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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

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Mike Sinz gives his views on some unreleased Amigas

If anyone knows who the author of this inteview is I will credit them in the next update to the web site. For those who do not know, Mike Sinz was in charge of the Amiga OS group during its final years.

Here is his view of some of what went on during that time, reproduced here with his permission.
from msinz, 4917 chars, Wed Nov 30 08:42:35 1994

I think the reason many of us see the A4000 as a hack is because in engineering terms it really was a hack. Other than the AGA chips. (AA for those who actually worked on them)

The A3000 was a new motherboard design with new bus designs and chips to support and integrate all of this. The A3000 had a number of radical departures from earlier designs *other than* the ECS chipset. I won't go into all of these here but they were significant and many leading edge. (Again, the chipset did not change so that part was not "new")

The way the A4000 became really shows this. Now that the story is public (in more than one place) it can be talked about. Remember, there was a changing of management just as AA technology was being completed. The original management was pushing two systems: The A3000+ and the A1000+ The A3000+ was a AA (oops, AGA) based machine with the same box/formfactor of the A3000 but also included an AT&T DSP32 (very cool) and was very tightly integrated. (SCSI, DSP, AGA, etc.) The DSP system was very cool and the DSP was powerful enough to do a full V.32bis/V.42bis FAX/Data modem *IN SOFTWARE*. (The 2400 baud software was even scheduled to be included with the system - the V.32 stuff cost too much to include for "free") It would also so really good speach and sound and math (talk about fast rendering times!)

The A1000+ was a super-low-cost 2-slot AGA-based Amiga. Goal was to have this thing list at $999 including hard drive, 2 or 4 megs of RAM depending on RAM prices, keyboard, etc. It would have been about the size of the A1000 but without the keyboard storage area (no room for it) Really nice system. (And it was going to be either 14MHz or 28Mhz 68020 or 68EC030 system)

Anyway, what happened was first that both of those systems were cancelled and the A600 was built (an ECS system that cost more and did less than the A500) Then, they tried building the A1000jr (our internal nickname) which was an ECS A1000+ design but in a difference casework that ended up making the machine cost much more to produce and do much less than the A1000+ The marketing group killed this. (Yes, they were just starting to get to know what they really wanted and were getting sales to grow...) Well, in responce to this, they took the A1000jr design (which was a really hacked up A3000 design in a bad case) and made the A3200 design which was AGA based and very hacked A3000 motherboard chipset in a bad case. The case was so bad that they had to put the CPU on a card in order to make it fit. (This later was turned around by marketing to be a benefit, except since the bus design of the CPU card was never really reworked for this design, only 68030 CPUs were easy to make work and 68040s were rather poor due to the 68030 bus protocol required.) Anyway, the cost was so high that they pushed the machine up as the A4000 and shipped it with the very nice 68040 processor (on a rather limiting CPU card) to justify the cost. They had removed DMA disk I/O and replaced it with PIO IDE. Thus, you could not even connect a CD-ROM to the new Amiga which was billed as the best multimedia machine. They even made the casework so you could physically put a CD-ROM into the case but the motherboard could not support it so... Anyway, the A4000 finally shipped as a product and it got there from a series of major management choices that just caused the product to be worse than it needed to be or cost more than it needed to.

The engineers involved did their best to deal with the choices management made. Some things on the A4000 run a bit better due to this. (Such as the better buster for Zorro-III support and switching to standard 72-pin SIMM memory modules, etc.) But these were really just "slipped" in rather than part of the grand design. (It was a very frustrating time at Commodore)

Many of us still cringe over the silly choices the Management made during that time. They really cost Commodore a ton. If it would have saved Commodore to not have made those choices is not clear but Commodore would not have died as quickly, that is for sure.

Anyway, sorry for this long thing. I have left out many details and arguments we (the engineers) had with management over the design choices they forced on us. The whole story is just too sad to tell and too long. But, in many of our minds, the A3000 (and A3000+) were the last real "desktop" Amigas that were engineered. (The A4000T is not bad motherboard but it needs a better CPU interface or at least a better CPU card with local RAM and it really should have had a DSP...)

Oh, just as a side note: The A3000+ design was such that it would have cost almost the exact same to build as the A3000 even with AGA and the DSP! But, that does not matter since the A3000+ was never finished or shipped. (there are a few prototypes that were made, and two of them even have the DSP working...) -- Mike 
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