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ScuzzBlog: Diaries December 2023

Entry 26th December 2023: Post 1: Mick Roots - Unsung hero of the A1500 by A1500 Ltd Part 2.


Mick Roots - Unsung hero of the A1500 by A1500 Ltd Part 2.

Over the last month or so I have had the opportunity to chat with
the originating designer of the A1500. The A1500 houses the Amiga
500 in a differing case and provides an external keyboard plus many
other enhancing features.

What was interesting for me was that Mick pointed out that the box
I had was for the A1500 by A1500 Ltd who sadly went to the wall
before they could get off the ground. The product was picked up
by Checkmate who branded it under Checkmate Digital Limited.

Mick really never received the credit he deserved for all his hard
work in creating this wonderful masterpiece and so I asked Mick to
pen down some of his thoughts from the era. I have spread this
article over two posts and so Part 2 follows tomorrow.

I do have two of these machines and you can distinguish the one
from the A1500 Ltd house as per the box with the more curvy font
style. I am still not sure who exactly made the second of my
machines with the more simplistic font given that there is no
reference to A1500 Ltd or Checkmate. Mick suggests that one is
an early prototype of which only a couple of dozen were made.

Anyhoo here is the second half of Mick's article, so enjoy.

_________________________________________________________________

Hi Scuzz,

Disappointed not to have accidentally, stumbled on a ready source 
of the A1500.

........ [ continued ]


On their way up the shiny stairway CBM scattered a few gems and 
left some holes in a crazy fast moving market. No one can justify 
criticism of their heroic efforts to do justice to the Amiga they 
were just not big enough or hard enough at the wrong time.

If someone's intention was to grab and run with the results of 
someone else's efforts (claiming them for their own) without concern 
or consideration of the real possibilities then that would be the 
act of a short-sighted, self-serving fool who would be dangerous 
if granted power and responsibility.   I'm sure we have all seen 
many examples of those.

I did feel an obligation to diminish the effects of a single, 
silly, slip-up like handing a workable design over to someone I 
did  not personally know or trust. I did feel that I was in a 
losing game the moment I realised my designs had been ripped-off. 

Due to Checkmate's intransigence (also a very familiar human 
condition in these sorts of situations) It is my honest opinion 
that a very narrow window of opportunity to make the Amiga 500 a 
serious machine was completely missed.

They have, however, worked hard to achieve their purpose and Iím 
certain that their customers have been well served. I have since 
witnessed this cycle of events so many times that Iíve come to 
believe that this is the only way that our system allows the small 
man to break through the glass ceiling. I have decided that breaking 
glass is not my purpose in life.

You are right. Taking a perfectly good Amiga out of it's case is 
nuts especially with the 1200 and even the 600 which are totally 
unsuitable. But the A500 was absolutely screaming out for it.

I can honestly say that this project was never about the money for 
me or most of the hard working supporters of the same goal. We 
wanted to see the Amiga lifted to the level of respect envisioned 
by those originators (injected into the lid of the Amiga 1000) 
with an almost evangelical fervour. Maybe we were foolishly 
idealistic but surely this could not have be achieved by a non-
cooperative, two-man operation but may have by a company with the 
resources of CTD, hopefully, in tandem with Commodore. Weíll 
never know.

The good thing, for me to take away is having learned, to recognise 
the signs (even in seemingly trivial circumstances) and when to say 
"Thanks But no thanks to offers of help".

Amiga Software: 

I used X-CAD designer then X-CADpro as was supplied by CTD.  Yes 
auto cad is better (I enjoyed many expensive courses, while an 
engineering manager and used it around 2000 ish ) and as a roving 
automated warehouse project engineer (GIANT TRAIN SETS). Another 
nightmare for the family but a ridiculously addictive career with 
design-on-the-hoof SCADA and PLC programming while pressured by 
the prospect of dozens of lorry drivers sat on loading bays awaiting 
a software patch that may fail but never did. I had experience of 
systems from the same hands that brought you the Terminal 5 debacle 
(among others). 

Also. Travelling for hours when some joker found that they could 
freeze the system with an empty coffee cup, a few flat packed 
cardboard boxes or kicking a power adapter from a control console 
multi-outlet.   Happy days of dealing with the best of British 
controls engineering.  And the best of British system dodgers and 
skivers.

Pro-net and Pro-board produced the expansion PCBs the original 
version was awful but with bug fixes it became awkwardly useable. 
I think, in the (totally inadequate) A1500 manual, it says CAD 
on Amiga (this is where my memory fails me.) and in the rush of 
the premature launch it may not have happened. Started the A1500 
design with Aegis draw at Home. CAD?

X-CAD3D and X-CAD2D had many problems also with confusingly 
different command syntax for the same actions but the 2D [DXF out] 
worked reasonably well and at CTD the A0 HPGL plots were acceptable.  
No 3D DXF out is, still, a massive downfall.  I've tried the 3000 
version on UAE and it's all the same issues with 3D display rotations 
disintegrating into a pile of pick-up sticks although with X-CAD3000 
at least the drawings, sometimes, recover or just evaporate into 
the ether when you rotate the display back before the mathematical 
twilight zone.  The supplied .hpgl to .dxf utilities break with 
XCAD 3D plot-outs.

At first glance, Turbo silver output relies on surfaces (which is 
where my quest for X-CAD3D manuals started and dead-ended). I may 
pick this up again next year or try the other output converters.

My youngest daughter is still an Amiga fan and has animations and 
her own songs recorded.  I was attempting to help out but no need 
as she has, now, found Davinci Resolve on Windows so I'm redundant 
on that project. 

I've yet to find any Amiga CAD that doesn't guru on [3D-DXF out] 
with anything more than a simple cube. Very disappointing.  I see 
no Amiga X-CAD users out there and no suitable documentation. My 
continued motivation was to recover and prove my old files and to 
archive them in a universally compatible format. Much of the detail 
was put into X-CAD 3D to hand over to animators (but that never 
happened). 

I will probably switch to the PC to reassemble the 3D from 2D DXFs 
as Iím seeing a lot of free Windows CAD available. Maybe next year.

The name XCAD has been ripped into pieces and scattered amongst 
many other brand scavengers.

If the Amiga was, ever, to lift itself out of the toy department 
then inexpensive genuine engineering and educational software, 
that can take a project to completion, could have done it.

Having a machine that does not 100% have to be connected to the 
web and does not need subscriptions and massive, intrusive
corporations for every useful function sounds very appealing to 
me. 

Many dreamed the internet could be like that, with all it's flaws, 
(but not even Elon Musk and the 'bleedin choir invisibule' could 
fix it now). 

For old PLC systems (some still in existence) I keep  Win 98 and 
XP on a couple of Dell laptops (the last of the serial and parallel 
ports). There is no other software support for those dongles and 
interface adapters to ancient programmable controllers. I have 
several of these old beasts and have started to mount them on 
panels and interconnect them.  My retro interests are more to do 
with industrial  controls which have gone through similar developments 
and although the machines and their processors are good (for many 
years to come) some fools have been convinced to 'upgrade' to 
operating systems that claim to be user friendly to the thick-
headed management that choose them.

Strangely as in modern computing they only serve to make the 
simplest tasks infinitely more complex and infinitely more likely 
to fall over.  But more universally attachable to other previously 
stable operating systems making them appear unstable. And of course, 
to perpetuate the licensing for those who must now rent or subscribe 
to their use.

The Amiga with its tiny programs of a few Mega-Bytes and operating 
systems of not much more. (The fancy front ends offered by well 
meaning advocates of the overly user friendly donít tempt me). They 
could have put all that energy into seriously useful Applications 
that could make all the difference in loosening the hold of the 
tech giants who are right now deciding how best to gain money from 
and power over our young peoples futures as A.I. looms before us.

Or am I getting a bit dark in my old age?

I don't begrudge this new Amiga generation playing free games and 
showing off their Amigas in public or whatever they can glean from 
the legacy.  Iíve not seen it and I'm not likely to but I can see 
the appeal as Amiga games are still very playable. If this does 
cause a resurgence of interest in the Amiga then great. Until 
someone finds a way to rein it in and put it on a subscription. 
Then everyone will want one.

I hope you find this rant amusing and maybe even interesting.  If 
you got this far without falling asleep at least once then you are 
a better man than I.

I have put this together having verified the facts and expressed 
my opinions without prejudice. I was going to insert the unrepeated 
paragraphs from my previous messages but I am loosing the will to 
spend any more of my rapidly fading eyesight on editing text so 
this is all I can muster. Feel free to do with it as you will. I 
am unlikely to add to or amend any of this distraction for a very 
long time as my life is full of, both laughable and lamentable, 
priorities which are added to daily. Particularly at this time of 
year.

If I may ask you one favour as you have CAD capability.

I have mentioned recovering most of my files. But some are unrecoverable 
and due to my confusing file names and poor memory I am not sure 
which version of two particular components ended up in the A1500. 
If I send you a drawing file of the two components could you either 
confirm or deny that version is in the A1500 that you have. (Don't 
need actual details). Just to know if those were the release versions.

Talking of versions. I kept re-designing and reworking right up to 
the end and the last keyboard casing was a leap on. It tapered  to 
the front with the same depth at the back and had an elevating foot 
to stand up at an angle or to hook onto the rack mount.  All a bit 
redundant now. Iím very happy to hear critique of the A1500 Ltd. 
kit that was released. Iím never happy with anything that I make, 
repair, design or produce but thereís merit in trying and comparing 
the alternatives. I believe that is the only way that anything 
useful has ever come about and it certainly increases the chances 
of something wonderful happening.

Best Regards. 

Mick

...... END POST

PS if any of you have a spare original A1500 machine that you
want to gift to Mick I will certainly be happy to pass on his
contact details


Mick Roots - Unsung hero of the A1500 by A1500 Ltd.


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Last updated 26th December 2023

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