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Old 27 April 2017, 00:54   #43
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Join Date: Dec 2015
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How do you think the Amiga hardware would look today if Commodore hadn't went bankrupt? How would the Amiga graphics system look? Would it be non standard and based on AGA/AAA or would it be more like SVGA? What about the bus system? And, last but least, what processor architecture could the Amiga have been using?

A: Well, it’s hard to say everything for sure. But I can tell you this. In the fall of 1991, with Sydnes basically cancelling every project, I decided to sit down and design the next system architecture, the thing that would hopefully replace the A3000 design (used in all A3000/A4000 machines). This was called “Acutiator”, and fully modularized the architecture, so that graphics, for example, could be separate from sound and basic I/O. This originally used a custom bus I designed, called the AMI Bus (Amiga Modular Interconnect).

But then a funny thing happened: PCI came out. PCI was designed to solve the very same problem, and by the time Intel kicked it out to the PCI SIG and they improved it, it was way better than the AMI bus at a bunch of things. And also, it was likely to be this huge standard. That’s a good thing....

See, there’s this misconception about C=/Amiga engineering and standards. We LOVED to use standards – any standard – as long as they did not suck. So you see all these proprietary buses and such around the Amiga, and figure, these guys hate standards. Not at all. We liked the good ones. PCI was a very good one, even then.

So, with all of that said, the next generation Amiga would have had a PCI bus. Also, probably, a PCI to Zorro III bridge. Graphics would have been on PCI. I had speced out PCI interface chips for AA and AAA subsystems, so the graphics could go on a card. Not at all cloning The PC; but the functionality is correct, to make these pieces modular if possible. I’ll let you say I’m copying the Apple ][ here is you like – after all, that’s what IBM did anyway.

There was a feature in Acutiator most systems simply don’t have: the TPU, or Transfer Processing Unit. Any time you had a bus to bus interface, you would (ideally) have a TPU there, in the chip that did that bus to bus interface. This was a very simple 32-bit microprocessor (I designed the architecture) which would transfer data, efficiently, from bus to bus. It would so largely because it understood, perfectly, both of the buses at issue. So, no imposed wait states if there were synchronization issues, speed mismatch, etc. You could write directly to memory/IO on the far side of that bus, but better still, just drop a transfer instruction into the queue for a particular TPU, and it would run the transfer for you, then signal when done. The goal: every bus in the system could be busy, all at once.

Anyway, that’s the kind of things I had in mind for the system. For graphics, Hombre, as mentioned, and that was also PCI – Dr. Hepler also saw the wisdom in PCI, even as I did independently. Beyond that, it’s questionable if Commodore would have remained in the graphics business. Most of the PC markers used to make their own graphics chips, too. Today, it’s nVidia, ATi, Matrox, and few others. Like Intel, Motorola, and National Semiconductor, you only need so many different CPUs around.

Related to nothing, but I liked this interview with him.
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