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Amiga Operating Systems Software Hardware Technology

A New Amiga Arrives On the Scene -- the A-EON Amiga X5000 (arstechnica.com) 118

dryriver writes: It is 2017 and the long dead Amiga platform has suddenly been resurrected. The new Amiga X5000 costs about $1,800 and is an exotic mix of PC parts and completely new custom chips, including "Xena," an XMOS 16-core programmable 32-bit 500 MHz coprocessor that can be configured by software to act as any type of custom chip imaginable. It is connected to a special "Xorro" slot that has the same physical connection as a PCIe x8 expansion card, but it is dedicated to adding more Xena chips as desired. Amiga X5000 can run all legacy Amiga software, including software written for later PowerPC Amigas. It boots from a U-Boot BIOS. The OS is AmigaOS 4.1, but the X5000 can also boot into MorphOS or Linux. The test system used by Ars came with a ATI Radeon R9 270X video card.
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A New Amiga Arrives On the Scene -- the A-EON Amiga X5000

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  • As an Amiga fan... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 27, 2017 @06:13AM (#54496645)

    ...I say let it die already! Fuck, it's literally over a decade since anybody genuinely gave a shit about a new Amiga. My old accelerated A1200 went in the dumpster way back. Seriously, how small a fucking niche do you have to be targetting to still be trying to resurrect the Miggy? Nothing like this is genuinely an Amiga anyway, it's more of an emulator platform; "For games, which usually bypassed the operating system and hit the classic Amiga hardware directly, Hyperion and A-EON have released a tool called RunInUAE, which lets you run .ADF files (the Amiga Disk Format for imaging old 3.5” floppy disks) in a customizable Amiga emulator, which includes all the old ROM and Workbench images for classic Amigas such as the 500 and 1200." I don't see the point.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My old accelerated A1200 went in the dumpster way back.

      Bad move. Depending on accelerator you could have gotten $2000 for it today.

      People who still keep their Amiga running today aren't interested in "a PC running an Amiga emulator" with the Amiga logotype stamped on it.
      This X5000 will likely go the same way the previous Amiga resurrection attempts have.

      There are two ways to use the Amiga brand successfully.
      The first one is to create peripherals to legacy Amiga, but that is a very limited market. (I assume that manufacturing new computers is a no-go since manuf

      • Actually, given how processes have shrunk over the last 2 decades, it would seem to me that one could implement an entire Amiga on an FPGA - CPU, maybe memory, IO ports, USB ports, et al. Put it all on 1 chip (or 2, if memory is separate), and put it on a board w/ the appropriate ports - USB, HDMI, et al. Then implement Amiga DOS on that computer itself, or have a hypervisor on which any number of Amiga VMs can run (depending on memory & configuration).

      • People want a box full of ASICs that won't scale up in the megahertz war. With each chip named after a girl, and with a huge body of arcana necessary to learn in order to manipulate and use said girly ASICs.

        Yes. Anything else is just a colorful wrapper around PC clone hardware.

    • ...I say let it die already! Fuck, it's literally over a decade since anybody genuinely gave a shit about a new Amiga. [...] I don't see the point.

      Consider this: the PPC chip it uses waaaay more open than any Intel or AMD chip and most motherboard subsystems are based on FPGAs and MCUs which are reprogrammable. This would make for a fine Linux or FreeBSD workstation.

    • by suso ( 153703 ) *

      ...I say let it die already!

      Heresy! This is Slashdot and every bit of Amiga news must be published to the front page until the slashdot.org domain finally expires. Its in the contract.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I'm currently repairing and rebuilding an A4000. It's a great machine for fun coding and retro games, but I can't really see why I'd want to just run it as a modern desktop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by amigabill ( 146897 )

      >> it's literally over a decade since anybody genuinely gave a shit about a new Amiga.

      Well, enough people gave enough of a *#^%@ to make a new computer...

      Enjoy your emulator. Let others enjoy their new computer. Why is this worth being so angry about?

    • Criticisms about these being pointless or impractical miss the point, in my opinion. These aren't for the general user wanting to browse the web and check Facebook, they're for hackers. They're for the same kind of geek that has an oscilloscope and a signal generator and a Raspberry Pi and breadboards: someone who likes to explore tech for its own sake. Somebody who wants to write new code for that custom Xena chip. Somebody who wants to explore off the beaten track. Seems cool, to me.
    • As somebody who isn't an Amiga fan, but was in the 90s when they were a thing, I have to say just get used to it. It is an odd-numbered year, so there will be some crappy thing that comes out and pretends to be an Amiga.

      Amiga died, so did Elvis. If I listen to an Elvis record, it is old music. If I want to use an Amiga, I'm using an old computer. The way to survive the changing world is to simply set these beliefs into stone. Elvis is not playing at the local bar on Saturday. Pink Floyd is not playing a sho

  • "Xena," an XMOS 16-core programmable 32-bit 500 MHz coprocessor that can be configured by software to act as any type of custom chip imaginable.

    But can it yodel?

  • We seem to be stuck in this nostalgia cycle. Trying to regain the spark of wonder of our youth. But it is time to realize things are different now, there has been a lot of progress however not all of it made the same set of trade offs we wanted but overall what we have now is better. We just don't realize the reason why when things were better when you were a kid is because your parents isolated you from the problems of the day. That Apple ][, Amega, Atari, Comadore 64, Amstrad... that you got as a kid m

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I was an adult when I bought my Amiga 1000. Your idea that "nostalgia" is because we were isolated by our parents from the problems of the day is pure nonsense.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Even if we try and do something *completely different* we would still require some kind of GUI system with windows, menus, pop-up dialogs, scroll bars, buttons, radio buttons. To support 3D graphics, we need some kind of drawing surface, and custom widgets to support access to the 3D hardware (EGL, WGL, GLX). Then we would need audio and video codecs, the 3D API's, OpenGL, Vulkan, Metal, DirectX. It would also have to support commodity hardware from $10 keyboards at Walmart to $500 gaming keyboards as well

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday May 27, 2017 @10:57AM (#54497493) Homepage

      I think all or at least most of us have this idealized desire for simpler lives and simpler times, up to a point. For example I recently went camping and there's a certain charm to the crackle of a fire instead of turning up the central heating. Does it really mean I'd like to chop my own firewood and use a wood stove all winter long? Not really. Where we went now there was very weak cell phone coverage but actually I consider the lack of it to be positive, then people have gone camping and the rest of the world is out of touch, we can't reach them and they can't reach us. Which would be a bad thing if there's some kind of real emergency, but some of my friends freak if they're out of touch. Or worse yet, their kids don't have their cell phone despite we all grew up without one.

      Playing the C64 is of course reliving some good memories from the past. But it's also sort of a reminder that it didn't take super high-end photo realistic graphics, sound, AI or whatever to have fun. But at the end of the day I'd rather watch a BluRay than a DVD or VHS. It's fun as long as you're doing just the fun parts, just like say medieval reenactments put on the show and splendor. Not the unclean water, food poisoning, rats and pests, infections and plagues, all the peasants and servants slaving all day long to support the relatively little glamour there was. We cherry pick, I mean I can play an Amish for a while but if I get really sick then I want to get to a 2017 hospital to see a 2017 doctor.

      And that's why I think it's pretty harmless, we want to relive certain aspects but we don't really want to go back. My job would be practically impossible with 1980s tech, it just didn't exist. What was out there was paper records, there was no network infrastructure to collect it and even if there was we'd barely have the processing power without vast halls of computers at our disposal. I'm not a fool about what we have today. At the same time, I realize society now so specialized that my skills are an increasingly narrow slice where other people make sure everything else around me is operational. I understand the people who want to say buy a little farm and feel like this is my flour, my eggs, my meat... mine just magically appears in the grocery store.

    • You seem to be of the opinion that something wonderful diminishes with age. A phonograph is no less fascinating just because it's been around for 100+ years. It's still fun to marvel at a needle scraping across a groove and producing sound. A discrete transistor (or vacuum tube) is no less fascinating just because it has been around for decades and you can buy them by the billion on a single chip - it's still fun to construct circuits with discrete transistors and explore the behavior. This list is nearly i

    • Absolutely agree. I often watch recordings of shows that I watched as a kid, on YouTube. On my iPad I now have a collection of Korg synthesizers. I could never have afforded them when I was younger (and can't play keyboard anyway), but no I can mess about with them when the mood takes me. All for a few pounds. Trouble is, the price of this computer is way to high to be an impulse buy.
    • Actually, it meant saving up for months and deciding not to get something else I wanted for myself... but hey, parents are different all over the world...

    • Hooked up my old Amiga 500 last weekend for the first time in over a decade (was cleaning up the attic). When I looked at the games, the sound and the performance that machine had back in the late 80s, they were well ahead of the game.
      Also, you had to respect the whole scene, with BBS's, crackers, etc... Learning some Assembler to crack a game in your teens, calling boards internationally (pre-internet era) and setting up some networks. Those were some serious skills.
      My nostalgia goes more into the sense o
  • Surely it's from the more-money-than-sense-dept?

  • The AmigaOne X-series has been available for years now (and it has been more or less dead for years outside the hardcore AmigaOS circles due to the price). This is just the latest version.

    I've been an Amiga user for almost 30 years now and I'd love to have one, but not at that lolprice.
  • by DrYak ( 748999 ) on Saturday May 27, 2017 @08:34AM (#54496931) Homepage

    From the Ars article :

    and the PC managed just four colors and monotone beeps

    Huh ? Nope.

    Yes, Amiga's capabilities were incredibly impressive (closer to an expensive arcade machine, than to home computer) (though they came at a price).

    But PCs weren't as shitty as that.

    By 1985, when then Amiga was launched, PC had a little bit more capabilities than that :
    - The original PC (1981)'s CGA card can also output 16 colours (but at a lower resolution of 160x200, and required a bit of hacking(*), so it wasn't much used. Though Sierra Online massively used it on the CGA composite-output of all their games back then).
    - The PCjr (1984)'s CGA+ card had 16 colors mode (320x200).
    - The Tandy PC (1984)'s TGA card 16 colors mode too (320x200)
    - The IBM's own EGA (1984, again) managed 16 colours at various resolution

    So the PC was beyond 4 colors. Although, yes, Amiga's 32 with fully programmable palette (and even more hackability) where much more impressive.

    Regarding sound :
    - The original PC Speaker is PWM (Pulse-Width momdulation capable). So it can in theory play digitized sounds.
    In practice, it doesn't have DMA, so it's the main CPU's job to push the samples one by one, so usually it's not possible to do much at the same time.
    (And given the low memory, it wasn't even possible to have more than the speech in RAM)
    Thus it was mostly used to do speech synthesis in small tools, and only for the title screen music in games. (I only have the 1987's example of Mach3, I can't manage to find a 1985 contemporary example).

    - The PCjr and Tandy started a boom of special audio devices.
    Their was rather simple (multiple channels - 4 - of beeps and boops, with volume control - making also software controller sound envelope usable by some games).
    But it paved the way to later introduction of better audio (1987's adlib, creative music system, ibm music feature, etc.)
    - (of notice: Roland was also making a MIDI interface since 1984 - the MPU-PC. But back then that one was exclusively used for professional music.
    It was only the arrival of Roland's MT-32 in 1987 that sparked the massive use in games starting in 1988 by - again - Sierra).

    So please, the PC's beeps and boops weren't motone - it was either speech (with static screen) or the first arrival of multi channel beeps and sound envelopes.
    But yeah, Amigas, having a dedicated chip able to handle 4 channels of digital audio while leaving the main CPU free was an incredible jump forward in sound capabilites, only reached on PC with arrival of Gravis UltraSound and SoundBlaster AWE 32 (and until that, previously emulated with software mixing on older Sound Blasters).

    Note:

    All the above (recently arrived IBM PC's EGA, and IBM PCjr, etc.) where a bit expensive machines.
    (The PCjr was negatively compared to contemporary 8bit home computers like C64)

    But given the crazy expensive Amiga's introductory price, it's a valid comparison.

    ---
    (*) That's with the official hacks published by IBM back then.
    Of course modern demo maker have found way to take the original IBM PC hardware To infinity and beyond [pouet.net]
    (thousands of colors by creatively hacking the composite output).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      PC's were as shitty as that...

      On my A1000 I could listen to mods, while copying files, and writing a term paper at the same time all in a graphical, full-color windowed user interface. No stuttering between windows and apps. The only limiting factor seemed to be how much RAM I could afford.

      And depending on the video mode the Amiga was capable of 32,64, or 4096 colors. Orders of magnitude more than the PC.

      All (certainly Most) we making use of the technology.

      All of this changed fairly quickly once soundblaste

      • by DrYak ( 748999 )

        PC's were as shitty as that...

        Worse than Amiga ? yes.

        But not as bad as described.
        Again, PCs contemporary to the Amiga where able to 16 colors palette (still less than Amiga's 32 colours, but more than the 4 reported by Ars).

        On my A1000 I could listen to mods, while copying files, and writing a term paper at the same time all in a graphical, full-color windowed user interface. No stuttering between windows and apps.

        Which has more to do with the very nice AmigaOS with very nice support for multi-tasking.
        Meanwhile on PCs (contemporary processor : Intel 286 on PC/AT) you had to use DOS (single-tasking) or Windows (not that brillant ad multi-tasking).

        Though CPU helped a bit :
        motorola 68k 32bits/16bits hybrid featured in Amiga wer

    • There's more to CGA than that too. When used with a composite video output games could exploit the namesake of NTSC (that is Never Twice the Same Colour) to create artefacts that actually produced quite fantastic graphics (compared to 4 colour CGA) with a wide range of colours in 320x240 mode with 16 possible colours on the screen at once out of a palate of 64 possible colours (in 4 groups).

      The only problem is single pixels with contrast got blurred which made reading text very difficult in these modes.

      • There's more to CGA than that too. When used with a composite video output games could exploit the namesake of NTSC (that is Never Twice the Same Colour) to create artefacts that actually produced quite fantastic graphics (compared to 4 colour CGA)

        Yup, one of the official methods to get more colors relied on the NTSC color clash.
        This one was massively used by Sierra Online (lots of their CGA games used 16 colors on NTSC composite out - nearly all of the AGI text adventure game did)

        The other one (working with RGB monitors too) and more or less officially documented, relied on the text mode.
        The CGA is switched in 80x25 mode (640x200 pixels).
        Text lines are compressed vertically until each caracter line covers only 1 or 2 pixels. (displaying 100 or 200 t

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday May 27, 2017 @10:33AM (#54497403) Homepage Journal

      Someone old enough to remember the original PC here. CGA was not a standard feature; the base model (which most people had) used something called MDA (Monochrome Display Adapter), which supported text output only without any pixel-addressable graphics. Figures were "drawn" on the screen with special glyphs added to the 8 bit character set, allowing you to draw boxes around menus and the like by an ascii-art like process.

      Almost nobody got CGA on the PC. Everyone opted for MDA because it was cheaper, there was't really any software that used color effectively, and monochrome monitors were cheaper and much, much sharper. On the output side graphics capable printers were very, very low quality (think 8 bit), and almost exclusively monochrome. The first kind of office printer most people got was something called a "daisy wheel" -- which produced output similar to an old-fashioned typewriter because essentially that's what it was.

      So CGA for practical purposes might as well not have existed. When Lotus 1-2-3 came along, the need for plotting drove the adoption of a proprietary monochrome graphics technology called "Hercules Graphics Adapter", which was much, much more popular than CGA ever was. It wasn't until IBM introduced VGA as standard in its PS/2 line that color became a common feature.

      As a side note, even then sound wasn't a standard feature on personal computers. The most they could do was beep. You had to add a proprietary sound card to get anything more. This is why Macintosh became common in schools. As a developer you could count on every Mac having the same set of very rudimentary capabilities. As a school administrator, you just unboxed the thing and fed it floppies; there was no opening the case and installing optional boards that had to have their address and interrupt vectors chosen by the user and configured by jumpers.

      • When Lotus 1-2-3 came along, the need for plotting drove the adoption of a proprietary monochrome graphics technology called "Hercules Graphics Adapter", which was much, much more popular than CGA ever was.

        Where I worked, CGA systems outsold MDA systems by at least 5 to 1, and HGA was vanishingly rare. When the AT came out, EGA pretty much took away the need to have anything else until VGA came along. We even sold a few PGA systems to a couple of architectural firms.
      • Someone old enough to remember the original PC here. CGA was not a standard feature; the base model (which most people had) used something called MDA (Monochrome Display Adapter), which supported text output only without any pixel-addressable graphics. {...} Almost nobody got CGA on the PC.

        Fun because on this side of the ocean, CGA was quite widespread, and as soon as EGA was realeased by IBM, we started also seeing it here around.
        (Maybe differences in buying power between countries ?)

        The thing which *was* rarer here was composite output : local colors standards where PAL and SECAM (depending on country, but most TV where dual standard).
        Not that many TV monitors did support NTSC too, meaning that TV-output wasn't trivial with the CGA's composite out.
        So most often it was either monochrome moni

      • Yep, I had a Hercules compatible graphics card in my first PC compatible computer. But something you forgot to mention is the EGA card. It was the real reason nobody bought CGA. It was a step up from CGA, but not as advanced as VGA which came later. Gamers wanted EGA and they drove the market for color PCs. CGA was never really good enough to make it worthwhile to invest in a color monitor, but EGA was essential for gaming.
    • a lot compared to a PC and the PC didn't come down until years later (when the P166 MMX got released. I remember it because it killed off what little was left of the Amiga & Atari ST market when you could suddenly get a P166 MMX with 16 megs of ram for around $999).

      There's an amazing video on youtube of a 286 gaming PC [youtube.com] being put through it's paces. It's impressive as heck what it could do until you realize there's about $5k of hardware there compared to a $1k Amiga.
    • I think the biggest thing the Amiga offered was a 14.32 MHz system clock, which was exactly 4x the NTSC color burst frequency, which made it easy and cheap to produce genlock interfaces and otherwise do things with video that previously cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Both the CPU and custom chips were clocked at 7.16 MHz, with the CPU and custom hardware being given alternate clock cycles, so the CPU could usually run at full speed while the custom chips did their thing with very little handholdi
    • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

      Even the Atari 400/800/XL/XE series, which inspired the Amiga later and was designed by a lot of the team, outclassed PC's in graphics and sound for all practical purposes until EGA and the Adlib was a reality. Granted, it was at lower resolutions but ANTIC/GTIA beat CGA for gaming in almost every meaningful way and was far more programmable.

      PC's of the early to mid-80's were pure shit except as a replacement for CP/M boxes running business software like spreadsheets and WordStar.

    • But given the crazy expensive Amiga's introductory price, it's a valid comparison.

      It was a couple of hundred bucks cheaper than the IBM and blew it the hell out of the water, how was the price crazy?

      • But given the crazy expensive Amiga's introductory price, it's a valid comparison.

        It was a couple of hundred bucks cheaper than the IBM and blew it the hell out of the water, how was the price crazy?

        I'm pretty sure I paid around $1500 for my Amiga 1000 and 1081 monitor back in 1985. It definitely outperformed comparably priced PC clones of the same era. The CPI inflation calculator says that equates to $3365 in 2017--more than enough to buy a gaming machine that would play everything in 4K.

        • I'm pretty sure I paid around $1500 for my Amiga 1000 and 1081 monitor back in 1985.

          That sounds about right. But that's also the base price for an IBM PC-1!

    • It's possible to do everything you mentioned, but reality was different in 1985. Minimum hardware requirements for most games was still an 8088 PC @ 4.77Mhz (mediocre performance, 8-bit bus), and the slower IBM PCjr (no DMA chip to do RAM refresh). 286 PCs weren't yet cheap, and the new 386 CPU was super expensive (it was a huge improvement over the 80286).

      I think most PCjr games used stock 160x200x16 resolution (320x200x16 required extra RAM). Tandy 1000 users sadly got same PCjr graphics, 16-color CGA (TV

  • What a pity Apple discontinued OS X Leopard some years ago.

  • Add in the ability to add an Intel processor and the XENA emulate all the Mac ROMs; as well as run Windows. Then you might just have a machine with wider appeal, especially if you could get better than Mac Pro perfomance at 2/3 or less cost.
  • I've met people who spare no expense when it comes to collecting every last oddball computer made over the last 30+ years. It's a legit and pretty cool bobby. This is definitely a fly-by-night, single faint blip on the radar, oddball computer. While I can't think of a single practical use for this machine, I imagine it will make its way into the personal computer museums of a few folks.
  • A ZX Spectrum revived with an embedded tape recorder?
    • by minus9 ( 106327 )

      Nope, with an SD card. You'll need to supply your own tape recorder:

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1835143999/zx-spectrum-next [kickstarter.com]
      • Neat. These are similar specs to what I want in a "new" Amiga: Original chipset on an FPGA, modern storage, display and audio outputs, similar (but I don't care about IDENTICAL) case and form factor. Price within "expensive hobby" range - people pay a few hunderd bucks for gold clubs, camera lenses, graphics card etc. There should be enough margin in that range to build what I describe.

        Nice to have: The ability to plug in original peripherals; graphics addons like scandoubling, CRT lookalike modes, a mix of

    • A Tape Recorder emulator made out of a Windows 10 laptop that you plug into your ZX Spectrum.

      There may be an app for that in the Windows App Store.

    • Actually I've heard you can just hook a cable from the audio jack of a music player device to the ZX Spectrum to and load software from an MP3 music file or whatever. It's kinda bloated but it works.

  • ...but I loved it because at the time (in the late 80's) it really was better, especially for graphics and multitasking capability than all the competition, upto and including PCs.

    In short the original was forward-looking and broke new ground. It also had a great community around it. This new Amiga brings nothing new, is twice as expensive and half as powerful as a good PC, and the AMiga community is effectively dead. Even I can't see any point to buying this, especially at this crazy price.

    If you really wa

    • The Xena chip sounds quite interesting, and I can think of a lot of uses for it, especially with the ability to add more of them. Problem is, I don't think it sounds like $1,800 worth of "interesting". If there were some kind of guarantee that Xena would be well supported and that parts would remain available for a while, it'd make it more appealing. As it is, I don't have a lot of confidence that the company will be around for the long term. Also, it would help if their forum link went to a site with a
      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        I'd much rather buy a PCIe card with a bunch of Xenas on, (i.e. for hardware emulation at speed, think augmented MAME) than buy an Amiga.

        • That's an option too. A PC with a number of Xenas might be quite useful, but I just don't see people lining up for a new Amiga, especially at that price.
  • ..unfortunately introducing a new desktop platform at this point is like introducing a new way to manufacture candles. They're fighting the last war. These days the most common use of a desktop is to access your browser, your email and your office suite (and that's assuming you're not already using a web based office suite and email client). Pretty much any desktop will do. (Come to think of it, I haven't used a desktop in over a decade, is there going to be a laptop version?)

    The point is, the action isn't

  • BIOS remains resident after you boot and its routines can be called by an operating system as a Basic Input-Output System. U-Boot initializes a minimal number of things, loads a kernel, ramdisk and dtb, and jumps into the kernel. Once the kernel is loaded it can't access any routines from U-Boot (nor would it want to).

  • Always thought the Amiga was a zombie. Itttttt's baaaaack! (Show girl turning her head completely around)

  • Contrary to the article, Amiga On the Lake is NO LONGER a reseller of A-EON products as indicated here [amigaonthelake.com].

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