By Kevin Hisel, Amiga Web Directory
The Amiga98 show was held in St. Louis, Missouri on March 13, 14 and 15, 1998. I attended the show on the 14th.
Below is a report on what I saw and who I talked to. Thanks to Bob Scharp, Show Chairman, for putting this show together and for all his help on behalf of CUCUG. Bob and his very lovely wife Diana are the driving force behind Amiga98!
Sorry about the length of this report (there was a lot to see and to report on!) and the number of pictures. I 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.
To my surprise, this show was PACKED! I have not heard any official attendance figures (note: we know know that over 1,000 people attended which was an 11% increase over last year!), but it is very safe to say that this show had many more people and vendors crammed into the show area than last year. During the earlier hours of the show, there was barely room to walk in the aisles.
It was very satisfying to finally meet, face-to-face many of the Amiga luminaries which we have all read about, some of whom we at CUCUG communicate with frequently, but never really do get to meet.
Besides the companies who officially attended the show, I was surprised by the number of manufacturers, software publishers and other companies who just showed up to see the show but did not have a booth. Perhaps this was because the show appeared to have sold out of space. As an Amiga fan, I think I speak for most of us when I express the opinion that we would like to see these companies support the Amiga, its users and themselves by their official attendance at the growing number of Amiga shows. Nothing beats being able to see the product up close and talk to the people responsible for it!
One of the more active areas at the show, were the Gateway Amiga Club's Consignment Tables. Show attendees were encouraged to bring their used hardware and software (no copies!) to the consignment area and offer it for sale to the hordes of other Amiga fans at the show. This was a unique opportunity for buyers and sellers alike and with a minimal 10% commission due GAC for their services, everyone profited!
In the outer hallway, I ran across this company which was doing a very brisk business selling mostly Amiga games at very handsome discounts. You could pick up copies of Bill's Tomato Game, ThemePark and other cool Amiga titles for only $5 and $10 each (CD-based titles were $6).
When John Zacharias started using his Amiga for e-mail he was very frustrated that all of the features he wanted from an e-mail client were not available all in one program. AEMail is a mail client designed to read, process, compose and send e-mail from an Amiga computer over the Internet. It provides an easy to use graphical interface designed specifically for the Amiga. It connects to an Internet server through AmiTCP or any TCP/IP stack compatible with AmiTCP. This includes TermiteTCP and Miami. It uses the AmigaDOS editor, ed, or any other editor of the user's choosing for developing email messages. No other external programs or modules are required. The POP3 and SMTP protocols are built into the program. John's daughter, Aliese Zacharias told us that she felt that one of the stronger points of the software was its handling of attachments (binary files which can be sent along with the text message). I thought the interface was nice (despite the fact that it does not require any interface add-ons like MUI) and especially noted the easy-to-navigate tool bar.
Don Hicks, publisher of the only Amiga-oriented glossy magazine in North America, Amazing Computing/Amiga, was very busy in his booth selling the latest issue of Amazing (April 98) and offering subscriptions. One of the most long-awaited announcements was made by Don: official word that he would finally be publishing a new AC Guide, a complete compendium of Amiga companies and other Amiga resources. In past years, the near-inch-thick AC Guide has been a godsend for Amiga users looking for everything from SCSI connectors to full-blown tower systems. The new Guide will be only "slightly thinner" but will be available in both printed and CD formats. We're all looking forward to that!
A new service (although not directly related to AC) Don told me about was a fascinating plan hatched by QuikPak head, David Ziembicki to create an Amiga Internet service much like the loved/hated America OnLine (AOL). the new service is called AmigaOnLine.com and long-range plans include local dial-up TCP, technical software support for connecting your Amiga to the Internet, custom content and much more. In a world where many Amiga fans still use a Windows PC to connect to the Internet, this new service will be a welcome one indeed. To get things started, Don told me that you can get a custom AmigaOnLine.com e-mail address today for only a small, annual charge without switching Internet providers.
AmiCON, as they are known, were plugging the third Midwest Amiga Expo, scheduled for November of 1998, which will be in a larger facility than Amiga98 and will be able to host more vendors and other booths. Watch the Amiga Web Directory for more information on this upcoming show.
The fastest-growing North American Amiga magazine is the Amiga Informer. Despite its humble beginnings, publisher Fletcher Haug has turned the Informer into a major force in the Amiga publishing world. Fletcher was offering a super show special on Informer subscriptions: seven issues for the price of only six! I twisted his arm a little and and asked if he would extend this offer to readers of the Amiga Web Directory and he agreed! So, just get your credit card ready and call 1-888-88-AMIGA before March 24th and be sure you mention that you heard about this offer on the Amiga Web Directory!
Through most of the show, Amiga.org hosted a series of conferences on IRC about the goings-on at the show and were allowing Amiga users throughout the world to ask questions which were then relayed to the many experts and officials present at the show. Amiga.org sponsors the User Group Network, which is working to bring user groups together to share expertise and experience. Pictured are webmaster Wayne Hunt and IRC helper Bo Lechnowsky of the Siouxland Metro Amiga User's Group (SMAUG).
When we arrived at the Anti Gravity booth, Gary Sylvester and Kevin Whitesmith were extolling the virtues of their latest killer Amiga clone, the Boxer-based Meila Phase - 498, a decked-out '060 Amiga machine with lots of bells and whistles for not a lot of money. 'Neila' is 'alien' spelled backwards.
One of the booths I really wanted to get to was this one! Here's a company which puts the Amiga on the cutting edge of technology with its line of support products for CDs and the Amiga. Richard Giannini and Tammy Lynn Rodley gave me a warm welcome and showed off some of their latest products including AsimCDFS v3.9, Audio Thunder v1.1, PhotoCD Manager v1.0 and the Texture Heaven Double CD. However, without a doubt, the software that everyone was ogling over was the brand-new MasterISO v2.0.
MasterISO v2.0 is the second generation CD-R/RW mastering software for the Amiga. Richard told me that MasterISO surpasses ANY CD-R/RW mastering software on ANY platform. MasterISO allows users to create data CDs in ISO9660, RockRidge and Joliet (Windows 95 long filename) formats, in addition to standard audio and mixed-mode CDs. MasterISO v2.0 has full TAO and DAO capabilities. In the booth, Richard and Tammy were transferring files to a CD-RW (rewritable) disk using an Amiga 4000. This was very exciting to see!
Payroll Plus is an Amiga-based program to control and track the payroll costs of your company. Author Richard Brewster (in the pink shirt) began writing the program three years ago after discovering that no one had offered the kind of package he needed in his own business. When he first started, it was necessary to purchase the venerable SuperBase database program on the Amiga. Now Payroll Plus is using a special runtime version of SuperBase, thus making it a completely independent stand-alone application. The latest version now available offers many new features and updates.
One of the busiest booths at the show was a real family affair! Preet (son), Randhir (dad) and Sarla (mom) Jesrani were constantly helping customers with questions about the merchandise they were selling in their booth--and they had a ton of stuff. Compuquick was selling all current Amiga computers, Phase 5 products such as accelerators for the Amiga 1200, Cyberstorm 060 MK3 for the 3000/4000, PowerPC boards for the 3000/4000, various Amiga monitors, Micronik towers, Light Wave 3D and Video Toaster-related products, Village Tronic products, the latest Amiga games and applications on CD and disks, and much more. After seeing so much CD-based software, I asked Randhir if most Amigans now own CD players and he said, "Yes, we are seeing a steady growth in CD-related demand. The price of CD players is very low now and AsimWare has done a great job with their AsimCDFS which has allowed many new Amiga fans to use CDs."
CUCUG's own President Jim Lewis (shown below) and technical advisor Mike "SkyGuy" Latinovich (with balloons) staffed the CUCUG booth and offered fans of the Amiga Web Directory the first-ever official AWD T-shirts and AWD buttons and signed up a bunch of new members for the club. The club's Amiga 3000 was there with a local copy of the entire CUCUG web site that show goers could browse at their leisure. The club's Toshiba TIMM 20'' monitor provided a good-sized display for all to see the web site in its glory. We were using the new Aweb-II v3.0 web browser from Amitrix and it looked fabulous. Aweb-II is definitely one new program you should check out. Thanks to National Amiga for lending us a SCSI controller after ours crapped out.
At one point, Amiga International head, Petro Tyschtschenko (at right) stopped by to greet the CUCUG staff and offer his support. Mr. Tyschtschenko was taken with the new AWD T-shirt and picked one up for his very own. He is shown here with CUCUG President Jim Lewis.
Many of the visitors to the CUCUG booth congratulated us on the
success of the web site, quite a number of them noting that the Amiga
Web Directory is the first page they look at when they turn on their
We met GamaSoft's Ted Wallingford--shown here with CUCUG member Florence Hart (left) and a friend. Ted was showing off Digital Quill, their new text editor. Ted says that this new product is phenomenal for programmers and non-programmers alike and includes a huge list of features including clipboard support, full navigation gadgets, scrollbars, ARexx interface, configurable macros for compilers, special characters (hard line returns, etc.), search capability and it's all based on the high-speed ClassAct development system. One can apparently make Digital Quill do just about anything you could imagine doing with text and will soon include a special set of macros to make editing HTML easy and fast. Other products in the booth included New York, professional-quality, high-speed Usenet newsreader, Voodoo, a "multimedia" e-mail client and WebFTP, an advanced tool for managing your web site using FTP.
Amiga cartoon artist Eric Schwartz (at right) and his father Ron were offering a variety of what appeared to be used hardware and software for sale. We were surprised that there was very little in the way of T-shirts and other items displaying Eric's wonderful Amiga cartoon art creations. Maybe we'll be able to see more at the next show.
This is the club which is most affiliated with the Amiga98. They had a really nice set-up at the very front of the main hall with what appeared to be a very expensive video projection system. They showed historical Amiga footage from past shows and events, speeches from Amiga celebrities and some entertaining footage from other unofficial Amiga gatherings. They crowd was riveted to the big screen when "Father of the Amiga" Jay Miner was shown explaining some of the intricacies of the machine. GAC also featured some nice Amiga-oriented bumper stickers and drink "cozies" festooned with the GAC and Amiga logos. We had a good time with two friendly GAC-ers, Richard Wilper and Betty McElroy.
I stopped by and had a very nice chat with Frank Davis and his lovely wife, Carol. Frank and Carol have run their mail-order company since 1986 and originally supported only Sinclair Computers(!) from the UK. They also published Update Magazine for nine years. Three years ago they started selling Amiga used hardware and new and used software at computer shows in the Midwest. Last Fall was the first all-Amiga show they sold at. It was a success and they decided to continue and expand to as many all Amiga shows as possible. They also plan to increase the amount and variety of Amiga software they sell at other computer and Ham Radio shows.
It was great to see a few good children's programs at the show and KidSTOP by Brian Koetting looked like a good one. Big, bright, easy-to-see graphics and high-quality, fun sounds made this program's interface easy and enjoyable! When I arrived at the KidSTOP display inside the National Capital Amiga Users Group (NCAUG) booth, seven-year-old Daniel (obviously some type of professional software tester) was really putting the program through its paces. I asked Daniel if he liked it and he responded with a hearty "Uh huh..." and continued, transfixed on the monitor! Looks like it passed the test!
Here I found one fun bunch of Amiga enthusiasts! Bohus Blahut, Anne Willmore, Katherine Nelson and Jason Compton were at Amiga98 showing off their latest Amiga-oriented videos. Their Legacy Magazine video series is the world's only periodical Amiga video featuring Amiga industry news, product reviews, instructional tutorials and technology information. Even though the Internet has made getting new product information easier than ever, Legacy provides a view that you'll never get from the 'Net or even from your favorite printed media sources. Another of their tape series is called Catalyzer. This set of tapes focuses on Nova Design's Image FX paint program and teaches you how to create professional-looking effects with one of the Amiga's most powerful imaging tools. Catalyzer II--which focuses on compositing--made its worldwide debut at the show. Legacy Maker's Mr. Compton is the editor of the popular Amiga-oriented Amiga Report Online Magazine.
This was, once-again, the most popular booth at the show! Greg Scott and Joe Archibald were so busy selling show goers all kinds of cool, new hardware trinkets, the latest software and other peripheral items that they barely were even able to eat their lunch (which they had to do in the booth in between questions and sales). National Amiga brought what looked like a truckload of stuff to sell--all at killer prices--right on the show floor. Amiga fans were busy snatching it all up, too.
I was pleasantly surprised by the NewTek presentation. Last year's
Newtek performance (at least while I was there) left much to be
desired (see our 1997 Show
Report for more details). This year, NewTek representative Dave
Soltis was showing the Toaster/Flyer combination in one of the new
QuikPak Amiga 4000T (a very cool
box, by the way) computers. Dave was uncharacteristically upbeat about
the Amiga and Newtek's future with the platform.
While he admitted
that Amiga development of the company's flagship Lightwave 3D
software program is currently on hiatus, he said, "Our hearts and
minds have always been with the Amiga." He went on to say that the
current hardware limitations of the Amiga are the only thing holding it
back and that they have not ruled out resuming Lightwave for the
Amiga. Apparently NewTek is also considering some type of bundling
deal with QuikPak, pairing their Toaster/Flyer with the new 4000T
John Tyler was demoing his program, Ptolemy, a web page image map editor. Ptolemy allows you to load any image, map out "hot spots" and generate the client- or server-side HTML image map code. This is a very handy program for web masters who want an easy-to-navigate graphic menu on their pages. Ptolemy was being shown in the NCAUG booth.
Most people know this company by its founder's name: Holger Kruse. Holger's status within the Amiga community is at a near-saintly level. He is the programmer responsible for Miami, the TCP/IP Internet protocol program which has connected thousands of Amiga users to the Internet. Holger was showing his many fans the latest version, Miami 3.0 which adds higher performance and many new features to an already very capable program. Some of Holger's other popular programs include AmiWin, A complete X11R6 ("X-Window-System") development package, including an X server, several X clients, and a lot more, ppp.device, A SANA-II driver that implements the PPP ("Point-To-Point-Protocol") standard, ReOrg, A high-speed disk optimizer and defragmenter for OFS, FFS and DCFS, as well as MiamiSSL, an implementation of the 'Secure Socket Layer' standard for Miami, allowing supporting web browsers to access 'https:' URLs, and to transmit sensitive data across the Internet in a secure, encrypted form, and the upcoming Miami Deluxe, a full TCP/IP router package for "power users".
Holger also shared with me his plans to unveil a new program tentatively titled MNI which can be best described as an Ethernet accelerator. If you use Ethernet on your Amiga to connect to a LAN or other computers or networks, MNI will really speed up access.
Like a proud papa, Nova Design's Kermit Woodall was very excited about the company's latest release, Image FX v3.0. This program has become one of the most popular Amiga image manipulation packages and with its latest release, promises to grow even more in fame and user acceptance. Some of the new profesional-level effects in v3.0 include clouds, scatter, splash, pagecurler and FXForge. FXForge uses simple mathematical expressions that, when applied against each pixel in the image, can create hundreds upon hundreds of new effects. This program has to be seen to be believed and users were treated to some very breathtaking demos of its capabilities. Animation fans were also pleased to see some of the advanced capabilities of Aladdin 4D, now at version 5.0. This is a very advanced animation and modeling package which pushes the limits of the Amiga in new and wonderful ways. If you want a highly capable and actively developed animation program for your Amiga, look no further than Aladdin 4D 5.0!
Kermit Woodall has become what many consider to be a leader in the Amiga developer community. I spoke with him about the show and the Amiga community in general. He was extremely optimistic about the Amiga's future and the pace of improvements in the community. Woodall beamed, "Don't let anyone tell you that no one is developing for the Amiga! The developer conferences [at the Amiga98 show] were packed--and the attendees had to pay to get in! Look around you--people are spending money again on their Amigas." He went on to talk about the success of the show. "The Harley hotel [the host hotel of the show] sold out a week ago. There are a lot more people here this year than last--I am really pumped about the future of the Amiga!" We need a lot more people like Kermit Woodall to get out and talk about the Amiga!
Nova Sector is another officially licensed Amiga clone maker which concentrates on high-quality graphic workstations. When we happened by the booth, Nova personnel Jeret Lendman and Ryan Bertram were installing a copy of Haage & Partner's Tornado 3D a superb rendering and animation package onto one of their suped-up Amiga machines. Mr. Bertram said that Tornado 3D will soon be bundled with all of their new machines. One very interesting concept which we touched on was the possibility of distributing Nova Sector Amigas via user groups at discounted pricing. Watch the Amiga Web Directory for more details. One of the cool things we like about this company is its web site's System Builder where we can freely fantasize about the ultimate machine we might build for ourselves!
When I stopped by Bill Evans of ProWave was helping with the booth and showing off some of OzWare's more popular programs like Fast Frames 2.0. This program is for the Toaster/Flyer user and records any sequence of framestores, CG pages, and effects into a flyer clip, but leaves out all loading times of each and every element. You end up with a video clip showing the framestores and effects playing immediately one after the other with no delays. Place this new clip back in your project and you can even add other effects or CG on top, for a multi-layered look.
This popular Canadian mail-order company was showing off their very nice line of high-quality, Amiga licensed T-shirts, hats, polo shirts and premium golf shirts (some are actually embroidered) they call "Amiga Wares". Since they were right across the aisle from CUCUG and were selling their T-shirts cheaper than we were(!), we immediately had to lower our prices! But, the competition was friendly because the entire Randomize team was so amiable. They were also promoting the next big Amiga show, the upcoming International Amiga Show which will be held in Toronto on May 29 and 30.
I was very happy to once again meet with the extremely accommodating Diana Scharp, wife of show organizer Bob Scharp. Diana showed me all of the cool Amiga toys they were offering this year. My personal favorite is the "magic" hot mug which reveals the colorful Amiga check-mark logo and the phrase "Amiga--It's Magical!" when you pour your hot beverage of choice into it. Another unique item new to this year's show was a children's cartoon video titled "Boogie Woogie Whale" which was done by animation expert Paul Nibbelnik who has worked with both the Disney studios and Steven Spielberg. This fun and education cartoon video was produced 100% on Amiga computers and is another one of those secret, little triumphs of our beloved Amiga.
Ellen Kazmaier of SoftLogik was busy talking to fans of its famous PageStream desk-top publishing program about the all the new features and performance improvements in the latest version, v3.3a. She was offering full packages of PageStream for sale as well as instant upgrades for owners of older versions. The list of improvements in v3.3x of PageStream is way too huge to mention here, but just a few include: fly out tools (rotation tool, 1,2,& 3 column tool, scallop, bevel, insert box tool star, wavy, scallop, puffy polygon tool, grid tool, note tool), define font substitution, HTML help, RTF text export, 2.2-style place graphics, Postscript-style dash line, set type language submenu, DPI calculator, improved color palette, swatches, auto page orientation, drag duplicate, tab/shift-tab cycle through objects, window cycling, new toolbar buttons and more!
WebLord is a powerful new web site construction and maintenance tool. It is designed to dramatically improve your ability to create and maintain web sites. WebLord excels at reducing the obscure clutter, repetitive references and common typographical errors that are the lot of the designer who is stuck with less capable tools. It's not an HTML editor, author Udo Schuermann (famous for the KingFisher database tool) tells us, there are plenty of good text and html editors out there already. Weblord allows you to manage and create your site. Weblord was being shown in the NCAUG booth.
Here, I met with Walter Bowie and his wife Lotte. They were demonstrating an interesting new program called LIPS, a real-time talking character animation tool. LIPS generates lip syncronization using the Amiga's narrator device, and your own IFF images, animbrushes and sounds. The multi-tasking capabilities of the Amiga are well suited to realtime syncronization of voice and mouth movement, which allows realistic character speech. The Amiga's narrator.device, while outputing synthesized speech, also outputs messages which an application can interpret as mouth width and height. LIPS exploits these advantages while improving on the design by inserting exceptions for consonants that gives a more realistic look. Up to 32 differant images can be used to display each animated mouth, mapped to 270 possible events that can be generated.
Yet another Canadian company was moving a good number of hardware and software items. The big seller at the show for Wonder was ClickBoom's Myst. I was also shown a very cool, little gadget called the KB-10 keyboard adapter which allows you to use any PC-style keyboard device with your Amiga. Lots of people prefer the ergonomic/split keyboard style and this device would allow you to plug one of those in and use it with your Amiga. The Wonder booth was manned by Scott Macwha, Sean Moniz and Mark Habinski.
Y/C Plus has become known as a manufacturer of quality video and audio products. Their product line includes the famous YCP-100 Y/C Adapter for the Video Toaster to the new YCP-PTBC TBC remote control for the Panasonic DVCPRO. They have recently added a line of color monitors for Amiga Computers, basic video RGB and BetaCam input monitors.
Here is what must have been a real meeting of the minds (or perhaps
a joke told in German?) between Haage & Partner's Markus
Nerding and Amiga International chief Petro Tyschtschenko.
Early in the day, I had the pleasure of meeting Brad
Webb, author of the Amiga
Update newsletter and writer for the Amiga Informer and his
Here's a photo of National Amiga's Joe Archibald wondering if he'll ever get to eat his lunch.
And this is National Amiga's Greg Scott who just decided to eat his while ringing up customers!
Lisa Lewis of the Rocky Mountain Amiga User's Group and an unidentified friend check out the latest and greatest features of Nova Design's Image FX v3.0.
Legacy Maker's Jason Compton struggles to begin the first sentence of Amiga Report 5.10, due out in the 3rd quarter of 2002. (Just kidding, Jason!)
All in all, this was a fabulous Amiga show. There was far more here to see and do than last year and a very positive tone was felt all throughout. The vendors were much more upbeat, the attendees seemed more excited and everyone was quite pleased with what they saw at the show.
Thanks again to everyone who helped make this show a good one for the Amiga!
Links to Other Amiga98 Show Reports
Copyright, 1998, CUCUG - No Reposting. All photography Copyright, 1998 Kevin Hisel