How About Some Updated Amiga Software?

by Eric Schwartz
from the AmiTech Gazette, January 2020

Welcome back! It’s a new year, one that makes efficient use of only “2” and “0.” Will the new year be better than the last? It’s not exactly looking like it so far, given the national events we already know will be on the way over the coming months. It might be a tall expectation in the Amiga community as well, seeing how hardware and software developers have given the platform a bit more of a kick over the last year or two than we’ve seen in a good while, whether the first appearance of the standalone Vampire system or a new release of MorphOS with the potential for an X64 version to come.

It seems people are energized about the Amiga and its relatives more than in a long time, almost as if the community suddenly embraced its retro-hobbyist-enthusiast nature full-force, and stopped caring (or at least caring less) about who has a ‘true’ Amiga and who doesn’t, whether 68K legacy or OS4 or Vampire or MorphOS or emulation. Perhaps I’m over-simplifying things and not seeing the cracks in the facade, but regardless it’s the feel I’ve been getting lately.

With 2020 being the 35th birthday of the Amiga, or at least the release year of the A1000, I’m hoping to up my personal level of Amiga-ness this year and pop out a related creative project or two. I’m already using my Twitter account to post highlights and historical Amiga tidbits, under the hashtag #Amiga35Years . The year is just beginning, so I’m in prehistory as of this writing, covering the Consumer Electronics Show of 1984 and the Amiga “Lorraine” prototype shown there with the first Boing Ball demonstration. Hopefully 12 months is enough to cover most of Amiga history. We shall see.

This month’s meeting shall be held at the usual time and place, and I hope most of you can make it there. I hope to revisit the subject of Amiga emulation via the Raspberry Pi system. I’ve run into a few videos online which (I believe) gave me a few insights on what I might have been doing wrong previously, so hopefully the results will be better this time, assuming I can find the time to do the prep work I need to do. We might even have dueling emulations this month, as our Prez might bring in his own Pi system (a partial hand-me-down) with the same goal in mind. Be there or be square!

With all this talk of new developments for old and new Amiga-and-related systems, I can’t help but think how the software side of things is often neglected. It’s understandable, as much in this community is done by individuals and small groups working projects in what available free time they have away from their ‘day job,’ so new software tends to be smaller utilities, relatively easy ports from other systems, with the occasional ‘passion project’ thrown in.

There have been a few attempts to update older software—the buyout and updates for Personal Paint come to mind, such as they are. Sadly, the vast majority of Amiga software, especially in the productivity arena, falls under ‘abandon-ware’, even if we still use it to this day. I’d be ecstatic to see updates of these programs that take advantage of developments such as advanced graphics, or audio, or the CPU power afforded by a PowerPC or Intel/AMD or Vampire080. Part of the problem is that rights to old software is still held by the rights-holders, be they individuals or software companies, either of which might not be in existence today, and source code for the software might no longer be available as well. Pipedream as it may be, I can’t help but wish for those behind classic Amiga graphic, animation, or audio software to release their source code, and encourage the community to take the baton and run with it. Imagine a new version of Deluxe Paint or MovieSetter running at full speed in HD resolutions.

To give a more specific example, I’d wish for Newtek, who still exists for now, to release the code for the last Amiga version of Lightwave 3D, so it could be ported to PowerPC or another native code for a speed boost, use RTG high-resolution screens without using outside mode-promotion software, maybe add some openGL display support for something beyond a wireframe preview. Newtek might not be interested in doing so, as Lightwave is still active software on other platforms, though with the revisions they’ve had over the years, I’d imagine there’s not that much code in common with version 5 anymore. Still, a person can dream, even pipedream.

With this being the Amiga’s 35th birthday, perhaps we can work that little bit harder, and those remaining rights-holders and code-hoarders might be that little bit more charitable. Or perhaps I can eat a can of beans and fly to the moon. Either way, SOMETHING will happen in 2020, that much is certain.