EXCLUSIVE TO AMIGATRONICS 28 QUESTIONS AND 28 ANSWERS WITH TREVOR DICKINSON (A-EON)
From Spain: Hello Trevor, we know you have introduced yourself several times in other interviews, but, if you don´t mind, could you introduce yourself one more time for the amigans Spaniards?
Hello and thank you for the invitation to answer your questions. Yes, I have answered a few interviews over the past year. However, as most people now know, I am a long time Commodore and Amiga enthusiast. I purchased by first computer in 1981, a Commodore PET 4032. My next was a C64 followed by a C128D. I am passionate about Commodore and Amiga computers and have amassed quite a collection of 8-bit machines, Classic Amigas and a whole variety of next generation machines and their derivatives. In fact I’m interested in almost anything faintly Amiga related whatever the hue or flavour. I wrote the “Amiga Retrospective” series of articles for “Total Amiga” and later transferred to “Amiga Future” magazine, which charts the history of the Amiga computer from its inception, the demise of Commodore and subsequent attempts to revive the Amiga’s fortunes.
I have also written numerous articles for “Amiga Future” covering all aspects of the Amiga scene: Show reports, hardware reviews, software reviews and special features.
When and how did you start with your activity in this hard Amiga´s world? Are you a lifelong user?
I am a lifelong committed Amigan, or at least my wife thinks I should be committed! Is that the same thing? When the first Amiga model was released in 1985 I was still using my C128D. I did not purchase my first Amiga (2000) until 1988 when I was living Houston, Texas. I was totally overawed by this amazing machine. The Amiga 2000 was a big, ugly, beautiful beast. I began using Amigas in my business and over the next 10 years I introduced A2000s, A3000s and A4000s for all our Video, DTP, graphics and publicity work. I was still using an A4000 in 2000 in my daily business, although by this time I had performed an Ateo Tower upgrade and added a Cyberstorm PPC/060 with Cybervision 64/3D. Over the next few years I used a succession of Windows PCs and laptops. However, when I bought my first next-generation Amiga, a μA1-C, in late 2004 it rekindled my interest in the AmigaOS. The rest, as they say, is history.
Trevor, we know you are a great classic Amiga model collector and so current systems. Have you made some new acquisitions? Have you got some AAA motherboard from old Commodore?
Unfortunately, I do not have any “Triple-A” components in my collection, although I’m still hoping. I have all the classic Amiga models including A3000T & A4000T and even an A3000UX complete with a 3070 tape drive. I’m still searching for a Commodore version of the A4000T but I do have a Draco tower system. The last Classic Amiga I purchased was at AmiWest 2010 when I bought an A500 from Carl Sassenwrath which was signed by the great man himself. I am also a member of the AmigaOne X1000 Beta Test Team so the next Amiga I will be buying is the revision 2 Nemo motherboard. J
I also own a few unique Commodore computers. The C900, a 16-bit computer based on the Z8000 running Coherent, a fully functional Unix-like operating system. I also own a boxed Commodore Max together with a C116 and C232 which are part of the Plus/4 range and quite rare (in the UK at least). Unfortunately, I missed out on an ultra rare C65 a couple of years ago.L Such is life. Needless to say I have an extensive next generation collection which includes A1-XE & SE (G3 & G4) models, μA1-C, Pegasos I & II (G3 & G4) models, Efika 5200B, Sam440ep & Flex, various iMicas, an Ares One and even some strange Apple type units (MacMini & eMac) I also have a couple of MiniMigs and will probably buy a Natami when it’s available for sale.
It´s at that time that Commodore go bankrupt and it was said a fellow countryman, David Pleasance C=UK had really made the purchase. Do you know why the acquisition, at last, couldn’t be made? What happened? Could Amiga be saved by David?
Although I wrote the “Amiga Retrospective” series I have no special insight into the reasons why Commodore UK failed in its acquisition attempt. I believe they lost the support of their financial backers when it became apparent that there was competition from other bidders to acquire the Commodore and Amiga brands. The story of the Commodore bankruptcy makes compelling reading. Brian Bagnall’s book, “On The Edge – The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore” is essential reading for all Commodore and Amiga enthusiasts.
C= first fail us, then Escom, Viscorp, Gateway, Amiga Inc. and now Apple stops producing PA SEMI. I think there’s something fishy going on here, don´t you?
Like most Amigans I just love conspiracy theories. In my “Amiga Retrospective” series I tried to cover the various twists and turns in the never-ending Amiga story. The life and death of Commodore and the later failed attempts to revive the Amiga platform is definitely the plot for another book. Amiga Retrospective 2 perhaps? Unfortunately, despite the Amiga’s advanced ground breaking features as the first multimedia computer, mismanagement by an ailing and doomed Commodore ultimately led to failure. Unfortunately, being at the cutting edge does not always guarantee success.
START AMIGA ONE X1000
What motivate a businessman to invest in a so minority platform as ours?
I am first and foremost an Amiga enthusiast and, simply put I had the time, motivation and resources to invest in the AmigaOne X1000 development.
Could you explain what kind of public X1000 is focused on? If it’s not focused on anybody, could you tell us what can motivate people or how can they be motivated to buy a very different machine than we are used to have?
The AmigaOne X1000 is aimed at serious Amiga enthusiasts and power users and hopefully will appeal to Classic Amiga users who have yet to try a next generation Amiga computer. We also hope it will be of interest to enthusiasts in the XMOS and Linux PPC community.
From first announcement, AmigaOneX1000 was delayed several times, but it seems that it has been of use to make improvements. Can you talk us about some of these improvements?
It was always our intention to produce a small number of prototype boards as a proof of concept before undertaking a Beta Test programme. The prototypes were produced at the end of 2009 and delivered to the AmigaOS4 developers to allow them to port the kernel and write the necessary hardware drivers. Due to the many new onboard features and the unique CPU architecture it took the developers a little longer to port AmigaOS4 than anticipated, although they still managed to get an alpha version of AmigaOS4 up and running for the machines public debut at the Vintage Computer Festival in June last year. By the time of its third public showing at AmiWest 2010, AmigaOS4 was much more stable and the machine was running at full CPU speed. In an ideal world the first design would be perfect and there would not be a need for a revision 2 board. However, we decided to make a number of improvements to correct several minor layout issues and add greater functionality and performance. In all, 27 modifications were incorporated in the Nemo revision 2 design. These ranged from trivial, like changing the board’s silkscreen markings, to more complex like replacing the Realtek Ethernet controller with SGMII PHY. We also decided to upgrade the XENA/XMOS subsystem by adding a 500MHz dual core XMOS XS1-L2 chip. Varisys have also added a few hidden “Easter eggs” of their own on the revision 2 board.
Speaking of Xena-Xorro-Xmos, how many time will AmigaOS4 take to use them? To what extent are they similar to traditional chipset and usage examples?
XMOS describe their chip as software defined silicon which has evolved from the original Trasputer development and re-introduces the concept of fine grained parallel processing. It can be viewed as a new class of programmable device that is halfway between a FPGA and a very fast micro-controller which performs hardware threading in a much more fine grained way compared to traditional CPUs. It also very tightly couples the XMOS processor to the I/O. Varisys are currently preparing XENA/XMOS documentation and this will be released to all interested parties in the near future. We are also planning some form of test device/card to show that the XENA subsystem is functioning correctly. How quickly other XENA applications develop depends on the interest of Amiga developers and other third parties.
PA6T-1682M looks like an excellent processor for X1000, could AmigaOS take advantage of all his features?
The PA Semi PA6T-1682M CPU does have some very unique features including an impressive performance per watt for multi-gigahertz computational applications and multi-gigabit throughput applications. The ground-up design optimizes power dissipation in all aspects of its novel system architecture which comprises an entire platform on a chip. The result is high performance and low heat generation. Although it’s a 64-bit dual core processor; AmigaOS4 will initially only support one core, but the developers will use this as a template to create support for future multi-core CPUs. However, the Nemo motherboard has been designed from the outset to take advantage of the PA6T-1682M advanced features. It is possible to change the CPU speed on the fly and we may make use of this feature in totally fan-less systems.
Will QORIQ be the successor?
One step at a time. Although we have ideas for future designs but we need the AmigaOne X1000 to be a success before we can justify additional development expenditure. Personally, I would like see a range of machines, built around the new multi-core PowerPC CPU’s that are being developed by Freescale and others, which could run AmigaOS, MorphOS and AROS (plus Linux) and finally bring some unity and harmony to all flavours of the community.
REPROACH-PRICE-LOW COST MODEL
What do you think is the solution for a market so little as Amiga? In my opinion, the price of AmigaOneX1000 could be reduced and that could help Amiga to grow faster again. Don´t you think so?
Unfortunately no. The AmigaOne X1000 is based on the PA Semi CPU. This component alone costs $500 and when you add in development costs and factor in the high cost of low volume manufacturing there is no way to reduce the sales price for the Amiga market. Also see my answer to question 11.
Why is there no option to buy only the motherboard and the cpu? I think it could be cheaper for the costumer and there´s no need to purchase the whole equipment.
In the first instance we wanted to supply a complete AmigaOne computer with branded case, keyboard and mouse. We have been working closely with AmigaKit to offer customers more choice and recently have decided to stock both black and white branded case designs with matching keyboard and mouse combinations. However, it’s still possible we may offer motherboards in the future especially to countries where shipping costs are prohibitive.
Is it planned to introduce some cheap versions of these “new Amigas” as in its day the classics? (I mean A500, A600, A1200)
See my answer to question 11.
A few months after the official announcement of AmigaOneX1000, another companies have emerged as C=USA, and recently ICONTAIN that acquired the AMIGA brand. Do you believe it could cause confusion and be prejudicial to your? Or, on the contrary, could both brands coexist with different ideas?
Under the Amiga Inc settlement agreement, Hyperion Entertainment effectively controls the future of the AmigaOS and the “Amiga desktop” market. We have licensed the AmigaOS name and related trademarks from Hyperion Entertainment for the official AmigaOne X1000 desktop computer. The original Commodore company sold branded PC’s and I see no reason why C=USA should not do the same. I wish C=USA the best of luck with their plans for the C64 PC and I will be looking to buy one of these units for my collection. At the moment I’m not sure what iContain is really all about? If they are planning to sell Amiga branded PC’s and tablets running Windows or Linux then again I wish them well. If I was planning to buy a Windows or Linux PC I would personally prefer an “Amiga” branded model. It’s not really logical I know!
A little while ago the rumour is spread that you had an argument with Ben Hermans, if you want to clarify something about this or to deny it…go ahead, Trevor!
More conspiracy theories and intrigue! Don’t we just love it? I presume you are referring to the rumour that all work on the A1-X1000 was suspended? I don’t normally comment on these types of rumours to avoid giving them any credence. However, as I posted on AmigaWorld.net the AmigaOne X1000 project is continuing as planned. Despite some supply problems with certain components, Varisys have now procured all of the parts for the complete Beta Test production run. At the time of writing, the first five revision 2 Nemo motherboards are about to be delivered for evaluation and testing to ensure there are no last minute surprises before the balance of Beta test boards are produced.
Is it being considered to work with distributors from different countries for the AmigaOneX1000 sale or it will be just online and from the country of origin?
We appointed AmigaKit as the lead distributor for the AmigaOne X1000 and they will provide sales, distribution and support to regional Amiga dealers and end users. AmigaKit have a proven track record and have earned a well deserved reputation for supporting the Amiga community. They also have an established pre-existing sales and support infrastructure and will provide full after sales care plus handle warranty repair claims in association with the hardware manufacturer.
After-sales service can discourage a lot of people who are considering to buy X1000 due to prices, language barriers, etc. What can you say to the public about the service you will provide?
Hopefully we have this covered. See my answer to number 17.
Which language (apart from English) will the instructions be available in? Might it be in other languages as Spanish with a help from the users themselves and online to reduce cost?
Initially all documentation will be produced in English, although AmigaOS4 obviously already has multi-language support. If some users wanted to volunteer their services to translate into other languages that offer of help would be greatly appreciated.
Is there a fixed and definitive date for the product release?
Not at this time. The revision 2 Nemo boards are now in manufacture and the Beta Test team should receive their units during the second quarter of this year. All being well, we will then make plans for the release of the commercial product.
Do you think to attend some important computing fair to present the official launching of AmigaOneX1000?
I’m not sure this is necessary. During 2010 we presented the AmigaOne X1000 at three major Amiga events which I also attended along with several key AmigaOS developers: The Vintage Computer Festival at Bletchley Park, England; the Amiga Event 2010 in Essen, Germany and AmiWest 2010 in Sacramento, California. This year we need to concentrate on releasing the commercial AmigaOne X1000 product.
Did you have contacted some important ex-amigan company to support from the start X1000 with some production? do you suspect some company is interested?
There is nothing definite at the moment, although we have had tentative discussions with a couple of interested parties. The sad fact is that most or the companies involved in the heyday of Amiga computing have long since departed the scene and moved on to other interests.
Are you conscious of how many people can be made happy by you, by your company and by the greatness of the name AMIGA beyond a consumerism market?
I certainly feel a great weight of responsibility and anticipation from the Amiga community. I only hope that the AmigaOne X1000 can live up to everyone’s expectations. One thing is for sure, we will do our best to deliver a product that can measure up to the Amiga’s proud tradition and heritage.
What can you tell the amigans to convince them that X1000 will make them feel they are in front of real Amiga?
It’s very simple. The AmigaOne X1000 is an Amiga computer designed by Amiga enthusiasts for Amiga enthusiasts. It runs AmigaOS4 and if you come from a Classic Amiga background you will instantly feel very much at home. It will also be very fast and, as an Amiga enthusiast, it’s a machine I want to buy! J
SPANISH SCENE-FUNNY QUESTIONS
Do you know something of the Amiga Spanish scene (classical software as “Alan 1″ or recently “Snapshoter” “Tracker hero”, etc)?
I had already downloaded “Snapshoter” but have not had the chance to try it out yet. I have to admit I don’t know a lot about the Spanish Amiga software scene but I will check out the other software you have mentioned.
If you were a boxer in the ring and Bill Gates your opponent, what would it be your favorite blow to knock him out?
I have no particular dislike for Bill Gates. For many years I have reluctantly used all flavours of Windows and like many others I have been known to say “I hate Windows” when I have suffered the “blue screen of death” on numerous occasions. However, I’ve come to realise that Windows is probably a necessary evil? Windows XP was useable and Windows 7 just works. OK, it’s still bloatware but perhaps we should blame Jack Tramiel for teaching Gates an early business lesson which helped shape his future strategy. Tramiel managed to obtain a perpetual, royalty free licence for Commodore Basic by paying Gates a small, one-off fee for the Microsoft Basic source code. Tramiel had this source modified for use on all of Commodore’s 8-bit computer range without paying any more money to Microsoft. Perhaps Gates got his revenge with the demise of Commodore? What was that about conspiracy theories? Oh sorry, you wanted me to knock Gates out, “Windows sucks big time!” After that I could probably knock him down with a feather.
Would you be able to persuade our fellow and collaborator Xavi (also know as “Xevious”) to buy a X1000? It´s very difficult !!
I don’t know if that’s possible. The AmigaOne X1000 is a computer that, as a committed Amiga enthusiast, I really want to own but, whether it’s the one for Xavi only he can decide. Also see my answer to question 24.
And finally, if you want to add something more…
Thank you very much for the chance to talk about the AmigaOne X1000 with your readers. I do have one comment to make. I‘ve read that the word “Amiga” is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese word for girlfriend. If that is true I have many “girlfriends”. Please don’t tell my wife!
Trevor. We wish you be successful in A-EON and AMIGA ONE X1000 and in future projects.
Many thanks for your kind words of support. Y viva España
Interview: Juan José & Israel Ortuño