As you might have seen on this website, on facebook, on YouTube, or on one of the numerous other news outlets, phase 5 digital products have announced several new products, and they have done so for what seems to be a very long period of time. Developing and releasing a highly complex hardware add-on for the Amiga (or any other) computer requires a ridiculous amount of knowledge and time. Everyone who has tried - and hopefully succeeded in - bringing his/her product to marketability knows the many different steps necessary to reach this goal. phase 5 have released tiny bits of information - pictures of individual parts, unpopulated PCBs, artwork, etc. - over the last year, keeping interest high and eyebrows raised. But Amigans asked for more than just tiny bits: suspicion was also raised, due to the lack of hard proof of the existence of the new devices everyone was so eagerly waiting for.
Two events seemed to change the situation, the cat-and-mouse game of announcements and curiosity: first, the release of a list of new products, with some specification-, pre-ordering- and pricing-information, and later the Amiga32 event in Neuss, Germany, on Oct. 28th 2017, where phase 5 were expected to "finally" (in the eyes of many Amigans) show some working BlizzardPPC-2 boards, or any other of their new developments.
To my knowledge, Mr. Salvador Fernandez Gomez of phase 5 briefly attended the Amiga32 event, brought with him some unpopulated PCBs, and talked to some people, among which was Mr. John "Chucky" Hertell.
The year is 2017, it's been 32 years since the Amiga was born. Everyone who's using an Amiga computer nowadays has some individual reasons for doing so, but we all share some of the motivation: a deep passion for the nostalgia we associate with the Amiga, from back in the golden days when it ruled the world, and an equally deep, and lasting, respect for the technical achievement of it's creators. With phase 5 representing the spearhead of Amiga hardware development in the mid to late 1990s, every Amigan was instantly on the edge of his/her seat, jaw dropped, when receiving the news of phase 5 being back in business again in 2016/2017.
We've been through rough times, we've taken a lot of s**t from PC and Mac users, we couldn't play DOOM for quite some time - but with the retro movement that's going on for a couple of years now, with the Vampire accelerators out and growing in numbers, and phase 5 announcing updated and new "classic" pieces of hardware the future never looked better.
We've waited for almost 20 years - no surprise the Amiga community reacts with borderline insane eagerness and curiosity to these announcements from the former kings of Amiga hardware.
Mr. John "Chucky" Hertell is a highly respected Amiga user. He's a hardware guru like very few others, he builds stuff that lesser Amiga-mortals can only dream of. And he's one of the administrator of the biggest Amiga-related group on facebook.
Somehow, around easter this year, Mr. Hertell managed to purchase two unpopulated BlizzardPPC-2 PCBs directly from Mr. Salvador Fernandez Gomez of phase 5. He had asked for unpopulated, production-run-quality boards, waiving support and warranty. He received them, which probably makes him the first person outside of phase 5 to hold any of their new products (or: part of these) in his very hands.
Being a highly skilled Amiga-electronics expert, he started populating one of these boards, at least to some degree, so he would be able to see at least part of the (un-)finished product in action. He recently presented the results of his work on the boards in a facebook-livestream (which can now be watched on YouTube). Now he also published his experience, including his correspondence with Mr. Salvador Fernandez Gomez regarding the issue, on his blog website.
His discovery is staggering: There is - very simply put - no electrical current flow on the new BlizzardPPC-2 PCBs he had received. They're missing essential, vital connections between electrical ground (GND) points, which are the outlets for electrical current. Without an outlet there cannot be any flow. Complex circuits have plenty of ground points, and modern multi-layer PCBs dedicate a complete layer/plane to grounding, to which these points are connected. It looks as if the BlizzardPPC-2 PCBs he had received are missing the entire ground layer/plane.
Is ugly. Up to the Amiga32 event in Neuss, the mood had already been poisoned by what looks like false announcements by phase 5 to many, and countless harsh, sometimes downright disturbing comments by Amigans. But Mr. Hertell's experience took it to a new level. Now even derogative pictures showing Mr. Gomez are popping up. Being an administrator of the biggest Amiga-related group on facebook puts Mr. Hertell in a special position, which now has resulted in a lifetime ban of Mr. Gomez from this group (and probably others).
Did Mr. Hertell break the boards he had received? Very unlikely, close to impossible. Did he make a mistake testing the boards? Nah, comeon, he's the man, he builds stuff like this.
...did Mr. Gomez expect Mr. Hertell not to find out? Would Mr. Gomez take the risk and send something that's not even working on the most basic level to one of the highest skilled Amiga experts out there? Who, on top of that, is also one of the administrators of the biggest Amiga-related facebook-group?
Don't be ridiculous. This wouldn't make any sense, even if Mr. Gomez would be planning a blatant fraud since day one.
We know some facts, and judging from these facts there is really not much we can look forward to, phase-5-wise. (Or... is there?) What's disturbing is the fact that for Mr. Gomez it would be so easy to clear his name from any suspicion: A photograph of phase 5's production. Or of some working boards. Where's that Blizzard 560? AmigaONE-1200? Pretty much anything will do.
But some may have forgotten: Mr. Gomez and phase 5 do not owe us anything. Everything they announce or promise is up to them. We have no right to demand. We can, and should, and have to keep our eyes open, and our money safe. Every day, and everywhere. But some Amigans are crossing the line between caution, and impudence. There's a lot of passion involved - sometimes too much.
Let's hope Mr. Hertell and Mr. Gomez are able to resolve their issues. It really shouldn't be that hard. Mr. Hertell's experience speaks loud and clearly. But it still leaves (a little) room for interpretation.
Apart from this incident, has any person suffered any loss from any of phase 5's current (...no pun intended... 😉 ) actions? Probably not, and even in this case it can still be resolved.
Let's not make it uglier than it already is.
Let's hope Mr. Gomez proves all the naysayers wrong.
The truth about phase 5?
Time will show.
And we will watch closely.
What do you think? Leave a comment!
Please keep in mind that the opinions expressed here are purely my personal feelings and observations. I'm in no way affiliated with Mr. Hertell, Mr. Gomez, or phase 5 digital products.
Please report errors in the above article by leaving a comment, so they can be corrected.