“The Interchange File Format (IFF) standard is widely regarded as long dead, and indeed, no one uses it anymore, except that nearly everyone uses it sometimes. Many believe the IFF standard is an Amiga graphics standard, and certainly, there have been a great many graphics files saved in the IFF format. However, IFF is not just a graphics format. It has been used for graphics, audio, text, saved games, and more. Electronic Arts actually developed the standard, back when it was a software company and not just a video game company.”
The Interchange File Format
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2006-06-17 8:09 pmSamuraiCrow
I just wish Commodore would have come out with a standardized intermediate code format so we could use a graphical code editor like AmigaVision to do our coding instead of text-based parsers like C++. That way we could have avoided the whole Java vs. C++ vs. Basic vs. etc. fiasco.
Note for the uninitiated: AmigaVision was an early precursor to PowerPoint and a contemporary of HyperCard that used flowchart-like symbols as a scripting language and used various IFF file formats for the media it would display.
Another thing the Amiga was ahead with
Now only if Commodore hadn’t squandered its golden goose then the scene nowadays might have been a whole lot different.
2006-06-17 9:33 pmwowtip
Yes, Amiga was… a more elegant system for a more civilized age.
Sure it had its flaws, but co processors, datatypes, multitasking, IFF, AREXX etc in late 80s and early 90s are still very impressing accomplishments. In some ways it seems modern computing still hasn’t caught up.
2006-06-18 11:48 amtamlin
wowtip, it not only seems “modern computing” still hasn’t caught up. It hasn’t.
Microsoft, and let’s face it we are talking about such an overwhelming market dominance that we must speak of this in the context of Microsoft and Windows, has never bothered a single bit about what e.g. Apple and Commodore (with the Amiga of course) seemingly knew was instrumental – to allow the user to control the applications using non-interactive means. Apple had AppleScript, Amiga had AREXX, and I believe OS/2 had a non-“A” REXX. 🙂
Applications written for those platforms “just worked” using external scripting, because it was an integral part of the platform. Even the culture I dare to say.
I don’t know if this is just due to ignorance on the behalf of BillG back in 1985, or a carefully orchestrated monopoly-building thing, but whatever the reasons Microsoft never created anything even remotely as useful as what the three named platforms had. BeOS went off on a tangent, but most certainly had scriptability of GUI apps built in from the start too.
I think it’s proven that Microsoft, even with ~20 years of monopoly-like market dominance, isn’t the least interested in providing even a tenth of the functionality these other platforms could provide. The surely have the manpower and money to do it, should they choose to. Therefore, I see it as statistically highly unlikely they’ll do it in the future (Nomad is just a joke in comparison), so to get back the very useful functionality of operating systems now all but gone, I see no other solution than to somehow displace MS and their market dominance. Unfortunately GNU/Linux isn’t the answer, ’cause even if some apps indeed do allow external control it’s nowhere near the level of functionality you could get from e.g. Cygnus Editor or TurboText on the Amiga. And that was two decades ago!
I think the world indeed could benefit from something better than eye-candy releases and rehashes of old moldgrowing, even bitrotting code. What, I don’t know. How, that’s even harder. One can’t expect to replace a mammoth like MS, but perhaps a new (and I do mean new, using only the best parts from OSes of the past, and then adding more useful stuff) combined with something like WINE – maybe even QEMU should it be for a new CPU architecture – could become the beginning of something. As it is today, we’re all kept in the past (basically CP/M in some areas) due to Microsoft market dominance and the (actual, not used as cussing) need for backwards compatibility.
2006-06-18 12:12 pmwowtip
The problem is that computers of that era often were used by people with a genuine interrest in computing.
The overwhelming majority of users today couldn’t care less for AREXX ports in applications or other useful functionality that require an effort to learn. They want their Office package, their browser, their e-mail client, their MSN and a couple of games. Nothing more, nothing less.
For this to change, the OS and application vendors would need an incentive to change, ie a lot of users requesting that kind of functionality.
2006-06-19 2:08 pmJonPryor
Microsoft…has never bothered a single bit about what e.g. Apple and…Amiga… seemingly knew was instrumental – to allow the user to control the applications using non-interactive means. Apple had AppleScript, Amiga had AREXX, and I believe OS/2 had a non-“A” REXX. 🙂
This is showing your ignorance more than anything else: Microsoft has such a non-interactive means of controlling their applications: COM + IDispatch + insert scripting language here.
Furthermore, all Microsoft Office apps can be scripted via COM (and the IDispatch interface). See the Microsoft Word Object Model as an example, at:
In particular, you might like this article discussing the scripting of Microsoft Excel:
It should be noted that not is all roses: it’s because Microsoft Office is so programmable that it’s been a primary target of Macro Viruses, especially since MS Office bundles the actual script code with the document, making it easier to distribute the macro viruses.
> Frankly, the world could really use a standard IFF
> equivalent for multimedia today.
But the world is using an IFF equivalenf for multimedia. The Resource Interchange File Format (RIFF) is an equivalen of the IFF format, with all numbers written in Little Endian. It is used for eg. audio (wav) and video (avi) containers.
Let me just say, this was a Bloody Brilliant writeup!
The author clearly knows his computing history (and has way better writing skill than I’ve got). Still, there were a few things I felt were missing.
.LWO, the LightWave 3D object format. As NewTek (the creators of LightWave) has its roots firmly planted in the Amiga this comes as no surprise, but it’s a significant format enough I was a little surprised the author missed it. It’s still very much in use for everything from creating small (and not so small) 3D game models to feature films (Maya isn’t the only game in town 🙂 ).
In the “Headers and extensions” sidebar he concludes “Finally, the Mac introduced the notion of file type and creator codes which were stored in the file system as data about the file rather than data in the file”.
I disagree with this, as it indeed is surpassed by an OS (+FS) I know many OSNews readers have tried, or even used, and loved. BeOS. BeOS went even further, and gave files MIME-types. I think that is/was the culmination and so far the most expressive representation, even if a bit chatty. Unfortunately it’s metadata not embedded in the data itself, such as a filename extension or a small header in the files, but in the filesystem (BFS), why none of the very numerous existing stream-oriented tools could really grok it why interoperability suffered. Still, for the ones that have programmed (for) BeOS, or even learned to use it and BFS even to just some extent, I’m sure all of you have also learned to love this.
As for the comment on 68k-architecture reflecting integer format – while true, think of it like this instead:
What is the network neutral (integer) storage representation (think e.g. socket API and htonl/ntohl). Exactly! 🙂
Not really related to the article, but this reminded me I actually still got the Amiga Bible – the Amiga ROM Kernel Reference manual, the size of an old-style large telephone book. After reading this I couldn’t help myself but brought it out from “storage” (under my desk, covered by the much smaller AmigaDOS manual so it’s not that dusty – both left alone and unused for way over a decade) including, among many other things, the complete EA IFF 85 General IFF Format Specifications, with additional sections for 3:rd Party Registered FORM and CHUNK Specifications where a few of them are chunks such as 8SVX, SMUS, ANIM, and even WORD (New Horizons Word Processor).
The memories, the times…
Edited 2006-06-18 11:24
I always loved IFF, and even wrote a UNIX implementation of a general-purpose IFF reader/writer for a project about 10 years ago.
IFF is a quite elegant, nested object, binary format; and a true multimedia format that I dare say could hold its own today as a container with only slight modification. For 1985, it was remarkable.
More efficient than XML for binary objects, far more appropriate for multimedia documents than ZIP as used in ODF. Frankly, the world could really use a standard IFF equivalent for multimedia today.