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Historical Facts about Amiga Emulation and Performance of Amiga Hardware

 

TOPIC

During the year 2001 statements were issued about some just-released emulation software which was by some parties claimed to be the "fastest Amiga", "the most compatible Amiga", "the first Amiga with virtual memory" and "the first Amiga notebook". In a way that reminds us of Orwell's 1984, questionable marketing appears to be used in an attempt to change history and facts. Cloanto would like to hereby express its opinion.

 

DISCUSSION

The statements which were issued in the advertising, press releases, web sites, packaging and documentation of certain products, and which Cloanto considers to be factually incorrect, include:

  1. "This provides the first Amiga laptop that many users have been waiting for 16 years to see." ("Erstmals ist es nun möglich, einen PC-Laptop mit einem AmigaOS Betriebssystem zu installieren. Ein Fortschritt, den viele seit 16 Jahren erwarten.")
  2. "With the ... it is possible for the first time to transparently make virtual memory available for the AmigaOS." ("Mit dem ... ist es erstmals möglich, dem AmigaOS transparent virtuellen Speicher zur Verfügung zu stellen.")
  3. "The most powerful Amiga you can use now..."/"The most powerful Amiga you can use today..."/"The most powerful Amiga of all times"/"The fastest Amiga ever" ("Der leistungsfähigste Amiga, den man derzeit einsetzen kann..."/"Der leistungsfähigeste Amiga, den man derzeit einsetzen kann..."/"Der schnellste Amiga aller Zeiten" / "Der leistungsfähigste Amiga aller Zeiten")
  4. "The most powerful and compatible AMIGA you have ever seen!" ("Der schnellste und kompatibelste Amiga den sie je gesehen haben!")
  5. " The most functional Amiga ever" ("Der funktionellste Amiga aller Zeiten")

Cloanto trusts that these texts were written and disseminated in good faith, most likely by individuals and organizations who were new to Amiga emulation. Nevertheless, because of the potential for confusion among users, and the possible disruption of fair competition in an already challenged market, on October 22, 2001, Cloanto asked the issuers of the statements to kindly issue prompt corrections.

Amiga Forever made Amiga emulation legal and officially accepted in 1997, allowing it to evolve and prosper. The Amiga emulation and operating system software included in Amiga Forever were recognized even by the Gateway/Amiga companies as an Amiga computer, and were authorized to carry their "Powered by Amiga" logo. Amiga Forever made it possible to everybody, from Amiga users, to developers, to senior Gateway/Amiga management, to enjoy both the power of virtual memory ("transparently made available to the Amiga OS") and the freedom of using the Amiga operating system and software on a notebook computer. Since all of this took place in 1997, claims that such features were first introduced in 2001 cannot be valid.

For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that even before 1997 small projects resulting in more or less finished portable Amiga computers which combined Amiga motherboard hardware with an LCD display and a custom case were known to exist, and were often displayed at Amiga shows. Also, Amiga utility programs which provided a certain degree of support for virtual memory to the Amiga operating system and applications were distributed before 1997.

On the side of performance, without even considering that statements such as "The most powerful Amiga you can use today" were issued several months before the product being described was actually released to the public (on or about October 20, 2001), little thought seems to have been given to another very powerful member of the Amiga family, the PowerPC CPU, which at least until the year before was being promoted using the slogan "The real speed is Warp speed!", and  which was still officially supported as an Amiga CPU in the "Amiga OS 3.5" and "Amiga OS 3.9" packages.

Cloanto has been a supporter of the PowerPC architecture and one of very few beta sites worldwide for certain (non-Amiga) PowerPC products before that CPU even was mentioned as a possible Amiga CPU. When, in May 1997, Cloanto published native PowerPC Amiga versions of some of its Personal Paint libraries on both Aminet and on the Personal Paint 7.1 CD-ROM, it became the first to do so (not counting development tools). Even assuming that the PowerPC hardware for the Amiga did not evolve, as it did, benchmarks using popular programs such as MPEG video players and other CPU-intensive code running on the same 200 MHz PowerPC CPUs that were available in 1997 (but using 2001 PowerPC software) indicate that the native PowerPC code is at least twice as fast as the same code compiled for the 68K CPU and then running, using a CPU released in 2001, in the emulation referred to as the "most powerful Amiga of all times". If even a 1997 Amiga is twice as fast as "the most powerful Amiga" of 2001 we cannot but wonder if maybe by "power" something other than speed was meant. Could that be the power of... marketing?

Comparing emulation with emulation on the same hardware, even assuming that the statement "the most powerful and compatible" refers to one and the same program (and host operating system), which it apparently does not (QNX seems to be used as a host for "compatibility", while a stripped-down GNU/Linux is preferred for "power"), and assuming that the "most powerful" software actually runs at all (on most computers tested by Cloanto it failed to even boot the Amiga), during a public benchmark conducted at the Pianeta Amiga 2001 show it became evident that the emulation software for Windows as included in Amiga Forever performed the same CPU-intensive tasks in the same 21-22 second range as "the fastest Amiga ever" did. Additional tests involving intense DirectX graphics activity demonstrated the superior power and compatibility of the software included in Amiga Forever.

While it is always very possible that benchmarks be chosen and/or tweaked to favor one or the other package, we believe that when one of the two packages consistently fails to even start on the same PC hardware on which the other package runs smoothly, this casts strong doubts not only about its performance, which inevitably falls to zero, but also on statements such as the "most compatible" and "most functional".

Cloanto first tested the release version of the "the most powerful and compatible" package on a variety of computers, which all were capable of running Amiga Forever, and which included a ThinkPad A21p, a ThinkPad 760 ED, an Asus P2B motherboard with Matrox Millennium AGP graphics card and SoundBlaster Live! sound card, and notebooks and PCs by Siemens and Compaq. On the first four computers the software either failed to even boot from CD, or produced scaring random noise on screen, or kept animating a bouncing ball (an interesting variation on the Amiga "forever" theme), or refused to start in anything other than text mode (not very useful, since even the first Amiga had bitmapped graphics). On the fifth computer the software did not recognize the mouse and keyboard (USB), and therefore was unusable. An Amiga without mouse and keyboard... another "first"? (No, of course: the CD³² was the first Amiga without mouse and keyboard.)

Probably as a a result of incompatibilities like the above-mentioned ones several resellers had to resort to selling complete PCs with carefully chosen components, so that "the most compatible Amiga" would actually work. However PCs are designed to be expanded, and when a handful of developers has to keep up with the work of thousands of programmers who write drivers for new PC peripherals and standards mostly designed for Windows, what are the chances of compatibility with whatever components one may wish to add to such a computer? How can a system which was released without even support for a USB mouse or keyboard give peace of mind about compatibility with the latest graphics or sound card, or that other exciting gadget which may be released tomorrow?

About the last statement, that of the "most functional Amiga", Cloanto is not sure what it was meant to mean. From the point of view of drivers, the software associated with this vague claim is certainly less "functional" than an emulation which has access to the wealth of Windows drivers. If it doesn't support a certain notebook, or display card, or wireless networking card, or file system, or camera, or input device, or security or digital rights or power management standard, if it even requires a reboot into isolation, rather than being able of running side by side with another operating system and its applications, how can it be more "functional"?

 

Article Information
Article ID:13-150
Platform:All
Products:Amiga Forever
Additional Keywords:None
Last Update:2008-10-25
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