a year or two before the CD32 shipped. That’s about the time (2000-2001 I guess) Ed Hepler left the AAA group and went on to start the Hombre project.
If you don’t know the details, Hombre was a fresh start. It was to be a two-chip design, with a graphics chip and a controller chip – basic functions like floppy could be done elsewhere. You had chunky graphics, either 16-bit or 24-bit, no LUT as I recall. In 16-bit mode, you could have up to four playfields. The controller chip sported a RISC CPU, something PA-RISC compatible that Ed designed, extended with new instructions for 3D manipulation. Ideally, the CPU would be the main CPU when used in a console machine, and maybe run OpenGL when driven by another CPU (low end Amiga-replacement, high-end system on a plug-in card).
During the AAA development, it was pretty clear AAA would be nothing special if it ever did ship, at least not in raw specs. In 1988, a 64-bit chipset that could do 1280x1024@60Hz, with 11 bits/pixel, would have been something. In 1994, the earliest ship date had C= not failed, it would have been an expensive also-ran (four chips for a 32-bit system, six for a 64-bit system, and you needed VRAM for performance).
I know you were not involved in management, but perhaps you can shed some light on whether the coup d’estat by Gould & Co. in the early eighties causing Tramiel to move elsewhere was the beginning of C='s downfall and loosing touch with the market?
Well, you have understand that, at least initially, Gould probably wasn’t wrong. Gould, being the principle stockholder and usually chairman of the board, wasn’t happy with Tramiel’s plans to bring his boys up as his successors. Given the 20/20 hindsight of their tenure at Atari, he was dead on – they were no Jack Jrs.
However, even if ousting Tramiel was the right thing, Gould didn’t seem to have a functional backup plan. He would hire someone, expect a miracle, then fire them long before any change of such a miracle working could have happened. Problems take time to solve, and “Uncle Irv” apparently didn’t understand this. So they had some potentially good guys in the power seats at Commodore International (Rattigan) and Commodore Business Machines (Copperman), but they didn’t get their chance to prove it. Rattigan made the mistake of trying to ursurp all power in the company (ironically, something Jack let Mehdi Ali do years later).
There was never any “losing touch” – it didn’t happen. What did happen was that Engineering was never funded well enough to make these things happen at the speed the Amiga community demanded. And no one would be happy, anyway, with that – did you want that for the 80% share, in Europe, of the games/demo people, or the 20% share, in North America, of the video/hacker crowd? Most of the true marketing decisions, such as features, etc. were set by Engineering. And while ads might have helped, additional interfacing with Marketing might not have done much in those days. Amiga engineers were better in touch with the buyers than Marketing. Because most of us WERE the target market – we were making our own new toy, within the financial limits accorded.
Now, if Gould had decided to take $200,000 as salary and left the $3,500,000 or whatever for engineering, would that have helped? You bet your sweet bippy it would have.
Now, things did go from “not great, but we’re making due” to “this sucks” sometime after the A3000, around the Spring of 2001. That’s when Ali grabbed the ropes, and one-by-one, group by group, starting making the company his.
When he got to Engineering, he hired a human bus error called Bill Sydnes to take over. Sydnes, a PC guy, didn’t have the chops to run a computer, much less a computer design department. He was also an ex-IBMer, and spent much time trying to turn C= (a fairly slick, west-coast-style design operation), into the clunky mess that characterized the Dilbert Zones in most major east-coast-style companies. He and Ali also decided that AA wasn’t going to work, so they cancelled both AA projects (Amiga 3000+ and Amiga 1000+, either one better for the market than the A4000 was), and put it all on the backburner, intentionally blowing the schedule by six+ months. They cancelled the A500, which was the only actively selling product ever cancelled in C= history, to my knowledge, and replaced it with the A600. The A600 was originally the A300, George Robbins’ idea of a cheaper-than-A500 Amiga; a new line, not a replacement. Sydnes added so much bloat, the A600 was $50 more than the A500, $100 over the goal price.
Who would make up your dream hardware/software engineering team for creating a new Amiga?
Today? Oh, I dunno, get me Marc Stimak’s team (the former Aureal guys) to make me an audio chip, steal some guys from nVidia to implement the graphics and I/O system, and maybe we can get some of the top DEC/Alpha guys back from Intel for the CPU? Or the Opteron team...I’ll be needing about $250 million to start off with, thank-you-very-much. Without that level, why try? CPUs and even system architectures, today, are where CPUs were when the Amiga began – they’re huge chips, 10's of millions of transistors, made by specialty companies. I’ll have Joe Palmer (BeBox designer) in to help me work out the system; I was very impressed with him, and we had very similar ideas, at least for the short time we were both designing computers (the BeBox was cancelled just as I was bringing up the PIOS One prototypes)
For the OS, maybe BeOS with some AmigaOS refinements, or perhaps something even newer and better (Multimedia Hurd? KOSH?). I’d want to talk with Andy, with Carl Sassenrath, maybe get Ed MacKenty in to ensure we’re doing UNIX things better than Linux, if possible (MacK’s an old pal from college, one of the best programmers I know, and also kicks ass on both guitar and keys – a company band is also a very important concern, after all). The people involved ARE the project; you can know the direction, but you won’t know more about the final goal until they’re all assembled.
You are generally well respected in the Amiga community. Do you still enjoy the attention or is the Amiga something you would like to leave as part of your past?
A: Oh, these days, after a few humbling experiences out of the Amiga world, enjoying the relative obscurity that only a tiny startup company can really offer, I absolutely LOVE the occasional attention from the Amiga community (or more, but “occasional” is what I get). I’m very proud of the work I did at Commodore, and the way I handled the position – being as open as possible to the community, becoming part of it (as many, but not all of us, did), exercising my writing and programming chops where possible. I was great work, a great experience. I didn’t want it to end; I think that’s one reason I was too easily suckered in by that whole Merlancia thing.
I truly believe I may yet do something as fun and exciting as the Amiga days were. When that happens, you’ll know about it. Metabox came close, but it didn’t last, and demonstrates the difference between abject incompetence (Ali and Sydnes at Commodore) and the downright evil of guys like Stefan Domeyer, who would destroy the company they built with greed, then turn around and stab us tech guys in the back, partners and [I believed] friends for years, without much of a second thought.
Some of us got into a discussion about weither or not you designed any of the custom chips yourself or not. So the question is simple, did you have any involvement in the creation of the custom chips, wether they were AGA, AAA or one of the control ASIC's like Budgie or Buster?
As a systems designer (me, George Robbins, Greg Berlin, Hedley Davis, etc) it would be rare if ever that any of us actually designed anything transistor or gate-level in a full custom chip. We certainly collaborated on the designs – I was in on the early AAA meetings, I worked closely with Bob Raible on various AA issues, etc.
System designers were usually the only guys who designed the gate arrays. I designed all of the Busters; Greg designed the A3000 Gary, the second RAMsey, and the replacement DMAC, Scott Hood designed the Amber chip (“flickerfixer” in the A3000), Hedley designed the first RAMsey and the “Hedley Hires” chip, George designed the A500/A2000 Gary and much of the Gayle, etc.
How to you feel about the A4000 in relation to the A3000? It's allways felt like a rushed system to me, which is the reason I never got one. AGA didn't do much for me wich was another reason not to get that A3000+
AA was a good solution for what it did, it just wasn’t enough to satisfy most people by that time. But hey, it did get finished, and that’s an achievement in itself.
There’s an A4000 story, which I’ll relate. The story begins in 1991, when Sydnes took over as VP of Engineering. I was working on the _real_ A3000+, the first prototype of which was the first AA machine ever, back when we called it “Pandora”. This machine was using mainly A3000 parts (I planned to revise it to the ‘040 bus once the AA stuff had been proven – custom chip lead times are many times that of gate arrays; we had the in-house gate arrays at the time that be turned over in about a month), though it had the AGA, and an AT&T DSP3210 subsystem. This would have delivered 16-bit audio I/O, software modem, number crunching 5x-10x faster than a 68040, etc. Not too shabby.
Ok, so Sydnes some in, and his first mission is to destroy the appearance that the former administration (Henri Ruben and Jeff Porter) were as organized and far along as they were. So he cancels all products, and turns the A3000+ into just a development system for programmers (Jeff Porter is able to keep the DSP development alive, I’m able to kludge two working DSP systems even with the DSP control logic, in one of the new custom chips, flawed).
Somewhere down the road, Sydnes and Ali, or perhaps their pet chimpanzee for all I know, decide they need a new computer, something more mid-level. Rather than revive the “A1000+”, which was Joe Augenbraun’s project to build an $800 AA-based, 25MHz entry-level machine for April 2002 release, he gets Greg Berlin to build a scaled-down A3000. This is dubbed the A1000jr (Sydnes claim to fame at IBM was that he was the manager in charge of the PCjr, the greatest failure in IBM PC history), and is basically an A3000 with 68EC020, two Zorro II slots, and ECS.
Now, this is ready to go in April. You have to understand Commodore’s working to know what happened here, but basically, C= was run like a cellular company. Each cell did it’s thing, and ran fairly independently of the parent (CIL, Commodore International Limited). This is why every company did marketing differently; different independent marketing companies. So now, to get their product, each marketing company places orders, and C= fills them as best as they can. But guess what absolutely no one ordered. If you said the “A1000jr” (real name as Amiga 2400 or something like that), you win the LBM Effigy, to be burned later. Nope, no one wanted a stripped down A3000 without AA graphics (or SCSI, or flickerfixer, or Zorro III, etc).
So now Sydnes is in a panic. So he calls on Greg again (Greg’s a good guy, one my oldest friends, just not in the best situation then) to start up the next thing, the A4000. Fast. This command came in May, they wanted to ship in September. So Greg takes the A2400 design, drops in the AA stuff from my A3000+ design, gets me in to fix it to run Zorro III, etc. Sydnes mandates IDE (ATA-1, I think is all you get), so that’s done, poorly, with a PAL (you couldn’t do good ATA in a cheap programmable part back then; you can today), so goodbye SCSI. Anyway, no joy, but there’s an A4000.
The ‘040 board, too, was a left over. Scott Schaeffer was our ‘040 expert (I had been the CPU guy, but had too much work to do, and we wanted the new CPUs out WITH the new system, not a year later), and had actually built an ‘040 board, complete with 128K of L2 cache, which was behind the scenes at the A3000 launch, but never shown. Tragically, it was deemed too expensive. Scott, Greg, Hedley, the cleaning woman, myself, my cat “Iggy”, etc. all new this new machine had to be ‘040 based. They wouldn’t go for doing it right. But it happens that Greg and Scott had realized that during the A1000jr project, too, and so Scott made “the cheapest possible ‘040 board known to man”, price being the only big issue. Guess what powered the A4000?
So me, no, I’m no A4000 fan. The A4000T was improved, if you can find one. It used a fairly standard PC case, something we really wanted – no more custom jobs. It had two video slots, it had the NCR53C710 SCSI from my A4091 board, I tweaked the audio a bit on it for quality and some good features (headphone jack, etc). But alas, not many were made.
How do you think the Amiga hardware would look today if Commodore hadn't went bankrupt? How would the Amiga graphics system look? Would it be non standard and based on AGA/AAA or would it be more like SVGA? What about the bus system? And, last but least, what processor architecture could the Amiga have been using?
A: Well, it’s hard to say everything for sure. But I can tell you this. In the fall of 1991, with Sydnes basically cancelling every project, I decided to sit down and design the next system architecture, the thing that would hopefully replace the A3000 design (used in all A3000/A4000 machines). This was called “Acutiator”, and fully modularized the architecture, so that graphics, for example, could be separate from sound and basic I/O. This originally used a custom bus I designed, called the AMI Bus (Amiga Modular Interconnect).
But then a funny thing happened: PCI came out. PCI was designed to solve the very same problem, and by the time Intel kicked it out to the PCI SIG and they improved it, it was way better than the AMI bus at a bunch of things. And also, it was likely to be this huge standard. That’s a good thing....
See, there’s this misconception about C=/Amiga engineering and standards. We LOVED to use standards – any standard – as long as they did not suck. So you see all these proprietary buses and such around the Amiga, and figure, these guys hate standards. Not at all. We liked the good ones. PCI was a very good one, even then.
So, with all of that said, the next generation Amiga would have had a PCI bus. Also, probably, a PCI to Zorro III bridge. Graphics would have been on PCI. I had speced out PCI interface chips for AA and AAA subsystems, so the graphics could go on a card. Not at all cloning The PC; but the functionality is correct, to make these pieces modular if possible. I’ll let you say I’m copying the Apple ][ here is you like – after all, that’s what IBM did anyway.
There was a feature in Acutiator most systems simply don’t have: the TPU, or Transfer Processing Unit. Any time you had a bus to bus interface, you would (ideally) have a TPU there, in the chip that did that bus to bus interface. This was a very simple 32-bit microprocessor (I designed the architecture) which would transfer data, efficiently, from bus to bus. It would so largely because it understood, perfectly, both of the buses at issue. So, no imposed wait states if there were synchronization issues, speed mismatch, etc. You could write directly to memory/IO on the far side of that bus, but better still, just drop a transfer instruction into the queue for a particular TPU, and it would run the transfer for you, then signal when done. The goal: every bus in the system could be busy, all at once.
Anyway, that’s the kind of things I had in mind for the system. For graphics, Hombre, as mentioned, and that was also PCI – Dr. Hepler also saw the wisdom in PCI, even as I did independently. Beyond that, it’s questionable if Commodore would have remained in the graphics business. Most of the PC markers used to make their own graphics chips, too. Today, it’s nVidia, ATi, Matrox, and few others. Like Intel, Motorola, and National Semiconductor, you only need so many different CPUs around.
Name three products that, by all rights, should exist today but don't. 'Hardware,' A/V, communications, flying cars, whatever -- as someone who's been in the 'industry' for so long, what do you find most egregious about its present state?
A: Well, the first one that really should exist is a system like the Fortele media network I described at length. It’s possible, but no one’s done it. There are companies in this space, but they’re not thinking “big” enough. Nothing suggested there wasn’t something that we couldn’t have done, well, at Fortele, given another year or two and some more cash. It would be a simple enough thing for a consumer electronics giant. The problem is, it changes their business, and they might not like that. For example, if they can sell a $400 TV, a $200 DVD player, a $200 satellite or cable tuner, etc. into each room, why work hard to be able to sell only the $200 monitor + $100 network box? Those served by the status quo rarely become the innovator that unseats that comfortable market.
Another one: electric or other renewable-energy cars. The hybrid-electric car in my garage, a Toyota Prius, is one step in the right direction, one I’m sure others will follow soon enough (Toyota put the first one out in 1997). The problem with cars is that small companies can’t usually make them, it’s just a problem too large for the given technology. And the larger companies are conservative, and usually have to have some kind of gun pointed to the heads (California quotas, CAFÉ fines, etc) to make any real changes. I think they’re far more comfortable with blue-sky stuff that makes them sound Really High-Tech at the car shows, but doesn’t demand actual productization.
Another one, which should be possible, is a really good pocket computing device – just one that does a bunch of jobs. I want a halfway decent computing platform; Sharp’s Zaurus isn’t far off, PalmOS 4.x sucks, WinCE sucks. Maybe a full blown AmigaOS wouldn’t be bad, either – it could fit the form factor. This device needs to be small enough for a pocket. The battery should last a good 24 hours of actual use, and recharge easily when you drop it in a cradle. It should be a communicator, but it doesn’t really need to be a cellphone; how about making it a flexible network device, it jumps on Bluetooth or WiFi if available, a GSM network otherwise. Your email or ISMs or voice goes over the same interface. It should play MP3 music, MP4 video, and include a camera good enough for both picturephone and snapshot photos. Give it an iPod’s worth of local storage, give or take.
That doesn’t sound all that complicated, does it? But it is, and that largely because such a device cuts across too many little kingdoms. Just take the phone function. Many new cellphones are adding Bluetooth, which using either the HS (headset) or HF (hands free) profile, lets you talk hands (and the latter case, dial) hands-free in your car, or hook up a wireless headset. Ok, good enough. Such a phone could pretty much also support the Cordless Telephone or Intercom protocols. So basically, you could use the one communicator for calling the kids upstairs or your pal on the other side of the world, using the most efficient means possible. Your cellphone would basically dock with your landline when you’re in a place that lets you use the landline, going to cell at other times. But the cellphone people don’t want to support those things, because they believe that a person is so lazy, they won’t bother to get off the couch and use the landline when at home. So they see the “docking” as potentially losing them revnue. It’s silly.
To complete the loop, of course, the Bluetooth communications device is also going to function as a remote control on the home network. You could probably watch videos on the small screen if so inclined, and certainly target the brower there – so you could flip TV stations without the need to mess with what’s being shown in the room. Most of it comes down to “a simple matter of software”.
The problem, or at least one of them, today, with the present state is that, to an extent, things have become too successful, and thus, too established. When you accept the way a thing is, or a particular way of doing a thing, it’s unlikely you’ll change it. You make changes because you see the problem others don’t, and have a good way to fix it.
Part of the way you innovate, or don’t, relates back to your “vocabulary”; that’s true of a write, a guitar or harmonica player, or a computer designer. What you know about leads to the changes you make, and it’s not even necessarily the stuff you know about in that particular field. Many breakthroughs are due to a “cross pollination” factor, to mix my metaphors a bit here.
I think, with today’s economics, engineers are more overworked and companies less likely to Do Something Cool. Also, your vocabulary suffers. As an engineer, you need to read thought provoking things: Science Fiction, Scientific American, Wired, etc., not just the trade journals. You need to do something else on occasion: paint a picture, play a guitar, walk a dog, play a soccer game, ride a bike, etc. While no one’s figured out how to manufacture creativity, it’s undeniable that a rich and varied life is one essential ingredient. When you hear about wild and crazy stuff that used to happen at Commodore, pranks and wild parties and loud music, nerf battles, nethack marathons, or whatever, that is exactly what was going on: fostering creativity. I understood this, I’m not sure everyone did explicitly, but I think we all did implicitly.
The problem with current design, in consumer electronics, is that there’s much sameness out there, there’s little experience among designers with different things. Look at personal computers – most people only ever see one kind, perhaps with a few small variations. When I was a kid, they had nothing, then H8s and Altairs, then Apple ][s and PETs, etc. Every year you could expect to find new designs – it was exciting, even after I was in the business. Look at computer languages – I have probably used over 40 languages for non-trivial amounts of time. Today, it’s C-something (regular C, C++, C#, Java, etc) or maybe Visual BASIC if you’re really unlucky. Maybe Perl or Python if you hack scripts muchly. Where are the 5 versions of LISP?!?
Where can i get the dvd you did ?
“The Deathbed Vigil and other tales of digital angst”, a film by Dave Haynie. See the web site at http://www.jersey.net/~dhaynie/dbv. This is the “end of Commodore” video I did back in 1994, remastered for DVD (actually restored, to an extent, both the 8mm originals and the SVHS master edit tape had small bits of tape rot). It includes a bunch of extras: deleted scenes (well, hey, it’s the DVD tradition), a short film called “Amiga Impact”, which is basically just comments made by Amiga Community people set to a musical thing I did that, more or less, pays tribute to the Amiga “trackers” without necessarily sounding hokey. There’s also a music video I did of the “Chicken Lips Blues”, the song we wrote and Mike and Keith performed, on the spot.
When will the PAL DVD be ready? (Phase Alternating Lines - European TV standard)
Well, you know, every region 2 DVD player plays NTSC discs, generally as PAL60 (PAL color encoding, NTSC 60 fields/second timing). But in fact, I have released the PAL DVD – see the web site.
This is a case in which the CPU time you’re using becomes critical. I tried a bunch of different ways to convert NTSC to PAL (going the other way, there are a number of simple “hacks”). Nothing was acceptable to me, not even a commercial app designed for this.
Just then, Sonic Foundry released a new version of Vegas. This was better at resampling than V3, and as well, had a mode called supersampling, which would basically generate tweening frames, for generally better results at resampling. So I used this to make PAL from NTSC. The main 2 hour video... that was about 8 and a half days (yes, over 200 hours) of rendering, on a 1GHz Athlon machine.
Do you think systems like the AmigaOne. Pegasos or even the Merlancia MCC can make a change in the PC landscape?
Merlancia, again, is a fraud, there is no MCC. If they ever manage to sell anything, it’ll be a Pegasos or some other PCB in their casework (they buy the cases from established vendors, they don’t even make those).
As for the others, the answer is found in, “what do these offer that I can’t get from a PC?” If the answer is largely limited to “computer that’s not a PC”, well, no, that isn’t sufficient to create an impact of any significance. Assume the best, and now we’re a year or two hence, with one or more of these doing well – there’s software, there’s hardware, all making enough money to stay around for awhile.
Ok, so Jack Newguy comes along, a computing neophyte, and looks at, say, an AmigaONE. There’s the OS, there’s the apps, there’s the company. Next to it, on the shelves, are 600 different PCs in different shapes and sizes (pocket sized, laptop, desktop, multiprocessor server, etc). Next row over question Jackie has to ask himself: how about that Amiga? There’s something about it, but is that enough? How does the performance per dollar compare? Can I get all the applications I need, today and tomorrow, or will I have to buy a PC down the road, anyway. And the kicker – this isn’t simply a purchase, this is a long term investment in the company, in the OS. It is enough, that hard to define “more” I get from the Amiga ONE, to give up the selection of 600 PCs, from different companies, all in heavy competition with one another?
So the answer: if it isn’t enough, there’s not a dent in the PC landscape. If it is enough, it’ll be enough to take sales away from PCs or Macs or whatever. It’s an individual question, asked millions of times over by each person buying a new computer, who knows about the AmigaONE. And, of course, a question never asked by the person who does not know.
Do you have any prototype or rare Amiga items in your basement?
My regular everyday Amiga is an Amiga 3000, front panel popped off so I can use the double-density floppy (not quite A3000 shaped). All of the hard drives reside in a PC mini-tower case, cabled to the Amiga 3000 over SCSI.
I have a few rare and unusual bits and pieces around, but not much in the way of “functional”. That’s largely because I tend to give away stuff that works, or maybe sell it, depending on the nature. I know some people want a collection of one of everything, but that seems a bit greedy to me. Computer gear, for the most part, isn’t artwork, it’s meant to be used.
Do you own the rights to the AmiJoe project?. If so how much $$ would it take to fund the R&D to finish the project?
No, I don’t own AmiJoe. It was Thomas Rudloff’s project, and really his pet project. I recall one Christmas, he took vacation, just to spend it working on AmiJoe. I don’t know if he’s done anything with it since last I heard, and of course, Met@box funded it, but morally anyway, it’s his project. Not that there’s enough Met@box left contest anything, should Thomas decide to finish and market it. I don’t anticipate that happening, but I don’t really know for sure.
What does Amiga mean for you?
Too many things, you have some already listed here. Big companies often do moderate to poor engineering because they don’t understand a simple fact: engineering is the artful application of scientific principles. Science itself, largely there’s something out there to discover, and your creativity is in the way you reveal some truth. In engineering, there is no single truth, no one right answer; there’s a canvas, and you paint it your way, only with chips or gates or subroutines rather than actual paint.
That’s the Amiga, and if you understand it, versus the mainstream, you’ll understand what I’m talking about here.
I want to thank everyone who submitted a question and ofcourse Dave Haynie for answering them.
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