Amiga and Related News

by Eric Schwartz
from the AmiTech Gazette, August 2011

In the Amiga (and related) world, it's not every month you have something to report. According to reports seen on Amiga.org, another small handful of Natami boards is being produced for testers and developers. Presumably this is another small step toward an actual production run which will be available for sale. I've been interested in the Natami project since its inception, and would be willing to buy a system if it can deliver on its promise of advancement on the "classic" Amiga hardware design while maintaining backward compatibility, even at a hardware level. I'm a little skeptical of the claims, mainly because 100 percent backward compatibility never happens even on minimal updates to the same system, much less a major upgrade design by people not directly connected to the original Commodore engineers.

Even if Natami proves not to be to your or my liking, it may be possible to get your "new Amiga hardware" fix from the Minimig people. Minimig in its various incarnations keeps steaming along, with the high-end reaching into AGA, RTG, and 68060 functionality (though as I understand it, the CPU itself may need to be on its own card, rather than incorporated into the FPGA chip). Still, it will be possible to have a new clone of your old high-end Amiga system sooner or later, not surpassing the old specs like Natami (or the OS4 / MorphOS systems) but still potentially valuable. I don't know about you, but I still have software or uses for my Amiga that still requires the original hardware, or an adequate re-creation or emulation thereof, and it would be very nice to have a newer machine doing the same old things, without worrying about some decades-old component crapping out. While the newer, faster, systems and software are great in their own right, there will always be a place in my heart the older stuff.

I just got back into playing some of the older games like Datastorm again. On the software (and gaming) side of things, there are a few notables. Jeff Minter, famous Amiga game creator (and Atari, and Commodore, and Jaguar, and...) has turned his attention to the iOS handheld devices recently. What caught my attention is his iPhone/iPad game "Minotron 2112," itself a slight update on the Amiga/ST classic "Llamatron 2112" (which was also an update on the arcade classic "Robotron 2084"). Aside from some extra visual effects and the strange desire to make all the text look like it came from an Intellivision, it appears very familiar to fans of the 1991 original.

On the MorphOS front, there are two noteworthy ports available now. One is the CD/DVD burning program "Frying Pan," now available free and Morph-native. I haven't had the opportunity to check it out in detail, but it looks potentially quite valuable. Frying Pan was formerly commercial software now available free, but it is still possible to pay for your 'pan, if you are inclined to support the author. Another recent port is the game "Return to Castle Wolfenstein," for those who enjoy shooting up some Nazis. In the same mold as other ports like Doom, and the Quakes, you need to own a copy of the PC game, as the MorphOS version is just the main program, and the game data is installed from the game CD itself. Finally, there is yet another version of the OWB web browser, version 1.14. With the new version comes a name change, to "Odyssey"(or "Odyssey Web Browser," or "OWB"), and a continuing march, along with Netsurf and the Timberwolf project, to modern Internet viability for Amiga, Morph, AROS, and whatnot.

I suppose it has been a while since I have put together an editor column with mostly news as opposed to the usual editorial-slash-opinion piece. Don't go getting used to it, because I can't promise this much news every month.