Commodore exhibition to show off rare Amiga prototypes

TR: What's going to be happening in the event's games zone?

BB: We're trying to put together a selection of 500s, 600s, 1200s and CD-32s in a special area where people can explore the videogames history of the Amiga. We're working with Dan from the LemonAmiga forums. He's been giving me pointers about what the best games are and getting things setup. My goal is to have two Amiga 1200s running, each with four joysticks on large 40-inch screens running Super Skidmarks.

There's been talk of trying to organise a Sensible Soccer tournament, but the reality is that the crowd that's coming to Silicon Valley for this event are the people who built the Amiga. Coders not gamers, in general. There was a quote from Spencer Shanson, who worked on the AGA graphics for Commodore till 1993, where he said that he was amazed Amiga 3.0 was released because everybody was playing Lemmings! At the event we're going to have over 30 systems in as a main historical display honouring Dave Morse, who was one the main business person on the original Amiga team.

We've been working very hard to get these systems up and running, cleaning them using Retrobright, which was an invention of the English Amiga board. We've also been getting monitors installed, software and adding period-specific and interesting accessories. The Amiga 1000 is going to have the X-Specs 3D Stereoscopic Glasses. The X-Specs games employ tricks using LCD shutters to shift which eye can see the screen to make it look 3D.

I'm also hoping to have the Mandala software running on the Live! board – that was a serious chore and a lot of work trying to get that running. I have a crew of volunteers, around 10 or 15 people, working their butts off on the weekends and more, cleaning this stuff to get it prepared and ready so that we can set it up quickly and get started.

TR: How have you funded the event?

BB: Through Kickstarter and sponsors. We started off with a modest goal of getting around $20,000, which was for a banquet only. Sponsors then stepped up and asked us what they could do for a two day event, so we talked it through, worked out the numbers then decided to shoot for the moon and go for a full two-day exhibition. Funding-wise it's a little tighter than preferred, but I think we're still able to pull it off.

TR: Is there any money to be made in Amiga hardware these days?

BB: There is, but you have to be very shrewd. Jens Schoenfeld is an excellent example of that. He's a hardware hacker from Germany who's at Individual Computers. He makes hardware for the Amiga line including the 1200, 600, 500 because there's a ready market. He has video adapters, memory and accelerator cards, all using modern tech in the manufacturing process. He recently announced a fascinating Amiga reborn project where he's re-implementing an Amiga motherboard.

TR: I was surprisd to see a high-end Amiga with an AMD Radeon GPU the other day!

BB: That's the Amiga X1000, which is work by Trevor Dickinson. He has a huge collection of systems in his house in New Zealand. He started the company A-EON, funded it and has been selling the product. It's a bold statement. I spend a lot of time on IRC and go to the usergroup meetings, and a lot of people love them. They've very stable and run AmigaOS 4 – it's the fastest Amiga you can buy. It's a hobby for sure. He's one of the speakers at the event. A-EON will have a booth there and he'll be speaking on the show floor on the Saturday and at the banquet that evening.

Commadore phone

Commadore recently unveiled a smartphone

TR: Will the modern incarnation of Commodore be there? I saw that there was a Commodore 64 smartphone launched recently.

BB: I don't know anything about that project, but I can speak historically. Commodore is now a name. It gets traded around – I have no idea who those people are. As far as I know there's no real engineering behind it, it's just pulling emulators. I could be proven wrong on the phone, but historically if you look at the long history of the Amiga, there's this idea that the Amiga community is a market that could be tapped.

There's been people who have tried to come in with products going after that space, but they've not put the effort in that has made it worthwhile. I'm not going to buy one – I have no interest in that device at all.

There's another guy out of New York who did a similar thing. He got the legal rights to the Commodore name and tried to build a PC inside a Commodore 64-styled case. I don't think the business models are very well set. From my perspective, on the outside, it doesn't seem to go very far.

TR: Do you think the Amiga gets the credit it deserves in the gaming world? Games such as Superfrog and Alien Breed have been re-mastered recently…

BB: The PS4 had Putty Squad redone as a platformer too. As part of that they gave away the Amiga version that was never released in 1994, which was interesting. Talking about X-Specs and drawing a straight line through history, we're also going to have a very cool technology called CastAR involved at the event. CastAR is a 3D augmented reality system where multiple people can interact with the same virtual 3D world projected in front of them onto a tabletop. The technology is incredible. It is amazing to me to see the relationship to X-Specs type technology, 30 years later.

Kane Fulton
Kane has been fascinated by the endless possibilities of computers since first getting his hands on an Amiga 500+ back in 1991. These days he mostly lives in realm of VR, where he's working his way into the world Paddleball rankings in Rec Room.