Interview: Trevor Dickinson, A-EON Technology

Ah, the AmigaOne x1000 – now that the summer is approaching, the powerful next-generation Amiga machine is getting ever closer to being officially unveiled and launched. The hardware is being developed by A-EON Technology, who formed a strategic partnership with Hyperion Entertainment, the company behind AmigaOS 4.x, with the “express purpose of developing new hardware for AmigaOS 4 and beyond”. Obligement has a long and detailed interview up with Trevor Dickinson, long-time Amiga enthusiast and collector, and one of the prime forces behind A-EON.

OSNews is read by computing enthusiasts, and while I’m sure we have quite a few people with a nice hardware collection, few of us can best Dickinson. Commodore user since 1981, and Amiga users since 1988, he has an impressive collection of antique computers – and most certainly has a level of understanding of these machines that could prove vital in making the x1000 a success.

“In all, I probably have over 150 Commodore and Amiga computers, ranging from the original Kim-1, the PET series (2001, 3000, 4000 and 8000), the PET B series, 8-bit gaming series (VIC-20, C64, C128, C128D, C64GS, Max, C64SX), the Commodore TED series (C16, C116, C232 and Plus/4), all the classic Amiga models and Powered-by-Amiga Tower clones including a DraCo workstation,” Dickinson details, “I also have various Commodore PC clones and even a Commodore 900 Unix machine.”

“My ‘Amiga’ next generation collection is also very extensive and includes all the Eyetech, ACube and Genesi models running a combination of AmigaOS 4, MorphOS and Linux (Debian and Ubuntu),” he continues, “I’m also interested in ‘Amiga’ emulators and derivatives such as Amithlon, Amiga Forever, AROS and FPGA implementations. I have one of the first iMica Atom and Pro AROS based systems and a dual booting AROS/Ubuntu AresOne. I also have a couple of Minimigs and a dedicated Amithlon x86 system.”

With geek credentials thrown on the table so hard you could slice open a brick, it’s time to dive into Dickinson’s motivation behind starting the A-EON business and the AmigaOne x1000 computer in particular.

“Although the Amiga market is very small we believe there is still a demand for a powerful high-end Amiga computer for professionals and serious hobbyists,” he explains, “As an Amiga enthusiast I have always been intrigued by the uniqueness of the Amiga hardware/software and the incredible loyalty of the Amiga community and as a fully paid up member of the community I wanted to see new hardware that would put the smile back on the faces of Amiga users.”

To ensure the project has a sound financial base as well as future, Dickinson also brought in, among other people, a long-time business partner, Tony Moorley, who has no interest or affiliation with the Amiga world. This allows Moorley to make sure the project and people involved keep both feet firmly planted in the ground. They would be happy if they broke even, but the goal is of course to make a profit, too, so that they can invest in future hardware.

One of the defining aspects of the original Amiga was its custom chipset, which allowed the Amiga to perform multimedia and multitasking tricks easily ten years ahead of its time. The singletasking, monochrome Macintosh couldn’t hold more than 8 pages in its word processor, and the PC world was still struggling with using DOS – in the mean time, the Amiga could multitask, had a customisable colour display, could switch resolutions on the fly, and could perform a whole load of other things the Mac and PC wouldn’t be able to do until much, much later.

That’s one heck of a legacy the A-EON guys and girls have resting on their shoulders. “Custom chipsets are no longer viable but with the additional of Xena and software defined silicon we can at least have ‘customisable chips’ which will hopefully appeal to Amiga enthusiasts and developers alike,” Dickinson says.

The x1000 will have some incredibly powerful hardware – at least in Amiga terms – and has been designed from the ground up specifically for AmigaOS 4. It will come with a custom case and branded peripherals, making it much more like a true Amiga than any of the other recent offerings we’ve seen. The following specifications are all subject to change.

  • Dual-core 1.8GHz PowerISA v2.04+ CPU.
  • “Xena” 500MHz XMOS XS1-L1 128 SDS.
  • ATI Radeon R700 graphics card.
  • 2GB RAM.
  • 500GB Hard drive.
  • 22x DVD combo drive.
  • Customised case, keyboard and mouse.
  • 7.1 channel HD audio.
  • Ports and connectors:
    • 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.

There’s quite a lot of stuff in here the AmigaOS currently does not support, starting with the processor. The version of the AmigaOS initially shipping with the x1000 won’t be 64bit, nor will it use the second CPU core. This makes it akin to MacOS 9, which couldn’t make use of the second processor in dual-CPU Macs either. The processor, by the way, is shrouded in secrecy as they have not yet announced which processor it will be.

“There has been a good commercial and confidentiality reason for withholding the identity of the Power CPU,” Dickinson explains, “To date, only CPU test samples have been used to build the A1-X1000 prototypes and to avoid potential damage we have not run the CPU to its maximum rating. A purchase and supply contract has been negotiated and agreed with the CPU vendor and, at the time of writing, we are awaiting delivery of the first batch of pre-paid production CPU’s. Once these have been tested, full details of the A1-X1000 CPU will be revealed. It will be the first time this CPU has been used in any ‘desktop’ computer and suffice to say we think it’s quite special.”

There’s a lot more information in the interview, so be sure to give it a good read. As an enthusiast, I’m extremely grateful companies like A-EON exist, and that there are people willing to invest in creating truly unique hardware. In a time whithout anything even remotely exciting going on in the hardware business (to anyone thinking ARM smartbooks: yeah yeah we’ve been there before, they first promised us those, what, 18 months ago?), project like this are to be cherished.

I will do anything – and by anything I mean everything from running naked through Utah to finishing Hard Rain on expert-realism-bleed-out with one hand tied behind my back – to get my hands on one of these once it’s out.


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