by Eric Schwartz
from the AmiTech Gazette, September 2012
I'm writing my column from my MorphOS Powerbook this month, more for the sake of giving the machine something to do than anything else. I suspect I'll find more to do with it once improved support for the internal video hardware and wireless networking come about... at least I certainly hope so.
There have been at least a few bits of news in the Amiga-and-friends world over the last month or so. In a slightly sad bit of news, Sony has closed its Liverpool game development studio. If this doesn't mean much to you, it might under the studio's previous name: Psygnosis. Psygnosis was one of, if not THE superstar game company on the Amiga back in the day, with their slickly-packaged games that had more in common with record albums than computer software. The company was one of the first to really showcase the Amiga's graphic capabilities in games, going beyond Atari ST ports and basic functional art into full eye-candy territory. Sometimes substance was sacrificed over style (perhaps pioneering the modern era of games where graphics and effects frequently trump quality gameplay), but that's not to say they were all like that. The Amiga book "The Future Was Here" gives Psygnosis a lot of credit for being among the first to really push the Amiga hardware to its limits in games such as "Shadow of the Beast," giving the machine its reputation for being a top gaming computer for several years. The book also credits the DMA/Psygnosis hit game "Lemmings" for helping pioneer the more fun, forgiving, and thoughtful style of gaming which would become a staple of a million different phone and tablet-based game apps. Psygnosis did plenty after their Amiga-centric years and with their acquisition by Sony -- the futuristic "Wipeout" racing game series being a big one -- but their influence on gaming from the Amiga years will make an impact for a long time.
Hot on the heels of MorphOS 3.x, Hyperion announced the availability of Amiga OS 4.1 release 5. There are the usual updates, bug fixes, improvements, and optimizations. Of interest is a driver for the Catweasel hardware to give direct support for certain Amiga and Commodore hardware, like floppy disk drives. Also included is improved Amiga 680xO software support, with a full 3.1 installation, including ROM files. I'm not sure if there's an emulator like UAE included as well, but including these ROMs and support files certainly aid in emulation regardless. I keep looking at OS4. Perhaps some day that rumored OS4 netbook will come out, and I'll have a new OS to play with.
Another recent update is the 1.6.2 version of AmiKit. For those unfamiliar, AmiKit is a large compilation of software, to create as modern and complete an Amiga setup as possible. To that end, it's aimed primarily toward Amigas emulated on PCs through UAE or Amiga Forever. It's possible to run much of the included software on "real" Amigas, though without the benefit of high-powered PC hardware, it might run too slowly to be worth the effort. If you've got the time and the hardware, you might want to check it out at http://amikit.amiga.sk.
Finally, a new (old) video has surfaced recently on the YouTubes. The video comes from the nineties, and documents the role Amiga computers played at NASA during that time. Contrary to popular assumption, the systems were not for video or graphic applications, but for processing, relaying, and displaying spacecraft telemetry and other data in real time. According to the video, the Amiga was ideal for its low overhead operating system, and easy access to hardware documentation. You should be able to find the video yourself by searching for "Amiga" and "NASA" on YouTube, but I'll bring along a copy to the meeting for anyone who would like to view it. I'll see you there!