After days of wild speculation and ridiculously fast-growing threads on AmigaWorld.net, we finally know most of what we need to know about the new Amiga. This is not just a random PowerPC evaluation board that you can stuff in a generic case – no, this is an all-new system with a custom motherboard, and some very, very interesting innovations – like a fully customisable co-processor. Twenty-five years after the introduction of the first Amiga, this is one heck of a machine.
The new machine is called the AmigaOne X1000, a nod to the original A1000 Amiga that stunned the world 25 years ago, bringing features like multitasking, accelerated graphics, and on-the-fly resolution changes to the world of computing in a time where Windows didn’t have overlapping windows, and where the monochrome Macintosh couldn’t hold more than 8 pages in its word processor.
The AmigaOne X1000 catapults the Amiga platform into modernity, providing a rather flexible and powerful machine to run the AmigaOS on. It comes with a dual-core PowerPC processor, conforming to the Power ISA 2.04 standard. They cannot exactly reveal which processor it is, as orders from “higher up” forbid them to (AMCC Titan?). AmigaOS 4 developers currently run the processor at 1.6Ghz, but this is not the actual nominal clock speed.
Apart from the processor, the AmigaOne X1000 comes with some innovations that take the machine beyond the level of mere custom chips. The original Amiga was the first machine to employ the idea of custom chips for e.g. graphics, a practice adopted by the PC and Mac worlds much, much later (but in a cruder manner), so with the X1000, A-eon is taking it a step further: customisable processors.
The X1000 has an XMOS XCore, as the rumour mill had already suggested, and A-eon has renamed it Xena, in keeping with the traditions of the Amiga world. It’s a programmable CPU, following the Software Defined Silicon concept developed by XMOS. INMOS transputer architect David May is one of the people behind XMOS.
“Capable of eight concurrent real-time threads with shared memory space, at up to 400 MIPS (about 6 68060s worth), Xena gives the X1000 a very flexible, very expandable co-processor,” A-eon writes, “The uses are endless; control hardware, DSP functions, robotics, display – even SID chip and console emulators.”
If 400 MIPS sounds a bit slow to you, wait until you hear about the Xorro slot.
To accompany ‘Xena’, we have ‘Xorro’, a new slot using an industry-standard PCIe x8 form factor to give access to the ‘Xena’ IO. This will be the route to Xena’s 64 IO lines, which are dynamically configurable as input, output, or bidirectional. ‘Xorro’ will allow bridging Xena to external hardware for control purposes, to internal systems, or to other Xcore processors. This last point is worth more exploration; XCore is a parallel processing architecture, and if you want more power, you can simply chain more XCores together [something like this]. Reference boards have been made with up to 256 cores, offering a theoretical 102400 MIPS. Those of you interested in high-end imaging or scientific applications, for example, take note.
I have to say that I absolutely love this. Of course, I can’t program such chips myself (or at all), but the idea of putting something as flexible as this in the hands of talented and resourceful programmers just makes me very, very excited about what they can come up with. It won’t catapult the Amiga into the realms of Windows and Mac OS X, but it does give it a clear-cut advantage over them.
The full specifications for the AmigaOne X1000 board are as follows:
- ATX Formfactor
- Dual-core PowerISAâ„¢ v2.04+ CPU
- “Xena” XMOS XS1-L1 128 SDS
- 7.1 channel HD audio
- 4x DDR2 RAM slots
- 10x USB 2.0
- 1x Gigabit Ethernet
- 2x PCIe x16 slots (1×16 or 2×8)
- 2x PCIe x1 slots
- 1x Xorro slot
- 2x PCI legacy slots
- 2x RS232
- 4x SATA 2 connectors
- 1x IDE connector
- JTAG connector
- 1x Compact Flash
The machine will come with a custom case too, but little is known about that for now, apart from a small shot that didn’t reveal anything specific. Together with ACube’s sam440ep at the lower end, the X1000 hopes to usher in a brighter future for the Amiga platform. The X1000 will arrive before the summer, and will be cheaper than the original A1000 – which cost 1295 USD in ’80s money.
“Thanks to Xena and the Xorro interface, the X1000 offers extraordinary flexibility. We believe that with this easy gateway to the world of ‘Software Defined Silicon’ and a path to massive parallelism, the X1000 will once more make the AmigaOS platform the best choice for truly creative and unique applications,” A-eon writes, “For custom hardware control from robotics to theatrical lighting, for hobbyist creativity, for hardware hacking and for a multitude of applications we haven’t even imagined yet, the X1000 is a dream platform – and therein lies another meaning of ‘X’, the unknown. It is you, not us, who will define the future.”
After so many dark years of uncertainty and legal nonsense, it’s great to see the persistence of the Amiga community rewarded with a truly special computer. Boing!