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1998 - The Next Generation Amiga

Technical Specifications:
TOP SECRET processor
64MB RAM
2.1Gb Firewire Hard Drive
LS120 SuperFloppy
4.7Gb double sided Firewire DVD-ROM
Up to 1924 x 1280, 75hz @ scan 15KHz - 64KHz and
3D with 400 Million pixels/s, up to 8 million triangles/s
Fully AC-3 compatible surround, stereo 24 bit up to 96KHz
Scart, composite, SVGA, Audio in/out, firewire, USB, ECP
Parallel,serial, phone with 56k modem and ADSL

In September 1998 CU Amiga Magazine in its penultimate edition speculated on what the new Amiga would look like. Its design is remarkably similar to the Walker- black in colour with a moulded floppy drive and inset power lights, aimed it is believed at the set-top box market, complete with LCD display but doing its best not to look like a computer.

In April 1999, The Gateway subsidiary, Amiga Inc, announced that the next generation of the Amiga was scheduled to appear during the 4th quarter of 1999, and would be quite unlike any other Amiga to date, although exact details weren't available. Questions such as "What will the processor be?" , "How fast will it run?" and "Will it run existing Amiga programs?", never got answered, but let's look at some of the options.

  • First off, an announcement was made that the new Operating System would be based on top of the QNX nutrino, and since QNX ran on virtually every processors, and could easily be modified or rewritten to suit new processors as they are developed this kept the options open. Applications written specifically for the new OS would be written for the environment utilising the functions of the OS and QNX which means that assembler language programs (which need to be written in the language of the processor) would be discouraged (or even forbidden).The Next Generation Amiga could even be based on a number of processors.

  • The above development was chopped by Amiga Inc in July 1999 when they announced they would use Linux as the base OS and build their own GUI interface on top of that. The reason being that Linux already had a considerable following and device drivers were readily available, unlike the QNX option. This led to all kinds of speculation about the direction Amiga Inc were taking, including numerous references to Transmeta, and the mixed messages were becoming very confusing. In the end Amiga Inc announced they would stop making announcements and disappeared into a black hole, reappearing a short time later to announce that they had fired most of those involved in the project. So the speculation continued unabated, and morale crumbled away (yet again).

  • Even if the processor wasn't known, as far as processor speed went, it didn't really matter, because it would probably be possible to upgrade the processor at any time depending on cost and availability. The motherboards, which specify the bus speed (i.e. the speed at which data can be moved around internally) would be considerably faster than anything the Amiga, or any other personal computer for that matter, had previously. (Numerous references were made to being able to process three HDTV signals over the bus simultaneously. HDTV at that time was a new TV standard which was being developed utilising approximately 1000 lines compared to the current 625 lines on a conventional TV, and 16*9 aspect ratio (i.e. widescreen) compared to the conventional 4*3 aspect ratio. Given that most PC's had difficulty with one signal in conventional TV format, this represented a quantum leap in bus speed.)

  • Existing Amiga programs can already be run on PC's using Amiga emulation software, so it was almost certain that any new Amiga will be able to do this with ease, as well as emulate PC's, Macintoshes or whatever. However some programs which cheat the Operating System for performance or other reasons, or do not follow the programming guidelines set down by Commodore, might not work. On the other hand to expect any backward software compatibility with existing Amigas - unless someone writes a Next Generation emulator for existing machines (highly unlikely), it would be impossible for programs written for the Next Generation Amigas to run on existing Amigas.

  • So what were to be the advantages of the new Amigas. The advantages were listed on the Amiga Inc web site at the time and essentially represented the state of the art as far as current technology went, but at an affordable price, and even stretched the boundaries in some areas. Using the QNX methodology would have meant the new OS should be able to prevent any program from doing anything that it was not authorised to do, and could restrict processing to only authorised programs, which meant that it should have been possible to prevent viruses from infiltrating the system without the need for a virus checker, something which most PC owners affected by continuing virus attacks would envy.

  • The Next Generation Amiga may have died, but nobody had counted on the inmates taking over the asylum, thereby creating yet another new company and more ideals for the future of the Amiga.

Copyright 2005 Amiga Auckland Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 25, 2005.