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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

 

From: "Eyetech Group Ltd" <info@e...>
Date: Mon Feb 25, 2002 5:37 pm
Subject: Re: [amigaone] Re: Finally the A1

>
> As far as I know, there won't be any on the Show site as none us knew
about
> the new arrival until Alan arrived at the venue and, following that, none
of us
> had any time to take any pictures!
>
> I would imagine these will appear on Eyetech's site once Alan has
recovered
> from snow blindness / tiredness!
>

First of all thanks to everyone on this list for their patience. We have
been working very hard to get something demonstrably working rather than
just announcing more promises. Ideally on Friday we would have announced
that the A1 was going to be at the show, but at that point the board was
locked up in British customs. We didnt pick it up from UPS's Durham depot
(120 miles from the show) until 7:30 saturday morning and had no idea
whether it had survived the journey from the other side of the world until
we configured it at the show and switched it on.

Secondly, Fleecy and I were plannning to sit down and make sure that we
issued a jointly acceptable, coordinated, news release on the A1. But he got
snowed in in Cumbria, so we cant now do that until later in the week. Expect
a major web site update on both our and Amiga's sites next Monday.

But in the meantime I'm going to repeat here some of the things I said at
Alt-Woa as some of the 'authoritative' postings on this list (& ann) have
been off in the realms of fantasy and bear little if any relationship to
what I actually said.

But first a bit of of background.

Yes I do read this list and try to filter out and take note of what is said
(apart of course from the rude postings). The main feedback that has come
out over the last year can, I think, be summarised as follows:

CPU speed concerns
Memory speed concerns
Provision of legacy peripherals (FDD/Serial/Parallel/kb/mouse)
Provision of integrated peripherals
AGP speed
Will it run Linux?
But I dont have/want/will never buy an A1200
Will it fit in in an EZTower mk1-5/RBM/xyz tower?
It costs too much (interesting this one as the price has never been
announced)
and, of course
Where is it?

In October 2000 when we laid out the design for the A1, there was no
commercially available 'northbridge' chip (the interface between the CPU,
memory and PCI bus) at the relatively small quantities that we needed at an
economic price. 'Southbridge' chips were available (these handle the system
timing, interrupts etc and, traditionally also embed the lower speed
peripheral functions such as IDE, USB etc), but clearly these do not come
with a built in A1200-PCI bridge - which would have to be built in custom
logic. It therefore made economic sense to build a custom southbridge chip -
but without the integrated peripherals (these were available on separate
chips at low cost anyway) which incorporated the A1200-PCI bridge. Things
were going nicely until May/June . . . . and you know the rest, or most of
it anyway.

By the time OS4 development had been signed off in early November the world
had moved on. Commercially available PPC northbridge chips were available,
and coupled with off-the-shelf southbridge chips, were able to deliver
better price performance than the original A1 custom chip design, and (since
the big boys had already been using them successfully) without the risk of
bugs intrinsically present in any custom logic implementation. This meant
that the only custom logic function needed was the PCI to A1200 bridge.

Alongside this many people had expressed a wish only to have a stand-alone
A1 board, without the need (or ability) to run hardware-hitting
applications. In addition Hyperion have been making better than expected
progress in decoupling the chipset dependancies in the OS with a result that
it will cease to be reliant on the Amiga chipset quite soon now. (Of course
hardware hitting applications will still to a greater or lesser degree need
access to a genuine Amiga chipset). Given this, we thought it would be
sensible to try to provide Amiga chipset availability as an a option, so
that the main A1 board would not have to carry the cost of providing this
connection - in terms of PCB and component real-estate and in requiring a
custom tower to mount it in. The upshot is that Escena has come up with a
solution which allows the bridge to the A1200 chipset to be made from a PCI
card, via ribbon cable, to the A1200 edge connector. The use of a ribbon
cable also solves the 'will it work in an xyz tower' problem, as there is
(within limits) quite a wide range of A1 & A1200 relative board positioning
that can be used. Theis A1200 bridge will be an additional cost item for
those who need it.

So with Escena concentrating their efforts on the bridge card, and us
deciding to use off-the-shelf north and south bridge parts for the main
board it made sense to subcontract the design and manufacture to experts in
this field, who, surprise, surprise, are far east based (hence the problem
with customs on Friday). The board (currently) runs an open
firmware-compatible bios and runs PPC linux (which is how we know that the
hardware works properly before OS4.0 is released).

In terms of timeframes the board is now ready to go into production, with a
lead time of 4-6 weeks. However we will not press the button until we can be
sure that OS4 will be ready to run on the board in the same timeframe. OS4
is scheduled to go into beta during March, and we will make A1 boards
available to help with this process. When we get the thumbs up from Hyperion
we will start production and they will be with your local dealer around 6
weeks later.

In terms of specification the entry level board will run a 600MHz G3 CPU and
will come with this soldered in place, thereby keeping the costs as low as
possible. After the first production run we will be producing boards -
obviously at a higher cost - with a cpu carrier so that cpu's can easily be
interchanged to suit your speed and pocket requirements. As G4's fall in
price we may also offer a soldered in place G4 cpu option as well. What
happens if you buy an entry level board and want to upgrade it in a year or
so's time? Well exactly the same as when you bought a similarly priced
accelerator a couple of years back and want to upgrade to a faster one. You
either sell it privately or trade it in to the dealer where you purchased
it. In fact in the PC market, depite all processors being socketed, hardly
anyone ever changes the cpu to improve the computer - they nearly always
have to buy a (at least) a new motherboard as well. We're just being upfront
about it!

So lets revisit that feedback list again:


CPU speed concerns -- G3/G4 to their current clocking limits

Memory speed concerns -- 133MHz FSB (DDR doesn't help PPC's I am told)

Provision of legacy peripherals (FDD/Serial/Parallel/kb/mouse) - On board

Provision of integrated peripherals - 2xUSB (motherboard) + 2 more on
headers; LAN; AC97; MC97; UDMA100

AGP speed - 2x (although this is still a red herring in my view)

Will it run Linux? - Yes

But I dont have/want/will never buy an A1200 - Fine by me

Will it fit in in an EZTower mk1-5/RBM/xyz tower? - Yes (subject to xyz
definition - not sure about wooden towers)

It costs too much (interesting this one as the price has never been
announced) - A1 including 600MHz G3 cpu at current component prices and
exchange rates GBP 350/USD500/Euro 600 excluding local taxes and shipping.
And before anyone (who probably has no notion of real manufacturing and
development costs) pipes up that they can buy a xzzz PC motherboard for
$2.49 from Walmart remember this is for a board being manufactured in the
(very?) low thousands, not by the million. (And don't forget that a 240MHz
603 ppc blizzard with 060 cost around ukp550 ex tax when they were last
available - those were the days ;-) )

Where is it? - In my office running Turbo Linux at the moment. In your
dealer as soon as OS4 is ready.

More on the website next week

Thanks for your patience

Alan


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