Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exciting technology

A couple of pieces of technology that are currently being developed, which you may not have heard about, and why I think they are exciting.

NatAmi

A re-implementation of the Amiga architecture using modern components.

Not an emulator on top of a standard PC, not a complete redesign claiming to be the next big thing, but based on chips which are already obsolete and end of line.  This development is a reconstruction of an ideal, for no reason other than it is a fun thing to do.

Dave Haynie, former chief engineer at Commodore, had this to say about the project.
Actually, of all the recent hardware things I've seen in the post-Amiga world, this is the only one I see as being of much value. Or, in my usual terms, "It's cool". 
For one, you can claim real Amiga cred there -- doing things the Amiga way. You're not just a PC with a PowerPC CPU and some VGA chip trying to make the claim of being an Amiga. I was a little skeptical when I first heard about it, but I'm totally convinced at this point: if you want a new Amiga, this is the true way. 
It's also sustainable... you can make as many of these as there's demand for. If this X1000 thing was the second coming of the A1000 (it's not, and honestly, not that interesting), it has a built-in limit, since the CPU is already discontinued. 
And add to that the FPGA basis... there's some serious hacking potential there, I think. Particularly if they're not full yet :-) This isn't going to replace everyone's need for a fast PC, but then again, running original AmigaOS, you don't really need to be. As long as the cost stays in reach of the hobbyist, this could do well.
Raspberry Pi

An Arm based linux box at an expected price point of between $25 and $35.

Powerful enough to run Quake 3, Cheap and Open enough to bring programming within the reach of the next generation.

Why is this exciting?  It could  be the modern equivalent of the old 8 bit computers that spawned a generation of bedroom programmers.  Many of todays legendary programmers began by hacking away on 8 bit systems, because they could, they were accessible, and they were simple to get started with.  Modern PCs have layers of abstraction in the way making it difficult, costly, risky (nobody wants their kids to break their $1000 PC) to get started.

As they say on their about us page.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity (Registration Number 1129409) which exists to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.
We plan to develop, manufacture and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use in teaching computer programming to children. We expect this computer to have many other applications both in the developed and the developing world.
Our first product is about the size of a credit card, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 for a fully-configured system.
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