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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved


"....it is time for a radical leap forwards in technology that needs to be
born by a vision of a computer for the next millennium."
Wolf Dietrich, Managing Director of Phase 5.

During the dark days of 1996, Phase 5 announced the development of the A\Box- an advanced computer that would take computing into the next millennium. In many ways it shares a similar vision to AmigaSoft, attempting to revolutionize computing by moving away from the restrictive architecture of Intel and the 68k processor, and develop an all-knew PowerPC based system. At the time it looked as if the Amiga was dead, Escom had made false promises they could not hope to deliver and gone into liquidation, leaving the Amiga orphaned once again. The market seemed open for Amiga clones to appear that would move the Amiga market beyond the 68k processor. The TransAM from PIOS (now Met@box) had already been announced. Unlike this machine, the A\box would have a completely new graphics processor and run an incredibly advanced Amiga compatible operating system, rather than using off the shelf parts and operating system. This was to be based upon the PowerPC 603e processor and a system controller called Caipirinha.

Operating System
Phase 5 planned to write a new operating system that would combine AmigaOS features such as shared libraries and devices with many UNIX qualities such as memory handling, multi-user, multi-processor support and object orientation. It was also planned to include an Amiga 680x0 emulator to ensure maximum compatibility with OS3.x applications. If the A\box failed to catch on a version of LinuxPPC would be ported to allow access to a range of available software.

Moving the Amiga to A\BOX

"... the PowerUP boards will be a base for the development of future application and operation system software for upcoming projects of phase 5 digital products, namely the A\BOX computer system."
- The Phase 5 Website

To move the Amiga community towards the A\box, making the transition from PowerUP board to the actual PPC system less difficult, Phase 5 built upon a number of Unix characters, including the use of the ELF format, rather than extending the Amigas own HUNK standard. This led to the development of the PowerUP OS, a basic operating system that allowed AmigaOS access to the PowerPC processor. After putting so much effort into this line of development it must have came as a blow when Haage & Partner developed their own PPC implementation called WarpOS. In contrast to PowerUP this was designed as a general Amiga PPC reference standard allowing any manufacturer to make Amiga PPC cards and run compatible software. This lead to a flame war between the two companies over the internet where they argued the relative advantages and disadvantages of such a system. In an attempt to lock WarpOS out of the PowerPC war, Phase 5 placed their PowerUP software in FlashROM, preventing WarpOS from running. A workaround was developed and the battle began again. During the first few months of 1998, Phase 5 announced that they had successfully licenced AmigaOS 3.1 for a new Amiga PPC compatible system called the Pre\Box. They also stated at the same time the A\BOX, was postponed but had not been cancelled and would be upgraded beyond current specifications.

"The A\BOX project will be continued with revised targets and specifications and with extended resources, based on the succesful introduction of the new product lines".
- Wolf Dietrich, General Manager of Phase 5

With the announcement by Amiga Inc. at the World of Amiga 1998 show they would bypass the "Classic" Amiga altogether and reinvent the whole machine both companies realized that they could soon be swept aside and agreed an uneasy truce. Under the new agreement, Phase 5 developed the PPC hardware whilst Haage & Partner developed software. The new parent had forced the children to behave and come to some agreement on sharing the playground. At present the A\BOX appears dead as Phase 5 set about developing an Amiga G3 card.

The dream is still alive, but A\BOX is dead
As time progressed the A\Box was forgotten as more pressing developments came to the fore. On April 1st 1999, Wolf Dietrich replied to a query on the machines status, suggesting that the machine was still viable in an upgraded form but that it would never be released.

"we have not been able (especially in 1997) to realize the additional growth for our
company in the Amiga market, which would have been necessary to realize the A\box;"
- Wolf Dietrich on Usenet

He blamed the market situation of the time, with many different companies competing for mind share. The A\box would have need the 100% attention of the Amiga community to be a success.
Read Wolf Dietrich's Usenet comments in full

Lessons Learnt
Despite the failure of the A\box it cannot be classed as a complete waste. As Wolf Dietrich points out in his Usenet post, many of the concepts that made up the A\box have been realised by other companies. In particular the Caipirinha compares well against the Altivec found in G4 processors. It shows that Amiga companies are well aware of current developments and are willing to break away from the pack to pursue a revolution. 
Related Links
Announcement of the A\Box
A\BOX Specifications
A\BOX Frequently Asked Question- Now out of date.
Wolf Dietrich Usenet Comments
A\Box, in their own words
Concept Images
These are conceptual images hypothesising how the A\Box may have looked.
A\Box by Antonio De Rosa (27.8k JPEG)
A\Box by CU Amiga Magazine (16.1k JPEG)


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