Generation Amiga: Hello Trevor Dickinson can you introduce yourself to our readers? How did you discover the Amiga platform?
Trevor Dickinson: I’m English by birth but emigrated to New Zealand in 2011. I’ve been involved in a number of successful businesses which I helped grow organically and now, as a Business Angel in New Zealand, I have investments in a diverse range of companies covering many industries. However, my “hobby” and passion is the Amiga computer. My first computer was actually a Commodore PET 4032. This was replaced by a C64 and then C128D. I first came across the Amiga in the late 1980’s. I was living in Texas at the time and was very happy with my Commodore 128D equipped with a massive 512MB Ram Expansion Module and 1200 baud modem. My C12D was powered by GEOS, the windows and mouse driven operating system from Berkeley Softworks so I was already primed for my Amiga transition. I was a Compuserve member in those days, complete with a totally numeric Compuserve email address. Anyway, one day my house struck by lightning which destroyed my C128D system including the dot-matrix printer and external 1571 drive. My insurance policy described it as an “act of God” and with the cheque from my insurance claim I purchased an Amiga 2000 complete with an 8086 PC bridgeboard and 68020 accelerator card. It was the beginning of my Amiga sojourn.
Generation Amiga: How many people are involved in A-Eon Technology, how did it started?
Trevor Dickinson: There were actually two A-EON Technologys. I was a founding shareholder in both although neither company is related. A-EON Technology CVBA started in Belgium in 2009 and was co-founded with Tony Moorley, my long-time friend and business partner, and Ben Hermans of Hyperion Entertainment as a minority shareholder. I was supposed to be a passive investor but, as it turned out, I ended up not only funding most of the development costs but actually supervising the development and beta test program to ensure that Nemo motherboards were successfully delivered to the beta testers. I was living in London at the time and it became apparent that having the company based in Belgium was not very efficient or cost effective so I shut the business down. Shortly afterwards in 2012, I co-founded A-EON Technology Ltd in the UK with Matthew Leaman. Matthew is the founder and Managing Director of AmigaKit. Not only did he distribute the original Nemo motherboards to beta testers, he also helped shape the AmigaOne X1000 system including the Boing Ball Tower case and the A-EON branded keyboard and Mouse. We also used a mix of hardware contractors such as Ultra Varisys and numerous software consultants. In recent years we have expanding our software development effort and we now have over twenty part-time contract developers working on various AmigaOS software projects for AmigaOS 68k and PowerPC.
Generation Amiga: A-Eon technology signed a 1.2 million-dollar investment contract with Ultra Varisys for the ongoing design, development and manufacture of PowerPC hardware for its AmigaOne line of desktop computers. That’s a huge investment in the Amiga platform and probably the biggest investment since Commodore days. What motivates you and do you see any return of your investment?
Trevor Dickinson: Yes, many people probably think I’m a little crazy. 😉 It was and is a big investment for the size of the Amiga market today. What really motivates me? Throughout the 1990s I used a series of big box Amigas in my business for Graphics work, video and DTP. All of our technical manuals were created on an Amiga using a combination of Professional page, Professional draw and numerous graphics programs such as Art Department Pro and ImageFX.
A return on my investment? Er, perhaps one day but in the meantime I do have the pleasure of travelling around the world meeting like-minded Amiga enthusiasts to share and spread our joint Amiga passion. Long may it continue.
Generation Amiga: The release of the upcoming AmigaOne a1222 is coming closer and over 50 beta-testers are pushing the a1222 to it’s limits. Can you tell us more about the development and it’s performance?
Trevor Dickinson: It’s been a long, slow process. Thanks to our dedicated core Linux support team, various Debian PowerPC distributions have been running on the Tabor motherboard for over a year now. AmigaOS 4.1 now runs quite well also. However, there is still some work to do on the Ethernet and Audio drivers and other CPU optimisation but I am hopeful that we will be announcing the first commercial release of the AmigaOne A1222 before the end of this year. Fingers crossed (for luck. :-))
Generation Amiga: A-Eon Technology have recently announced the A.L.I.C.E notebook, it would achieve extraordinary emulation results. Can you tell us more about the development and it’s performance? And when will it be released?
Trevor Dickinson: The A.L.I.C.E. project is the result of a collaboration between Ján Zahurančík, Ken Lester, Pat Wall, Toni Wilen, Rex Schilasky and Kevin Saunders. Ken and Pat are AmigaOne X1000 & X5000 and A1222 owners and beta testers. Jan is the producer of the excellent AmiKit distribution and Kevin, who also owns an AmigaOne X5000, created much of the A.L.I.C.E. artwork along with Ken who designed most of the AmiKit skins. Toni is of course the driving force behind WinUAE. In the late 1990s, back when Gateway owned the Amiga I.P., I was an early user of WinUAE and Amiga Forever on my Gateway PC. At that time, Amiga emulation on a PC was not that good, and I was still using my Cyberstorm PPC equipped A4000 tower as my main computer. However, over time Windows PCs became more powerful and the Amiga emulation improved. Eventuality Cloanto released a version of Amiga Forever which could boot a PC directly into its Workbench 3.X environment using “KX Light”, a GNU/Linux distribution based on a modified version of Knoppix. At that time I wanted to create an AmigaOS laptop which booted straight into Workbench without the Windows overhead. However, it took the combined skills of the A.L.I.C.E. team to make the dream a reality. I seeded the A.L.I.C.E. development by donating a number of shiny new laptops and the talented team did the rest. I use my prototype A.L.I.C.E. laptop as my portable machine of choice. It multi-boots into a standalone AmiKit Workbench, an AmigaOS 4.1 Classic Workbench or Windows 10. The unique Rabbit-hole feature lets me run Linux programs such as Firefox, LibreOffice and Skype from within AmiKit. Under Windows I can also run the latest WinUAE version which supplies AmigaOS 4.1 Classic with more system and graphics RAM allowing memory hungry OS4 applications such as the Odyssey web browser to run. I can even install the latest Enhancer Software SE pack. However, as you might expect, the emulation does not perform nearly as well as even the least powerful native Next-generation PowerPC Amiga. Ken Lester has recently optimised the A.L.I.C.E. installation process and together with Alex Perez is taking on the task supporting the first commercial release.
Generation Amiga: Can you tell us more about the ongoing development of the AmigaOne X5000/40?
Trevor Dickinson: It’s ongoing. Watch this space. 😉
Generation Amiga: The Amiga trademarks (Amiga/AmigaOS/Boing) will end in 2018. What is your stance towards this and how important is this for A-Eon Technology?
Trevor Dickinson: That is a very interesting question. For some reason Amiga, Inc did not renew several Amiga trademarks in the USA which expired in January this year and shortly afterwards Bill McEwen resigned from the mostly dormant company. Cloanto, who has certain pre-existing rights to Amiga emulation granted by Gateway and subsequently acquired some other Commodore and Amiga copyrights from Amiga, Inc. chose to register these expired trademarks. Does this mean that Amiga, Inc has left the business and it’s open season on the Amiga rights. I don’t think so? What will happen in 2018 as the European Amiga trademarks come up for renewal? It’s anyone’s guess. As far as A-EON Technology is concerned, it has a worldwide, perpetual, royalty free licence to use the AmigaOne, AmigaOS and Boing Ball trademarks and trade names granted under sub-license from Hyperion Entertainment. We will concentrate on developing quality hardware and software for both the 68K and PowerPC Amiga markets.
Generation Amiga: LibreOffice is a big step forwards for AmigaOS and AmigaOne line of desktop computers. Can you tell us more about it’s ongoing development or possible release date?
Trevor Dickinson: Again, it’s been a long slow process which is finally coming to fruition. I contracted AmigaOS developers, Thomas and Hans-Joerg Freiden and subcontracted them to work on the project, as and when they had spare time from their other coding obligations. This of course is not the fastest development method but it’s a massive project and they have the technical skill to deliver a successful outcome. The beta test is at last under way, although Thomas and Hans-Joerg are busy completing another software project at the moment. (See AmigaOne A1222 answer above). There is still quite a lot of work to do and invoking the 90/10 rule the last 10% will take some more time yet but at least we are getting closer.
Generation Amiga: A-EON Technology lately announced another major update of Enhancer Software (1.2) for AmigaOS 4.1 systems. A big update of Warp3D Nova (v1.34) and OpenGL ES 2.0 (v1.12). Can you tell us more and what about the future?
Trevor Dickinson: That’s easy. As I’m typing these answer the next version of the Enhancer Software pack is in the final stages of beta testing and should be released this month. Version 1.3 is the third update of the Software Enhancer Pack which was only released one year ago. It’s full of many new features and of course Waprp3D Nova and OpenGL ES 2.0 continue to be updated. Almost forty people contribute to the Enhancer Software project either as coders, beta tester, graphic artists, translators and other contributors. Work will continue on the Enhancer Software to add more exciting new features with the focus shifting towards more advanced AmigaOS graphic development. Hopefully I will be able to announce some of these developments at the Neuss and AmiWest shows later in the year. Hey, who said I was a just a big tease?
Generation Amiga: A-EON Technology’s Prisma Megamix music card got a lof of positive feedback. Can you tell us more about it’s development and what motivated you to start it’s development?
Trevor Dickinson: Matthew Leaman was the inspiration behind the Prisma Megamix card, although the naming and associated B52 song title is down to me. (any Amigan reading this will understand the reference but if you don’t you really need to read my Amiga Retrospective series ;-)). As you probably know, the hardware had been ready for some time but some stability problems with the software drivers held up the commercial release for quite some time. These issues were finally resolved last year and sales of the Prisma Megamix card have exceeded our expectations. Again, expect to see further improvements and expansion options in the near future.
Generation Amiga: The AmigaOS lockdown by Amiga inc. forcing Hyperion entertainment to say in the AmigaOS 4.X series undermines future development and excludes any possible release of AmigaOS5. Most important for making use of SMP technology putting the AmigaOne dual-core and quad-core workstations to good use. What is your stance towards this and will it change after 2018?
Trevor Dickinson: That question should really be directed to Hyperion Entertainment but it is my understanding that, under the terms of its agreement with Amiga, Inc. Hyperion are not prevented from creating new versions of AmigaOS and calling it any name they want. Don’t be surprised to see Hyperion changing the naming convention in the future.
Generation Amiga: AmigaOS classic going opensource, would you support this idea?
Trevor Dickinson: I presume you mean 68k AmigaOS because the PowerPC version is owned and developed by Hyperion Entertainment and I’m sure they are not planning to open source that any time soon. There is nothing stopping anyone developing software or applications for the AmigaOS as we are doing at A-EON Technology. You only have to look at Aminet and OS4Depot to see that Amiga software developers are still very active.
Generation Amiga: What is your point of view when it comes to AROS and MorphOS?
Trevor Dickinson: I use both MorphOS and AROS, although not as much as AmigaOS of course. As I’ve said before, I think it is really amazing that our relatively small community has enough talented developers that we can support multiple Amiga-like operating systems.
Generation Amiga: BAE delivered the Vehicle-Management Computer for the F-35 fighter jet. This platform consists of dual PowerPCs made by Freescale, it means PPC is still wanted on a very high industrial level. Recently Applied Micro Circuits Corporation (AMCC) best know for the PowerPC 460EX and PowerPC 440EP processors have been sold to MACOM. And Qualcomm could aquire Freescale by the end of 2017. Does it effect future development of AmigaOne systems?
Trevor Dickinson: It does not effect the development of our AmigaOne systems, nor our future plans which are already in the works.
Generation Amiga: Amistore is Amiga’s Steam variant, and it just got a big update. How do you see the future of Amistore and software market for AmigaOS and AmigaOne?
Trevor Dickinson: AMIStore has been a great success for A-EON and the developers who sell their software through the store. It has become a good source of regular and ongoing sales for A-EON and has enabled us to use the funds to fuel our software development effort. The revenue it generates has also allowed A-EON to pay and maintain an active developer base. We will continue to sell our software through AMIStore and you expect to see more updates and improvements to the AMIStore service as we strive to improve the overall customer experience.
Generation Amiga: Many people suggest that A-EON technology should have AmigaOS and it’s trademarks, are you interested and what would you do if you could? What is your point of view about Amiga’s future?
Trevor Dickinson: Interesting question. The Amiga IP is owned by Amiga, Inc. Various other aspects of the AmigaOS is owned or sublicenced by other entities. Hyperion Entertainment, Cloanto srl, A-EON Technology and even me. It’s no secret that, personally I would like to see everyone working together towards a common goal. Call me an incurable optimist but I will continue to work towards that goal.
Generation Amiga: Thank you very much for this interview and good luck with all upcoming projects and products!
Trevor Dickinson: Many thanks, I apologise for the length of time it has taken me to reply to your interview request. The only excuse I can give is I’ve been attending too many Amiga computer shows and events. Role on AmiParty in Poland next month. 🙂