Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby NamelessPlayer » 2019-5-19 @ 03:57

Scali wrote:
NamelessPlayer wrote:I've heard about developers basically bit-banging PWM out of the PC speaker to play samples in some earlier games, though it's not CPU-efficient at all to do so and still sounds worse compared to how the Mac does it (also software-based and basically done in the blanking period between display frames).

I never really encountered much of that, though; later games just gave you very basic beeps and bloops as a very crude fallback to not having at least a Sound Blaster.

Well, it was rather CPU-intensive (just as the Covox Speech Thing was), but as PCs became more powerful, it was no longer an issue. By the early 90s, demosceners were starting to port tracker music to PC, by using software mixing and then playing over PWM.
This was also used in various games, such as Pinball Dreams and Pinball Fantasies. The PC version basically just played the original Amiga mods on PC, via PC speaker, Covox, AdLib (yes, digital sample playback via a hack), or SB.
With a fast 386/486, the overhead of software mixing and PC speaker sample output became negligible.

And going on into the Pentium age (the period of computing history I'm most familiar with as a kid), that sort of thing was the norm, letting non-GUS sound cards play MOD music like in Tyrian, or just have greater polyphony than the hardware would normally allow, like in Eradicator and various Build engine games.

I would've figured that hardware polyphony still would've been a limiting factor then, considering it was used as a selling point for sound cards well into the Windows age, with the X-Fi cards boasting 128 simultaneous playback channels and all, but perhaps I overestimate the CPU overhead of software mixing.

Scali wrote:
BushLin wrote:While an upgraded A1200/A4000 fulfills many 90s fantasies, if I was buying an Amiga today to play games it'd be the A500 with just a 512KB RAM upgrade and a virtual floppy which takes an SD card.
Just like old PC titles run poorly on newer hardware the developers didn't foresee, many great Amiga titles were coded to target the A500 and later ones were still mindful that this was where their market was.


Indeed, there are a number of problems that plague compatibility:
1) Kickstart 2.0 and later are not 100% backwards compatible. Some games require Kickstart 1.x (1.3 being the most common, I don't know of any software that specifically needs an earlier version).
2) AGA is not 100% backwards compatible.
3) A lot of software assumes you are using a 68000 CPU at 7 MHz, and anything faster can throw off the timing, and break the software (especially using cached memory).

The Amiga 500+ and 600 suffered from 1), which could be solved in two ways:
I) You could use a SoftKick solution, where a Kickstart 1.x image was loaded in memory (costing 512k), and then the computer was restarted. This works quite well in practice, even on a stock 1mb machine, since most software that requires 1.3 is old, and doesn't need more than a 512k Amiga.
II) You could insert a real Kickstart 1.x ROM into the machine. You could use a hardware solution where you basically insert a small PCB with two Kickstart sockets into the original socket, have both the 1.x and 2.x ROM in there, and use a simple switch to select which to use. Best of both worlds.

The Amiga 1200 and 4000 suffered from all three issues. You could disable the CPU caches to slow the machine down, which worked in some cases. But some software wouldn't work no matter what you did.
Today, this is more or less solved by the WHDLoad project. Aside from just making software run from a harddisk, it also contains all the patches and workarounds required to make the software compatible with any Amiga configuration you can think of.

But why go through all that trouble when you can just get a real A500 with Kickstart 1.3 and 1mb of memory? That's the 'original', and will run all classic Amiga software out there.

There are some Amiga games known to work on Kickstart 1.2 but not 1.3 (hope you don't mind the lack of HDD autoboot support!), and in extreme cases, even 1.1 or 1.0, which necessitates an A1000 with the appropriate Kickstart floppies. However, it wouldn't surprise me if those have all been patched by now, via WHDLoad or otherwise.

I have noted that gaming on an A500 with a Gotek floppy emulator is a very console-like experience, save for the load times and all the floppy-swapping on bigger games. You pop in the disk, turn it on, and go.

However, it won't run all classic Amiga software, as you know. Banshee needs AGA, and that's not even an FPS like Gloom or Alien Breed 3D, just a shmup. And then there's Alien Breed 3D II: The Killing Grounds - the Crysis of Amiga games, bringing a stock A4000/40 to its knees, and being seemingly unplayable unless you spend the big bucks on a 68060 or Vampire accelerator, or just take the WinUAE route. I don't know who they were trying to sell that one to if at least 90% of Amigas in existence couldn't run it beyond slideshow framerates without spending new computer money on an accelerator... (Seriously, I just saw an A4000T 68060 board sell for $800 on eBay!)

On the flip side, apparently OCS has some quirks that AGA can't quite replicate, and certain demos like The Black Lotus' EON rely on them. (Funny how they've done AGA + 68060 demos before, and the one that put them on the map for me requires nothing more than a 1 MB A500...) And other games run too fast even with WHDLoad on a 25 MHz 68040 with caches on, like Castle Master.

All I know is that I very much prefer the WHDLoad experience on my A4000, to the point that I haven't even touched my A500 in a while. Yet I can't seem to just let go of the A500, just in case I run into any of those compatibility edge cases, and also because my A2000 still hasn't been fixed yet, which would be my OCS machine of choice otherwise...
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby appiah4 » 2019-5-19 @ 06:52

A500 + ACA500Plus = 42MHz KS3.1 Flawless WHDLoad OR Stock A500 KS1.3

The perfect setup for me.
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Scali » 2019-5-19 @ 11:54

NamelessPlayer wrote:I would've figured that hardware polyphony still would've been a limiting factor then, considering it was used as a selling point for sound cards well into the Windows age, with the X-Fi cards boasting 128 simultaneous playback channels and all, but perhaps I overestimate the CPU overhead of software mixing.


I think the X-Fi has 128 channels simply because Creative bought E-Mu and started using their synthesizer chips.
In practice, I don't know of any games of that era that actually used any synthesis at all. This was well into the CD-ROM era, and onboard audio had become the norm (which was usually just a 2-channel or 5.1-channel CODEC). Nobody bought sound cards anymore, because there was no point.
The only thing Creative had going for them was EAX, adding some ambient effects. But support in games was limited, and most gamers weren't even interested in it anyway.

NamelessPlayer wrote:However, it won't run all classic Amiga software, as you know.


With 'classic' Amiga I mean 68000 CPU at 7 MHz and OCS/ECS chipset.

NamelessPlayer wrote:On the flip side, apparently OCS has some quirks that AGA can't quite replicate, and certain demos like The Black Lotus' EON rely on them. (Funny how they've done AGA + 68060 demos before, and the one that put them on the map for me requires nothing more than a 1 MB A500...)


Heh, EON put The Black Lotus on the map for you? Guess you haven't followed the Amiga demoscene then?
The Black Lotus is arguably the most successful and legendary Amiga group ever. They have competed at the biggest demoparty Revision, its predecessors Breakpoint and Mekka & Symposium and various other mega parties many times, and won the compo nearly every time (note especially their winning streak from 2001-2005, and 2000-2006 if you count TRSAC and Assembly as well. They were the benchmark for AGA)
Just check out their prod list:
http://www.pouet.net/groups.php?which=1&order=release
1st at Revision 2019
1st at Revision 2014
1st at Assembly 2006
1st at Breakpoint 2005
1st at Breakpoint 2004
1st at Breakpoint 2003
1st at Mekka & Symposium 2002
1st at TRSAC 2001
1st at Mekka & Symposium 2001
1st at TRSAC 2000
1st at The Gathering 1998
1st at The Gathering 1997
1st at Remedy 1996
1st at Remedy 1996
1st at Icing 1996
1st at The Gathering 1996
1st at Creutz 1996
1st at Digital Symposium 1995

And that's just the Amiga demos, I'm not including the two PlayStation demos that also won, or their legendary 64k PC intros.
Also, if you look at the all-time top 10 of Amiga AGA prods, 4 out of 10 are TBL, including #1 and #2: http://www.pouet.net/toplist.php?type=& ... =10&days=0
Seems you have some catching up to do :)
But all these prods were all AGA. They had never done anything big on OCS before (only some really early Amiga releases were OCS, they were AGA-only by 1994), that's what makes EON so special. You could say these guys had nothing left to prove. Which makes it all the more amazing that they chose to spend years on an epic OCS production.
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby appiah4 » 2019-5-20 @ 07:37

Maybe we should have something like "The Amiga Thread" for discussing Amiga related subjects and questions? I have a few I would like to add and the impulse to do it here but it's not a great place to do so..

Maybe brostenen can do it? Or should we ask a mod to do it?
A500:Rev6|+512K|ACA500+|C1084S
i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Scali » 2019-5-20 @ 09:24

appiah4 wrote:Maybe we should have something like "The Amiga Thread" for discussing Amiga related subjects and questions? I have a few I would like to add and the impulse to do it here but it's not a great place to do so..


Why not just open a new thread for each subject/question?
There's no specific Amiga subforum (yet?), but I don't see why you can't just create threads on Amiga subjects the same as for DOS?
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Grzyb » 2019-5-20 @ 15:22

Obviously there's a need for "Amiga vs. PC advocacy" thread :D
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby brostenen » 2019-5-20 @ 17:40

appiah4 wrote:Maybe we should have something like "The Amiga Thread" for discussing Amiga related subjects and questions? I have a few I would like to add and the impulse to do it here but it's not a great place to do so..

Maybe brostenen can do it? Or should we ask a mod to do it?


Thanks. Yet I must decline in a humble way. I am not really that good at cutting through in a discussion, and I really do not like to have the power that a moderator are given.
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby appiah4 » 2019-5-20 @ 20:20

Scali wrote:
appiah4 wrote:Maybe we should have something like "The Amiga Thread" for discussing Amiga related subjects and questions? I have a few I would like to add and the impulse to do it here but it's not a great place to do so..


Why not just open a new thread for each subject/question?
There's no specific Amiga subforum (yet?), but I don't see why you can't just create threads on Amiga subjects the same as for DOS?


Right.. OK, I'll do that.
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i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby brostenen » 2019-5-21 @ 09:35

It would be great to have a non-pc sub forum, as more and more Vogon users are getting into Amstrad/C64/Amiga/Atari and tose alike. Well besides the usual suspect's (Dos/Win hardware)
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Gernot66 » 2019-5-21 @ 12:06

jmarsh wrote:
Gernot66 wrote:Might not look like this from todays ward but it's a fact and the M68000 family is still (or would be still) much better as the rotten lathe controller designed in1949.


I'm confused why you're dissing a big-endian, Motorola produced CPU that was used in practically every computer line except "IBM compatible" PCs (even used in Amigas...), that has nothing to do with the x86 family of CPUs that dominate today's PCs?
Were you confusing "windoze" with early MacOS?


I guess you misunderstood me, if i dissed anything then it was the "lathe controller" the x86.
If i expected crtizism then it's that i claim its design reaches back to 1949.
Never mind :)

How could i as a dedicated amiga user who uses them still, one at least the A500 the space on my desk is to tight for the A4000 (and my wallet to small to keep it in shape). I used this machine up to 1998 before i bought my first IBM compatible.
And if i had the right money... it would be rather a toy.

To me the dedication to the Amiga is as strong as my addiction to Frontier.
Nostalgia they remind me of better times.

In fact i guess it's not quite fair to diss the x86, it's not the optimum but as things went on we must consider that it was left behind pretty soon.
If that was the fault of Commodore like every "John & Henry" claims i'm not convinced about, without Commodore no Amiga.

Peraonally i guess the reason was that it was claimed "it's no real computer" this broke their neck that most believed that the rotten lathe controller they work in office or industry with is a real computer while the Amiga is just a toy which you can't take serious.

It was supported badly in switzerland, i had to travel miles to get something for the Amiga and when i went to any else computershop it was claimed "it's no real computer" they dissed it for real and made it to something laughable.

How can you sell one piece of hardware in this way?
I.e. Interdiscount a large consumer electronic discounter here, sold the CD32 for a very low price (re-import from GB) but they sold no games, how can you sell hardware in this way?
They did pretty the same with SEGA, sold the consoles but no games.
Probably this was caused also by some baseball bats, who knows.

At least in music industry it works this way so why not for computers?
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby appiah4 » 2019-5-21 @ 12:16

brostenen wrote:It would be great to have a non-pc sub forum, as more and more Vogon users are getting into Amstrad/C64/Amiga/Atari and tose alike. Well besides the usual suspect's (Dos/Win hardware)


Good call, but who do we ask for this?
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i386:Am386SX25|4M|GD5402|ES688|MuntPi3
i486:U5S33|8M|GD5428|YMF719|DB-S2
i586:P133|32M|T64+/MX2|V1|CT3980/32M
i686:K6-2/400|128M|V2/SLI|CT4520/32M
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Scali » 2019-5-21 @ 12:26

Grzyb wrote:Obviously there's a need for "Amiga vs. PC advocacy" thread :D


I thought this thread was it? :)
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby brostenen » 2019-5-21 @ 14:13

appiah4 wrote:
brostenen wrote:It would be great to have a non-pc sub forum, as more and more Vogon users are getting into Amstrad/C64/Amiga/Atari and tose alike. Well besides the usual suspect's (Dos/Win hardware)


Good call, but who do we ask for this?


I have no idea. :-(
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby BushLin » 2019-5-21 @ 18:24

Gernot66 wrote:If that was the fault of Commodore like every "John & Henry" claims i'm not convinced about, without Commodore no Amiga.


If there was no Commodore, there would be no ST. We would probably be talking about the Atari Amiga and who knows what different path it would have taken.

Gernot66 wrote:It was supported badly in switzerland, i had to travel miles to get something for the Amiga and when i went to any else computershop it was claimed "it's no real computer" they dissed it for real and made it to something laughable.


What year was this? Around 1996 everyone laughed at me for persisting with the Amiga. Maybe two people I knew appreciated why I still used it... But they had spent big on workstations with SCSI hard drives and large monitors so their Amigas were just for fun by then. When I used their systems I knew it was time to move on.
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Munx » 2019-5-21 @ 19:26

BushLin wrote:
Gernot66 wrote:If that was the fault of Commodore like every "John & Henry" claims i'm not convinced about, without Commodore no Amiga.


If there was no Commodore, there would be no ST. We would probably be talking about the Atari Amiga and who knows what different path it would have taken.


Amiga guys went with Commodore as Atari was about to take their custom chips and discard everything else. There would be no Amiga at all, just an Atari STE as the launch computer.

It's Commodores lack of any 16 bit products why Amiga was continued to be developed more or less according to their creators vision.
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Scali » 2019-5-21 @ 19:31

As I understood it, Jay Miner and the other Atari folks already left Atari in the early stages of development, because Atari did not share their vision of a fancy 16-bit platform. So they decided to develop it on their own, under the Hi-Toro company name. They did take a loan from Atari at some point, but they were operating independently otherwise. Which is why Commodore could step in and pay back the loan to Atari, and then take over Hi-Toro.
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby brostenen » 2019-5-21 @ 23:13

Scali wrote:As I understood it, Jay Miner and the other Atari folks already left Atari in the early stages of development, because Atari did not share their vision of a fancy 16-bit platform. So they decided to develop it on their own, under the Hi-Toro company name. They did take a loan from Atari at some point, but they were operating independently otherwise. Which is why Commodore could step in and pay back the loan to Atari, and then take over Hi-Toro.


Yeah... There were lots of personal feelings at stake at that time. Atari was not exactly what they wanted, and they desperately wanted out of that deal in any way they would benefit the most. Atari was actually promised the use of the Amiga chipset, as a kind of licensing deal and if they had no working system ready by a specific date, then it would all be handed to Atari. That was the terms of the deal, and Amiga Inc. simply hated that deal. Yet it was the best deal they were able to get, in order to secure that loan from Atari. Amiga Inc actually handed over a defect chipset prototype, and by the time Atari saw what they had, then Commodore had bought Amiga Inc and paid back the entire loan to Atari. Hence annoling the original contract. It was then that Jack Tramiel saw the original contract in the archives of Atari, and a lawsuit was filed. I don't remember it all, though I think the case was dropped or something. Anyway. That is basically why the AtariST had a head start, over the Amiga.
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby NamelessPlayer » 2019-5-24 @ 08:42

Scali wrote:
NamelessPlayer wrote:I would've figured that hardware polyphony still would've been a limiting factor then, considering it was used as a selling point for sound cards well into the Windows age, with the X-Fi cards boasting 128 simultaneous playback channels and all, but perhaps I overestimate the CPU overhead of software mixing.

I think the X-Fi has 128 channels simply because Creative bought E-Mu and started using their synthesizer chips.
In practice, I don't know of any games of that era that actually used any synthesis at all. This was well into the CD-ROM era, and onboard audio had become the norm (which was usually just a 2-channel or 5.1-channel CODEC). Nobody bought sound cards anymore, because there was no point.
The only thing Creative had going for them was EAX, adding some ambient effects. But support in games was limited, and most gamers weren't even interested in it anyway.

This isn't really synthesis in the FM or "wavetable" music sense, just PCM polyphony; games in the days of hardware-accelerated 3D audio seemed to just drop sound effects if the sound card couldn't handle that many simultaneous voices. As you said, music was generally handled by either redbook CD audio or some manner of software mixing, with use of synthesis very rare outside of Unreal Engine 1 and its signature UMX tracker format. (Did I ever mention how much I like the music for Unreal 1, Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex?)

I know Battlefield 2 and 2142 have specific X-Fi hardware acceleration modes on top of general DirectSound3D hardware acceleration, but I'd have to think a bit harder as for examples that used EAX 5.0 (which only the X-Fi could pull off) as opposed to just EAX 3.0 or 4.0 (which an Audigy would suffice for). I basically jumped straight from Live! (EAX 2.0) to X-Fi and was quite eager to max out my sound as well as my graphics when I finally did my first real PC build with brand new parts.

That said, it wasn't long after that we ran smack into the Malaise Era of software 7.1-channel sound with Vista killing DirectSound3D hardware acceleration and Microsoft pushing the inferior, but more widely supported, XAudio2 API. This upsets me almost as much as Creative suing Aureal into bankruptcy and burying their superior A3D 2.0/3.0 tech, with wavetracing well before anyone thought to do it on a GPU.

Funny how audio processing is only making a big comeback because of VR, huh? Everything from HRTF mixing (again, something Aureal was already doing in the late '90s) to aural wavetracing, all because they finally realized that not everyone games on home theater speaker setups and some of us actually prefer good old stereo headphones.

Scali wrote:
NamelessPlayer wrote:On the flip side, apparently OCS has some quirks that AGA can't quite replicate, and certain demos like The Black Lotus' EON rely on them. (Funny how they've done AGA + 68060 demos before, and the one that put them on the map for me requires nothing more than a 1 MB A500...)

Heh, EON put The Black Lotus on the map for you? Guess you haven't followed the Amiga demoscene then?
The Black Lotus is arguably the most successful and legendary Amiga group ever. They have competed at the biggest demoparty Revision, its predecessors Breakpoint and Mekka & Symposium and various other mega parties many times, and won the compo nearly every time (note especially their winning streak from 2001-2005, and 2000-2006 if you count TRSAC and Assembly as well. They were the benchmark for AGA)
Just check out their prod list:
http://www.pouet.net/groups.php?which=1&order=release
1st at Revision 2019
1st at Revision 2014
1st at Assembly 2006
1st at Breakpoint 2005
1st at Breakpoint 2004
1st at Breakpoint 2003
1st at Mekka & Symposium 2002
1st at TRSAC 2001
1st at Mekka & Symposium 2001
1st at TRSAC 2000
1st at The Gathering 1998
1st at The Gathering 1997
1st at Remedy 1996
1st at Remedy 1996
1st at Icing 1996
1st at The Gathering 1996
1st at Creutz 1996
1st at Digital Symposium 1995

And that's just the Amiga demos, I'm not including the two PlayStation demos that also won, or their legendary 64k PC intros.
Also, if you look at the all-time top 10 of Amiga AGA prods, 4 out of 10 are TBL, including #1 and #2: http://www.pouet.net/toplist.php?type=& ... =10&days=0
Seems you have some catching up to do :)
But all these prods were all AGA. They had never done anything big on OCS before (only some really early Amiga releases were OCS, they were AGA-only by 1994), that's what makes EON so special. You could say these guys had nothing left to prove. Which makes it all the more amazing that they chose to spend years on an epic OCS production.

I was loosely aware of the Amiga demoscene, as well as the C64 and some other platforms, but I hadn't really paid close attention (other than the Spaceballs - State of the Art demo that comes packaged with ClassicWB) until the Revision 2019 stream on Twitch, as I was helping a local friend go through some of his Amiga stuff. I think we were testing which of his 1080/1084 monitors worked and which didn't. (Seriously, I'd be hard-pressed to find someone with a bigger Amiga collection here in the US!)

Needless to say, I was pretty floored about how people were still this enthusiastic about the Amiga in 2019, even moreso than for the PC demos. One of the submissions was even named something to the effect of 20/30 Years of Zealotry, which says a lot about Amiga fans relative to PC and Mac fans.

I want to dive into more of TBL's backlog and give some of those demos a test run on the ol' A4000, but something tells me I'll have to resort to WinUAE for most of it if they're really expecting a 68060 50 MHz instead of my stock A3640 25 MHz with the unnecessary wait states and all. 68060 accelerators are still in that "I'd rather just buy a Vampire and beef up my A500" price range, particularly with the apparent Amiga tax in the US compared to Europe.

I did wonder why it was just Amiga demos and PC demos, however. I'd think there would be at least one person crazy enough to bring a Sharp X68000 or Fujitsu FM Towns to the table, or possibly a Raspberry Pi Zero for more modern but fixed-spec and technically limited platforms. Considering I got a bunch of Pi Zeroes at Micro Center for $1 each, it'd be fun to see how far people could push a $1 computer, you know?
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Re: Why is Amiga so popular with retro community ?

Postby Scali » 2019-5-24 @ 09:34

NamelessPlayer wrote:I did wonder why it was just Amiga demos and PC demos, however.


Well-established classic platforms I suppose.

NamelessPlayer wrote:I'd think there would be at least one person crazy enough to bring a Sharp X68000 or Fujitsu FM Towns to the table, or possibly a Raspberry Pi Zero for more modern but fixed-spec and technically limited platforms.


There's quite a few active platforms beside Amiga and PC. Commodore 64 is possibly even bigger than Amiga. ZX Spectrum also has a large following. There's people doing things on Amstrad CPC, and various others, including Nintendo, Sega and such. WebGL is also quite popular.
Most platforms have received at least one demos. It seems that in recent years it has become somewhat of a 'challenge' to make a demo for every obscure platform.
As for the Raspberry Pi, I haven't followed it closely, but afaik there have not been many demos. I do know that my own group, DESiRE, released a demo for Raspberry Pi a few years ago:
http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=68146

And I see there's a category for Raspberry Pi on pouet.net, so you can easily find them all:
http://www.pouet.net/prodlist.php?platf ... berry%20Pi

Apparently there are quite a few, although it pales in comparison to C64, Amiga and PC.
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