Commodore Amiga fans from Ireland and beyond were able to enjoy an amazing get-together a little over a week ago, with a great turnout, fun and fascinating exhibits, and a remarkable range of guests! This report was sent in to RCN by Jarlath Reidy.
The Commodore Amiga Users Ireland Meetup 2017 took place at The Prince of Wales Hotel in Athlone on 21 January 2017, and despite being set in the very heart of Ireland, there was very much an international flavour to the event, with Irish Amigans being only too delighted to meet their friends who had travelled from overseas places such as England, Scotland, Poland, Germany – and even New Zealand! Such is the nature of world-wide Amiga fandom today.
A multi-faceted event
All kinds of machines and setup configurations were on display, and some very interesting workshops and talks were available including:
SWOS tournament, with a nice trophy going to the winner (congrats Kenny Gaughan).
Kick Off 2, Lotus 2 (four player) and Skidmarks (eight player) competitions.
Stunt Car Racer (congratulations to the champion, Allan Ullmann who took away a lovely trophy).
AROS – Current status with Neil Cafferkey (Core developer and Prism2v2 driver author).
Soldering Workship – With Rob Cranley of Amiga Future.
Music Creation on Amiga – With Jarlath Reidy and a surprise drop in from Mike Clarke (Psygnosis / Atomicom) who took it to a whole new level!
Crash Course in Blitz Basic – With Jarlath Reidy & Rob Cranley
Q&A sessions with Trevor Dickenson of A-EON fame and David Pleasance (formerly of Commodore UK) and Hogne Titlestad (FriendUP), Jon Hare (via Skype) as well as Mike Labatt of Cloanto, Mike Clarke (Psygnosis/Atomicom) and more.
Amibian machines were there with 3D printed Amiga cases.
X1000 and X5000 machines as well as the ALICE laptop were also on display.
Goodies to win
Spot prizes at the event included wifi cards (thanks to Sir_Lucas of Amibay for donating these), boxed games (thanks to Craig Harrisson, Lukasz Mulczynski, Mattie Whittle, Danny Cork and others, Amiga hardware (audio sampler, frame grabber with huge thanks to Mattie Whittle), and Amiga branded notebooks, posters, badges, etc (thanks to Trevor Dickinson).
Sordan (of sordan.ie) set up a shop that day, providing a service for everyone’s hardware and software needs. Rob Cranley performed recaps and repairs on several machines. Dermot O’Halloran took fantastic photos and we had additional video and photos taken by Kenny Gaughan, Ravi Abbott (of the Retro Hour Podcast) who also provided music later on. Sound was provided by Colin Reid.
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.
ANDY WARHOL, BUZZ ALDRIN, R.J. MICAL AND DAVE HAYNIE ALL IN ONE HOUR . WHAT MORE COULD YOU ASK?
What can you say about a one hour (and 3 minutes!) documentary film about a series of computers? One that takes you rushing down a wormhole into the days of your youth and then back to the future through a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that in turns exhilarate, sadden and maybe, just maybe inspire hope for the future?
If you’ve never heard of the Commodore Amiga (or, dare I say it, were an Atari ST enthusiast back in the day), you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Hold on a moment, and rewind back to our feature celebrating the 30th birthday of the computer that ‘came from the future’, and in 1985 started today’s multimedia revolution: https://retrocomputingnews.com/2015/07/23/happy-30th-birthday-amiga/
Suffice to say that the Amiga range did things that no other computer could do for a decade. Things that we take for granted today, but which all started there with the Amiga 1000, and its successors, which revolutionised computer art, music, photography and video production. Until those glittering dreams shattered and came tumbling down, through no fault of the Amiga’s creators. But something wonderful had happened. The world had changed.
Through insightful pieces to camera with many people who, it has to be said, are still legends in the Amiga community and surprisingly accessible thanks to Facebook (in fact, they’re part of that community) seamlessly wrapped up in slick graphics and nostalgic archive footage from past promo videos and adverts, location pictures plus more recent retro computing community-based events and music footage from around the world, Viva Amiga opens up a wormhole back to a time when what we now take for granted in computers was new, and fresh, and when the little guys with the brains, the big ideas and the soaring imagination really could break through into the future.
The film, backed with a powerful electro soundtrack by Ben Warfield and Josh Culler takes us from the early 1980s inception of the Amiga (later bought out by Commodore) as the astonishing concept of a small band of inspired technologists who thought they could leapfrog the functional but not very inspiring computer technology of the day (and how!), via the initially remarkable worldwide success of the affordable but powerful Amiga as the post 8-bit next step for Commodore, to the years of corporate greed and management incompetence that caused Commodore’s collapse in the USA and the domino effect that collapsed their subsidiaries around the globe.
Then, on a rocky road from the post-Commodore phase of ever-shifting sands where the Amiga technology was sold off and was eventually broken up amongst a number of different European and American companies whose reach in some cases largely exceeded their grasp, to the present time when new concepts of Amiga in hardware and software are being revived for what is presently a niche hobby market. Finally, it also looks at something of the inspired global community of retro Amiga fans or ‘Amigans’ who still love to work and play with the machine that, to hijack a phrase from one-time competitors Apple, really was designed ‘for the rest of us’.
For Amiga users past and present, if you lived through those times then this is a powerful nostalgia piece which will take you back with a bang, courtesy of the often emotional voices of many of those behind the power of Amiga. With remarkable music and powerful visuals, Viva Amiga will in turns exhilarate you and sadden you. It will make you laugh and it may even make you cry for what was lost. But that’s the essence of the story of the computer that wouldn’t die, that still lives on in hundreds, maybe thousand of homes around the world, and lurks in lofts and attics waiting to be rediscovered by a new generation. It serves to remind you, and most definitely me, that the Amiga was never only about the hardware and the software, it was, and remains, as much about the people who created it and who used it. In a strange way, the Amiga is a part of us and we are part of it, and while that may have faded somewhat with the years, this film brings that reality back into bright, colourful focus.
This is a film with heart. If you’re looking for the dry detail of a Discovery Channel epic in Zach Weddington’s rawly-emotional but nonetheless highly-polished Amigan opus, you’re not exactly going to find that here. That would take a whole series of films, there’s only so much you can do in an hour and I’m not entirely sure there’s quite the material or the market out there for it. I’d love to see a two hour version of Viva Amiga; although I didn’t feel the film was exactly too short (and it’s not bad value to buy as a download) I was left wanting more. The film made me want more. Maybe there could be follow-ups exploring more of the post-Commodore phase and taking a wider look at what people are doing with the Amiga today. Who knows. Zach is working on another exciting retro project at the moment.
What you do get in spades from Viva Amiga: The Story of A Beautiful Machine (and it WAS beautiful, in form and concept) is the essence of the spirit of the machine and its makers, and if you look carefully you will also see your own reflection in the TV screen, which seems entirely appropriate.
In conclusion, if you’re an Amiga fan, apart from the chance to see more of the story than has been widely shown before, and much more of the people who still inspire the community today, what you will really get from this fascinating film is a desperate yearning to be back in those heady days when the future was being re-written by a crazy, inspired gang of people who, let’s face it, you’d just love to party with like it’s 1985.
For further information and ways of buying Viva Amiga, check out the filmmakers’ website: https://amigafilm.com/
A recently released documentary film about one of the most popular and innovative home and multimedia computers of the 1980s-90s, the legendary Commodore Amiga (launched 1985) is rocketing up the charts.
Aimed at retro computing fans and computer history enthusiasts alike, Viva Amiga – the story of a beautiful machine has become a worldwide hit in the iTunes top ten documentary downloads, clearly striking a chord with its core audiences and Amiga users past and present.
As of yesterday, it had reached number 2 in the UK and Italy plus number 1 in Poland, 2 in Germany, 8 in France, 9 in Greece, 4 in the Netherlands., and 5 in Spain.
What is Viva Amiga about?
Director/Producer Zach Weddington was able to raise funds in 2011 to make the documentary, and it’s now available to watch in 12 languages and several streaming formats (see below).
The filmmakers describe Viva Amiga as follows:
“In a world of green on black, they dared to dream in color.
1985: An upstart team of Silicon Valley mavericks created a miracle: the Amiga computer. A machine made for creativity. For games, for art, for expression. Breaking from the mold set by IBM and Apple, this was something new. Something to change what people believed computers could do.
2016: The future they saw isn’t the one we live in now. Or is it?
From the creation of the world’s first multimedia digital art powerhouse…
to a bankrupt shell sold and resold into obscurity…
to a post-punk spark revitalized by determined fans.
Viva Amiga is a look at a digital dream….
…and the freaks, geeks and geniuses who brought it to life.
And the Amiga is still alive.”
The film features, amongst others, a number of well-known figures connected with the Amiga past and present, including Amiga engineers R.J. Mical, Dave Haynie and the late Dave Needle, as well as Trevor Dickinson, co-founder of A-Eon Technology (who doubles up as Executive Producer).
The World Premiere of Viva Amiga took place on 7 January at MAGFest 2017 in Washington DC, USA, as part of MAGFest’s Games on Film.
The makers have been busy submitting the film to festivals all across the United States and Europe. A showing in California, birthplace of the Amiga, is also in the works. After they make the rounds in the United States, they’ll be heading to Europe, where the Amiga was most popular. They’re lining up dates for a European tour in Summer 2017, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. Like their Facebook page for up-to-the-minute news.
Want to bring the film to your theatre or event in North America or Europe? Get in touch.
Where to get Viva Amiga
Viva Amiga is now available to watch worldwide. The film has been subtitled in Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish.
You can rent or buy a copy on the platform of your choice:
The ever-popular Commodore Amiga 500 home computer, a retro classic, enjoys a birthday of sorts this month, since its launch was announced in January 1987, thirty years ago. However, it did not arrive in European shops until April 1987 (in the Netherlands) and May for the rest of Europe. It did not cross the Atlantic to the USA until October of that year.
The Amiga 500, also known as the A500 (or its code name Rock Lobster), was the first low-end Commodore Amiga 16/32-bit multimedia home/personal computer. It was announced at the winter Consumer Electronics Show, with took place 8-11 January 1987 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, USA, together with the high-end Amiga 2000 – and was intended to compete directly against the Atari 520ST, which had beaten it to market in June 1985.
Before the Amiga 500 was shipped, Commodore suggested a list price of US$595.95 for the A500 without monitor. At US delivery in October 1987, Commodore announced that it would carry a US$699/£499 list price. In the Netherlands, the A500 was available from April 1987 for a list price of 1499 HFL.
The Amiga 500 represented a return to Commodore’s roots by being sold in the same mass retail outlets as the Commodore 64 – to which it was a spiritual successor – as opposed to the computer-store-only original Amiga 1000.
The Amiga 500 eventually proved to be Commodore’s best-selling Amiga model, enjoying particular success in Europe and the UK. Although popular with hobbyists, arguably its most widespread use was as a gaming machine, where its advanced graphics and sound were of significant benefit. Amiga 500 eventually sold 6 million units worldwide.
Computer clubs are sadly rare as hen’s teeth these days, unlike the heyday of the UK home computing revolution in the 1980s-90s, so it’s great to receive a report from Robert Hazelby about the phoenix-like return to the scene of a once-thriving group focusing on the ever-popular Commodore Amiga!
The revived and refreshed South West Amiga Group – aka SWAG – met for the first time in fifteen years a little over a week ago, on Saturday 7th May 2016, getting together to party like it’s the 1980s all over again. Robert tells all:
The seeds of the first SWAG meeting of the new era were sown back in January of this year when Amiga user Brian Hedley created a thread over on the English Amiga Board, asking if there was a group of Amiga users in the South West of the country. If there wasn’t, would anyone be interested in forming one and helping to set up a meeting?
Fellow Amiga users Steve Netting and myself responded, and in February we three met in a Swindon pub to chat about all things Amiga and to discuss the possibility/viability of organising a meeting.
By the end of the evening, it was decided that the meeting idea was worth pursuing, with the thought that at the very worst three Amiga users would meet up later in the year for an afternoon of Amiga gaming, tinkering and repairing.
Blast from the past
The other decision made that evening was to resurrect the old SWAG name. The South West Amiga Group held its last meeting way back in 2001 and sadly folded in 2004. In its active years, the members held regular sessions, and each meeting was well attended.
After numerous enquiries, a venue was chosen – the new Makerspace in Swindon, which was due to open the first weekend in May. The members there were happy to have us, and so, on Saturday 7th May, SWAG rose from the ashes and began a new era.
The afternoon ran from noon until 4pm, and during that time, approximately a dozen Amiga users turned up. The majority of attendees brought kit with them, and as such we had an amazing collection of Amiga and other computer systems. The line-up included:
2008 MacBook used for streaming demos to the plasma screen and for storing an Amiga TOSEC
Amiga 1200 for repairing
The game was afoot
Gamers were well catered for, with some excellent four-player sessions of Hudson Soft’s Dyna Blaster (Bomberman), Acid’s racer Skidmarks and Team 17’s platformer Superfrog. Numerous other titles from down the years were also fired-up, with one attendee completing Turrican from start to finish in what he declared was his fastest ever run.
The Raspberry Pi 3 did a fantastic job of emulating classic Amiga hardware, with a number of children present glued to Lemmings as a result. The speed of the mouse took a little getting used to, though – it was rather twitchy!
The Macbook was mainly used for streaming a selection of Amiga demos from the recent Revision 2016 demo competition, along with a number of repeated showings of the forthcoming “Amiga Works” documentary by Paul Bridger. When it wasn’t streaming video it was used to transfer files from the Amiga TOSEC to pen drive and then on to an Amiga.
There can be only One
The AmigaOne 500 was undoubtedly the star of the afternoon when it came to hardware specs. Facebook user Amiga Richard had been kind enough to bring his prized possession along, and throughout the afternoon gave guided tours around the system, answering questions put to him by fellow attendees.
The final system was Amiga Richard’s faulty Amiga 1200, which initially failed to display a picture or boot. A dismantling later, the removal of a rogue screw which didn’t seem to actually belong to the system, and the 1200 was back up and running once more. Success!
End to a perfect day
By 4pm the computers had all been packed up, and the last of those who had attended were making their way home. What had started as a thread over on the English Amiga Board and a subsequent meeting in a pub, had turned into a fantastic afternoon of classic gaming, tech and general retro chit chat.
Feedback from those who came along was glowing, and as such a second SWAG meeting, to take place on Saturday 17th September, also at The Makerspace, Swindon, is already being planned. More details will be posted on the SWAG Facebook group as they are available:
Star Trek-loving Amiga fans have done the seemingly impossible in downloading their own blast from the past from the digital dustbin, much like Scotty was saved from the transporter’s pattern buffer in the legendary ST:TNG episode ‘Relics’.
And, not only has the Infinite Frontiers website returned like the Enterprise coming home from a slingshot time-travel trip, its publishers have promised the return of the accompanying Commodore Amiga-based disk magazine, The Final Frontier.
The magazine was originally launched upon the unsuspecting Amiga community of the Alpha Quadrant way back in 1991, when, with phasers set on stun, it joined the fleet of discs already available on the growing public domain scene.
The Final Frontier was unlike anything seen at the time. While most disc-based Amiga mags were dedicated to gaming, or the public domain scene itself, The Final Frontier was, say Infinite Frontiers, the first disk magazine ever dedicated to Star Trek. Issue 1 was released in September 1991 and for the next 5 years it was loved by its readers and the Amiga press alike. Scoring highly in reviews in magazines like CU Amiga, Amiga Format and Amiga Shopper and being read all over the world, it was a huge hit. Each issue took a massive amount of time to create though and the publishers’ ability to pack so much in proved to be their self-confessed downfall, with each issue taking longer and longer to produce. Issue 10, released in the Summer of 1996, sadly turned out to be the last. Until now.
A new frontier
After moving to South Wales in 2013, the magazine’s Editor, Simon Plumbe, was sorting through his Amiga disk collection that finally moved home with him after sitting at his parents house for over a decade. In boxes he discovered an unfinished, unreleased copy of issue 11 of The Final Frontier. Now, 20 years after that last issue was produced, Infinite Frontiers is going back to its roots and releasing its first Amiga product in two decades and is going to complete this disk magazine ready to release it for a new audience.
Infinite diversity in infinite combinations
Infinite Frontiers itself apparently has a long, proud history and a diverse one, not just in the Star Trek or indeed the Amiga field. It was founded in August 1989 by Simon Plumbe along with school friends Stephen Coller and Mark Haggett, initially as a small local branch of a regional Doctor Who fan club. Over the years, as interests in different aspects of media science fiction ebbed and flowed, the group’s organisers moved on to Star Trek, founding a fan club: Alpha Quadrant was born. Moving into paper fanzines, a flurry of these came about, covering Star Trek, general sci-fi and even an Amiga fanzine. The next turning point came in 1998 with the launch of The Cybertronian Times, a Transformers fanzine created by Sven Harvey, which became their most popular print-based title.
Following on from the success of this, the idea was developed to try a Transformers equivalent to their Star Trek club meetings and Auto Assembly was born. Over the years this grew to become not only their primary focus (even more so after Alpha Quadrant closed) but also to become Europe’s largest Transformers convention, attracting over 1,000 attendees in 2015.
2012 saw the organisers going back to computing and video games again with the launch of Vita Player, a video games website focused solely on the PlayStation Vita console and since it’s launch it’s managed to build up quite a cult following and has attracted almost 4,000 followers on Twitter making it their most successful project to date on social media.
A new beginning
Things changed again though and 2015 saw the Transformers convention come to an end. But now, both Infinite Frontiers and The Final Frontier have returned. No doubt the Klingons will be pleased, as they’ve had no Starfleet enemies to battle since the premature demise of ‘Enterprise’ in 2005 apart from a couple of somewhat variable ‘reboot’ movies…
The Infinite Frontiers website is also seeking to not only focus on Star Trek, but reflect all of its publishers’ past diversity, and they are looking for contributors.
Here at Retro Computing News, where our own editor is a Trekkie from way back, we can only welcome the return of The Final Frontier and wish its publishers a hearty “Qapla’!”