Ways in which

The Amiga is Different

The Amiga has stayed alive even though it has had little or no development since Commodore went bust three (now ten, 19 April 2005!) years ago. Why? Here I have collected what various people have said about the Amiga - people who use it or who have bought it. (Note: This collection should NOT be taken as a complete list of the good points of the Amiga; many are not mentioned since they are either found on other platforms or are so well known in the Amiga community that users take them for granted.)

First, let's hear what Gateway, who purchased the Amiga, said about it, then the rest is devoted to comments by those who use it.

Andrew Basden, Editor.


Introductory stuff
  • What the Amiga Community has Said
  • Lists: What we like about Amiga .. including 'Peter's long list'
  • The Unique Amiga Culture
    The Amiga as a Whole Computer
    Concerning the Main Hardware
    Concerning the Operating System, AmigaOS
    Concerning Graphics and Sound

    What Gateway said

    Gateway 2000 purchased the Amiga in 1997 and the following excerpt from an interview by Boot Ted Waitt, Chairman, explains why:

    Boot: Ok... On the topic of acquisitions, Gateway recently bought the rights to the Amiga. What sort of response has there been to that move?

    Waitt: Well, the Amiga people want to know why we purchased the rights. Amiga has some fantastic technology. It's extremely efficient. And there's the tremendous enthusiasm of folks in the Amiga user environment. The core technology is very compelling.

    I like the modularization of the platform and the operating system, the efficiency of the operating system, the pureness and cleanness of the environment, the video technology... there are a lot of good things.

    Boot: What about those valuable patents?

    Waitt: The Amiga patents were the primary interest, initially, but now we're thinking there might be a lot more there than just a set of patents.

    Jim Taylor, Gateway's Senior Vice President for Global Marketing said (this is a transcript of a recording):

    We acquired all the aspects of Amiga and that included the inventory, the trademarks, the operating system, the hardware designs, the intellectual property. But what we really acquired, what we found we acquired, I think what we were surprised we acquired, was the World of Amiga.

    And I spent of a lot of time studying this, so I want to take a minute just to say something. It is clear that without you people, we would have had nothing to acquire. So the first obligation of Gateway 2000 is to say thank you. It is the Amiga community that has kept this brand and this OS and this product line and this concept alive without the support of strong corporate financial backing, without the support of a wild and competitive advertising scheme, and without a lot of things. It is the belief in the OS and the belief in the value of these products in the world of computing that has kept this product alive.

    and later on he explained how he came to be interested in the platform, even though he had never owned one:

    I'll tell you what happened. It was kind of interesting. I went out to Wired Magazine to see Lou [Zeno?], who is both an important publisher in our... Well he's a friend of mine. And in the last year, Wired had become a Gateway shop. And Zeno took me to the back room where they're doing the development for HotWired, and it was all Amiga. And he said he wanted me to know that since he'd heard a rumour we were in the process of acquiring Amiga, that we had bought the finest multimedia platform for the development of the Web long-term, and that his black box, er, I've forgotten the word for it, but his people were great Amiga lovers, and I asked the people and they said so, and then I wandered around the [Southland?] market Web site manufacturing area with a lot of consultancies in the US and Amiga is one of the dominant companies.

    Then I talked to a friend of mine, his name's Chase Carey, who is on the board with Fox TV and I found out that Amiga is widely used now in the American television industry in deference to [Cairon?] and other kinds of on-screen graphic application packages, and then I found out that 50% of the cartooning in America is done on Amiga platforms. And then we cut a deal with George Lucas to put Destinations in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Museum in Washington, for Lucas' Star Wars exhibit and in doing so, I found out that they are important to their 3D special effects people.

    So I took the word of people whose judgment I trust. I would never take my own word about what's good technology because I am a marketer. I'm not a technologist--I couldn't spell Computer if you [spotted me the Comp?]. But I am compelled to believe that this is a great platform.

    What the Amiga Community has Said

    Over the past year (1997) I have been involved in various email discussions about the Amiga platform. I have collected statements made by participants that have shown ways in which the Amiga is different from other platforms, or things they valued about the Amiga. This is the collection so far.

    Why have I done this? Because, though there are pages which show some of the advantages of the Amiga, the *real* advantages come across in little snippets during people's conversations. The real advantages of the Amiga are not confined to the well known, high profile things like good pre-emptive multitasking, but are also to be found in those little things that we meet everyday and get so used to that become almost tacit knowledge to us. They get mention only in the middle of discussion on something else. So I have collected some of them - often just one-liners - and put them together. Together, they tell a compelling story.

    I have gone through them and not only removed the email admin stuff but have edited and rearranged them. But I have kept the original texts; that is, this whole article consists of what people have said, and I have added only a few explanatory notes. My editing has been to remove most text that did not directly speak of features that make the Amiga diffeent - some of the statements below were made in the middle of other discussions. Also, I have started to place them in some kind of order, with headings, though that work is still to be completed. I have started to put cross referencing in so that people can see how the Amiga is not just a bundle of features, but rather an integrated system and concept in which all the ideas and features work together to give the whole.

    Please read this, not as a complete, definitive statement, but rather as a collection of contributions. In particular, please be aware of the Amiga's features when reading this because many are not mentioned, because they are taken for granted by the participants. For instance, the Amiga has a strong windowing system known as Intuition but as all platforms have such, this is not mentioned. Therefore, just because a feature is not mentioned below does not mean it is not present.

    First, On why Amiga Should be Different

    On 03-Jul-97, Clash Bowley wrote:

    This brings up another thing I've been thinking about. I have the feeling sometimes here that although we've all been talking about amigas, I think an amiga is very like a snake, while "X" thinks the amiga is very like a tree, and "Z" thinks an amiga is very like a rope.

    Maybe we should define what makes an amiga an amiga.

    From: Timothy Aston

    Responding to:

    No, not right. There is a growing dissatisfaction with (even the start of a backlash against) cludge-filled W95 and NT. When introduced to a new concept like MM-home-computing-with-Encarta the users do not at first know what is good and what is cludgey. But they are becoming more aware.

    And if you're just going to try and copy Windows 95, why even bother? I keep seeing Amiga programmers trying to create software that basically tries to emulate the designs of equivalent Windows software (excellent case in point: web browsers), and I just have to ask why? The only real raison d'etre for the Amiga is to be different, and better. This is not what we're seeing though, and IMHO will be the cause of the ultimate demise of the Amiga, unless things change.

    From: Index Information

    The Amiga still wins in many market areas because of its abilities.

    From: Andrew Basden

    As regards 'something overwhelmingly superior', what should that be? *** I suggest the I.C. has a voice on this - but first it must come to some agreement on it. I do NOT think that 'overwhelmingly superior' will lie in the direction that Windows-NT is following; all that will do is to ensure that Amiga is eternally behind, and have no reason for people even considering it let along choosing and purchasing it. No. 'Something overwhelmingly superior' must lie in a direction that Windows-NT is not taking.

    From: Index Information

    .. however I would say "don't back a clone maker, the market is too cut throat". To create a market you have to do something different, better or different and better, not the same.

    The Amiga needs to focus on what it can do best now (I won't drag this out by saying again what I believe are its niche areas, and that I back it with our money). The next step is to decide where you want the platform to go and how to get it there, preferable extending its unique features so that it retains its branding and appeal, while adding truly worthwhile features that extend its *applications*.

    In Brief ..

    [This section contains small lists people have given. They are far from complete, but at present I use them as a kind of index. And a long list from Peter Kittel at the end. E.]

    From: Eoghann Irving

    The fundamental things that make an Amiga an Amiga:

    What is that? Any suggestions? Here's a few:

    Fron: Jesse McClusky

    The concepts have kept it alive.

    Peter Kittel wrote:

    It's not really about remaining compatible but about keeping features:

    and of course the qualities you mentioned above. Unfortunately today the "brute force and ignorance" thought rules the day.

    Peter's Long List

    This list is not about *unique* Amiga features, but about things I appreciate with it. So you will find one or the other feature also in other OSes, but not all at once in this splendid combination.

    The Unique Amiga Culture

    From: Darren

    Yeah true I guess. The Amiga is not just an ingeniously designed platform. There's a "spirit", a Gestalt, a community culture, call it what you like, at work.

    Yep, exactly. And if Gateway 2000 can capture this in a new Operating System, then they may have something special again.

    From: fleecy

    Strangely, this might be the one thing that we can promote, not the machine itself so much as the community that arose around it - buy an Amiga and become a member of the community as opposed to a Dell or a Compaq customer. In reply to:

    Erich Keser's brain: And the fact that we CAN get below the hood is, IMHO, a major reason why many of us have stuck with the Amiga...because it taught au so much about computing. I'd fought with computers from the bad old days when it was either idiot COBOL or Geek Assemblar, through VMS and Unix (even dabbled with an APL laptop system...but the Amiga was the first machine that integrated Niklaus Wirth's ideas about a mouse and icone driven GUI interface with much of the power that UNIX-type systems give... It's also a major reason why we can STILL use our Amigas, as support becomes a distant memory. We both have learned about the innards, and CAN GET AT THEM enough to keep tinkering along.

    ... clash wrote:

    This is what I have been talking about recently. IMHO *this* is the spirit of the amiga - you can go as far as you want to go, and the OS is with you every step of the way. This feeling of effortless shifting in user power is what makes the amigaOS unique and in that sense, defines it. If we can keep that feeling in OASYS, we will have an amiga OS, no matter what else happens.

    MacOS assumes *everyone* is a newbie and a danger to the system, On the other hand, Unix systems assume *everyone* is at least a power user, Win95 just assumes *everyone* is a sucker.

    What I have always loved about AmigaOS is the feeling that you can go as far as you want to go - if all you want is a couple applications, it is as easy to use for a newbie as a Mac, but if you care to delve into the dark recesses of the OS, a whole new world awaited you, with tools comparable to unix systems.

    Dr. Peter Kittel replied:

    Yes, this is exactly how I experience it too, and this flavor of AmigaOS should be kept.

    Re newusers and preventing them from causing damage: What is the opinion here about the strategy in AmigaOS up to 1.2 (I think), where the icon for the Shell was hidden and could only be made visible through a Preferences choice. Can anybody report the reasons why this was given up in later OS versions?

    From: Thomas Svenson

    ... This will also make it possible for PD/SW developers to continue doing stuff that takes large companies and a big budget to do on the PC. Just look at all the internet software we have for the Amiga. nearly 100% is PD/SW and the gap to whats on the PC is getting smaller. That is because it is fun to program for the Amiga. I know several PD/SW programmers doing great stuff who should have made tons of money if they went over to PC. They keep developing on the Amiga since it is more fun and they can make a living of it.

    There you have it. As long as we can keep the Amiga fun to use, for both us and the developers it will stick around.

    Huge Public Domain Software ('Shareware')

    The reason the Amiga has survived through now roughly 5 years of being without a "mother company" and awe-inspiring catastophies, developed perhaps the richest library of share- and free software, sustained itself through user-groups and self-support mechanisms, is precisely because it allows the user to pursue and practice his "love" of creative computing, to "follow his bliss", as Joseph Campbell might say.

    Simplicity for the User: Ease of Use

    From: Shireman, Steve

    I tend to agree with Andrew to keep the cornfusion down. I think Amiga represents the only platform which is currently simple enough for users, both non-technical and technical, can actually understand. how to work with the icons and GUI. It is simple now. I believe it can be made simpler in the future, but that will require some deep thought.

    Don't make it more complex.

    If anyone who is reading these threads has not read pages 89-100 in the Amiga User Interface Style Guide, then I suggest you do. It covers the philosphies used toward 2.0 and it does emphasize simplicity. I personally believe it was this release that made the Amiga overtake the Macintosh in user-friendliness in the GUI. I have yet to see this be beat. Let us not ruin it by copying complex junk from platforms who think the user has all day to waste trying to make her computer do something useful.

    From: Steve Shireman

    C'mon people, you are really scaring me. I don't want to have to cling to 3.1 because it was the only last usable GUI on the planet....

    Cost Effectiveness

    From: Index Information

    I have a computer that far outshines the Sony Playstation for low cost public display. I also have a computer that can deliver training for half the price of a PC. It is flexible, responsive, low cost (and most of the customers never see the interface). The Amiga still wins in many market areas because of its abilities.

    From: Ben Hutchings:

    Isn't that just because they bought cheap bare-bones systems in the first place, that are inherently expensive to expand?

    From: fleecy

    I certainly bought my A1200 from Dixons because it was the cheapest real computer around and it did most of what I wanted, and I could upgrade it incrementally.

    See also:

    Concerning the Operating System, AmigaOS

    Amiga OS is Well Designed and Elegant

    From: fleecy

    MS stuff is cludgy (can you have an adjective of a made up word 8-)) because MS has no overall architectural model to follow, no simple set of guidelines that define the "commandments" for how everything else will work and describe itself (NT4 is much better but now they are scared to change it and risk the wrath of their customers).

    To add such things to the Amiga would be unnacceptable to me if they were to become part of the OS of the future. If however, as has been discussed, we go down a dual path of developing a new Open Amiga operating SYStem (OASYS) firmly based upon the principles of the old OS with new ones added then I see no problem in adding a few cludges to the old codebase to parallel what will exist on the new system IF IT IS UNDERSTOOD that the OASYS codebase will completely replace the old codebase + cludges when it is ready and that new development written for it will run properly on the new system (part of the great migration plan).

    From: Andrew Basden

    Probably the major strength that AmigaOS has is its excellent and elegant internal design. This easily and naturally leads to several real benefits:

    (Not a definitive list) and these will increasingly be valued by the users - if marketed as such.

    ut the essential foundational design of AmigaOS allows us to improve by elegantly adding things into the system in an open manner. Example: CrossDos. We could bring AmigaOS 'up to date' with regard to incorporating networking etc. by this route of adding pieces on. The thing is that due to its elegant good basic design such additions are NOT bolt-ons but can be truly integrated with the system. That is they work well as part of the overall system, not as cludges, even though they are 'added'.

    From: fleecy

    Amen to that - The Amiga has always driven by a philosophy, excellence through simplicity - now is not the time to abandon it. I think a lot of the uncertainty at the moment is due to many ppl reassessing what the Amiga means to them - should it bcome more mainstream and sacrifice "purity"? Should it stay more independent, retain purity and always have a smaller market? Does purity have to be sacrificed to achieve mainstream and bigger markets? Is there a sustainable market for independent computing where the OS and apps can be driven forwards without worrying unduly about the market wanting to hold them back?

    ... In the end, the only reason to use anything is because it lets us do what we want to do and because we enjoy the act of doing it. We must never forget that.

    From: Index Information:

    The major part is what the OS allows the developer to do easily. I well remember all the time I spent developing subroutines on the C64 only to find that they were in the OS on the Amiga and much more powerful and with hardware support. The underlying OS effects how easy it is to develop certain applications - this tends to be hidden now with Windows/Mac because of the size of the resources being thrown at the problems, money is overcoming the shortfalls. The OS can no longer get by just supporting drawing lines or saving blocks of memory to disk.

    From: Giorgio Gomelsky

    The Amiga is a far more elegant and simple approach to computing both conceptually and in the implementation. That philosophy has been lost by the majority of users thanks to the marketing blitzkreig of microsoft. From: erich keser (fuller version below)

    I'd fought with computers from the bad old days when it was either idiot COBOL or Geek Assemblar, through VMS and Unix (even dabbled with an APL laptop system...but the Amiga was the first machine that integrated Niklaus Wirth's ideas about a mouse and icone driven GUI interface with much of the power that UNIX-type systems give...

    It's also a major reason why we can STILL use our Amigas, as support becomes a distant memory [Written in late 1997, after three years of zero development] Ed.. We both have learned about the innards, and CAN GET AT THEM enough to keep tinkering along.

    From: Thomas Svenson

    What AmigaOS can do instead is to offer a much better solution for lots of problem with of the shelf products. I just read an article about M$ delaying Win98 with six months only to add the code for upgrading from Win 3.x to 98 and from Win95 (which is already finished) in one package. My first question is "Why does it take them *6 months* to fix a upgrade script/version from 3.x?" The only answer I come up with is that it is shitty code, structure and planning from M$.

    AmigaOS is much better structured than most other OSes, enabling easy upgrades from several generations back. This is somethinh AI must keep in the OS.

    I am sure this also will make it much easier to maintain the OS and add new things. The more they think ahead, the easier will it be to implement new things invented 2, 3, 5 years from now and that no one even thought of today.

    The magic you are looking for will instead be that you will be able to use the off the shelf chips and products out there much better with AmigaOS. If done in the Amiga spirit it will be much easier and better to integrate new things in your system and get the most out of it.

    If AmigaOS will start with this, it can then move on the take a leading edge in exploring new areas of computer use. It will be much easier for both AI and third party developers to develope and it will cost a lot less to do it with a well structured and organized platform than on a shitty structured platform and OS that it for the OS owner takes 6 months to add an upgrade script for a two generation older version of the same OS.

    ... When AI can show that all these PCI cards for the PC does much better if they are controlled by AmigaOS it will put everything in a whole new situation.

    From: James Ceraldi

    I have been meaning to write a response to some peoples' comments about the AmigaOS and its 'way of doing things' versus Win95/NT etc. It is true that we want more services in the OS, but I think most of us would agree that we don't want the OS bloated either. If we follow the Amiga's OS design, we can still have a well developed complete operating system with many enhancements that's good for certain jobs and not get fat! There are a few key considerations to getting such a fat free result.

    The first way, as I have already mentioned, is to continue in the spririt of the AmigaOS as it was designed in the past. Shared libraries for instance, while not unique to the Amiga, are a much better design than other methods saving memory and performance in many ways, especially in a multi-tasking environment.

    The second way to keep the OS 'Lite' is to continue that practical and smart design philosophy when designing those libraries. For instance, certain libraries such as Locale or Datatypes are great examples of how you can add functionality to an OS without increasing its size astronomically. .. [text moved to Locale section. Ed.] ... I sincerely hope that we keep this factor in mind while we discuss new features of the OS. There are ways to add functionality in a compact form without lossing a lot of power -- and if we do it smart, we can more flexibility and control than other methods.

    Someone (I think Olaf Barthel) wrote:

    At any rate, my point was that we have a good core system that allows us to add cool things onto, and that we should adopt some of these cool things as official cool things once they have shown their usefullness

    [This good design means that there has been little need to keep on changing its design, as there has been in other platforms. It has been basically sound from the start.]

    Shared Libraries Well Implemented

    From: James Ceraldi (duplicated from elsewhere)

    Shared libraries for instance, while not unique to the Amiga, are a much better design than other methods saving memory and performance in many ways, especially in a multi-tasking environment.

    AmigaOS has Superb Pre-emptive Multitasking

    [The Amiga's pre-emptive multitasking is so well known among the contributors that it was seldom mentioned. It was just taken for granted as one the *the* main features of the Amiga. To think that it has had this multi-tasking ability from the day it was born, true pre-emptive multitasking at that, and that it could achieve this within 512k of memory is an amazing tribute to its sound design and efficiency. Ed.]

    From: Giorgio Gomelsky

    I agree.

    the kind of solid multitasking abilities of the AmigaOS and, quite frankly it hasn't surpassed it. I know, I use both platforms.

    Open Architecture; Flexible

    From: erich keser

    And the fact that we CAN get below the hood is, IMHO, a major reason why many of us have stuck with the Amiga...because it taught au so much about computing. I'd fought with computers from the bad old days when it was either idiot COBOL or Geek Assemblar, through VMS and Unix (even dabbled with an APL laptop system...but the Amiga was the first machine that integrated Niklaus Wirth's ideas about a mouse and icone driven GUI interface with much of the power that UNIX-type systems give...

    It's also a major reason why we can STILL use our Amigas, as support becomes a distant memory [Written in late 1997, after three years of zero development] Ed.. We both have learned about the innards, and CAN GET AT THEM enough to keep tinkering along.

    See also Andy Finkel's comment on the Shell.

    From: Shireman, Steve

    ... The soft machine architecture provided by Exec I think is the simplest design around, and allows even third-parties to add in their subsystems with minimal software efforts.

    I suspect Matrox has to waste a lot of their resources programming their chips to work on arcane OS's.

    I think a proper focus to enrich the Amiga would be to make it easier to add in chips to the system.

    The Amiga architecture allows many tiny companies, some of just one-developer resources to produce phenomenal products.

    I don't think the days where one company can produce OS and chips is over unless the Amiga dies.

    It is the committees and beaurocricies (sp) that have made it seem impossible in the current days.

    Aric (Aric the Blue) responded to the above:

    I think this exemplifies one of the most (if not the) important aspects of the Amiga(OS): We've always extoled the virtues of a tight, small, efficient OS (hardware too). AmigaOS is this.

    Is Windows? MacOS? No. These OS's give you three million and one features in one huge monolithic blob, focusing more on the outer layers (the "gee whiz that looks nice") rather than on a real flexible and efficient core. Hence MacOS never getting pre-emptive multitasking and all the attendant side features of this -- they tried, gave up, and bought NeXTStep.

    ... AmigaOS lacks the "gloss" of other OS's. It doesn't give you mountains of built in features. However, it DOES give you a great framework to build features upon. And when a feature becomes a proven one, it gets integrated as appropriate (see: ARexx, ARP, etc).

    [To which list Olaf Barthel added: ColorFonts, ARexx, ARP, CrossDOS, Intellifont.]

    No, we don't have RTG [retargetable graphics: whereby one can see the same size on the screen even though using different resolutions. Ed.] built in. However, much of the necesary hooks and API are there -- enough that third parties can patch in. We've seen lots of different solutions now.

    [At which point Olaf Barthel mentioned the most basic and powrful hook of all: SetFunction().]

    Olaf Barthel pointed out the following, which shows what an open, flexible, well designed architecture the Amiga has: because third party developers have kept the Amiga up to date even though no parent company was around to do any development; the Amiga now has all the following:

    Another fine point is that technical development continued while the Amiga played "Sleeping Beauty". In 1991 we didn't have the Internet as we know it today and quite some then expensive hardware has become affordable and entered the mainstream (take high speed modems and CD-ROM drives, for example).

    From: Carl Sassenrath, replying to:

    What would it take to put networking the ROMS? It is feasible?

    No problem. This was being done as part of the VIScorp Amiga box. On the Amiga, it's not a difficult thing to do. (You might also want to add NFS to the list, so the Amiga "thinks" it has a local disk.) You also need a small non-volatile RAM to hold the TCP/IP configs, user name, etc.

    However, the problem is more in the marketing domain....

    Flexible FileSystems

    From: Dr. Peter Kittel

    [Someone wrote:] dos.library would have to account for either filesytem, programmers USING dos.library would have to account for both, and so on. [Someone else replied] But surely this is what the Amiga does at present. My hard disks are all FFS while my floppies are all OFS. Two different filesystems. No problem.


    Ok, now what do you say when I mention CrossDos, AmiCDFS (and all those ISO CD-ROM file systems)? There are even some to address the old C64 floppy format when you attach a 1541 floppy drive to the parallel port. So, loadable file systems are already a *strength* and a feature of AmigaOS since many years.

    Someone had added:

    Horray for the Amiga's open, flexible, elegant design - yet again. Not really... all 6 variants are implemented by the same code.

    Multi-purpose Files

    [On the Amiga, any file can be accessed by any program (tool), in principle. (Though, via the icon, it is only accessed by the single program that best understands the file, thus removing confusion for lay users.) This allows multi-purpose files. Also, in practice, this flexibility is enormously useful to the user who is somewhere between lay and expert, since it allows a glance at what is inside the file, e.g. using 'type' or a word processor. Other platforms seem to be much more rigid. Ed.]

    Thomas Svensson wrote:

    Yes sure. I see it on the Mac all the time: If you don't have the "correct" application for some file, MacOS doesn't let you access that file *at all*, not with any other app you want to try. (I don't have a shell or debugging tools for MacOS, being just some dumb user there, a frightening experience!) I hate that.

    At least on the PC the only clue the OS has to what the file is is via the extension, so of course it is not even near good enough. On the Amiga we have a smarter system wher it is easy for both OS and apps to look in the files to check what it is. I use Opus Magellan a lot and have configured a lot of ikon menue commands to easely load a file into my program of choice and not just a single one which the extension is tied to...

    In reply to the following para

    In windows you have the "Open with" option. That could work here to, but with a smart change. When chosing the app to load the file with, the user will have the option to make the new app the defaul app or just add it to the list of choices.

    Peter Kittel wrote:

    In my experience this very Windows list is only an annoyanceand has never helped me in concrete situations. I thentypically launch Norton Commander to at least view the filein hex to find out a bit about it.

    Another annoyance with that list is that if you once chosean application for a file, you can't revert that as anormal user! On AmigaOS, everybody can enter the Infowindow of a file and change this stuff, so that's ok.But on Win and Mac this is limited to developer toolsand is not accessable to a normal user (at least not thatI knew a way).


    Here is a wee discussion shows the power of the Amiga Datatypes idea. Ed.

    Win95 can NOT open GIFs and JPGs , at least not for desktop background.

    Yeiks! Can't they even do that?

    They should be able to. A friend of mine loads up PhotoCD pics as backdrops (so do I, on my Amiga) on his PC.

    I just tried , they CAN'T ! ( gif and jpg )

    MSIE will load JPG and GIF files, and if you right click on the image and select Set As Wallpaper, it will convert it to a BMP and display it as the backdrop image.

    But MSIE is not part of WIN95, an addon called the PLUSPACK or download it from the MS web page

    Another contribution:

    I can double click any JPEG file which is immediately viewed with Multiview... PPaint can load JPEG and GIF... Every datatype-aware program can do it...


    From: James Ceraldi

    For instance, certain libraries such as Locale or Datatypes are great examples of how you can add functionality to an OS without increasing its size astronomically. I was sifting through the 50+ cdroms in the Windows developer package the other day. Each disk is separate for each language. One for Japanese, one for German, one for ... It was incredible! Each program had different version numbers, different languages ... Ack! The Amiga's example of using the Locale library is a way to keep the operating system international and functional, but more than keeping the AmigaOS on a few disks, it also allows for programmers to add multiple languages easily and in a compact form to their applications. I sincerely hope that we keep this factor in mind while we discuss new features of the OS.

    Emulation of other Platforms

    Doug Peters wrote:

    I just hate emulating the MacOS to run Adobe products (that I buy to run on my Amiga, damnit!).

    AmigaOS is Stable

    From: Giorgio Gomelsky

    I highly disagree with Win 95 being *far* more stable. I work on a university help desk and we see hundreds, thousands of calls about windows 95 problem after problem. I am quite convinced that it is a total piece of shit. This is on everything from the oldest 386 to the latest pentiums with latest software. The headaches and wasted time that goes into using and supporting Windows 95 is a total joke. I would say hundreds of thousands of hours of productivity are lost fiddling with windows 95.. in fact i think one survey was undertaken to show upwards of 33% of a users time was spend fiddling with windows 95.

    [A wee discussion ..]

    We know that AmigaOS 3.1 is almost bug-free

    I don't agree with you. It is virtually bug-free in the context that we are "familiar" with the bugs that are in there.

    Well, that might be true, but from a user's point of view, I find AmigaOS much more stable to use than Windows 95 (or even worse, Win 3.11). Individual applications are usually what causes most bugs for me, as opposed to when I have to use Windows 95 or Win 3.11.

    [A couple of contributions ..]

    My brand-new Gateway Pentium 200 MHz work-supplied Windows 95 computer bought brand new a month ago locks up generally a dozen times per day.

    My 150MzH Windows NT with 80mb RAM is generally slower in use than my old Amiga4000/030 and crashes once or twice a day.... I _really_ miss my Amiga.

    AmigaOS is Efficient

    From: Shireman, Steve

    I have run control software on the Amiga booting off of a battery-backed SRAM PCMCIA card without a hard drive or floppy using only 4K of the PCMCIA card to boot. Think of the PCMCIA card as replacing the hard drive in a desktop system. The only RAM overhead was about 54K, and with this I have the full color model and mouse control, and fully preemptive multitasking and of the 2 Meg of RAM that comes with the A1200, The Amiga OS has only needed less than 1 / 10,000 of the RAM available. And I know it is using a few of the OO Objects in the Kickstart, but not very many.

    Of course, the same thing can be done on an A600, which is even cheaper, or custom boards.

    It would be nice for OEM's to be able to license Kickstart (remove parts they don't want), and link application code, and plug a Flash chip into the same socket where Kickstart goes.

    Envoy, the network software also has tiny requirements. I have booted from a floppy on an A500 with Envoy and served files to the network with it.

    The benefit of the Soft Machine Architecture gives an embedded designer the chance to only use the parts of the Amiga OS that they need. Exec has the OpenLibrary() function, which gives the user or application designer for Amiga systems to decide exactly what libraries to open after that point. It is a very nice to have that much control of the system, without mucking with the source code of the _microkernel.

    I believe that the current design of the Amiga Exec is much better suited for Consumer Electronics than WindowsCE. This goes also for HPC's or PDA. (Personal Digital Amiga, wouldn't that be cool with a video out. With AAA chips it could have video in as well, and not eat batteries, but now I am dreaming...)

    I hope future 'improvements' if and when they occur do not ruin the resource-smallness of the Amiga design.

    Steve Shireman

    From: Someone

    Okay, one of the strengths of AmigaOS compared to many other OS's in the older days (when most of the features that me miss now were SF for us back then) was that we didn't _need_ lots of stuff just to get a /usable/ computer.

    From: Someone else

    Although WindowsCE is still much more bloated than Amiga Exec, it is less bloated than Gate's other attempts. WindowsCE is merely an extremely stripped down version of Windows95. ... very spartan in everything else too. WindowsCE I am sure is another piece of MicroSh*t, and I think CE must stand for Crappy Engineering, since noone seems to know what it really means. [Another person replied with what CE stood for: Consumer Electronics]

    From: Shireman, Steve

    I have had 13 or 14 AmigaVision development environments open at the same time before running out of Chip memory.

    Jesse McClusky wrote:

    I think anyone in their right mind would be against an 8MB executable + >plug-ins Do you really know what comes with such a large suite? It's way more than just a browser. ... My point was that they designed and implement it poorly in code. Properly done, the base executable itself would be no more than approximately 1 MB, with a series of modules for the extended functionality it offers. Just for trivia's sake, there's nearly 1.5MB of essentially redundant code in it.

    To which Staffan Hamala replied:

    It's a little more than that actually.. What you are talking about is an 8MB executable.. I seem to remember that it was the installation file that was 8MB... Which would make the executable even bigger.. Hmm.. Just looked. The whole netscape directory is 17.5MB... Although the executable itself is 'only' 3.74MB. ...

    While we're at big programs.. I installed office97 a month ago or so, and I removed all crap except for the main Word and Excel programs. The installer said it would just take 32 Megs. I installed it on my D: partition, which is the one I used for installing programs on. My C: partition was only meant for windows to have its crappy files on. But.. there was a problem.. the installer said "not enough space on drive".. I thought "what the heck? I had 700 Megs free a minute ago..". Then I noticed that it was complaining over that C: was full.. In the requester it also said "space needed on C: 36MB, D: 33MB".... So... just two small programs took up 70 Megs... but Billy Boy tried to trick me to believe that it only used 30 Megs.......

    [Contrast that with the AmigaOS which consumes only around 200k of active memory when it starts up and its programs seem much less greedy of both memory and disk space than Windoze ones do. I guess it's because of the basically sound design and the culture of carefulness that pervades the programming community. I tend to multiply my Amiga's memory by 3 when I compare it with Windoze machines, e.g. 8Mb is equivalent to 24Mb in actual working effectiveness. Ed.] A discussion between Julian Regel and Peter Kittel:

    "what are the advantages of the OS over something like Linux (I can see advantages over MS products :)?"

    Fast Task Switching

    michael schulz wrote:

    A context switch on AmigaOS is much quicker than in some larger operating systems. Here are some context switch speeds for different machines/operating systems (in microseconds):

    Michael Kramer wrote:

    [Ray Akey wrote: He like screen dragging!]

    So do I Ray, didn't want you to think you were alone :) Heck it's a really nice feature if properly implemented.

    Resource Efficiency

    From a discussion of whether to build in virtual memory

    We don't need VM - Amiga programs haven't been so resource-hungry, and memory is cheap (I have 35 mb and never since had any "out-of-memory" requesters.

    Nearly Real-time Operating System

    From: Shireman, Steve [In reply to someone who had a 'strict' definition of 'real-time' i.e. guaranteed response times.]

    Here I quote from the 1990 RKM (the blue one) in the chapter on Exec Tasks:

    "The Amiga Exec library provides a real-time message-based multi- tasking environment." Copyright 1990 by Commodore-Amiga (Addison- Wesley RKM Libraries and Devices book)

    Some models of Amiga have even been advertised in some of the new products' glossies as having a real-time OS. (maybe the CD32, I don't remember now) but I do not think that marketing has ever understood the concept.

    I also design real-time systems for my profession, and have studied the subject formally for many years. I use words differently than many people, but it is to try to overcome complancency in others. I seriously do not believe that very many people actually understand how technically advanced the Amiga really is, and how much it is worth.

    I doubt that there is anything I can say to convince you that the Amiga Exec is a real-time design. I understand that real-time means many things to many people, and that is part of the problem here. There are many applications written that do not take full advantage of the Amiga real-time Exec, but in one way or another, all applications take advantage of some aspect of it.

    The Amiga real-time Exec is probably the best overall design for real-time that is currently available.. (Italics added by Ed.) I wish I had the SAS debugger for the project I am doing right now. It handles tasks much nicer than a Borland Debugger.

    If you write code in either a real-time or preemptive environment that is not PURE, or reentrant, you will get strange side effects or crashes. That is why it is good to understand real-time design when you write programs for the Amiga. I remember compiling 10 programs at once through the early lc (now SASC) compiler without it crashing. That is cool. Reentrancy is good to understand.

    Amiga, real-time, I can't get it out of my head... Steve Shireman

    From: Someone

    There are many more embedded CPU's sold per year for embedded systems than for Desktop Systems. Even Commodore-Amiga had realized this. It was Jeff Porter that told me the above at the Orlando DevCon in 1993. At least some people there realized what the Amiga offers for embedded systems. Interesting. Have you heard/read anything about any development of the AmigaOS in that area? I am afraid that since embedded control for industry was not the core business, it has had to be ignored as things got tough at C=A.. However the principles needed to accomplish embedded control are not different than the principles to do preemptive multitasking, video and multimedia. In fact, the requirements for video and multimedia give some of the most difficult technical/timing constraints for CPU's to accomplish in today's markets.

    CATS (Commodore-Amiga Technical Support) sent some industrial control people to discuss these things with me in the past, It is great now with AI to have the technology being licensed out, and from multiple vendors. This can be used to get government/military contracts. (The military has done some wonderful things with the Amiga.)

    From: Shireman, Steve

    Petro is aware how close 0S-9 and Amiga Exec are in size, and which one adds graphics easier and more compactly to the OS.

    I think the news blurb about Index Technology was very interesting for embedded application designers. (the guy who did the British Transport museum networked application)

    From: yvind Segrov and someone else:

    I have run control software on the Amiga booting off of a battery-backed SRAM PCMCIA card without a hard drive or floppy using only 4K of the PCMCIA card to boot. Think of the PCMCIA card as replacing the hard drive in a desktop system. The only RAM overhead was about 54K, and with this I have the full color model and mouse control, and fully preemptive multitasking and of the 2 Meg of RAM that comes with the A1200, The Amiga OS has only needed less than 1 / 10,000 of the RAM available. And I know it is using a few of the OO Objects in the Kickstart, but not very many.

    ! The amiga still surprises me!

    I believe that the current design of the Amiga Exec is much better suited for Consumer Electronics than WindowsCE. This goes also for HPC's or PDA. (Personal Digital Amiga, wouldn't that be cool with a video out. With AAA chips it could have video in as well, and not eat batteries, but now I am dreaming...)

    I agree! There is plenty of possibilities for the Amiga. We can only hope that somebody with the right knowledge and the right resources realises that. think about it: Amiga Everywhere! Must be heaven!

    Steve Shireman, wrote:

    Well, I have heard Tim Jennison refer to the Amiga OS as Real time. The 1.3 RKM's (Exec chapter of Libraries) refer to it as a Real Time OS. I even refer to it as such when I am not on this list ;-)

    It was designed to solve the real-world problems involved in having a computer work with video and multimedia. Are there tougher problems for a computer to solve? Not too, many, but if you scratch your navel hard enough you might be able to come up with a few.

    I have several products out that use commercial RTOS's (USX, MTOS, etc) I can tell you that there is nothing in them that the Amiga does not have in its architecture. But the Amiga API has some nice features that these other commercial RTOS's do not have. The messaging system in Amiga is very nice.

    There is nothing available like Arexx in these other systems. Almost any embedded system architect would kill to have this functionality, and have it so small. (EmbeddedJava and Windows CE will NEVER get there from there) But [Amiga] Exec is a very well kept secret.

    Someone on TeamOne list pointed out an important hardware factor that allows the Amiga to be a good real-time machine:

    lots of DMA, lots of interrupts, etc.

    From: Bob Cosby

    I'd like to point our that I -still- see PCs, even with a decent speed Pentium and fast video card still pause briefly when in the middle of displaying an anim.The system needs to to do some housekeeping and it shows. As an example, I have a 166MHz Pentium with a 128-bit Hercules video card and when doing a semi-full screen anim in Riven I still see brief pauses. I've seen this same phenomenon in faster MMX systems too. So AmigaOS/hardware is pretty damned "real-time" in my book! 8^D


    [There was some discussion of whether AmigaOS Exec kernel is 'truly' realtime. Some said that to be officially realtime there had to be guaranteed response times, and pointed out that AmigaOS woudl not guarantee that because of e.g. Forbid(). Some said that one could define a subset of AmigaOS that is realtime in this sense. But I found the following contribution by Steve Shireman useful, in discussing the whole issue and placing it in persepctive. I reproduce it infull. Ed.]

    Apologies to everyone for the discussion length. First, I was just correcting the incorrect definition of real time operating system that was being used. Andy. There is no one single definition for real-time (thus the Alice in Wonderland phenomenon will always exists, and helps to fire off these rants, since real-time means different things to different people). Of the 6 RTOS books laying about my office, no two are the same even in how they approach the difficult task to define what is meant by real-time, and I only saw one that used your 'correct' definition. Of course my favorite definition is the one from the RKM Exec chapter. Since the proper Real-time constraints have to be selected for each application, there will always be differences in professional opinions.

    Second, there are no current RTOS goals; the goals are still being formulated as I understand it. Well, then, I can hope that the granularity of the OS is reduced, and RTOS performance might improve. If I say things creatively enough, maybe I can get another section created on the ICOA web site like what happened with my my AMP rant ;-) How about ARTOS? Now that seems catchy to me.

    Third, while making the AmigaOS real time is possible, it would be necessary to have good solid reasons 'why' first. Jeff Porter understood why, as I discussed this with him at Orlando Devcon, as well as earlier Devcons, the subject of RTOS seemed well-understood by the Exec Gurus I discussed it with. (Bryce Nesbitt discussions, and a Mike Sinz conference) Jeff Porter knew even then that Microsoft was working toward the embedded market (with what I presume is now called WindowsCE), as the potential numbers of embedded real-time systems far exceeds the Desktop numbers, and at least that thought had infected some in the ranks of Commodore-Amiga engineering.

    I am very pleased that the licensing by Amiga Inc has opened up the possibility of very low cost hardware for the OS to run on. As long as Exec doesn't get botched up in the future I will be mildly happy. In fact, Exec could be made better, and less granular, as well as the rest of the system libraries. I pray often for this when I can't sleep.

    I have an internet appliance application that runs using the commercial package USX Multitask. (which is advertised as a RTOS). The product would be greatly enhanced to run on Exec, rather than Multitask. Does Multitask have any features or guarantees of operation that is better than AmigaOS? Absolutely not. It is much easier to violate real-time latency on this commercial RTOS than it is with AmigaOS. Andy, part of our difference in opinions is that I am speaking of Real RTOS's, and you are speaking of textbook RTOS's.

    The 'solutions' for Real-Time designers in the marketplace right now are poor to rotten (IMHO). This is another way to say, "Niche Market Opportunity" But I see it as an area where a single developer would have trouble without 'mothership' support.

    Forth, if you're going to choose goals, it helps a lot to know why you are choosing goals. How about greed? How about to expand some existing control, and also up and coming niche markets? PLC's and virtual PLC's (which I have been asked to design) have over a $10 billion market. I wouldn't mind a .000l % piece of that market. (a .1 MilliNiche)

    I see value in being able to label our OS with your "textbook" definition of real-time (and call it ARTOS=Amiga Real Time Operating System), that can undergo the scrutiny of the control industry/internet appliance markets, etc. It would be nice to have latency numbers (and quality numbers as well) to advertise that one could competively compare with the numbers (we have it, so let's flaunt it!) that Microsoft is claiming with WindowsCE, and what EmbeddedJava will claim.

    Steve Shireman

    The Amiga's Messaging System

    [The messaging system of the Amiga's Exec of AmigaOS is very fast and flexible, based originally on Tripos. It is an event driven OS. You can have any number of tasks active, and each can send and receive messages on a number of ports. There is a simple efficient flag for each port to say that it has messages waiting, and the task can handle them in any way it wishes. The Intuition windowing system has a higher level version of this messaging, in which a certain type of message, IntuiMessage, comes and of which there are a range of defined types such as mousemove, window-close, keyhit, etc. Also, the ARexx version of Rexx provides an even higher level of messaging, at the level of inter-program communication that enables one piece of software to control another.]

    Concerning Graphics and Sound

    Video Capability

    Subject: Re: [ICOA] Next Amiga From: Index Information

    In effect we work mainly in 1. We do corporate Amiga's, these are companies wanting to show information, play sounds, train people, control equipment, etc. This is a broad market which can include all the video and raytracing applications used for professional reasons. My own personal opinion is that the market is much bigger than for home users wanting to play the latest game or use a wordprocessor.

    I am afraid that the moment anyone says "sell Amiga's" everyone wants Joe or his mum to buy an Amiga for games or looking up apple pie recipes.

    On Wed, 9 Jul 1997, Jeffrey D. Webster wrote:

    But in the mean time, Amiga's with SVGA chips wouldn't be bad either. Hmm... and lose the low cost broadcast video compatibility? NTSC/PAL support is going to have to stay.

    From: Paul Nolan

    [in reply to Eoghann I] We did discuss the matter of the Amiga and the video market somewhat earlier and I think it was agreed that there were ways to keep the Amiga's compatibility with video modes even when using off the shelf cards.

    good enough for Toaster style wizardry? it really is doing some weird shit with the amiga, to say the least.. stuff they just couldnt reproduce for the PC Toaster, so losing their real time effects.

    [E.I.:] There are other areas. If any of these WebTV/netcomputers take off then an Amiga system might well be able to slip in there quite comfortably.

    From someone:

    .. that can do the Genlocking and Video functions well?

    I agree with Steve - the AA chips have certain important qualities and benefits. It is fun to get immersed while controlling a laser disk machine via AmigaVision or Scala with the GUI genlocked to the video.

    Many PC user's have never had the chance to do this. I hope Jeff Schindler has the chance someday...

    To which Steve Shireman replied:

    I wish Cybervision had a video port, but it is just a DB15 VGA connector, I think. Of course, this still gives you both, almost.

    By now, if things hadn't slowed, I would expect that the Toaster would be built into the AAAA chipset, and we would have a Video in port right next to the Video out, and built-in Time-based correction. Lots of things are _possible_. Let's kick some technical B_tt!

    And Bob Cosby also replied to both of them:

    Thank you! My opinion is that the off-the-shelf stuff is fine for a start but there's not a thing that says it can't be extended. It's often forgotten that the original Amiga not only had hardware hooks for genlocking but the OS did as well. No reason why we can't have what the PCs have for basics but also include what made the Amiga special.

    Another area we might beat the Blue Flu to the punch is the new digital video standard for broadcast TV which includes the wide screen format. Picture Riven for the Amiga in wide screen...

    Attaboy! The Amiga has to be SPECIAL to succeed. Coz

    Tim Jenison said this at the San Diego Professional Video Toaster Users Group on 13th Nov:

    "I have my own very personal reasons for why using that computer. That computer, by sort of bizarre sets of circumstances ended up being perfect for desktop video... The computer, as it ended up, had all this amazing video circuitry in it. It was exactly NTSC frequencies and it had a genlock input.

    And it had a real-time operating system ... The technical aspects did not change and they have not changed till this day. It is still the only computer that can scan an image using NTSC time... It is the only computer with a real-time operating system that is closing keyed in to video time... In short, you could not make a Video Toaster that would run on a Mac or on a Pentium. It would be impossible. The only way you can do it would be to have your own processor on board that would have a real-time operating system that was fast on switching on video clips."

    And someone on the TeamOne list added in response:

    On the software side, some multimedia stuff, like computer games or audio/MIDI and even consumer video work today runs on a Windows PC, so you're tempted to ask why a toaster might not. You need to look closer at the problem. Windows 95 is not a realtime system in any stretch of the imagination. But given enough determinisim in an unloaded system, it's not that hard to get a realtime response enough to get a job done in a particular case. Games look realtime, but they aren't -- you don't fail if a particular animation slips by frame (a video production does, at least if the system is being honest). Audio is low bandwidth enough to work ok in Windows -- you can playback 8-12 channels of digital audio at CD/DAT rates, and a number of synched MIDI channels, with professional quality accuracy. But put this in prespective; with a proper 16-bit audio board, you could do this on an Amiga 2500/030 back in '89 or so. Under OS/2, you couldn't even accurately play back MIDI, something a C64 did just dandy (and a PC can manage well beyond 16 MIDI ports at once in other OSs, though a long standing bug in Windows cripples current systems to a max of 10 or so ports).

    As for the video support, Tim has a point. The Amiga 2000 was designed specifically to handle video support cards, such as the toaster. We put video-synched signals, genlock control, all 13-bits of digital video, etc, on that video slot. While there are video-capable graphics cards that do a better NTSC output than the Amiga, you don't usually get access to the same signals. Any video clocks would have be synthesized from the pixel

    AmigaOS Designed for MultiMedia

    From: Aric the Blue

    AmigaOS gives us the API for changing resolutions, for syncing to the vertical refresh, for changing colour registers, etc. This can be supported through RTG drivers on many if not all SVGA chipsets.

    Why is the Amiga better for multimedia and video? It is more the OS than anything. Way back when, the Amiga chipset was an advantage, but SVGA chips are now much more powerfull in many ways. AmigaOS gives us the API to make things easy. Its near-realtime, efficient multitasking is perfect for it.

    I see no reason an Amiga in the tradition of the A500/A1200 could not be made with SVGA chips, for a darn cheap price. MPEG hardware is easily supported with Datatypes.

    Here's my idea: Take an SVGA chip(set), and add an Amiga-chip to it... the Amiga chip would do things like add HAM modes, a copper for changing resolutions and colours on the fly, perhaps a more sophisticated blitter, etc. Imagine HAM at 1280 x 1024, non-interlaced. Imagine HDTV modes (1400 x 500? Or whatever it is).

    This would be cheap to do, allows us to keep up with the best SVGA chips for the PC. The same can be done for audio hardware (DSP?).

    A PPC Amiga with SVGA, and a DSP for sound, running AmigaOS would suit me fine. Especialy if it can be done for under $1000.

    Someone on the TeamOne list said, in reply to:

    ... The computer, as it ended up, had all this amazing video circuitry in it. It was exactly NTSC frequencies and it had a genlock input. And it had a real-time operating system...

    Tim's dead-nuts on here, especially with the point about a realtime OS. Ok, you can bet he's right simply based on the fact NewTek did the Toaster, did it on an Amiga, and no one has ever done something very close to that on another platform. Or the fact he's worth about a zillion bucks. But note especially the last sentence: "real-time operating system ...".

    I don't know much about the specifics of what the Toaster software does, and of course, bits like Lightwave can, and do, run on the PC. But clearly, whatever the Toaster software does, it's doing it as a performance. I have been saying for too, too many years that the PC community misses on multimedia for one basic reason: real, performance quality multimedia is a realtime, multitasking problem. If you don't have a realtime, multitasking OS to run your MM applications upon, in the general case, it just plain won't work. So while some of the bits you get from the Toaster's software suite run on the PC (and cost near as much as the whole Toaster system), it stands to reason that you would run into trouble trying to support the system as a whole.


    From: Doug Peters, saying what he'd like and believed to be possible on the Amiga

    As for animation, I truly believe that the Amiga is the best animator's tool that is available. But we still need to improve it drastically..

    Color Cycling

    Subject: [ICOA] Multirange Colorcycling & a New IFF Standard

    From: Doug Peters, saying what he'd like and believed to be possible on the Amiga


    I have been making a little noise about something that I feel would be very important to the Amiga community and I'd like some input..

    Updating the IFF Standard to include artist/animator definable independent simultaneous multi-range color cycling, frame keyable color palette animation, frame callable 8bit IFF and 16bit AIFF sound sample playability options, and dramatically optimized compression, native to Amiga but available as a "plug-in" on non-Amiga platform machines.

    The only way that this could happen is if a large developer such as Cloanto, ImageFX, EA, Amiga, (etc..) or someone with a lot of guts became involved.

    The Amiga has the (AFAIK) unique ability to cycle colors. This is a simple process of grabbing an interupt to cycle the defined color range. ... [Here he said he wanted multi-range cycling, thinking the Amiga could not do it, but later emails showed that it not only could do so but has been doing so since it was created in 1985. Ed.]

    I.E.: Name of Company, painted on the Amiga in two seperate ranges ("Symbiotic" is large script, "DESIGN" is smaller caps). The company name is over another cyclable range, which forms the plaque. In my example, I'll say that the "Symbiotic" script is cycling yellow in a downward motion, "DESIGN" is cycling a varrying intensity of whites (as if light or chrome) and the plaque behind it is cycling reds upwards (as if flames).

    Now, that would take a total of 3 interupts. Any Amiga could handle that. But lets take it further, the top and right of the Plaque edge could be cycling more brilliant reds and the bottom and left edges be cycling darker reds, giving the "plaque" for the logo a 3D effect.

    But that's not enough. I want this happening on my web page. Add one more interrupt to handle the background. That's right, the background IFF should not only be tiled, but also seamlessly cycling light blues (as if waves of water).

    CURRENT Modern Amigas are perfectly capabable of this and more (therefore I think that 8 or 12 or 16 definable independent color cycling ranges is not too many to ask for).

    And it isn't just that this is a neat trick and a cheap way to activate your web page (the logo is still a single frame graphic(/animation) which simply includes extra color cycling definition information for more ranges in the header, only the viewer software and hardware has to do any extra work), this same technique could be used in video titling, etc. I'd like to do one and dedicate a little 1200 and monitor to use as an animated sign/advertisement slideshow when(/if) I get a storefront.

    The fact that it would be easily possible to animate the background is of course, a neat deal, but would not take the resources neccessary to background an actual animation, or mpeg.. not just simply because of filesize/bandwidth, but because of the simplicity of it's design. As it's only the graphic and the colors are being cycled (or multi-cycled) behind the text (web page content), it would not be neccessary to update the screen after each frame is redrawn, (alas, there is only one frame) to make sure that the text remained legible, as the computer would simply cycle the colors.

    IFF: The Interchange File Format

    From: Doug Peters, saying what he'd like and believed to be possible on the Amiga

    I need to be able to animate in more resolutions as a standard.

    I need to be able to save frame by frame timing information (though some Amiga programs support this, I don't believe that it has evolved into a standard).

    The IFF Anim standard should allow specific frame/sound timing by loading in animator definable IFF or AIFF sound samples. AIFF 16bit sound samples are included for support of aftermarket DSP's and 16bit sound boards, (and because I personally believe the 1200 should have been updated to use a simple inexpensive 16bit CDROM-type soundplayer chip and 4000's should be using DSPs, by now) as well as to support future 16bit stereo sound NG Amigas. The animator should have the ability to either load the samples from the current directory, (so that web browsers know where to find them) or a definable specified directory relative to the current directory for the anim (for archives). By allowing IFF/AIFF sound sample calling, the animator is further enhancing his cartoon/presentation/webpage, and allows us to reuse the same samples over and over (such as an animation of a gremlin tapping his foot to music). It also gives us the ability to save on bandwidth by using sounds repetitively, instead of individually (like in an mpeg or quicktime). Now we can think not just in visuals, but in effects and music as well. (Instead of creating visual-only oriented Anims or audio-oriented mods, we can create musical animations.) This standard should also allow us to call the channels we want to play the samples on, allowing for us to keep an OctaMED as background music on other channels, perhaps even allowing OctaMEDPlayer hooks for synching mods with anim timing.. Teijo?

    The IFF Brush needs the ability to save (multirange) colorcycling, sample calling, palette changing, and timing information so that the above ideas can be implementted like a GIF, (GIFs can be any size, and animated GIFs include frame by frame timing info) or the Anim standard needs to be size definable so that we aren't sending huge bandwidth anims for a simple 100x40 chracter animation (or trying to accomodate an IFF by allowing for unneccessary white space ("color 0" or "Transparencey") as well).

    Of course, the IFF standard needs better compression as well and this would enhance it's use on the web if this was addressed -- well, ok, it's a neccessity.

    By making the IFF standards available to view with NS and IE "plugins" we would not only be refraining from alienating PC/Mac/Unix users from the Amiga, we would also be showing off our platform and the Amiga's capabilities.

    Thanks for letting me bend your ear.

    The Amiga Screen Concept

    On Fri, 11 Jul 1997, Ray Akey wrote:

    On 11-Jul-97, Aric the Blue wrote: Is draggable screens actually that important to people?

    I must say Yes it is. To those who use it for its benefit, it is of great use. For example, CNet Amiga Professional BBS System (of which I am the developer of course) has a "Half lace" mode in which two to four screens can be put in half lace AND half screen mode so that the sysop can monitor up to four ports (out of a possible 100) at any given time. Please do NOT request that this capability of Amiga be removed. It is one of the features that make this OS unique. If you take away the uniqueness of the OS, who will want to run it? We might as well all go out and start getting weaned on Win95 and it's rigid, inane non-configurability and file associations. Now you have me thinking. I have a freind who uses small screens which he scrolls up infront of the program screen to present the GUI. I am also wondering if ImageFX is programmed this same way. I have been told that originally, the Amiga wasn't even supposed to have menu capabilities at all (I don't know if it's true) in favor of a more graphically oriented interface, but was included because 1) GUIs with intense graphics might scroll too slowly, 2) And to allow for easy portability from other platforms.

    From: Sam Stickland, replying to:

    I was reading that the licensed version of the Amiga emulator has managed to get dragable screens working on a PC!

    Yes, that correct. However it's slow. This is UAE with full custom chip emulation (ie. no RTG to the native machine's graphics card). To give you an idea, I use UAE on a 233MHz P2, with an 8Mb Matrox Millenium graphics card - it runs at about the same speed as an A1200 with fast RAM.

    From: Ray Akey

    Just for the sake of argument.. myself, I use the draggable screen in "half-lace" mode and have 4 ports (2 dial-up and 2 Telnet) visible at the same time, for monitoring of my system.

    and, on another list, he expanded on this:

    Consider the example where you are using an ANSI terminal to dial out and perhaps want to monitor a bakground process such as AmFTP.. Putting AmFTP on the terminal's screen (or vice versa) would make the application look like crap because one of the applications requires ANSI screen colors and the other, typical "3D-look" pens) In this case, which is another instance that I actually USE, I put the AmFTP screen behind my terminal screen, put the terminal in hi-lace screen mode and drag the terminal down to reveal 25 lines of terminal window and the AmFTP window sized to 1/2 the 652x417 overscan screen on which it resides.

    Draggable screens are being used and in this case, there is no getting around the fact that they are a used and, in many cases, required feature. There's no getting around it.

    Timothy Aston said:

    ... like draggable screens a lot, it is important to remember that a csreen represeents a whole different workspace... more than just a separate app (because often apps want to work together).

    [Draggable screens is made possible because of the COPPER hardware chip. Ed.]

    Hold And Modify Display Mode

    Dave Haynie wrote

    "HAM is both doable and desireable. It's doable if the RAMDAC is external :-to the display controller. Desireable since you can look at it a 3 to 1 :-compression of video data that decompresses in realtime."

    Dual Playfield Display

    [The Amiga has always had a special 'dual-playfield' display mode. In this, we have two independently scrollable independently coloured bitmaps, one in front of the other. The back one shows through colour zero of the front one. It's used a lot in games of course, such as for the cockpit in the front playfield and the scene in the back one. But it's also useful for other software such as Annotator which allows marking-up of digitized pictures.]

    Amiga has Built-in Sound

    We only have 8 bit sound - but AHI solves that. Some PC's only have ADlib sound - HORRIBLE!!! and even Sound Blasters are no match for the Amiga audio...

    The Amiga as a Whole Computer

    [The following sections are about driving the machine as a whole. THis includes aspects of WorkBench, the Amiga's GUI, and other things that a user meets when they activate programs, arrange files, etc. on the Amiga. Many of the features are not mentioned; only a few where they differ from other platforms. Ed.]

    Any Size of Icon

    [The Amiga WorkBench allows icons of *any* size, allowing for some artistic endeavours. Ed.] From: Dr. Peter Kittel

    [replying to] ..establishing a new two size icon system. Similar to Windows. Why two sizes? Windows icons have one size...allowing any size causes problems I have two words on this proposal: absolutely NOT.

    Indeed. AmigaOS has already come some way towards font sensitivity, and introducing fixed icon sizes would destroy this. This is also why I don't understand the choice of BeOS to deal with two fixed icon sizes, this doesn't seem like current state of the art.

    From: Ray Akey

    [replying to] .. I suspect this goes back to the Apple Macintosh where the QuickDraw routines dealt with 32x32 pixel sized images better than with larger sizes. With a fixed icon size, the icon driven user interface may look quite a bit more homogeneous than with variable-sized icons.

    Ugh! I love having the ability to make my icons whatever size I please. Those that want small icons, can have them; those who want medium or large-size icons can have their preference. I say improve already-excellent tools like Iconian and leave the Icon-handling as is. Sure, add some better icon/file recognition but don't change the basic operation/handling.

    Setting User Preferences

    [Part of a wee discussion ..]

    The mouse preferences editor is probably the most obvious example. The Amiga "Input" preferences both allow you to view the time it takes for a double-click to be valid and to test whether a double-click is valid by clicking a button. Traditionally, all other mouse driven operating systems that allow these settings to be changed only had a display to show how fast a double-click has to be, but no test option.

    ARexx - The Amiga's High Level Inter-Process Communication

    From: Steve Shireman

    Arexx is by far the _best_ implementation of REXX around, because of it's adaptation to the wonderful OS. There is so much extra built into the basic Arexx package because of the OS, that other platforms cannot begin to dream of...

    From: Charles Patterson

    Since finally taking the time to delve into ARexx, I have opened doors on my Amiga that make it amaze me once again.

    I use Tinymeter with icon launchers to run many frequently run programs. Instead of just running the programs now I use an Arexx script (which I can throw together in about 5 minutes!) to do more functions.

    ie: Instead of having it run MIAMI:Miami It checks if Miami is running. Runs miami if it is not. Checks if Miami is online. If not, signs on. If so, signs off.

    So instead of just running Miami, it is a toggle switch too.

    I love Arexx!

    Amiga has Command Line Interface Integrated with GUI

    ['Shell' is the Amiga's Command Line Interface, and it's available, and integrated well with the Graphical User Interface such that right from the start you could have several shells up and running within their own resizable windows. Ed.] Andy Finkel wrote:

    Two reasons: First, hiding the icon was deemed going to far in terms of beginner safeguarding; not having a shell open by default was considered enough. The second reason was that occasionally (expecially during tech support calls) even a beginner needed a shell to do certain things, and making it difficult to get to wasn't good.

    Joshua B. Wingell wrote:

    Thank you! But make sure you keep the scripting! We don't need an uneditable MacOS extensions situation. When something goes wrong, the power-user needs to be able to get under the hood.

    Yet, the novice should have enough easy tools to help fix the situation as well. The startup-scripts and editing/reordering/debugging tool is easy enough for the novice and allows enough control for the hands-on type! Hmm...sorry for going off on a tangent, but its hard to stop the fingers from typing when you get an idea :) Josh Wingell

    To which erich keser replied:

    Exactly...as I keep finding out with *this* damn Mac... And even the poor powerless user sometimes has to, when it's 3AM and he's in the moddle of a majhore project which just keeps crashing...

    A *major* advantage of the Amiga is that, from its very beginnings, it has been possible to both use a GUI and *simultaneously* (joys of real multitasking!) get under the hood. Heck, that was the only way to get them running with buggy KS 095 in 85...and is often the only way to keep 'em running in '96...

    It's also a "tangent" which is immensely important to users.

    Easy User Interface Programming

    GadTools would be a good start...

    I don't disagree, but there are some applications out there that has been tested for a *long* time now by most users, and lots of "people understanding more than the average user". Mostly I think of MUI, and I don't think MUI is bug-free, but I think it ought to be part of the OS. It is just *soo* easy to use for the programmer. There's a hell lot of people that would disagree and say that BGUI or ClassAct would be the way to go. As a standard for GUI's, I'd say go for GTLayout, which offers most in terms of flexibility and is fast enough for everyone...


    [Referring to the fact that the Amiga can boot from many different media and do so automatically by sensing which one is the correct medium.] From: Olaf Barthel or Steve Shireman

    Booting off of a self-contained CD is still an amazing advantage that we have vs other platforms,

    Amiga: Fast Startup and SwitchOff

    From: Steve Shireman

    I do not want to have to "Shutdown" the Amiga.

    From: Steve Shireman in discussion with a few others (not differentiated)

    Please, please, please, no ShutDown. I beg you, no!

    Of course it's [a shutdown command/icon] no guarantee either as many of my customers call up with a half meg or so of lost allocation units: "Ya mean I need to close Windows first???" Yeah, so you're saying people don't understand to do it it anyway. There are times I forget or I get a power interruption or lockup.

    Hey about 40% of the lockups I get in Windoze95 require power cycling, so software control is gone. But these are not prevalent problems on the Amiga. So lets not add an extra step we don't need to.

    I have a 1 Gig drive that I have beta tested Amiga OS's from 2.0 to 3.1+ on. I have not had disk problems with it, or any other HD on my Amigas. I am BAD on computers, and the Amiga is the only one that can take it.

    Macs of course require a user to have a software shutoff except in emergency. I don't like their silly floppy power ejection but but having a software-controlled shut down may not be a bad idea.

    I know all this, and OS2, WindozeNT and unixes need to be shutdown properly as well. (and many times it does NOT prevent terrible disk problems)

    I would rather see the filesystem made more bulletproof to power interruptions than implementing Shutdown on the Amiga. And it is already pretty good.

    No 2000 Bug

    From: Andrew Basden

    [replying to the following on the ch-recon list:] ..

    This is something you may want to share with your Windows/DOS and UNIX using friends. My son, Andrew informed me that the November 1996 issue of Macworld on page 272 stated that the Macintosh will not have a year 2000 problem. There will however be a concern in the year 2040 for Mac users.

    The good ol' Amiga does even better - it'll last out until the year 2070.

    System Technical Documentation

    From: Olaf Barthel and Steve Shireman

    I was pretty amazed that Commodore had "ported" RKMs to .guide files themselves (and a bit more amazed that they then were not on Amiga Developer CD. Did those .guides get lost and AT didn't get them?) I had at leat two CD's (bootable in CDTV and CD32) with beautifully linked AmigaGuide docs xrefed to Autodocs. ... This CD made me believe that it is possible to save trees with CD's.

    Somebody ought to do that with Apple's Opus Magnum "New Inside Macintosh". The prime example for what hallocinogenic substances, such as a new desktop publishing system, can do to your mind. Well, actually there are CDs that carry these books, but they are just Acrobat'ed versions of the printed books and you can "feel" that the page layout was chosen for printing, not for online reading . The Amiga RKMs are humble by comparison. And unlike many other operating system documentations, they go straight to the fact, the BS-content is extremely low.

    Very few CD's actually have made me feel this way. While these Deveoper CD's were well done, they could always be improved. Booting off of a self-contained CD is still an amazing advantage that we have vs other platforms, even if OS costs went up from $.25/license.

    It's time to start lobbying: ask Gateway 2000's Jeff Schindler and the editor in chief at Addison-Wesley for a publication of the RKMs on CD. I didn't get that far when I compiled the Amiga Developer CD v1.1, but I still have the corrected and polished files on my hard disk drive, ready and waiting. An Amiga Developer CD v2+epsilon could probably be compiled in less than a week.

    Concerning the Main Hardware

    [These sections concern the Amiga's main (i.e. non-graphics) hardware. Ed.]

    The Amiga's Special ('Chip') Memory

    From: Andrew Basden

    I agree, in an ideal world there would be no Chip RAM. But it *does* give one significant advantage that is still valid for most applications. It is that having Chip RAM allows the processor to continue at max speed when using the other, main, RAM. Chip RAM is that RAM that has contention between the various multiprocessing chips and the main processor. And where there is contention it slows the processor down. That is why the PC needs a hi-power pentium to do anything useful. Because it has only one type of RAM and the processor is continually being slowed down by contention with other things like DMA and, depending on its hardware setup, graphics refresh. (Some PC gfx boards have their own RAM that is in effect their own equivalent of Chip RAM, except that nothing else can use it (unlike Amiga Chip RAM which can be shared with other things.)

    No, Chip RAM is one of the *excellent* things about the Amiga. What I would want to see is *more* of it, not less of it. The 2Mb limit is old (though even now some PC gfx boards give only 1Mb, so our 2Mb is not bad.) C= had planned the next generation to have 16Mb Chip RAM, I believe. *That* is the way to go, not to get rid of an important Amiga advantage.

    Let's keep Chip RAM, and improve it.

    Amiga Multiprocessing Hardware

    [The Amiga has several integrated circuit chips that multi-process with the main processor, doing various simple repetitive tasks that would otherwise load the processor. Many of these are connected with graphics capabilities, and are part of the secret of the Amiga's speed relative to its processor clocking frequency. One other feature that makes these chips work so well is the concept of multi-port special memory. They are as follows. Ed.]

    The COPPER

    [The copper is a chip that counts display lines and does things in the computer's memory when certain lines are reached, such as to change colours in a palette or fire off the blitter to do something bigger.]

    From: Shireman, Steve

    In fact, this is an area where the Amiga has excelled. The chips in the chipsets can all be considered "AMP" "Asymetric MultiProcessing" with the COPPER commands as an example of communication between the radically different CPU's. In fact at the Denver Devcon, many got to see ArtDept running with the acceleration provided by the ATT DSP (where the VCOS real-time kernel of the DDSP was coupled to the Amiga OS (I left off real-time label here to not upset some people ;-) ) and they shared the workload in a non-symmetric way.

    This is an area where the Amiga could be advanced beyond what most PC designers can yet imagine...

    Have a socket or PIC that allows a Pentium or Alpha or whatever to plug in, and just have the architecture allow communication between systems in a "Amiga Standard" way. (AMP= Amiga Multi Processing)

    Responding to the comment:

    There is nothing that special in the old chips that makes dragable screens that much easier to do.

    ... Peter Kittel said:

    Umm, cough, Copper "nothing special"? You see, to get draggable screens on common gfx chips, you have to copy the whole screen contents to some frame buffer, where the complete screen resides in its several parts. With Copper, such copy actions are not necessary.

    I don't know whether the alternative is possible with such gfx chips, to replace the Copper functionality by some rasterline interrupt and let the interrupt routine change the video source pointers on the fly. Does that work fast enough? I doubt this a bit. And of course you need such a rasterline interrupt in first place, which is not standard.

    The Blitter

    [The blitter does bitwise operations on blocks of memory such as bitplanes, for instance to copy one to another, with maybe some masking done in the process. (It is a function with three arguments.) It also does line drawing and flood filling. Though it is started by a command from the processor or copper, it then operates independently of them and signals when it is finished in a fully asynchronous multi-processing manner. It thus takes a lot of load off the main processor. It is interesting that modern gfx boards are now being built with blitters, but none seems as integrated as the Amiga's one has always been.]

    AutoConfig Hardware

    From: Shireman, Steve

    I have a bad taste in my mouth of PCI after losing more than a week of work time trying to get them to configure in. Let us not forget the elegance we have with AutoConfigTM.

    For another list of how the Amiga is different, see the page no longer available on www.amiga.de/gb/Infos/AmigaRulez!.html.
    Changed on:

    Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 1997, and also all those who have written the above pieces.