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Report : Australian Amiga Gathering '97
(Article written by Basil Flinter - July 1997)


Australian Amiga Gathering '97

The Australian Amiga Gathering '97 (AAG '97) was held on the weekend of 28 and 29 June, 1997 at the Kensington Exhibition Centre of The Sydney Showground.

AAG '97 was the brainchild of Michael Burak, editor of the magazine Australian Amiga Gazette (hence the AAG title for the show), "a grassroots publication created for the purpose of keeping the Amiga dream alive in Australia and beyond."

Despite the cold and wet conditions of a Sydney winter's day, and the limited exposure the show was able to receive, nearly 1000 people (that is, paying customers) attended the show, a very creditable result. One which Michael, and his hard-working team, must surely be proud of.

Although it was small in size, I believe AAG '97 will provide the needed kickstart that the Australian Amiga community has been waiting for. It is only a pity, according to many with whom I spoke, that the show organisers did not receive any support from Megatron, currently AI's only officially recognised Australian distributor. Those exhibitors who did support the show had nothing but praise for the weekend, and took full advantage of the special enclosure ('The Tent') which was provided for the purpose of presentations, seminars, group discussions, prize contests, etc.

AAG '97 was also used as the vehicle for the official relaunch of the Amiga in Australia and, as such, a statement by AI's President, Petro Tyschtschenko (the correct version of which is given below, and which I had the privilege to present) was read at the show on both days to an appreciative audience. My personal reaction to the statement was the importance of two things. First, that it is time to stop being negative about the Amiga and AI's efforts, and start being positive - not only here in Australia, but everywhere. And second, we must all (and this means the whole Amiga community; the users as well as the industry) change our attitude from one of "What can Gateway 2000/AI do for me?" to one of "What can I do for the Amiga?".

Because AAG '97 did represent the official relaunch of the Amiga in Australia, and because of the enthusiasm generated by the show, I believe an appropriate slogan for Australia would be: "The comeback has started. Keep the momentum going!".

Who was there and what did they do?

The following is a brief description of the exhibitors, presented in alphabetical order:

Amadeus Computers - One of the few dedicated Amiga dealers still around, Amadeus Computers is situated just outside Sydney. Included in its stand were a range of products from Digita and Cloanto, for both of whom Amadeus is official distributor in Australia.

Amiga Genius - This Amiga dealer came from Newcastle, considered by Australians to be fairly close, as it is only about 145km (90 miles) north of Sydney. It was the only stand offering the Graffiti card (which can be used on any Amiga), but it was also demonstrating the Siamese System and ShapeShifter.

Australian Amiga Gazette (AAG) - As organisers of the show, the AA Gazette's stand (manned mainly by Michael and Dianna Burak, Michael Gruber, and Paul and Ann Graham) provided all the administrative support that was needed during the show, promoted the Gazette, ran a very successful Shareware Registration Booth, offered a range of useful (though now aging) product, including Greg Wall's very successful A1200 tutorial videos, and donated space to the ICOA, various members of which (notably Guy Nathan and Paul Morabito) could be seen there at different times during the show.

Computa Magic - Another mainstay of the Australian dealers still committed to the Amiga, Melbourne-based Computa Magic's owners, Vince and Kerrie Morton, travelled a few hundred kilometres to support the show. It was commitment like this (and that shown by others who travelled great distances to be present) that, I believe, will make all the difference to the Amiga's revival in Australia. Distributors represented by Computa Magic include DKB, Golden Image and ProDAD. It also distributes the Bio-Con flicker fixer, and was holding talks with UK-based Power Computing with a view to representing them here.

GP Software - Publishers of that great Amiga utility, Directory Opus, GP Software's stand was manned by Greg Perry (GP himself) and Jonathon Potter, both of whom had travelled all the way from Brisbane, Queensland, some 800km (or 500 miles) to the north. Focussing on Opus 5.5 and Opus Magellan (Opus 5.6), they soon dispelled any suggestion (voiced in some magazines) that Directory Opus has become too complex. Their enthusiasm for this great product was contagious, and clearly appreciated by the constant stream of people who came to talk to them, many of whom (myself included) walked away wearing their very smart Directory Opus T-shirts.

GSoft - Another long distance exhibitor (approximately 1200km, or 750 miles, as the crow flies), long time supporter of the Australian Amiga community and one-time President of the now defunct Australian Amiga Developers Association (AADA), Steve Wemyss and his family showed their continuing commitment by travelling all the way from Adelaide, capital of the State of South Australia. Specialising in custom multimedia solutions, especially for Amiga computer systems, GSoft is the exclusive Australian distributor for Micronik Infinity Towers, Elsat (ProGrab) digitisers, Phase 5 products, Miami and, for improved printer output, Studio II. Helping out on the stand was Arnie Robbins (Software Buyers Service) from Melbourne, who was representing AWeb. Covered with AWeb stickers, and wearing a large black hat of the 'Mad Hatter' type, Arnie was probably the most colourful character at the show.

Power Computing - Winner of the travel stakes, "by a country mile", was Tony Ianiri, Director of UK-based Power Computing. Tony felt he should support the many Australian users who have been buying from him but, faced with the problem of customs, only brought in small items (mainly A1200 accelerators and CD-ROM games) which he felt he could either sell at the show or leave with local dealers who, deprived of new product for so long, were more than happy to take them. The Australian Amiga scene needs people like Tony. I hope he enjoyed his planned short holiday in Australia after the show.

RMF - Resource Management Force, a Sydney-based company and makers of the QuickNet 'peer to peer' network system designed specifically for the Amiga (all models including the A500 and CD32), was represented by Norman Pakes. QuickNet will allow an unlimited number of Amigas to be connected together, as it utilises standard EtherNet cabling that may have repeaters and boosters as required, although a network of 20-30 computers is possible without any repeaters or boosters. Because of the software in a ROM on the card, a particularly useful feature of QuickNet is that it allows a computer that is 'diskless' to boot from another computer's hard disk drive somewhere on the network. This could make for great economy in the classroom situation.

St Johns Park High School - Led by their Visual Arts Head Teacher, Mrs Lyn Thomas, a number of students from this school had willingly given up their weekend (and part of their school holidays) to demonstrate, on half dozen or so Amigas, various aspects of their school's Film and Video Course. At a time when most schools in Australia are disposing of their Amigas, it was gratifying to learn that St Johns Park was intending to increase the number of Amigas they have. The hard work and enthusiasm shown by the students and their teachers at the show did earn the school a new piece of equipment - an HP colour printer - presented to them at the end of the show by UniTech Electronics. St Johns Park High School, and their sponsors, were kind enough to allow me, as Convenor of The Amiga Education Network (TAEN), to use their stand as a point of contact with those attending the show. As TAEN is a non-profit organization which I run on a voluntary basis, this gesture was greatly appreciated by me.

TechMedia - Represented by its principal, Norman Cantrell, and ably assisted by Guy, TechMedia describes its business as "Digital Media Products and Productions", building Amiga-based and Draco-based DTV systems for a variety of organisations, including schools and motels. Demonstrations of the high-end DraCo-based systems, and the lower priced Casablanca DVE machine (a sleek single unit design which resembles the CDTV and effectively says: "This is really easy to use, you don't need to know there's an Amiga inside") seemed to make a strong impression on the few multimedia professionals who attended the show.

Unicorn Solutions - Situated just outside Sydney, this graphics, video and networking specialist was represented by its Managing Director, Darren Robertson. Concentrating primarily on networking solutions, Unicorn was mainly demonstrating its Unix-based CNet card.

UniTech Electronics - Proudly declaring its long association with the Amiga, as both dealer and service centre (it started serving the Commodore community in 1983, and is now well established at St Andrews, some 60km south of Sydney) UniTech's dynamic duo, Jeff and Vickie Rose, didn't disappoint the crowds who visited their stand, offering a range of keenly sought after products. Well known for its generosity and its total commitment to the Amiga (including the education sector), UniTech sponsored St Johns Park High School and donated an HP colour printer as a door prize.

User Groups - A meeting of representatives from a number of Amiga User Groups within Australia was held on Sunday afternoon, the main aim being to see how the User Groups could be rejuvenated, how they could be used to help in the Amiga's revival in Australia and, in view of Australia's size, to determine the desirability and practicality of a different organisational structure. A pro-tem committee, headed by Michael Gruber, was set the task of coming up with a suitable proposal. Two User Groups who had stands at the show were the Sydney-based Commodore Hornsby User Group (CHUG) and the Victorian-based North West Amiga Users Group (NWAUG). Both stands were kept busy answering questions, giving technical advice, and running demonstrations of PD and Shareware software, as well as a variety of games.

Those wishing to contact anyone in this report can do so either through me or through Michael Burak (mother@pnc.com.au).

Finally, it was very nice to meet up again with so many old faces, and to realise that the spirit of the Amiga in Australia is not dead. Incidentally, I only had to travel about 560km (350 miles) to be there, and it was well worth it!

Press release

From: Petro Tyschtschenko.
President
Amiga International, Inc.
Date: 28 June 1997

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the Australian Amiga Gathering '97, which represents the official relaunch of the Amiga in Australia.

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I am not able to be here today, as I would have liked to have been, especially as I always like to talk to fellow Amiga enthusiasts. I hope I can be present at the next Amiga Convention that takes place in Australia.

Many thanks to you, my friends, for your support, your understanding and your patience.

It makes me very happy to know that our Amiga community in Australia is excited about the new turn in the Amiga's fortunes, and looking forward to its future with interest.

As you are already aware, Gateway 2000 is a great home for our Amiga, and with Gateway's spirit and financial resources, we can expect to have a bright future.

Although Amiga International, Inc. is a subsidiary of Gateway 2000, and Gateway 2000 will provide resources to reinvigorate the Amiga market place and keep Amiga International a profitable subsidiary, it is not Gateway 2000's policy to mix Amiga activities with those of Gateway 2000. So we have to be active on our own behalf.

As I have already mentioned, in my London speech, three elements form the basis of my strategy. These are:

Supporting the existing Amiga community.
Leveraging the existing AMIGA technology through broad licensing.
Assisting in developing new products based on open standards to the home computer and video/graphics market.

Amiga International is exploring all possible products for the marketplace, including both hardware and software. We face a great challenge because it is not easy to make new products available in a short timeframe. We are interested in working with companies such as Phase 5 to develop one unified Amiga standard.

We need potential partners here in Australia, and we are looking for such partners.

We will open up the marketplace to cloning through licensing.

In Europe, I have just finalised a license contract with Micronik, to build A1200 Towers, with a wide range of options, including a 68060 processor.

I believe there is still a strong following for the Amiga system. Through licensing and new product development, there should be a strong future for the Amiga.

Amiga International's intention is to support the development community through concepts such as the "Open Amiga Initiative", and it will explore other concepts to bring developers over to the platform.

We will explore the development of an OS upgrade, and will address the features and functions that are necessary.

I believe that the basis of success is to work together, with partners.

The Amiga market cannot afford a split!

We must all move together in one direction.

The Amiga's revival in Australia is important to me.

Please support Amiga International, just as you supported the Amiga in the past. Do not give up this wonderful computer's technology.

Amiga is back for the Future.

Thank you very much for your attendance at the Australian Amiga Gathering '97. Enjoy the show, and the Amiga's return.


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