Third-Party Hardware And Software
In my last column, I discussed the new Amiga products Commodore was showing at the fall COMDEX. There are, however, many new products on the horizon from third-party developers as well.
In the hardware category, NewTek is developing a product to rival Commodore's Professional Video Adapter for the Amiga 2000. Dubbed the Video Toaster, this product will, like the PVA, include a realtime color digitizer, genlock interface, and field store for freezing single frames from live video. In addition, NewTek's board will come with software for realtime digital special effects.
For example, NewTek demonstrated a live video image enclosed in a tumbling frame. They also showed a live video image being mapped around a sphere and other special effects like pixelization. At about $800, the Video Toaster should challenge the PVA when it appears sometime in the second quarter of 1988. NewTek is working on a number of new products, including a rumored Digi-View II—a $300 color frame grabber.
A Faster Amiga
Finally Technologies was showing off its Hurricane Accelerator board, a 68020 card for the 1000. This card plugs into the 68000 processor slot, and it provides a 14-MHz 68020 processor and 16-MHz 68881 co-processor. An optional board holds up to two megabytes of 32-bit dynamic RAM. Finally Technologies claims that the Hurricane runs all standard Amiga software packages from four to eight times normal speed. The board will be available for the 500 and 2000 as well and will cost approximately $1,000 including the 68020 and 68881 chips. The optional 32-bit memory will also be in the neighborhood of $1,000. Finally Technologies also displayed the FourInOne expansion box for the 1000, which includes a DMA SCSI controller, 512K of fast RAM, and a clock/calendar for $700. Finally Technologies expects to sell versions of this box for the 500 and 2000, which would add to the list of hardware manufacturers making DMA SCSI controllers for the new machines. This list includes Phoenix, Pacific Peripherals, and Supra.
In another encouraging hardware development, Progressive Peripherals came out with the first third-party floppy drive for the Amiga. The ProDrive external drive is less expensive than the Amiga 1010, quieter, and quite small—only a bit larger than the bare drive itself. It also comes with a longer cable than the Amiga drive, making it more convenient for use with the 500. However, unlike the Amiga external drive, this one has no pass-through for additional drives, so it must be the last drive in the chain. This should present no problem for owners of the 500; the 500's power supply is really not meant to support more than one external drive.
The small power budget of the 500 means that owners of that machine should be careful about the peripherals they add. Low-power devices like the Digi-View digitizer and audio digitizers should work, but Commodore does not recommend use of higher-power boards, like internal memory cards which take their power from the 500. While some power supplies may have enough power to support these cards, Commodore does not guarantee that future supplies will.
To be on the safe side, owners of the 500 should look for peripherals that come with their own power supplies. One such add-on is the Byte Box, from Byte-by-Byte. This $300 (OK) memory-expansion module plugs into 500's external bus connector and accepts 256K RAM chips for expansion from 512K to two megabytes of fast memory. Byte-by-Byte has made it very easy for the user to add memory chips to the Byte Box. They've even included a diagnostic program that displays the exact location of any chips that are bad or are improperly installed.
There's plenty of new software in store for Amiga owners as well. Progressive Peripherals was previewing Superbase Professional, a powerful new version of its popular database. It adds such features as keyboard macros, a database programming language, a forms editor, and a text editor with mail-merge. These new features mean that you can design a screen display that mixes data fields from separate, linked databases, and that mixes text with graphics on the same screen. Reports can be designed graphically onscreen. You can even design your own pull-down menus to replace the standard Superbase menus, and you can custom-tailor data-entry screens. Superbase Professional appears to be worth the wait.
Some familiar products have taken on a new look and/or new distributors. ITC, of Textcraft fame, had been working on DeluxeWrite for Electronic Arts but decided to market it as KindWords through its own subsidiary, the Disc Company. This package is like an enhanced version of Textcraft Plus, featuring a spell checker, graphics capabilities, and detailed graphics printer fonts.
Softwood has added a word processor to its File program, which will now be distributed by Brown-Wagh as Write and File. Brown-Wagh has also announced that they will soon release Publisher Plus to replace Publisher 1000. The new version will support laser printers and will not be copy-protected.