Category Archives: Amiga

Amiga Trek magazine returns to the Final Frontier

The Final Frontier Logo

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.

Transformations

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.

Game on

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.

Success

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’!”

Watch this space for more news as it happens.

Meanwhile, why not beam over to the Infinite Frontiers website?

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Popular Amiga emulation package updated and more

Amiga Forever 4K Desktop View (Sample Screen with Merged Amiga and C64 Forever Environments on High-DPI Display)
Amiga Forever 4K Desktop View (Sample Screen with Merged Amiga and C64 Forever Environments on High-DPI Display) – click to enlarge

The official holders of the original Commodore/Amiga copyrights have made a bold step into the New Year before the old one is even out, with their new 2016 releases of Amiga Forever and C64 Forever 2016.

Italian company Cloanto Italia srl, who today specialize in retrocomputing and classic gaming, were once known for Amiga software products such as Personal Write and Personal Paint. Building on this legacy, in 1997 Cloanto released an Amiga preservation, emulation and support package, Amiga Forever, which allows Amiga software to run on non-Amiga hardware legally and without complex configuration.

The Windows version of Amiga Forever includes ‘player’ software developed by Cloanto which seamlessly uses ‘plugins’ such as WinUAE as emulation engines, while relying on its own user interface for configuration and authoring. In addition to supporting common disk image formats, Amiga Forever can play back and author files in Cloanto’s proprietary RP9 format.

The first version of the Amiga Forever package was initially released on a CD-ROM containing different versions of the emulator UAE (itself first released in 1995) for Windows, DOS, Mac and Linux, Fellow for DOS and a selection of Amiga Kickstart ROM images and Workbench disks. There was also an Amiga floppy disk available which contained the Amiga side of Amiga Explorer. The new plugin-based player software was introduced in 2007.

Amiga Forever Desktop View (Sample Screen with Workbench 1.3 and 3.X) - click to enlarge
Amiga Forever Desktop View (Sample Screen with Workbench 1.3 and 3.X) – click to enlarge

From the 2012 version onward, Amiga Forever has included Cloanto’s RP9 Editor for content authoring. Besides its own authoring and playback environment, and Cloanto’s floppy disk conversion service, Amiga Forever includes WinUAE and WinFellow, and different versions of UAE and E-UAE for other platforms. All versions of Amiga Forever include different AmigaOS (m68k) environments and support to run a large range of Amiga games and demoscene productions which are available for free download from different software publishers and Amiga history sites. The Windows version also includes Cloanto’s Amiga Explorer  networking software, which allows access to Amiga resources (including virtual floppy, hard disk and ROM image files) from the Windows Desktop.

Today, through successive development of more and more compatible software-based emulation of old Commodore Amiga hardware, Amiga Forever and the its 2008 sister package C64 Forever (the latter emulating the earlier, and equally popular, 8-bit Commodore 64 computer), allow millions of users to enjoy tens of thousands of games and other applications from the 1980s and 1990s.

AROS and AmiKit Integration (Sample Screen)
AROS and AmiKit Integration (Sample Screen)

Continue reading Popular Amiga emulation package updated and more

Happy 30th Birthday, Amiga!

Thirty years ago today, at the Lincoln Centre in New York, one of the most advanced home computers ever was launched – the Commodore Amiga A1000. And the world of desktop computing was changed, forever.

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

A decade ahead of much of the market as it was then, and rightfully recognised as the first multimedia computer, it and its successors were to find a place in the heart of many who are still dedicated followers today, as part of the retro hobby scene. But it was first and foremost one of the most popular home computers of a generation, and sent a seismic shock around the digital globe.

The Amiga was not only THE gaming machine par-excellence, with more colours and better sound than the competition, in fact neither IBM or Apple had anything to touch it at the time!

But, more importantly, it was to become the top – and equally importantly, one of the most affordable – creative digital content computers of its time.

The so-called ‘industry standard’ IBM PC was then limited to a 16 colour display and the Apple Macintosh, with no Mac II then in sight, only had plain black and white. The new Amiga A1000, which had been taken over by Commodore, had a 12-bit colour palette and was capable of displaying up to 4096 colours (Hold And Modify ‘HAM’ mode) – startling in its day, though it had its limitations as well. The Amiga also had astonishing stereo sound, offering 4 × 8-bit PCM channels.

All this meant that the Amiga was to have an enormous impact on TV and video special effects and music, as well as turning up on space-age projects for NASA!

The Amiga A500
The Amiga A500

Today, after a string of evolutionary successors to the A1000, and despite the end of mass-market Amiga production in the mid-1990s, there is still a huge and loyal community around the world, dedicated to using and preserving surviving computers and software, and to adapting aging Amigas to modern times with aftermarket hardware, software and emulation, as well as using those few Amiga-compatible computers which have since been produced in small numbers.

These Amiga fans can be found everywhere online on websites and blogs, on Facebook in groups and on Twitter, and on forums ad infinitum in cyberspace…

Amiga A2000 (pic Trafalgarcircle, Wikipedia)
Amiga A2000 (pic Trafalgarcircle, Wikipedia)

Now, after such historic 8-bit predecessors as the Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 have already, and rightly, celebrated their own thirtieth birthdays, it is time to do so for the Amiga, and Retro Computing News has been cheering the Amiga on as loudly as anyone.

And, in a very real sense, this magazine site exists entirely because of the Amiga – our own editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, owned an Amiga A1000 himself, and wrote for Amiga User international and Amiga Computing magazines, back in the day!

Today is the day

So, the big day is today, 23rd July, 2015 – but much has already been happening to mark the anniversary of the A1000 launch, as we have reported, and much more will continue to happen over the year ahead.

So, watch this space for more Amiga news over the next few weeks and months. Meanwhile…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMIGA!

The legendary Amiga Boing Ball demo
The legendary Amiga Boing Ball demo

Recursion 2015 repeats success in Stratford

The hall from above - general view
The hall from above – general view

Organisers of an exciting and innovative – but also nostalgic – computer fair which took place at a school in Stratford-upon-Avon, England on Saturday were celebrating another highly-successful repeat event as crowds swarmed in to see everything from retro-computers to robots via Raspberry Pi’s.

King Edward Vi School's Anroid App Inventor workshop
King Edward Vi School’s Anroid App Inventor workshop

The historic King Edward Vi School, where William Shakespeare was educated, was offering a free and fun-packed digital day out dedicated to computer science and computing in education, industry and leisure, to one and all – and were rewarded with a buzzing, vibrant and diverse event for computer fans of all interests, not only gaming. In short, a show of a kind which has been rarely seen since the 1990s!

Recursion 2015 banner
Recursion 2015 banner

The show, dubbed the Recursion 2015 Computer Science Fair, was held in the modern Levi Fox Hall of the Tudor school off Church Street, and delivered a great opportunity for anyone looking for a techno-fix of retro and modern computing, and all things educational. Amazingly, there was no charge for both visitors and exhibitors – but the packed event was definitely worth far more than the non-existent admission fee.

A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall
A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall

There was plenty of time for all kinds of fun and learning, since the fair was open between 11am-4pm, allowing visitors to catch up on the latest community gossip and events, sign up to a user group, find out about robots and computer science –  or just reminisce by playing their favourite games from the good old days.

From Vectrex to Einstein - a tiny sample of exhibits from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester
From Vectrex to Einstein – a tiny sample of exhibits from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester

The editor of Retro Computing News, Stuart Williams, was delighted to be able to attend in person to cover the show this year, and certainly had a ‘grand day out’ amongst the Amiga gurus, the Risc OS evangelists, the preservers of rare computers and historic software, the robot warriors and the gadget makers – and not least amongst the educationalists, teachers, and their students who are the future of British computing.

Our editor was certainly spoiled for choice, from wallowing in nostalgia (back in the 1980s-90s he wrote for several home computer magazines) by chatting to the Amiga experts, to watching the boffinaceous science and engineering antics of the fizzPOP maker crew and robot experts.  He was also excited to see all the new developments in school and university computer education, especially as there were no computers in schools when he left in the mid 1970s!

GEEKY FUN IN THE SUN AND INSIDE

Early British home computers the Compukit UK101 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k
Early British home computers the Compukit UK101 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k

The weather was blisteringly hot outside, but while it was warm inside too, it was actually really cool in so many ways! In fact there was everything for the geek (whether budding or ageing!), the hobbyist, the educationalist and the prospective student of school or university to take their minds off the soaring temperatures – not to mention the handy refreshment area.

From virtual reality learning to school video, there was plenty to interest the educationalist
From virtual reality learning to school video, there was plenty to interest the educationalist
SCHOOLS
Practical Programming Workshop using Scratch in the King Edward Vi School's Show in a Show
Practical Programming Workshop using Scratch in the King Edward Vi School’s Show in a Show

There was a great educational theme threaded all through Recursion, as you might expect in a school which clearly recognises the importance of real computing education and not just ‘ICT’ for pupils’ career prospects as much as its’ cultural connections with the Bard of Avon.

The Android App Inventor workshop
The Android App Inventor workshop

King Edward Vi School had also joined forces with several other schools and educators from the area and beyond, and students and other youngsters were treated to the opportunity to try modern coding by taking part in Android and Scratch programming workshops as well as experiencing the fun and excitement of building, programming and fighting with warrior robots in the Mindstorm Arena – as well as some high-powered modern PC gaming!

Those are the droids we're looking for - busily building and programming in the Mindstorm Arena
Those are the droids we’re looking for – busily building and programming in the Mindstorm Arena
Robots ready to rumble in the Mindstorm Arena
Robots ready to rumble in the Mindstorm Arena

Continue reading Recursion 2015 repeats success in Stratford

Amiga 30 UK calling!

Amiga 30 UK banner
Amiga 30 UK banner

The main British event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the launch of the legendary Commodore Amiga computer, Amiga 30 UK, is now more accessible than ever to Amiga fans at just £10 for basic admission – and organisers are also now putting a call out to Amiga user groups with another special offer,  a massive group discount!

The event, which is all set to take place at the Peterborough Marriott Hotel on Sunday 2nd August, 2015 and supports BBC Children in Need, has been organised by Amiga enthusiast Steve Crietzman, with the help of David Pleasance, the last Managing Director of Commodore UK, plus graphic artist Paul Kitching (the event’s Multimedia Director), fellow enthusiast and collector Angelo Bod, Rich Spowart (an active demoscener, as is Angelo), and Darren Glenn, webmaster of IntuitionBase.com.

CHARITY DINNER – AND MORE

There will be talks, Amigas and more during the afternoon, but the  focus event at Amiga 30 UK is a three-course VIP Charity Banquet Dinner in the evening.

Overall, the full event and dinner runs from 12 noon to 8.30pm, with options for those wishing to attend during the day only, as well as a special VIP ticket including an additional, exclusive meal on the Saturday night (see below).

Amiga 30 UK Pudsey banner

STARRING…

Amiga 30 UK stars the following Commodore Amiga connected people:

  • R.J. Mical (One of the original legendary architects of the Amiga, who has been a great help to the event)
  • David Pleasance (as mentioned above, who rose through the ranks at Commodore UK, reaching the dizzying heights of MD at the end) who will have a lot to say about his time there and his management buyout attempt!
  • Kelly Sumner (another former Commodore UK MD)
  • Kieron Sumner (Former Commodore UK Commercial Manager)
  • Michael Battilano (Founder and CEO of Cloanto, developers of Personal Paint, producers of the Amiga Forever emulation suite and copyright holders of Amiga OS to v3.1)
  • Jon Hare (Games programmer at Sensible Software with titles including Wizball, Parallax, and Sensible Soccer)
  • Allister Brimble (Well-known musician behind the tunes in Alien Breed, Project X, Superfrog and more from Team 17)
  • Bjørn Lynne (Better known as Dr. Awesome to many, another well-known musician and composer from Team 17)
  • Mevlut Dinç (Founder of Vivid Image, a development firm that went on to produce Hammerfist, First Samurai, Second Samurai and Street Race)
  • Tim Wright (aka  CoLD SToRAGE. A highly talented video game music composer for Psygnosis, including Lemmings, Shadow of the Beast 2 & 3 and many more)
  • Mike Clarke (Another Psygnosis composer, with the tunes for many famous games, including Lemmings 2, Lemmings Paintball, WipEout 3/64, Microcosm, and more)

And there are, apparently, several additional mystery guests lining up…

David Pleasance sends this encouraging message to Amiga fans:

David Pleasance handbill
Click to enlarge
TICKETS AND OPTIONS

There are a number of tickets and special options still available for Amiga fans to snap up, from the basic ticket option at a tenner covering access opening till 6pm, right through the standard Banquet Ticket at £17.50 and on up to the £90 Saturday Night VIP Package offering an exclusive dining out with the Amiga VIPs!

USER GROUP SPECIAL OFFER

A very special ‘United Amigans Package’ in honour of Amiga user groups.  This includes:

10 x Entrance Tickets (for your group members), worth £175.
10 x Copies of Amiga Forever Plus Edition, worth £200.
1 x FREE, exclusive, half-day use of a Conference Room – worth £75.

Total value £450, price to user groups just £175 – a massive saving of 62%.

MORE INFORMATION

Full details of the event, guests, hotel, tickets and booking can be found on the Amiga 30 UK website as well as via organiser Steve Crietzman on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShortedWave

Why not also check it out on Twitter? See https://twitter.com/Amiga30UK

And you can download this handbill in a larger size by clicking on the image:

Amiga 30 UK handbill
Amiga 30 UK handbill

Don’t leave it too late – the clock is ticking!

Retro Computing News thinks this event is a fantastic idea, and wishes Amiga 30 UK every success  – and a great Amiga day!

Recursion show returns as Shakespeare’s school looks to repeat success

King Edward Vi School
King Edward Vi School

A highly historic but equally forward-looking Stratford-upon-Avon school is looking to repeat the success of a computer science fair held there last year as this year’s packed event is just weeks away.

And King Edward Vi School, where William Shakespeare was educated, looks all set to do it again, with a fun-packed digital day out dedicated to Computer Science and Computing in both industry and leisure!

The event, dubbed Recursion 2015, offers a great opportunity for anyone looking for a techno-fix of retro and modern computing, and all things educational, on Saturday 4 July – and amazingly, admission is free for all visitors and exhibitors!

Retro Computing News will be covering the show, so it seems timely to offer our readers a preview here.  We hope to see you there!

RETRO AND COMMUNITY

Why not join the school and exhibitors alike, to celebrate more than four decades of computing history?  With stands and presentations from all the favourites: Spectrum, Commodore, Amiga, Atari, Acorn and many more.

Catch up on the latest community gossip and events, sign up to a local user group or just reminisce by playing your favourite games from the good old days.

AMIGA 30

Amiga A1000
Amiga A1000

There will be special stands, competitions and activities to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Amiga, including the following:

Amiga North Thames
Andy Spencer
Retro Computer Museum
Demonstrations of
X1000, SAM460 running Amiga OS4
Demonstrations of
MorphOS, AROS and AEROS
Nick Severin Nigel Tromans

 

RISC OS SUMMER SHOW

Acorn Archimedes
Acorn Archimedes

The Midlands RiscOS User Group will be holding their annual Summer Show as part of Recursion.

RiscOS Exhibitors include:
The RiscOS Midlands User Group Vince Hudd Softrock
Chris Dewhurst Drag n Drop Magazine Andy Spencer Retro Computer Museum
Tom Williamson ROUGOL

– and don’t forget, RISC OS is a popular Raspberry Pi OS as well as on Acorn and later independent computers!

Continue reading Recursion show returns as Shakespeare’s school looks to repeat success

The AUI Interview: Jay Miner – the father of the Amiga

JAY MINER 'The father of the Amiga'

The Commodore Amiga is a now-legendary series of home and business computers that had its origins in the fertile minds of some very inventive and creative people who got mixed up in the computer wars between Atari and Commodore back in the early 1980s.  The first of the line Amiga A1000 was years ahead of its time and was an important milestone and  pointer to the future of computing.  The Amiga remains one of the most popular hobbyist and creative computer systems ever, and is still beloved of thousands of retro-computing enthusiasts and hobbyists, occupying a proud place in the history of computing.  We enjoy its legacy today in many ways.

The Amiga A1000
The Amiga A1000

July 2015 sees the thirtieth birthday of the Amiga A1000 computer itself, and that will be loudly celebrated around the globe, but before that, a very special group of Amiga fans, organised through a Facebook group, decided last year to dedicate an annual day, International Amiga Day, to remembering and using their Amiga computers in memory and celebration of the late Jay Miner, the remarkable engineer who is generally honoured with the title ‘father of the Amiga’.

Our editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, is proud to have been a regular contributor to the now-defunct Amiga User International magazine ‘back in the day’, and we are therefore delighted to be able to re-publish this interview from the pages of AUI, both in tribute to Jay Miner and to the much-missed Amiga User International, in this thirtieth year of the Amiga.

Amiga User International masthead June 1988
Amiga User International masthead June 1988

Sadly, there is no indication in the June 1988 issue of Amiga User International, where this interview was first published, as to who conducted the interview.  Possibly it was the Managing Editor and Publisher Antony Jacobson, but credit was not given, and we would be glad to hear who it was if anyone out there knows.

Nonetheless, it stands today as one of the most interesting and insightful slices of computing history from the twentieth century.

THE AUI INTERVIEW

JAY MINER – ‘The father of the Amiga’

 

Jay Miner, 1988 (pic Amiga User International)
Jay Miner, 1988 (pic Amiga User International)

‘The father of the Amiga’ – the man most credited with its initial development gives AUI an exclusive interview in which he tells how the computer came into being, says some very tough things about how it nearly never happened, and predicts what may come next.

I completed six months of Electronics Technician School in the Coast Guard, and then I spent three years on Coast Guard in the North Atlantic Weather Patrol repairing radars, radios and also the Captain ‘s Hi-fi. That’s how my interest in electronics got started. After the service I studied engineering. I graduated in 1958, with a major in the Design of Generators and Servo Motors.

The first thing, however, that I was asked to do after graduation was to design a Computer Control Console with a Video Display, I had to teach myself transistor circuit design and logic design out of the few books which were then available. This was an advantage however since it was easy in those days to learn enough out of one book to become the company expert.

In 1964, I went to work for General Micro Electronics, the first spin off in Fairchild devoted exclusively to MOS chips. Again it was easy to become an expert in this field, because the field was so new. We designed sixty-four of their chip register chips and the world’s first MOS Calculator with twenty-three custom chips.

In 1974 after ten years of calculator, watch and computer chip design at a lot of different chip companies, Atari was just starting up and needed a chip designer. My friend Harold Lee was already there and he introduced me to Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari). Harold had done the chip for the first video game and Nolan Bushnell asked me to do a chip for the video game twenty six hundred system. You probably know how successful the twenty six hundred or the Video Computer system as it became called, was, so in 1977 they asked me to design the new Atari computer the 400 – 800 model. I directed the architecture and the chip designing of this new machine and this too was a huge success.

The year was 1979 and Atari was rolling in money. However, they made a decision to write off all of the development costs in that first year production. This allowed them to show just enough profit that year to not quite trigger the bonus payment they promised to the engineers and programmers. The chief programmer on the project’s name was Larry Caplin and a half a dozen of his team went off to start Activision.

Continue reading The AUI Interview: Jay Miner – the father of the Amiga

A blast from the past for International Amiga Day!

This Sunday sees the celebration of International Amiga Day, traditionally marking the birthday of the ‘father of the Amiga’, the late Jay Miner.

Retro Computing News will also be joining in the celebration on the day, by publishing a very special early interview with Jay Miner, first published in the June 1988 issue of Amiga User International magazine, here in the UK.

Jay Miner and his dog, Mitchy
Jay Miner and his dog, Mitchy

In this AUI exclusive, no-holds-barred interview, Jay told how the Amiga came into being, and had some very tough things to say about how it nearly never happened.  He also predicted what he thought might come next.

Our editor and publisher, Stuart Williams, is proud to be a former regular contributor to AUI ‘back in the day’, and is pleased to be able to re-publish this interview from the pages of AUI, both in tribute to Jay Miner and to the much-missed Amiga User International in this 30th anniversary year of the launch of the Amiga A1000.

Stuart is also launching a personal blog, ‘AMIGA meditations’, showcasing his work for AUI on Sunday, and this will be announced in Retro Computing News on the day.

Watch this space!