A popular British retro computing group focusing on the Commodore Amiga is continuing to prove that, more than three decades on from its birth, rumours of this classic computer’s death have been greatly exaggerated. This report of the South West Amiga Group’s latest meeting has been sent in on their behalf by members Brian Hedley and Robert Hazelby.
On Saturday 14 January 2017, the third South West Amiga Group (SWAG) meeting was held at what has now become our regular venue; the Swindon Makerspace.
Prior to each meeting we try and plan a rough theme so that those coming along have some idea as to what to expect. At this SWAG meeting our theme was Amiga vs the 8-bits. The Commodore Amiga was the platform of choice for a great many fantastic games, but on some occasions the same title on an 8-bit was actually better. To this end, at this meeting we had an Amstrad CPC464 running the recently released Pinball Dreams conversion using a DDI3 Floppy Emulator and a recently refurbished and AY sound-fixed Sinclair Spectrum +3, complete with a DivIDE Enjoy interface running various games.
One of our attendees also brought along a ZX UNO FPGA based machine which could be seen running recreations of various eight-bit computer systems including the MGT Sam Coupé, BBC Micro and the Spectrum. We even had an original Acorn Electron up and running once it had received some TLC from a SWAG member.
Naturally, as this was a SWAG meet, we had plenty of Amiga machines scattered about the room. Amongst the stash was an A600 with a Vampire V2 (Black Edition) FPGA-based accelerator board, which we’d installed last meeting and which was now running DOOM at a very fluid frame rate.
An RGB-modded Amiga CD32 console was being used to show demos and was hooked up to a Commodore 1084S monitor. The demos were those from the recently released Press Play on Pad CD.
Speaking of recent releases, we were visited at the meet by the one and only Galahad of the coding group Scoopex, who has been working on various ST ports to Amiga. Following his conversion of Denton Designs’ game Where Time Stood Still he has been chipping away at converting the Bubble Bus classic arcade adventure Starquake. The plan was to release the completed conversion at the meet, and while we were able to get it working on one Gotek floppy emulator equipped Amiga, the floppy disk routines needed some work, and the graphic routines required some slight tweaks on Indivision hi-res graphics board-based A1200s. When the game was running we were all pleased to see how well it ran, and the new music produced specially for this Amiga release was a joy to hear.
Following the meet Galahad contacted the group to say that he had now fixed the issues and Starquake was undergoing what would hopefully be the last round of testing before release. It was exciting for SWAG members to play a small part in the beta testing of this much anticipated conversion.
Elsewhere in the packed room, we had a modern Amiga One 64-bit PowerPC-based computer running various games and utilities. All who saw it were impressed at just how responsive Amiga OS4.1 was, and just how nippy the applications were to use. Now, if only the cost could come down a bit!
There were also three Amiga A1200s in the room. The computer equipped with a Gotek drive was being used to beta test Starquake. The second was an expanded system incorporating an ACA1233/40MHz/128MB, 4GB CompactFlash HD, Indivision AGA Mk2cr, Gotek, external drive, and an external kipper2k CompactFlash adaptor, PCMCIA-> CF/SD). Just a few things added, then! The third was an A1200 Power Tower, which had been added to gradually over the last 20 or so years. This was equipped with an 80 gigabyte hard drive, internal and external floppy drives, 56x CD ROM, a network card, and Indivision AGA, and a MAS Player. The Amiga was hooked-up to two monitors – a nice Dell LCD for Workbench and point & click game use, and a Commodore 1942 CRT for those arcade titles and demos where smooth 50hz scrolling were needed. The MAS Player was demoed to a number of SWAG members, and considering its price (under 50UKP), produces excellent results.