Home > Amibian.js, Amiga, Social > Amiga Disrupt: talk from the heart

Amiga Disrupt: talk from the heart

My previous article regarding the dreadful state the Amiga Kernel and OS finds itself in, primarily perpetuated by Italian company Cloanto, must have hit a nerve. My mailbox has been practically bombarded by people who are outraged by Cloanto (and Hyperion has got a fair bit of blame too). And indeed, there were errors made in that article (more about that below).

two points of viewWhat I find strange, if not borderline insane, is how ingrained people are to their company or “team”. I have never understood people who watch soccer, who get physically upset over a game – or who demonstrate complete and utter loyalty to a team no matter how ridiculous that team might be. To me,  soccer is just 22 grown men running around in their underwear chasing an inflated dead animal.

Thankfully, “Amiga hooligans” are a minority in the community. And it doesn’t really matter what topic you bring to the table, because they will oppose it either way. It’s what they do. The majority of the community are grown men and women with families, jobs and a life that has nothing to do with shared memories of the Commodore Amiga. And despite our differences we have one thing in common: a desire to see the system we grew up with flourish; a system that never failed and that despite its age has features and mechanisms that modern system lacks. It was management that failed, not the product.

As a developer, having to watch the brilliance of Amiga OS “rot on the wine” as the saying goes, is heartbreaking. The potential in the OS, even if we were to do a clean re-write, is astronomical. The ease of use alone for education, or as a low-cost alternative to Linux on embedded systems, has practical value far beyond gaming; which tragically is the only thing some people associate the technology with.

Points of view

The initial point of my article was not to paint Cloanto as the villain and Hyperion as the hero. I think everyone that has kept an eye on the Commodore saga and aftermath knows full well that none of the companies, both present and past, are without flaw. People don’t start companies for fun, but to do business. And the moment money is involved – human beings can demonstrate both excellence and selfishness. It’s human to make mistakes, and what ultimately matters is how we deal with them.

It all boils down to vantage-point. If your only ambition is to play some retro-games, then you will no doubt be happy with Cloanto’s Amiga Forever. If you enjoy software development and have coding as a hobby, then a full UAE setup, including cross compilers and real hardware will more than cover your needs.

So from those points of view, where you have already parked Amiga OS in the past as a dead system and hobby, I fully understand that you don’t care who did what, or the motives behind various strategic moves. Nothing wrong with that, people are different.

But what both those viewpoints have in common is that they are looking backwards to the past, rather than forward to a potential future. If you recognize that, and you yourself look to the future, then your expectations will be higher. You will care about how the IP is maintained, and also how the legacy is cared for. Legally it’s ultimately nobody’s business what Hyperion or Cloanto does with their intellectual property, but they have to remember that they are responsible for a computer legacy stretching back to the very beginning of home computers.


David’s book about what went on inside Commodore is quite a wake-up call. Go buy it ASAP!

The reason people refuse to throw Amiga out after so many years, is because the product was cut down before it’s time. Some compare it to the Betamax tragedy, where VHS despite being a lesser product ended up as the standard. And just like with the Amiga, it was not the product that was the determining factor in the tragedy, it was the lesser qualities of human beings. VHS allowed porn to be shipped en-mass on their format, while Betamax stuck to their principles and family values.

Commodore was thankfully not involved in anything as base, but if you take the time to read David Pleasance’s book: Commodore the inside story; you will discover that there were some monumental mistakes made in the name of, shall we say, “the lesser instincts of man“?. If you havent read his book then please do, then spend a few hours finding your jaw on the floor. It is absolutely shocking what went on behind closed doors in the company.

Mistakes in my post

The source of the mistake I wrote about, namely that of Acer’s ownership, is rooted in a simple misunderstanding. My focus was initially not on the ownership of the Amiga alone, but rather where has the Commodore patent portfolio gone? Commodore had been in business since 1954, and entered the computer market in 1979 with a MOS 6504 powered chess machine. A company with the level of growth and production over so many decades must have racked up some valuable patents, be they mechanical or electronic. I have never met Jack Trammell in person, but with regards to what I have read about the man, he would not miss an opportunity to make money or be whimsical about patents. So where did it all go?

Prior to my talk with Trevor Dickinson, I looked around to see who ended up with said portfolio (the proverbial needle in a haystack), I talked to several individuals in the community about this, googled, read articles  – and was left with 3 potential candidates: HP, Acer and Asus.

While searching I came across the following video, and the ingress underlines Acer as the patent owner:


Acer is again mentioned as owning patents

When I then had a quick chat with Trevor and the name Acer turned up a third time, I saw no reason to question this. It was ultimately not the point of my post anyway.

The next question was to determine the relationship between said owner and those running the Amiga side of things (Cloanto and Hyperion). There were two logical possibilities: either these companies owned, in the true sense of the word, different parts of the legacy — or they functioned under a branding franchise. Meaning that they have been granted the right to evolve, sell and/or represent the Amiga name and technology with obligations of royalties. This is a pretty common business model, IBM being the archetypical example, so it would not be uncommon.

And that is ultimately the mistake. In retrospect I should have known there was no large company involved, because a stable corporation would never have allowed their IP to be mangled and dragged through the gutter like the Amiga have endured.

Having said that, it doesn’t really change much. I got an email saying that Cloanto have indeed given the authors of UAE money, which I hope is true because without the developers of UAE, the Amiga community would be abysmal. They have done 90% of the lifting, yet receive little praise for their work. But again – I was unable to find anything online where this could be confirmed.

It has also been stated that Amiga Inc was both tricked, abused and bullied by Hyperion. Yet the escapades of Amiga-Inc seem to have vanished into thin air:

“later that year, Amiga Inc. used some sleight of hand to escape a pending bankruptcy. Amiga sold its assets to a shell company called KMOS—a Delaware firm headquartered in New York—then renamed KMOS back to Amiga Inc. It tried to use these shenanigans to get out of the clause in its contract with Hyperion that would revert ownership of OS 4 if Amiga Inc. ever went under. Then, to top it off, Amiga sued Hyperion for not delivering OS 4 on time and demanded the return of all source code.” –Source: Ars Technica

Oh and then there was the “death threat” email. Where my post was said to be so diabolically crafted, so insiduius and evil – that i was responsible for possible death threats. I don’t even know how to respond to that, because the poo-nami that Cloanto is experiencing is the result of 15 years of silence; where the only communication has been to threaten Amiga users who accidentally shared a 512kb rom-file from the late bronze age with legal action. I think you gravely over-estimate my influence in the matter.

Right now Cloanto seem to run around pretending to be Santa. With promises of open-source and a future for their Amiga OS 4.1 (yes you read right) and that 3.1.4 is also theirs. First of all, Hyperion got that source-code as a part of the settlement with Amiga Inc (the quote above from ARS-Technica demonstrates how Amiga Inc treated Hyperion, not the other way around).


From a video posted by the 10 minute amiga retro-cast

Secondly, the Amiga OS 3.x source code has been available on the pirate bay for 4 years now? So if Cloanto indeed are so secure in their role as rightful heir to the Amiga throne, they can open source the code in a matter of hours. Just download, slap a GPL license on the files and push it out.

To nullify a 15-year-old settlement bound by contract, which is what must happen for them to have rights to their claims — that is something I wont hold my breath waiting for.

A viable business model

2jkAfter my initial post people have dragged poor Trevor Dickinson into the debate, complaining to him about statements made by me. That is unfortunate because Trevor is not involved in our opinions at all. He even corrected me about mistakes I made in the previous article – and have absolutely not been a catalyst (quite the opposite!).

The Amiga history after the Commodore era is so convoluted, that his article series on the subject ended up spanning 12 issues of AF Magazine (!) Compare that to my two page brain fart. I also underlined that I had left out most of the details because rehashing the same tragedy over and over is paramount to explaining Game Of Thrones backwards in Sanskrit.

If we push all the details and who said what to the side for a moment, and look at the paths we have – it begins with a simple choice: you can look to the past and stick to “retro” computing. If that is the case then you will have no interest in anything I have to say, and that is fine. High five and enjoy.

If you look to the future, then suddenly we have some options before us: you have FPGA, like the FPGA-Arcade, the Vampire, MISTer and other, similar FPGA based systems. They have one thing in common and that is the 680×0 CPU.

Then you have software emulation, WinUAE being the trend-setter and various forks like UAE4Arm, FS-UAE and so on. This is perhaps the most versatile solution since it can do things difficult to achieve under real hardware.

Then we have the next generation and re-implementations. This is where Aros and it’s variations (AEROS, ARES et-al), Amiga OS 4.x and Morphos comes in.


I can’t see that we even need the legacy systems for much longer

And last but not least, cloud implementations like Amibian.js.

But in order for there to be any future where the core technology can grow, the technology has to serve a function in 2019. It doesn’t matter if the IPC layer is awesome, or that Amiga OS had REXX support 20 years before Mac OS. A modern system have to give users in this decade a benefit — otherwise there is no business model to talk about. And that is also my point. If we exclude web tech for now and look at the different paths, only two of them have the potential to deliver modern and unique functionality; and in my view that is Amiga OS 4 and Morphos.


FPGA will disrupt everything at some point

Vampire could perform a miracle and optimize their 68k architecture to the point where it can serve as a good embedded system, but even if possible, they are still held back by their dependency on classic Amiga OS. A partnership between Hyperion and Apollo would indeed be interesting, who knows. Although I would love to see the Apollo team fork Aros and shape that into what it could become with a bit of work.

Morphos is rumored to be moving their codebase to x86. This is just a rumour and I havent seen any documentation around that. If this is true then I feel it is a mistake, because NVidia and roughly 100 other major players are about to attack Intel on all fronts with RISC-V – and ARM is set to replace x86 in consumer electronics faster than most expected. Apple just announced that ARM based laptops are in the making.

I should add that this is also why I decided to write Amibian.js using web technology, because regardless of which CPU or architecture that becomes dominant in the next decade, web tech will always be there. So it allows us to abstract away the costly dependency on hardware, and instead focus on functionality.

PPC for the win?

In an interesting twist of fate, PPC could actually come out far better than anticipated – but not in the way you might think. Work is being done to make PPC a first class FPGA citizen. FPGA is fantastic in many ways, but it’s the intrinsic abillity to “become” whatever technology you describe that is revolutionary.

While it’s still in its infancy, the potential is there to render instruction-sets and architectures a preference rather than a requirement. If anything, the Vampire IV is a demonstration of just that.

So code currently bound to PPC could use FPGA as an intermediate solution while the codebase is ported to more viable platforms.

So whats the problem?

sckjThe next question then becomes: what exactly is stopping the owners from moving forward? Why dont the companies that hold the various IP’s roam silicon-valley in search of funding? And it’s here that we face the situation I briefly painted a picture of in my last post: they are in a perpetual stale-mate.

And in my view (as a developer looking forward) Cloanto, whose primary focus is to provide for the legacy market, is constantly getting in the way of Hyperion – which is looking at the future. As far as innovation and managing the legacy of Commodore is concerned, Cloanto has been asleep at the wheel for over a decade. They only woke up when it could cash-in on its C64 assets. I have no number as to how many c64 mini’s have been sold around the world, but its been a massive success. And it would be foolish to think that they have no plans to repeat the success with an Amiga model — effectively hammering the final nail in the coffin. After that, the Amiga is forever a legacy system.

Well. This case is already boring the hell out of me, so I will just leave them to it.

But looking at the various paths forward, from where I stand Hyperion and OS 4.x is the only viable business model. Providing the goal is to bring the technology back into the consumer-market and evolve the technology as an alternative to Windows, OS X and Linux. If the goal is just milk the system one final time, then I would say they are already there.

I honestly could not care less at this point. They have been asleep for so long, that they have become irrelevant. The future is in cloud, clustering and hardware abstraction — and Amibian.js is already far more interesting than anything cloanto has on offer.

But make no mistake: If the parties involved dont get their shit together, come 2022 and we will implement a native OS ourselves and open source it through torrents. The Quartex consortium is deadly serious about this. The new QTX is made up of members from various established groups back in the day, now in our 40s and 50s. Like all amiga users we have tolerated this for two decades, but enough is enough. Unlike the average gamer most of us are professional developers with decades of experience.

They have until 2022, if nothing has changed, we will finish this for them

And that was my five cents on that matter, and the last post I will do on this dumpsterfire of a topic.

  1. May 9, 2019 at 2:03 am

    That was VERY interesting. You say “They have until 2022, if nothing has changed, we will finish this for them” : is that because the patent expire in 2022? (btw, I kinda hate cloanto, but just looking at their website you know the kind of company it is…)

    • May 12, 2019 at 9:59 pm

      No. If they dont act and get Amiga OS out there, I will personally re-implement it from scratch for ARM.

      • May 13, 2019 at 12:10 am

        Hehe got it! Thanks for the clarification. Can’t wait for that tbh. The last decade(s) of limbo and legal dramas are a shame.

  2. nar001
    June 30, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Would you also reimplement it for classic Amiga hardware or only ARM?

  3. Bob B Bob
    October 16, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I have no connection with Cloanto or Aeon, but to be fair, it is you that brought Trevor Dickinson directly in to the firing line. If you will go name dropping, what do you expect? You say you had a conversation with him, but did you ever think he has his own agenda? Let’s be honest, Trevor and Aeon, as well as Hyperion are just as ‘guilty’ as Cloanto for keeping this mess from being sorted. Hyperion, after all these years of doing nothing with OS3.1, suddenly decide to update it? And the developers doing this work aren’t even employees of Hyperion. They’re well known names in the Amiga world, doing it for the love of Amiga OS, not for profit. Hyperion SELL this work for profit. It’s no different to Cloanto packaging up WinUAE with a front end and software. Perhaps you should talk to Cloanto directly, rather than accuse them without direct proof. After all, you’ve already admitted you were mistaken about ownership… how do you know you’ve got everything else right? Even the courts haven’t figured it out, but you have?

    • October 17, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      And what makes you think I havent talked to Cloanto directly? And why wouldnt the courts have “figured it out”? The Commodore tragedy is probably one of the best documented business collapses of all time.

      And cheap shots like “oh you admitted you made a mistake on the ownership, therefore we will use that against you”. If you stop and think for a second, admitting mistakes should invoke the opposite. Had I not admitted that I made an error, then that would be much worse and demonstrate serious lack of judgement. I have no problem admitting mistakes i have done (or apologizing when required). But this is not about me at all. This case was about fairness. I had no beef with Cloanto to begin with. I was shocked when they leaked to the press that they were fighting for open-sourcing Amiga OS during a legal battle, because that automatically paints Hyperion as the villain. Which is unfair and a social suckerpunch purely aimed at influencing popular opinion.

      I also took Mike at his word regarding open-source, and went to download Amiga Forever’s source code. Thats when i noticed that they had omitted their code, and was only sharing WinUAE. That is a clear violation of GPL terms, and an interpretation of Stallman’s license that is incredibly selfish. You also seem to be under the impression that it’s only me that reacted to this. And you gravely over-estimate my voice in this.

      Obviously money is a key aspect here. Thats why you and me go to work each day, and thats why people start companies. Money in itself is not a problem, it’s what people are willing to do for money that can be an issue. This whole situation could have been resolved long ago if the players followed the rules and were fair.

      Also a strange stance you have taken. You are clearly open for AENON and Hyperion being driven by greed, yet you somehow exclude Mike from any such motives?

      You dont find it a bit strange to run off to the press in the middle of a court-case, stating that you are fighting for open-sourcing Amiga os? At face value that sounds very good, but you also have to remember that Cloanto does not own that. Hyperion was granted full ownership of both the source-code and the product when the original Amiga Inc was found guilty of fraud and embezzlement. Claiming stuff like that is not cool, because it’s not theirs to give — and they indirectly light a fire under Hyperion. That was a purely strategic leak and I think you know that.

      As for putting trevor in the line of fire — what fire? And name dropping? So when I exchanged emails with Mike from Cloanto on the subject, then that too was name dropping? The irony here being, that Trevor was very politically correct, he didn’t point any fingers or try to pitch Cloanto as the bad guys at all. He simply explained his side of the story — and Mike likewise explained his side. I have also talked to Hyperion to get their version.

      Maybe just ask me first next time? If you honestly feel that lying, manipulating public opinion during a legal battle, and withholding code that falls under GPL is “ok”, then that’s your business.

  4. Retro Rick
    April 7, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    Yeah, Ive seen Hyperions 3,000 dollar “New” Amiga offering. If you think any one has a wife who is gonna let that thing in their house, after their husband just bought a 2,000 dollar windows computer(which does EVERYTHING, by the way), they are out of their tree. I just bought cloanto’s The c64, commodore
    65 computer remake , and it is wonderful ! I wish all of the fanatics would leave them alone, and let them get on with the business of making a retro A500 . Amiga developers made a bundle off of us back in the day, and the old software should be in the public domain by now, instead of in the hands of greedy carpetbaggers, looking to make a quick buck. The Amiga is only alive for nostalgias sake, and it’s fan’s should be left alone. No one needs a new system, even apple is slowly losing the battle to ibm. Amiga can’t compete anyway, release our old software, and stop being greedy.

    • April 12, 2020 at 7:59 am

      Sad that you feel that way. I use the vampire V4SA for coding, and I have started to port code en-mass from Windows to Amiga OS. So todays Amiga systems and “the original” systems are miles apart. Heck, a good Raspberry PI v4 or Tinkerboard will give you one hell of an experience.

      Or wait a bit for my WebAssembly re-implementation and run it clustered. A whole new Amiga ecosystem.

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