Tom R, Halfhill, Editor
Commodore sprang a few surprises when it officially announced the Amiga in late July. For one thing, there's an option to make the Amiga compatible with most programs written for the IBM PC-an option that requires no additional hardware.
Commodore has revealed the missing link.
Its new Amiga personal computer already is reaping praise from industry analysts and journalists as the most innovative machine introduced in years (see "The Amiga: An In-Depth Review," COMPUTE!, September 1985). However, as with all new computers that break with existing technology, it could take a year or more before the Amiga accumulates an extensive software library.
But Commodore appears to have solved that problem with a single stroke. On July 23, when it formally unveiled the Amiga to a crowd of several hundred people at a gala media event in New York's Lincoln Center, Commodore announced that an option will make the Amiga software-compatible with the popular IBM PC and its huge base of commercial programs. Although this had been rumored for months, the method of achieving this compatibility was the real surprise-the Amiga will emulate the IBM PC entirely in software. In other words, it won't be necessary to add an expansion board containing an 8088 and support chips to emulate the IBM PC. Instead, Amiga users will simply load an emulation program that replaces the Amiga's proprietary operating system with PC-DOS to make the Amiga act like an IBM. This was demonstrated in New York when an engineer loaded the PC emulator from a 3 ½-inch disk, then booted PC-DOS from a standard 5 ¼-inch IBM disk on an external drive (the 5 ¼-inch drive is optional). The Amiga's graphics-oriented operating system disappeared, and the screen displayed the usual PCDOS startup message:
The IBM Personal Computer DOS
Version 2.10 (C)Copyright IBM Corp 1981, 1982, 1983
After inserting another 5 ¼-inch disk and typing "lotus" at the DOS prompt, the engineer demonstrated a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. The Amiga screen even looked like an IBM monochrome screen.
The technical feat of emulating the IBM PC entirely in software is best appreciated by advanced programmers and engineers, but can be likened to playing a record on a tape deck. It seems almost impossible, and even some people who witnessed the demonstration have doubts that the Amiga can emulate the PC at a speed comparable to a real PC.
Nevertheless, Commodore's engineers maintain it has been done, and that the PC emulator will be available within a month after the Amiga's launch in September. No price for the emulator was announced, but Commodore says it chose the software method to keep costs down. The only hardware involved is the 5 ¼-inch drive, and one engineer told COMPUTE! that even that accessory might be unnecessary since some PC programs can be loaded from 3 ½-inch disks sold for the Data General One, a PC-compatible portable computer.
According to Commodore, the emulator isn't memory-hungry, either. It consumes about 40K of RAM, not counting video memory. Still, to run large PC programs such as Lotus 1-2-3, Commodore will probably advise users to expand the Amiga's standard 256K RAM to 512K (a $200 option).
Another surprise revealed July 23 was the Amiga's memory configuration. Commodore originally planned to locate the Amiga's large operating system, called Intuition, in 192K of ROM. Then, to make it easier to fix bugs and release the computer on time, Commodore said the first Amigas would load Intuition from disk, consuming about half of the 256K user RAM. Now Commodore has a better solution: The standard Amiga will have 512K of RAM, but half will be dedicated to storing Intuition. Called the Writeable Control Store, this extra bank of 256K RAM is writeprotected immediately after the operating system is loaded. Commodore says even a system reset won't interfere with it. In effect, the Writeable Control Store acts like 256K of ROM, except that Intuition must be loaded from disk again after the computer is powered off. As a result, the entire 256K of user RAM is available for programs.
The Writeable Control Store won't be counted as system RAM; the standard $1,295 Amiga will still be advertised as a 256K computer, even though it really contains 512K. Later, when Commodore is certain that Intuition is fully optimized (critical parts are being rewritten from compiled C into machine language), the Writeable Control Store will be eliminated and replaced with ROM. This will allow nearly instant startups, because Intuition won't have to be loaded from disk. Commodore hasn't yet said whether early Amiga owners will be able to upgrade to a ROM-based operating system later.
Kathy Yakal, Feature Writer
Here is a list of software announced so far for the Amiga. Prices are included where available:
Archon: Unique chess game, using wizards and dragons instead of traditional pieces. Unusual game play is enhanced by 3-D effects. (Electronic Arts, 2755 Campus Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403.)
Dèjá Vu: A Nightmare Come True: A graphics/ text adventure in the genre of a 1940s movie mystery. The Amiga's windowing ability lets the player see several parts of the story simultaneously. ($54.95; Mindscape, Inc., 3444 Dundee Road, Northbrook, IL 60062.)
Dr. J & Larry Bird Go One-on-One: Realistic graphics and sound highlight simulated basketball action between the two athletes. (Electronic Arts.)
Marble Madness: Translation of the arcade game. (Electronic Arts.)
Radar Raiders: A graphics- and sound-rich flight simulator that lets the player control a highperformance jet aircraft, both in test pilot and combat game modes. (Developed by Sublogic Communications Corporation and marketed by Amiga.)
Return to Atlantis: 3-D undersea adventure. (Electronic Arts.)
Sargon III: Chess game with nine levels of play and a library of 68,000 moves. (Hayden Software Company, 600 Suffolk Street, Lowell, MA 01854.)
Skyfox: Light combat simulation. (Electronic Arts.)
Zork I: The Underground Empire, Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz; Zork III: The Dungeon Masters; Enchanter; Sorcerer, Suspect; The Witness; Cutthroats; Deadline, Seastalker; Infidel; Planetfall; Suspended; Stareross; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The well-known series of alltext interactive fiction adventures. ($39.95-$49.95. Infocom, Inc., 125 Cambridge Park Drive, Cambridge, MA 02140.)
Languages And Utilities
ABasiC: A powerful BASIC interpreter designed to take full advantage of the Amiga's capabilities. (Developed by Metacomco, the British company that wrote AmigaDOS. Marketed by Amiga.)
Amiga Assembler/Linker: A Motorola-standard 68000 macroassembler with linker. (Developed by Metacomco and marketed by Amiga.)
Amiga Tutor: A step-by-step look at the Amiga's graphics capabilities and other major features. (Mindscape.)
Cambridge LISP 68000: Programming language designed for work in artificial intelligence. (Developed by Metacomco and marketed by Amiga.)
Lattice C Compiler: Allows software developed for other PC operating systems to run on the Amiga. (Lattice, Inc., P.O. Box 3072, Glen Ellyn, IL 60138.)
Lattice C Cross Compiler/IBM MS-DOS: Allows software developed for Amiga to run on IBM personal computers. (Lattice, Inc.)
Lattice C Cross Compiler/Unix: Allows software designed for the Amiga to run on Unix-type machines. (Lattice, Inc.)
Lattice C Cross Compiler/VAX: Allows software developed for the Amiga to run on VAX minicomputers. (Lattice, Inc.)
LMK: Software development tool similar to UnixMake. (Lattice, Inc.)
LSE: Screen editor; allows user to enter commands in several languages. (Lattice, Inc.)
MCC Pascal 68000: Single-pass compiler for software systems and utilities development. (Developed by Metacomco and marketed by Amiga.)
TMN: Software development tool for text management utilities. (Lattice, Inc.)
TLC-LOGO for the Amiga: A high-level programming language incorporating a LISP dialect. (Developed by The LISP Company and marketed by Amiga.)
Turbo PASCAL: High-speed compiler. (Borland International, 4585 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, CA 95066.)
CalCraft: A spreadsheet for the Amiga, featuring pull-down menus and flexible formatting options. (Developed by Synapse Software and marketed by Amiga.)
Deluxe Video Construction Set: Creates animated video with sound effects; accepts data from other Electronic Arts software. (Electronic Arts.)
Enable/Cale: Spreadsheet program with over 50 math functions and up to eight simultaneously active spreadsheet files in RAM. (The Software Group/Amiga, Northway Ten Executive Park, Ballston Lake, NY 12019.)
Enable/File: Database manager capable of handling up to 256 fields per record. (The Software Group/Amiga.)
Enable/The Office Manager: Integrated business package, including word processor, database manager, telecommunications, and graphics modules. (The Software Group/Amiga.)
Enable/Write: Word processor. (The Software Group/Amiga.)
Graphicraft: Graphics/paint package using 32 medium-resolution colors. (Developed by Island Graphics Corporation and marketed by Amiga.)
Harmony: Creates musical accompaniment, either through Amiga's internal sound or MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) instruments. (Developed by Cherry Lane Technologies and marketed by Amiga.)
Moviecraft: Animation package; uses "tweening" technique to animate without reading from disk. (Developed by Island Graphics and marketed by Amiga.)
Musicraft: Turns the Amiga into a four-voice synthesizer and sequencer; teaches music composition. (Developed by Everywhere, Inc. and marketed by Amiga.)
Presentationcraft: Business graphics package for creating 3-D objects, exploded and expanded bar and pie graphs. (Developed by Island Graphics Corporation and marketed by Amiga.)
RAGS to RICHES Ledger: Double-entry general ledger software for small businesses. (Developed by Chang Laboratories and marketed by Amiga.)
RAGS to RICHES Payables: Accounts payable software for small businesses. (Developed by Chang Laboratories and marketed by Amiga.)
RAGS to RICHES Receivables: Accounts receivable software for small businesses. (Developed by Chang Laboratories and marketed by Amiga.)
RAGS to RICHES Sales: A sales register program for point-of-sale income accounting; makes the Amiga function as a cash register. (Developed by Chang Laboratories and marketed by Amiga.)
Scorewriter: Enables user to score and print music. (Developed by Cherry Lane Technologies and marketed by Amiga.)
The Print Shop: Specialized graphics software, allowing user to design and print personalized greeting cards, invitations, letterheads, stationery, signs, and banners. (Brøderbund Software, Inc., 17 Paul Drive, San Rafael, CA 94903.)
Telecraft: Telecommunications software for Amiga. (Developed by Software 66.)
Textcraft: A word-processing program incorporating online tutorials and screen help for ease of use. (Developed by Arktronics and marketed by Amiga.)
The Halley Project: A realtime simulation of the solar system. Teaches about concepts like gravity, orbital motion, and navigation by the stars as players "travel" around the universe. ($49.95; Mindscape.)
Keyboard Cadet: Teaches touch typing. ($39.95; Mindscape.)
Seven Cities of Gold: An adventure game that helps teach geography and cartography; players are sixteenth-century conquistadors exploring the new world. (Electronic Arts.)
Penmouse Input Device: A cordless light pen with built-in power supply that functions as both a mouse and graphics tablet. (Kurta Corporation, 4610 S. 35th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85040.)
T-Card: Multifunction expansion card with up to one megabyte of memory; includes serial port, parallel printer port, and hard disk interface. (Tecmar, 6225 Cochran Road, Solon, OH 44139.)
T-Disk: 20-megabyte 3 1/2-inch hard disk drive. (Tecmar.)
T-Tape: 20-megabyte tape backup for hard disk; can be linked to Amiga through floppy interface port. (Tecmar.)
T-Modem: Hayes-compatible modem, switchable 300, 1200, and 2400 bits per second. (Tecmar.)