CUCUGís Gateway Amiga 97 Show ReportKevin Hisel, CUCUG
The Gateway Amiga 97 show (sponsored by The Gateway Amiga Club) was held in St. Louis, Missouri on March 15 and 16, 1997. A contingent of CUCUG members attended the show in force on Saturday the 15th. While there we saw a wonderful selection of great Amiga products and met old and new friends. Overall, it appeared that turnout was fairly heavy and most of the vendors we talked to were surprised by the number of Amiga fans who attended the show.
Below is a report on what we saw and whom we talked to. After reviewing the vendor list now that weíre home, itís clear that we may have missed a few of the companies in our report. For that we apologize in advance. Thanks to Bob Scharp, Show Chairman, for helping to fill in some of the missing details and all his help on behalf of CUCUG. Bob is the driving force putting this great show together!
Sorry about the length of this report (there was a lot to see and to report on!) and the number of pictures. We have tried to keep them small for loading time sake, but it will probably drive many of you crazy. To see a more detailed image of any picture, simply click on it.
QuikPak Was A No-Show
Of course the big news at the show was the near tragic, last minute no-show of QuikPak, the manufacturer of Amiga hardware and possible candidate for the eventual takeover of the Amiga. According to show chairman, Bob Scharp, QuikPak canceled the night before the opening of the show by leaving a very brief message on his answering machine. The ensuing rumor mill was equally split: about 50% of the mongers claimed that it was clearly obvious that QuikPak had indeed run out of time, money and ideas and could not muster enough financial backing to rescue the Amiga and had already closed their doors. Other rumor mill workers insisted that just the opposite had happened: the QuikPak bid had indeed been accepted by the Escom trustee and they were much too busy (hiring RISC programmers to write AmigaDos 5.0, planning their marketing strategies and shooting 60-minute infomercials, etc.) and could not possibly be bothered with attending trade shows. We could not confirm any of this, but for the Amiga, truth is often stranger than fiction.
Amiga InterNauts Luncheon
The Amiga InterNauts Luncheon was organized by the North Alabama Society of Amiga Users (NASAU) and held on Saturday, March 15th. Approximately 30 Amiga Internet leaders and other interested fans attended. Luminaries on hand (just to name a few) included Holger Kruse, author of the breakthrough Amiga TCP/IP package, Miami, Dale Larson, author of Connect Your Amiga,Corinna Cohn, prolific WWW designer (Nova Design, IndyNet), Kevin Hisel, CUCUGís own Amiga Web Directory web master, Wayne Hunt web master for the North Alabama Society of Amiga Users (NASAU) and many others. The topic at hand was, "What could we all do on the Internet to help the Amiga?" While no specific plan was hatched, many ideas were discussed including:
It was also agreed that we need more Amiga Internet tools like Holgerís Miami which has made it super easy for thousands of Amigans to become connected.
A Great, New Book Idea
Former Commodorian Dale Larson says someday, someone (weíre thinking, Tom Clancy) will write the story of Commodore. Mysterious semi-trailers in the parking lot at 3:00am, even more mysterious multi-million dollar fund transfers, "secret" shareholder meetings in the Bahamas, etc. would be just a few of the gripping dramatic events which would unfold. But the author would have to call it FICTION since no book publisher would believe that most of it actually happened at a sleepy, little computer company in Pennsylvania!
Our first stop was at Scharp Designs, which was manned by proprietors Bob and Diane Scharp. Bob has made a real name for himself by coming up with innovative Amiga merchandising ideas like his disappearing logo cups, Amiga huggies, T-shirts and buttons. Bob is also the fellow who is largely responsible for putting together the Gateway show and this year he organized the show at the same time he was training to pilot the 747 jumbo jet! Bob and Diane are very nice people so if you ever get a chance, do say, "Hi," and pick up an Amiga cup the next time you see them.
Dick Brewster, his wife Lori, and their secretary Linda of Brewster Productions (669 Bluff Manor Circle, St. Charles, MO 63303) introduced a new business product based upon SBase4Pro. Entitled Payroll Plus, it is an easy to use, intuitive, payroll program for the Amiga. He was also handing out the flyers for Mr. Hardware Computers on the latest update to SBase4Pro. Mr. Hardware Computers can be contacted at 516-234-8110 for information on the SBase4Pro update. Contact Mr. Brewester for information on Payroll Plus at the address above.
From there, we stopped by a booth selling a wide variety of T-shirts designed by Eric Schwartz. These were very nice looking and of course, Eric is the quintessential Amiga artist who imparts just the right attitude in his work. Eric must have been out of the booth, but we did meet Ron Schwartz who is Ericís dad.
The Amiga Atlanta, Inc. user group was there and we ran into Lamar Morgan, the AAi president. Lamar is one of the most active, media savvy people in the Amiga community and has been responsible for stories appearing on CNN and national wire services recently about the plight of the Amiga. Our hats go off to Morgan for making sure the world does not forget about us!
Inside the Main Hall, we came upon P.J. Nordmann FX, a local Amiga-based video production company that was responsible for some of the stunning TV spots that ran locally in the St. Louis market promoting the show. Paul Nordmann was demonstrating some of the really well done video pieces that he has produced with a variety of Amiga equipment.
OzWare's Bill Evans (he claimed that he also has a jazz trio on the side, but we hardly believed him) was busily showing the gathered masses two unique video editing tools designed for NewTek's Flyer. According to "jazzy" Bill, Co-Pilot Audio, allows you to perfect the art of music mixing. With Co-Pilot Audio and your Flyer you will be able to automate music levels around narration, prepare a project for foreign translation, reveal tricky split audio edits in detail and do complete multi-layered audio mixing and more. While Co-Pilot Video will speed up your editing a hundred ways and allow you to remove waste footage, find unused clips, multiple icons for clips, group CG render, and much more. See the August 1996 issue of Video Toaster User magazine for an in-depth review of these tools. Both retail for about $130 each. Contact OZware at firstname.lastname@example.org.
René Amador of Graficia Software was there to demonstrate his companyís new Amiga financial program called MoneySmart. Itís a program designed to help the home user and the small business owner organize his or her financial matters with ease. MoneySmart is easy to use because the graphical user interface, which exists throughout the program, represents the paper materials used in everyday account management on the computer screen. So if you know how to handle your accounts on paper now, you already know how to use MoneySmart. Additionally, when using MoneySmart, you deal with accounts and their contents--MoneySmart has reduced your involvement with files and directories to a minimum. With MoneySmart you can write checks, memorize checks, print checks, reconcile your bank statement, edit income and expense categories, do your budget, split categories, get reports and handle credit cards and cash accounts. This looks like the kind of program many people have been looking for on the Amiga for some time. Contact Grafica at (408) 249-9275.
Dale Larson's Intangible Assets Manufacturing (IAM) was a very busy booth and it was difficult to get in to say, "Hi" to Dale because of the popularity of his wide range of software and books. Plus, Dale himself is a well known member of the Amiga intelligencia. After waiting for few minutes, we finally made our way up to the front where we chatted with Dale and his lovely assistant, Jan. Dale was extolling the virtues of his new "S.Y.A." software combo deal. When we asked what that was all about, he said, "SYA stands for Save Your Be-Hind and includes both DiskSalv4 and MRBackup."
DiskSalv4 offers features never before found in DiskSalv or other Amiga disk utilities, and it supports all AmigaDOS file systems through 3.1. Not only is the GUI and extensive AmigaGuide manual user-friendly, the packaging is environmentally friendly, too, so save the planet while you save your disk! Use Disksalv4 regularly to check your disks for trouble without actually making any repairs, for extra confidence. Deleted directories, files, and data can be permanently erased to make any future recovery attempts easier, and for added security, program releases, etc. DiskSalv4 can recover data from a disk in severe trouble; it can fix a number of disk problems directly on the problem disk. And it can locate valid partitions on a disk with an unknown layout or a damaged rigid disk block. Undeletes can often be performed in-place. A new filter mechanism supports pattern matching on full pathnames, filenotes, dates, file sizes, and/or protection bits. It requires AmigaOS 2.04+ and 1MB RAM. Dale warns that your data is important, so back it up! MRBackup 2.5 is the latest version of a backup program that has been available on the Amiga for ten years. This is a proven tool that is now better than ever. Use MRBackup to protect your valuable files against loss, remove rarely used files to free up needed space, and transfer very large files between systems. Its features include a graphical user interface that lets you point and click with ease, a complete ARexx interface launched separately or from the Macros menu, uses speech capabilities of the Amiga to present prompts, it behaves well in the Amiga multi-tasking environment and optional data compression Saveset catalog files make retrieval of individual files easy. MRBackup works with a wide variety of media. The combination of DiskSalv4 and MRBackup2.5, when used properly will save your behind any time your Amiga runs into trouble.
Another new "product" which was being shown off in the IAM booth was the newest US Amiga print magazine, The Amiga Informer. According to editor Fletcher Haug, The Amiga Informer is squarely aimed at bringing users, dealers and developers together. Instead of reporting only on the latest news, their focus is aimed on brining the latest information on Amiga products through reviews, announcements, interviews and profiles. Fletcher also offers an e-mail newsletter called Amiga Update that is maintained by Brad Webb and is available to web site visitors, too. We were pleased to receive a complimentary copy of the latest issue and found lots of good Amiga material crammed into an economical space.
NewTek was there with a beautifully decorated booth and was demonstrating Lightwave v5.0 for the large crowds attracted to their booth. However, they received mixed reviews from the gathered Amiga fans. Many were a little off-put by the fact that the computer they were running the demo with was hidden away under a restaurant bus cart and hastily covered with a white table cloth. Your plucky CUCUG snoops distracted NewTek representative "Spike" (undoubtedly a reference to his rather unconventional hairdo) long enough to discover that under the secretive wraps they were running Lightwave on a DEC Alpha workstation--and not an Amiga! Many show goers were unimpressed to say the least, by this indiscretion on their part. Later we overheard Spike confidentially tell someone that the DEC is great for rendering speed (duh!) but that the Amiga still shines for Animations. We only feel a little better.
One of the big stars of the show was the Nova Design booth. Nova's Kermit Woodall (now sporting a rather smart-looking goatee!) was a very busy man answering questions, demonstrating the latest version of their premier image manipulation software, ImageFX v2.6 and giving interested fans a chance to try out the software themselves. The demonstration set-up itself wowed the crowd, being driven through a very hopped-up video card (CybergraphX?) and displayed on a gorgeous, Sony 20-inch monitor. It was clear that ImageFX is on par with many workstation-quality manipulation tools. Web site designer Corinna Cohn put the software through its paces and showed aspiring WWW artists how to add impact to web graphics. The problem with ImageFX is that it can do so much that you just might get lost. The trick is to play with each feature until you get a good feel for what is possible and then let your creative juices flow. Be sure to visit the ImageFX web page for a taste of its capabilities. Also, check out this review of ImageFX that was written by John Jackman for Video Toaster User magazine and that Nova was distributing in their booth.
Hometown favorites, Softlogik demonstrated the latest version of the Amigaís top desktop publishing program, PageStream. Ellen Kazmaier was busy showing off the latest features, answering technical customer layout questions and in general demonstrating how even the relatively slow Amiga hardware platform can compete with Wintel and Mac given well written software like PageStream.
One really cool piece of hardware that caught our eyes was the PAWS 1200 Amiga "luggable" from Silent Paw Productions. This is a hardy, little box that converts your A1200 computer into an 11-pound "portable" Amiga. The PAWS or Portable Amiga Workstation is designed to allow Amiga users who possess an Amiga 1200 model computer to turn their desktop systems into a video laptop. The kit provided is 95% pre-assembled. The only tools required are a screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers. No technical degree or soldering required. The PAWS has the look and feel of a real laptop and provides such features as the ability to utilize battery power, system warning of a low power condition, internal battery charger and more!
Specifications of the PAWS 1200:
The PAWS kit includes case, power supply (110/220V), Battery Module, Active Matrix LCD Panel and LCD Panel Driver, the PAWSTRAC Microtrackball, and Link-It, and APS power management software. The system supports all Amiga third party products. The only exception is those products that require modification of the original Amiga chassis. Even though we thought it a little pricey at $2,160 (without the A1200!), if you would like to take your Amiga with you wherever you go, you should definitely check out the PAWS 1200.
As long as weíre talking about cool and unusual hardware, we must mention the Siamese System which was being shown by Anti-Gravity Products. If you, like many Amigans, are forced to use Wintel machines because of work or school, the Siamese System could be a godsend and make the experience much more tolerable! Not only does this weird and magical box allow you to link the PC and Amiga together (heck, we could do that with a null-modem cable) it lets you drag and drop files, use just one mouse and keyboard, access files on one device as if they belonged to the other (like your CD), share clipboards (yes, share clipboards!) and a ton of cool things that will make your eyes pop out. But coming soon--thanks to something called Siamese RTG--is the ability to run your Amiga as a window on the Windows 95 desktop! Hide the Amiga from view and your boss will never know that youíve got it. This has got to be the wildest piece of hardware weíve come across in a long time!
In the Hisoft booth, they were showing off the latest IBrowse version 1.1, CINEMA 4D version 3, MediaMAGIC and many other products. IBrowse makes surfing the net with your Amiga a breeze. You can keep abreast of up-to-the-minute sports results, download the latest demos and browse the endless list of diverse and exciting web pages. Cruising the whole wired world with IBrowse takes no more effort than clicking your mouse button. CINEMA 4D is the award winning, easy-to-use ray-tracing and animation system. Equipped with a multitasking editor, CINEMA 4D is replete with every conceivable option, including window-based real-time interactive modeling, direct modeling in 3D, basic and complex primitives with infinite variations, easy object manipulation, floating tool-bars, user-defined menus, object and texture lists, definable object hierarchies and much more.
One little detail we noticed right away was that the fellow in the Hisoft booth was controlling the demos with a cordless, hand-held mouse that worked much like a TV remote. Since we had never seen anything like that for the Amiga, we sneaked a peek in the back of the A1200 running the demos and found one of the coolest little gadgets weíve seen in a long time. The Topolino is a small cable adapter which allows you to plug PC-style mouse devices into your Amiga. The remote mouse was from Logitech (designed for the PC, of course) and simply hooked up to the Amiga courtesy of Topolino. This was very slick and a handy tip for anyone who uses the Amiga for presentations (user groups, educational presentations, multi-media, etc.).
And of course Amazing Computing, the largest Amiga print magazine in the US, was there showing off their latest issue (sorry, we did not get one) and selling the AC/Amiga Guide that was originally published in 1994. Editor Don Hicks was reminding everyone to fill out info sheets for the next Guide which has not yet been given a firm release date. Mr. Keith Siders of ProvTech was also present in the Amazing booth discussing his A3000 memory board that had been reviewed in Amazing.
Another busy booth (so busy, we did not even get a chance to sneak in for a close look) was the Compuquick Media Center mini store set-up on the show floor. People were crammed in there picking up the latest bargains in Amiga hardware and software and happily chatting with company president Randhir Jesrani, his wife Sarla and son Prett. They had an Amiga 4000T at the show and were taking orders for A1200s, CD-32s and other products. Since we can't really say much about their booth, we can say that we find their new, online catalog fairly enticing. Check it out.
Amiga Report Online Magazine had a booth this year and the occasion was to promote their new video magazine, Amiga Legacy. AR editor and probably one of the most in-the-know Amiga people around, Jason Compton was as cheery as ever answering questions, debunking rumors and just talking up the Amiga in general. Legacy is a new video magazine that promises to bring Amiga users all of the latest info about the Amiga--its hottest products, its coolest tricks and its future direction. Legacy will cover news as well as provide the most complete, hands-on Amiga tutorials and some most enlightening product reviews. After speaking with Jason, we think the area of product reviews has a lot of possibilities. Not only will the reviewer tell you how fast the latest and greatest 3D package rendered objects, but youíll get to see it do that rendering in real time, too! Legacy will be released approximately 5 times per year (three are scheduled for the remainder of 1997) and will be available for about $15US per copy. Money can be saved by subscribing in three or eight-issue quantities. It was quite refreshing to see more new media ideas for the Amiga spring forth like Legacy!
Digital Lightyear Technologies was on hand to make the announcement of the what it calls the most affordable Ethernet networking solution ever offered for the Amiga market, The Argent Ethernet Card. This network interface card is a Zorro-II, auto-configuring adapter that will allow your Amiga 2000, Amiga 3000, or Amiga 4000 computer to be easily connected to any Ethernet network, even those connected to IBM and Macintosh computer systems. At its claimed 10 Megabits-per-second throughput speed, data transfer is lightning fast. A special driver and utility set is included which provides you with a quick way onto the network and a network file sharing system lets you connect to servers and other computers on the network. One of the coolest applications for this card comes to light when combined with a TCP/IP protocol stack that gives your Amiga one of the fastest access paths to the Internet! The Argent Ethernet Card has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of only $99.99--making it very affordable. Of course all this depends upon your ability to talk your system administrator into letting you put an Amiga on their net! Curiously, DLTís web page appears to be MIA for the moment.
Y/C Plusís Todd Kroeker had his hands full demonstrating some of the many video- and Toaster-oriented products from their line up of adapters, converters, controllers and switch boxes. We especially liked (because we actually understood what it does!) their $99 active video adapter cable which allows you to connect your Amigaís 25-pin video output to either composite (YCP-GA-C) or S-video (YCP-GA). Now you can set up your A1200 in the living room and pipe it through the 52-inch projection Trinitron that youíll surely be picking up real soon now. Hey, you could even use Topolino and connect a cordless mouse for laying-on-the-couch Amiga gaming at its finest! Since Y/C Plus does not have a WWW site, hereís their phone number: 800-586-1700.
Oregon Research had a booth at the show but unfortunately they could not make it to show their products. Instead, a few dedicated members of the Gateway Amiga Club stood in for them and happily handed out free demo disks of Termite TCP, Oregonís TCP/IP stack (Internet connection software) and product flyers. One of the booth-sitters was John Wilson, who did a great job this year maintaining the WWW presence for the Gateway Club show! Letís hear it for John!
FASTRAX's Dave Jones had a table and was selling large hard drives and other items. He may be reached at 316-682-5506.
Finally, the biggest, most active booth at the show belonged to Canadaís National Amiga. They must have brought five or six of everything they carry since the booth was packed to the gills with great, Amiga software and hardware items. People were crowded into the booth every which way! Nationalís Greg Scot commented that he was very pleased with the turnout for the show but bemoaned the fact that there were so many people that they had run completely out of catalogs after being open only three hours! Greg and his partner Joe Archibald were busy boys while we were there! National Amiga is a fully stocked mail-order software and hardware shop in Canada that is a popular favorite even with non-Canadian Amigaphiles. Both Joe and Greg are very friendly folks and we have heard nothing but positive mentions about their service. They offer a very automated web site with full price listings as well as e-mail updates of their regularly published online newsletter (which frequently features super low prices on used and clearance-type items).
A Great Show
This was--despite the current situation--one of the better Amiga shows we have attended. Its size was nothing compared to some of the huge Amiga fests held in the late Ď80s, but there was a real sense of community and feeling that we were all in this together. What will the future hold for new Amiga shows on the horizon? There are quite a few more coming up--do keep an eye on the Amiga News page of the Amiga Web Directory.
Other Gateway Amiga Show Links
Copyright, 1997, CUCUG - No Reposting. All photography Copyright, 1997 Kevin Hisel