Leafing through as many vintage gaming magazines as I do, recurring patterns begin to emerge. One example is the readership boasts you see emblazoned in bold type, taking pride of place at the uppermost edge of the front covers.
“The UK’s best selling Amiga magazine” some proclaim. Others ratchet up the hyperbole, swapping ‘world’ for the ‘UK’, or where purely entertainment-oriented magazines are concerned you might instead see, “Britain’s best selling Amiga games magazine”.
Let me know if you’ve found an example of two different magazines making the same assertion in the same month. It must have happened at some point I’d imagine.
Magazines would switch back and forth between claims from one month to the next, and drop them altogether on other occasions, as their popularity fluctuated.
My favourite declarations of all are the ones that can’t be disproved because they’re subjective rather than factual; lines like “the ultimate games guide to the ultimate computer”, “the complete guide to the Amiga” and “Britain’s biggest and best Amiga games mag” spring to mind. If you spot one of these you can be certain no champagne corks would have popped that month.
While it may have looked like the editors were making it up as they went along, the statistics are actually independently collated and verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, mostly for sales and marketing purposes. Usually, if you turn to the index page of any magazine governed by ABC regulations, you’ll find the circulation figures for the previous bi-annual period. I find it enlightening to compare and contrast these throughout Commodore’s rise and fall… but then I’m extremely sad and need to find another hobby.
Based on the figures made available to the public at the time, we know that it was always a close race between CU Amiga and Amiga Format where the multifaceted magazines were concerned, while Amiga Power would lead the charge on the games front.
Is an Amiga portable on the way?
Last November, Amiga Format was contacted by a firm with a surprising idea. Newer Technologies, of Oregon in the United States, told us that they were considering producing a portable Amiga: “We can have it ready by Christmas”, they assured us. What did we think?
It appears that Newer Technologies have developed an extremely compact machine, slightly larger than this page and only two-three inches thick, which unfolds to reveal a 10-inch colour or mono LCD screen. A high-end version would include a faster 68030 chip. However, a spokesman for Newer Technologies is quoted as saying, “the company is reassessing the product’s viability.”
This could be due to the fact that Commodore have complete copyright over the Amiga’s custom chips, which would be vital to a clone Amiga. Commodore would be expected to react hostilely to another company using their design, especially if a rumour that Commodore are developing their own portable Amiga should prove to be true.
If the portable Amiga does appear, it’s likely to be expensive. Lightweight power supplies and screens are not cheap. The American market sees the Amiga as a serious creativity tool and the portable would be targetted at video work, in a similar way to Apple’s Macintosh portable, so the gamer’s dream of a portable Amiga games machine is unlikely to come true. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.
Amiga Format issue 32 (March 1992)
Another recurring theme was the holy grail for the first portable Amiga, or more aptly coined ‘luggable’ given that the miniaturisation of computer technology was still in its infancy at that point.
Even if Commodore themselves weren’t going to have a stab at it officially, plenty of third parties were happy to step into the breach, with or without legal consent.
Initially at least that is; once they realised that Commodore weren’t going to award them carte blanche freedom to capitalise on their brand recognition and ask nothing in return, the projects were dropped like a hot potato, and it was back to the drawing board.
There will be no Model 10 portable Amiga. The $1800 unit designed by Kansas-based Newer Technology and due to be distributed by Briwall has been prevented from going on sale by Commodore. Apparently, Newer Technology denied Commodore access rights to the design of the portable wonder machine and Commodore in turn refused to grant a re-manufacture license for all the Amiga custom chips and ROMs required in the device.
Unfortunately, this looks likely to spell the end of any dreams about a portable Amiga, unless Commodore come up with a unit themselves. No-one is going to spend thousands in R&D just to give away the design. For their part Commodore have streamlined their own R&D operation and have been concentrating on the CDTV and CD-ROM drive, Workbench 2 and the Amiga 300/800 console – no plans for a portable in the near future.
A similar project by German manufacturers Gigatron also ran into trouble roughly a year ago.
CU Amiga issue 26 (April 1992)
Commodore on the move
Commodore has entered the world of laptop computers with the C286-LT. Sadly it is an IBM-type PC compatible and not based on the Amiga, but it will still make a suitable portable companion for your Amiga, as discussed more fully last month in our piece on other portables. The C286-LT costs £1999, weighs 3.2 kg, has a 20Mb hard disk, a 3.5″ floppy drive and LCD screen. Commodore 0628 770088.
Amiga Format issue 17 (December 1990)
Some teams aimed to clone the Amiga motherboard technology from the ground up, while other less ambitious engineers would offer consumers a DIY kit used to re-house their existing machines in a portable case with a built-in display, thereby sidestepping any awkward licensing constraints.
Of all the designs proposed, only the Newer Technologies model advanced beyond the prototype phase, though even then it was beset with legal difficulties and thus shelved indefinitely.
Is a portable Amiga on the way?
Rumours are abundant in the Amiga world that an Amiga portable could be on the way. AmReport, the on-line news magazine on CIX, has been putting two and two together and getting an interesting sum. For example, the new developers’ style guide insists that all new Amiga software should look good and be useable in mono, which suggests use on a black-and-white LCD screen. An Amiga portable developed independently of Commodore by a German firm never made its appearance. Why not? Did Commodore stamp on it, or take it up? Wait and see…
Amiga Format issue 27 (October 1991)
UK gets Pawed
After months of speculation, the world’s first portable Amiga is ready to go on sale. Blittersoft have recently agreed exclusive distribution rights for Silent Paw Production’s products, and the Portable Amiga Work Station will be on sale in the UK this November.
￼Developed by US company Silent Paw Productions, the first versions to go on sale will be the PAWS 600 and 1200. Versions based on the A3000 and A4000 will follow, although they will differ in that they do not have the ability to use battery power.
Blittersoft are convinced there will be a market for laptop Amigas, although it will obviously be a niche. “A lot of people are using portable PC notebooks for things like CIX and e-mail”, Blittersoft’s Paul Lesurf said. “But they say they’d rather be using Amigas.”
As far as the PAWS 3000 and 4000s are concerned, the company expects high demand for the products from people who want portable Video Toasters. It’s a niche market,’ Lesurf admitted. “It’s too expensive for everyone, but certainly there is a market.”
Amiga Computing issue 94 (December 1995)
New Amiga board makes IBM PC redundant
The AT Once is a PC emulator that slots inside the A500 and allows PC and Amiga programs to run on the same machine at the same time. The 8Mhz PC emulator is claimed to offer full IBM compatibility and support hard disks. It does its PC processing with the Intel 80286 chip found in the IBM ATs, but also on the board is a Motorola 68000 which takes over from the Amiga’s similar central processor.
The AT Once is available now, costs £199 and will run any version of the PC operating system, MS-DOS, from 3.2 onward. If you don’t already own MS-DOS, supplier Silica will sell you a current version 4.01 for £50.
An Amiga 2000 version isn’t available yet but distributor Silica plans an adaptor to allow the AT Once to drop into a 2000. A card cage to allow the A500 to take PC expansion cards is promised and a 386 SX version is also on the cards.
The Amiga’s serial, parallel and mouse ports are used as if they were the PC’s equivalent ports. The internal disk drive of the Amiga becomes a 720k PC disk drive and any external 3.5 or 5.25-inch floppy disk drives are configured as their PC equivalents.
An onboard utility allows you to use as much memory as is available on the Amiga and memory above the normal 1Mb limit can be accessed quite comfortably as extended memory in PC mode.
To install the AT Once you have to take your Amiga apart and invalidate any remaining warranty, but the instruction book supplied by Vortex makes this a simple enough task that will take an averagely dexterous and intelligent person less than half an hour.
As with most PC emulators, the display lets the AT Once down a shade. Four colours from a machine that is usually capable of 4092 more is a disappointment. From a choice of CGA, Toshiba, Olivetti and Hercules displays, CGA is currently the most usable. Better resolution than CGA is possible, but at the expense of taking the Amiga into the flickering interlace mode.
Expansion cards should make it possible to use EGA and VGA display, but this may take its toll in processing speed. Silica claims that the availability of card slots will soon mean that an Amiga will run as a VGA PC for under £300. Silica Systems 081-308 0888.
Amiga Format (February 1991)
For as long as PC-exclusive software existed there had been a rallying call to arms to create an Amiga hardware or software compatibility layer to emulate the host platform and bridge the gap.
Partly this was to allow us to run MS Office and niche DOS applications without having to lower ourselves to investing in a boring beige box, but also to make the Amiga platform more attractive to IT purchasing departments and end-users.
It must have come as a pleasant ego boost for the Amiga engineers to learn that exactly the same movement was afoot on the PC side of the equation, despite our diminutive install base.
￼If emulation wasn’t your cup of tea, alternatively you could have opted to buy a Commodore branded PC.
Instant, 100% IBM compatibility and none of the guilt!
Blasphemy I know, but CBM did go down this route. The systems that were generally dubbed as solid, yet unremarkable were introduced to the market in 1984 and phased out in 1993 in a bid to streamline the portfolio and assuage the group’s impending financial predicament.
Cards on the table
Several developers close to Commodore claim to have seen another major new product which Commodore has waiting on its shelves – an Amiga card for the PC. The revolutionary new card will provide any 486-based PC with full Amiga compatibility enabling PC owners to run Amiga applications such as LightWave and ADPro on their machines.
The card follows hot on the heels of both Panasonic and Atari, both of which have announced that they intend to develop versions of their 3DO and Jaguar consoles which can be ‘slotted’ inside any standard PC. If the rumours are to be believed, however, Commodore’s card certainly won’t be playing second fiddle to such rivals – not only is the card rumoured to offer full multi-tasking between the PC’s native operating system and the Amiga’s hardware, but it is even believed to be based around the infamous AAA chipset.
It is common knowledge that the AAA chipset is virtually complete – indeed, if Commodore were to produce a card which provided PC owners with Amiga compatibility, it would most certainly have to be AAA-based. Not only would such a card appeal to PC owners that ‘just want to play Amiga games’ but it would prove to be a powerful graphics card in its own right.
Amiga Format issue 62 (August 1994)
CBM say goodbye to PCs
Amiga users can expect more support from Commodore as the firm prepare to quit the cut-throat PC-compatible market to concentrate on the Amiga range.
The move is part of the massive restructuring programme detailed last month after the manufacturer announced a third-quarter loss of more than $177 million.
Commodore’s David Pleasance says that by dropping PC products his firm will be able to focus on 32-bit Amiga technology, with all resources going on the machines.
In countries where they are a major PC player – such as Germany – the firm will sell third-party manufactured machines badged with the Commodore name.
Amiga Computing issue 64 (September 1993)
Ground control calling Major Tom
A TV in the shape of an astronaut’s helmet is ideal to watch films like 2001, A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, a seventies David Bowie concert, etc, etc. The ‘Discoverer’ from Philips, has all the latest mod cons including a detachable black visor to reduce the glare on world-weary eyes. A sleep-timer will switch off the TV when you depart for the Land of Nod while watching The Sky At Night.
CU Amiga issue 16 (June 1991)
Philips were renowned for manufacturing the most intriguing and quirky TVs back then. They were no different in terms of technology, it was purely their aesthetic flair that stopped you in your tracks and made them desirable.
The producers of the ’90s TV show billed as “Tomorrow’s World for kids”, Bad Influence, clearly were thinking along the same lines when they chose the ‘Your Way‘ model to showcase new games and console or computer hardware.
The Discoverer sets often crop up on eBay for silly prices, though I’d hazard a guess that this has more to do with price gouging than a true reflection of their actual value. CRT TVs are mostly only of interest to retro gamers these days, and despite a resurgence in ‘keeping it real’ through embracing vintage appliances, your average (non-novelty) set is still difficult to give away, let alone sell.
Sadly, the ‘Your Way’ model is more elusive than the Loch Ness monster. I’ve had an eBay keyword notification set up for it for a year now without so much as a false negative ping.
P… P… pick up a penguin
After buying ad space in Millennium’s Robocod game, McVities’ Penguin chocolate bars are set to sponsor the GALLUP charts. From the beginning, of April, all ELSPA charts will feature the Penguin logo and character.
What interests us most is the fact that the deal was put together by Micro-Time Media, a firm who specialise in selling advertising space in computer games. The company were also responsible for placing billboard ads for Seven-Up and Duckham’s motor oil in Microprose’s recent Formula One Grand Prix and have a number of other deals in the pipeline. Such product placement is common practice in American movies, where nothing appears unless it’s been paid for, and Micro-Time look set to successfully import the idea into computer games.
According to MTM boss, Danny Bobroff, products are only placed where they will tie-in with the game in some way. Obviously, Seven-Up and Duckhams were naturals for Grand Prix and actually enhanced the sense of realism by dotting the ads around the race tracks. What next, one wonders? What about adverts for condoms in Leisure Suit Larry? Adidas trainers in Kick Off, and Barrett Homes in Domark’s 3D Construction Kit?
CU Amiga 27 (May 1992)
Imagine that, McVities’, the company who sponsored the recent Amiga games, Robocod and Aquatic Games, had also signed up to play patron to the charts that would track their success or failure in the market. Can anyone spot the conflict of interests? We’d heard of advertising regulations back then. Didn’t really adhere to many of their inconvenient nannying tenets so much though.
Product endorsement is less common in the software industry than in other media – but it does exist.
USG are among the few which have dabbled, most notably with Mad Mix, a co-promotion with the Pepsi Challenge – but for all but a few major publishers the costs are enormous.
Unlike movie companies, where product plugs are charged like ads, the software industry usually pays a ransom for the privilege. Virgin Mastertronic are reported to have paid handsomely for Adidas to endorse Italia 90.
Sometimes, no money will change hands if it seems that the relationship will benefit both parties equally. Mirrorsoft, for one, claim that costs were not incurred in the case of their next venture, Back to the Future 2.
The strength restorers in this sequel will be none other than bottles of – you’ve guessed it – Pepsi Cola. Nike trainers and Texaco will also be getting major plugs.
Whether the whole business of product endorsement is a good idea or not is entirely another matter. Certainly in films no-one seems to notice much – except, that is, in the case of Back to the Future, the movie, which has gone down as one of the most heavily endorsed films in history. Twenty-six products were placed including those by Cherokee Jeeps, Pizza Hut, BMW (two from this source), Miller Beer, Valvoline motor oil, Magnavox, a Pacman coin-op, JVC, Adidas, Pepsi, Nike, Perrier, Beefeater’s gin, USA Today, DeLorean, 7-11, Macintosh, Mattel and Black & Decker.
CU Amiga issue 3 (May 1990)
Addware to shake world?
Games veterans Paul Cooper and Mel Croucher are set to launch a new shareware style software house called Addware which they hope will shake the traditional world of software production. It’s novel twist though is that the games will carry prizes for each format – like a trip around the world! – for the first player to finish.
What’s more, because the aim of Addware is to spread the software, copying is strictly encouraged. To this end there are also prizes for the folks who distributed the game to the finisher. Of course to win the prize you’ll have to have registered with Addware. Airmania will be the first title to hit the streets and PD circuits this October, but if you want more information in advance write to Addware PO Box 1992, Southampton, S09 7HX.
Amiga Format 28 (November 1991)
Seeing as the billboard for John Menzies is the only advert for a genuine company I’ve managed to spot in Airmania, I don’t imagine the concept was a runaway success. You’d hope for the developer’s sake that no-one succeeded in completing the game – how many calls to that premium rate number would it have taken to cover the cost of a “trip around the world!”
Airmania is the only game for the Amiga to have been published under the Addware label. That says it all really.
I’ve covered the most conspicuous ‘ad games’ such as Zool, Robocod and Superfrog in great depth elsewhere, but there are many more lesser-known examples I could cite, and will in fact, right below.
The Burton snowboarding brand is strategically placed throughout Ski Or Die, Ravanelli’s Soccer is sponsored by Play Video, and the Grand National horse racing game is endorsed by the now-defunct Seagram booze and soft drinks distillery.
Goal! Championship Cup Edition jumped into bed with Adidas, Turbo Cup has the face of Paris-Dakar Rally champion, Rene Metge, plastered all over it (and he in turn drives a 944 Turbo Porsche backed by Loriciels), and then there is Adidas Championship Tie-Break. The name of the sportswear brand that allied itself with this one escapes me.
Believe it or not, there is even a German, point ‘n’ click adventure game developed on behalf of Philip Morris to pimp their Liggett & Myers cigarette brand.
‘Sunny Shine On The Funny Side of Life‘ features scenery graphics and dialogue which pushes cancer sticks to kids, and yet was published by Rainbow Arts who purport to be a reputable company.
There are also three other games I know of that were commissioned by cigarette manufacturers, though thankfully they were only intended to be used for internal promotional events.
Of course today it wouldn’t be a cause for concern because we know smoking is bad for you and no one does it any more.
TV game show waits for C4 OK
Computer gaming is set to become a TV sport, courtesy of mould-breaking programme-makers Hewland International. Taking the form of a UK Computer Games Championship the program could appear as early as next spring on Channel 4.
The program would consist of 13 episodes running for half an hour every week. Each show would feature three different games – a shoot-em-up, a sports sim and an ‘odd-ball’ – being played on an Amiga 2000. Contestants would be rank-and-file games players who’d proved themselves ace wagglers, most probably recruited through magazines.
Hewland International are currently waiting on Channel 4’s reactions to a mock-up episode which featured Silkworm, Chase HQ and E-Motion. Even in the unlikely event that C4 get cold feet it’s rumoured that US TV and Eurosport are eager to run with the format.
Jane Hewland, the production company’s boss, has a good track record of bringing innovative and unusual projects to the screen, Network 7 a prime example of her previous work. With computer leisure reaching radio we could see a similar explosion in ‘Computer Culture’ exposure as was experienced when ‘Youth Culture’ shows like Network 7, DEF II and clones first hit the TV.
Amiga Format issue 15 (October 1990)
Holy Batpants, it’s Gamesmaster before it was infamous!
Who knew this flimsy, clutching-at-straws concept would go on to leave an atom bomb sized crater of an impression in the consciousness of 30-somethings all these years later? A show so edgy just watching it felt like breaking the law. Computer Chronicles it ain’t!
Channel 4 hosts gameshow
Come on down for the first real gameshow on telly: a computer game show, that is! Channel 4 have commissioned a series of ten half-hour programmes under the name GamesMaster, to start showing in January next year. The series will feature competitions between top players (whoever they are), reviews of new games, international sales charts and tips showing players how to crack the tricky bits of their favourite games.
BBC Scotland’s game show Catchword has also received a boost from the Amiga, courtesy of Amiga Centre Scotland’s Harlequin 32-bit colour card. The Amiga was used to produce animation links and graphics for the show, as well as stereo sound effects. Catch the programme on BBC2 in the Autumn.
Amiga Format issue 26 (September 1991)
Wanna be on telly?
The First ever national TV programme covering computer games is called Gamesmaster and starts showing on Channel 4 on December 31. Thing is, if you want to be on telly Amiga Format can now bring you the opportunity to go to the recording of the show in London, which will run for about five days from November 4. Simply call 071 712 9536 or 071 712 9533 and ask about tickets for the recordings.
Amiga Format issue 28 (November 1991)
Spot the (not so) deliberate mistake in the July 1992 issue of Amiga Format. I honestly haven’t Photoshopped page 7 in any way; it actually went to print with that place-holder header included. Oops! For some non-UK residents it’s the only reason they’ve even heard of Amiga Format.
An apology – getting to grips with Paint Pot
We’d like to apologise sincerely to any readers who were disturbed by the error which allowed an example of bad language to appear on the Paint Pot demo instructions on page 7 of the last issue, and also to Prisms software, whose program it is and who had nothing at all to do with the mistake.
We would like to make it clear that the use of such language in the magazine was in no way intentional and will not be repeated. We are acutely aware of our responsibilities as a family magazine. Indeed, we normally take pride in the fact that this magazine is far more fastidious about bad language than most other computer magazines. We particularly regret that this mistake should have occurred on a page specifically aimed at younger readers.
Briefly, to explain, the problem was that a designer typed an instruction to the writer to fill in a heading which had been omitted. Unfortunately, this instruction was phrased somewhat carelessly. By a series of coincidences, and under pressure of time, the incorrect heading was missed at the normal proof-checking and final re-checking stages. When the mistake was realised, it was unfortunately too late to correct it.
We would like to assure all readers, and particularly parents of younger children, that a rigorous code of practice has been established that will prevent this sort of thing from happening in future.
We have also printed, at the suggestion of several readers, a version of the heading as it should have appeared which can be used to mask the error so that the magazine can be given to children and they can be allowed to follow the program at their own pace, as was intended. Our apologies once more.
A grovelling apology from the editor was issued in the reader’s letters section the following month, along with a handy ‘cut and paste’ banner to stick over the offending line.
What I adore about predicting the past is I’m always right! Join me again next time for more dubious, sagely soothsaying shenanigans. For my next trick I think I’ll prognosticate the winner of the 1966 World Cup final. Place your bets now.