Interview with Dennis van Weeren.





Amigazette: What's the main use of this hardware?
Dennis van Weeren: The main use of the hardware I have now is a test platform for my project.The final goal of the project is create an Amiga 500 replica. The original idea for this project came when the first C64DTV (Commodore-64 in a joystick) came out. That thing really fascinated me. Around the same time, there were also discussions on several forums if it was possible to do the same with an Amiga. The reactions ranged from "impossible" to "very difficult". Being an engineer, this sounded so much like a challenge that I decided to give it a try. The first step for me was to learn how to program FPGA's. An FPGA is like a digital "breadbord-on-a-chip", it contains lots of logic gates that you can "program" to let the chip perform a certain function. In the case of an Amiga, I had to program the FPGA to let it behave like the 3 Amiga custom chips namely Agnus, Paula and Denise. The second step was to buy an FPGA development board and expand it with some extra hardware, needed to create an Amiga. You can see this construction on the pictures at www.amiga.org. The third (and by far the most difficult) step was to actually write the "code" for the FPGA to create an Amiga. The next step will to be a combine all the hardware into one small motherboard.


Amigazette: When will it be ready and completely functional?
Dennis van Weeren: When I have combined all the hardware onto one single board, i'll call itready. That does not mean that I'll be finished however. There will be always be small incompatibilities. The Amiga is quite complex and has lots of undocumented features that are hard to understand. If you look at Winuae (which is a great emulator), it took the authors years to get to it as perfect as it is now. I expect the same to happen with Minimig, building it is one thing, but getting all the bugs ironed out is going to take years.


Amigazette: Are you going to sell or distribute it?
Dennis van Weeren: I get that question a lot. This project started of as a personal challengeand it is still just that. However, I have been surprised by the amount of attention Minimig gets and I am looking into some possibilities to make Minimig available to the community.


Amigazette: is there any update in this project nowadays?
Dennis van Weeren: Progress is slower than a couple of months ago, but I am still working on Minimig. Currently, I am busy designing the first real motherboard for Minimig. This board will be powerfull enough to run the equivalent of a 1MB A500 with some extras like scandoubler, faster processor, PS/2 keyboard and mouse interface. This should keep me busy for the next few months :-)


Amigazette: What's your opinion about the amiga world and situation today?
Dennis van Weeren: To me the Amiga is a hobby, and I think the Amiga should remain that. I haveseen demo's of AmigaOS4, and I must say that it looks very impressive. A real improvement over OS3.9 and nice to work with. But, it will never be an alternative to Windows. For Minimig, for example, I am using the free webpack software from Xilinx. This software is not available for the Amiga.
On top of that, to run the software, you need a rather beefy processor too.
All thing that are not available on the classic Amiga or the AmigaONE. I still have (and will always cherish) my A3000 and I still use it every now and then but I use a PC as my main computer.


Amigazette: What's the feeling that keeps you on studying about amiga?
Dennis van Weeren: I always considered the Amiga much more elegant and better designed than any PC or MAC computer. Things like autoconfig, draggable screens, expandibility and API of the OS and even the layout and interface of the tools (intuition) are unique. I think that the Amiga really influenced me in that aspect as I often see me designing things in an Amiga-like way.


Amigazette: What dou you think the new amiga must have?
Dennis van Weeren: The new Amiga should be cheaper! I think it would be better if AmigaOS4would be ported to x86 and the new Amiga be based on an existing x86 motherboard. The costs of designing custom hardware like the Troika Amy'05 and AmigaONE are so high that you end up with a motherbaord costing 5 times as much as equally powerfull x86 motherboards. That is a lot of money, especially considering the fact that AmigaOS4 isn't even officially released.



prof. Mimmo Picierro