When browsing the net, you sometimes stumble upon things that question your beliefs.
About 20 years ago, PowerPC was the Amiga's future. There had been talk about DEC Alpha CPUs, and other quantum-leap high-performance gear, but only phase5 had the guts to deliver: a dual-CPU board with a PowerPC CPU clocked at 233MHz! A quantum-leap it was, but it also came too late, and was too costly for most. Only a few years later the Amiga market would effectively be dead. Then came the retro movement, people brushing the dust off their old Amiga computers, and their assembler coding skills. Nowadays, we have a thriving hardware and software development scene, all rooted in the good old days: pure Amiga, classic Motorola 68k! If you like some extra speed, you can choose from several low-cost 68000 to 68060 accelerators, FPGA based CPU replacements, and a range of emulation setups, all of which are actively developed in recent times, and run M68k code. PowerPC accelerators have become unobtanium, and the few owners still there from the early days are not enough to make a visible impact on the scene.
Imagine this alternate reality: In 2013, 1Ghz PowerPC accelerators for the Amiga became available. By 2015 prices have dropped, and a transparent M68k emulation layer has been implemented for PowerUP/WarpUP. People are running M68k "Real3D" and "Imagine" on PowerPC, because emulation is faster than any available M68k CPU. By 2020, the 2GHz barrier has been broken, and while your PowerPC-native "Blender" port renders HD images for your new YouTube video, you're playing a round of DREAD. AmigaOS 3.1.4 and 3.2 were never developed, because AmigaOS3.9 and 4.0 have merged into a single product made of a M68k core for backwards compatibility, and PowerPC-native applications.
Well - back to actual reality. That was some nice fantasy, it just didn't happen that way.
...but is was close!
It was called UltimatePPC, and... yes. And yes. And yes. It is what it sounds like. No strings attached. It's the thing only few dared to imagine, because it was just too... outrageous. And it actually got built.
|Prototype UltimatePPC card|
(source: http://ultimateppc.nl/gallery.php (archived))
Press release of May 22nd, 2012: AMIGA MEETS GIGAHERTZ
Gideon Zweijtzer (of 1541-Ultimate fame) and Rutger Bevaart have teamed up to bring renewed innovation to the Classical Amiga by announcing the UltimatePPC today, the ultimate CPU expansion card for the Amiga 3000 & 4000. This new card will bring unparalleled performance and many great new features to the Amiga series of computers that were not available previously and give current users a viable upgrade path for aging components. It also opens new possibilities for newer versions of the Amiga Operating System or alternatives to run on your classic hardware with great performance. The UltimatePPC puts your Amiga right back on your desk as the most versatile and fun computer that has ever existed!
Right now the UltimatePPC is in active development, we expect to be able to take pre-orders at the end of 2012. Please visit our project website at http://ultimateppc.nl for availability information, specifications and detailed status reports.
Gideon & Rutger
(source: http://ultimateppc.nl (archived))
|Prototype UltimatePPC card|
(source: http://ultimateppc.nl/specifications.php (archived))
So the project's website was http://www.ultimateppc.nl, and if we do a little digging on the internet, we find an article on "Old School Game Blog" that publishes some more details about the "UltimatePPC" (which are taken from the project's specifications page):
The UltimatePPC provides many new features. The current shortlist of features for “Revision A” is,
- 33MHz 68040 CPU
- 1.0GHz Freescale PowerPC CPU
- 128MB of DDR3 memory for the 68040
- An additional 2GB of DDR3 memory on an SO-DIMM
- USB2 host controller with integrated 4 port hub
- SATA2 controller with two SATA ports
- 10/100/1000 Ethernet controller
- Embedded 2D video with DVI connector
A 68040 at 33MHz isn't shabby at all in Amiga world, but a 1 gigahertz PowerPC, and an extra 2.1 gigabytes (!!!) of memory on a single board for your Amiga - that puts other accelerator boards to shame. And it has SATA, USB2, ethernet and DVI. And it isn't even built by a big company, but a bunch of guys from the Netherlands. This is just ridiculous. Commodore, Amiga, Phase5, Escom, Gateway, Viscorp, Metabox - what the heck have you been doing?
UltimatePPC beats all of them, by miles. A project status was given on the website - judging from the estimated completion dates, it seems to be from late 2011:
- Initial Design, done
- Building of development boards, done
- Implementing CPU, System and PCI-E busses, in progress (expected Q2 2012)
- Implementing low-level devices, in progress (expected Q3 2012)
- Implementing drivers and OS compatibility, no estimated completion date yet
- Testing, no estimated completion date yet
- Production of boards, no estimated completion date yet
(source: http://ultimateppc.nl (archived))
Did someone just say "PCI-Express on Amiga"?
We don't know. And we'll probably never find out. In the last post on http://ultimateppc.nl, from September 5th 2019, Rutger announces the end of the project: Priorities of private life have taken over, and friendship needs some care, too.
The last Wayback Machine snapshot of the website domain that shows UltimatePPC information is from January 29th 2020
This is where the short, but exciting story of "UltimatePPC" ends. That's sad.
Well, we have to put this into context. It was 2011: Amiga companies had been out of business for years. Compared to about 10 years earlier, when phase5's PPC accelerators were released, the price of RAM modules vs. memory size had dropped through the floor. The cellphone market had exploded, pushing for ever more powerful low-cost CPUs. The RaspberryPi was just around the corner, and a modern homebrew/DIY scene, capable of SMD-soldering, started to emerge. From this point of view, it's no surprise the "UltimatePPC" was quite a quantum leap for the Amiga.
And it's also no surprise that it just stopped. Development of such a piece of hardware consumes an awful amount of time. If there's no competition, no audience asking for progress and providing some sort of income, no urging necessity behind it, then at some point it will just come to a halt, one or the other way. Since 2011, a lot of things have happened. It has become even easier to design and create printed circuit boards, FPGA chips have become powerful and affordable, and so on. The retro builder scene, and emulation on fast CPUs, has fully taken over, cementing the M68k heritage and future of the Amiga. "Next generation" Amiga computing is just being swept away by the renewed output of the classic scene.
...it's just too awesome. The "UltimatePPC" is incomplete - but it exists, somewhere. Wouldn't it be an intriguing idea to completely restart as if it was 2011, and resurrect the "UltimatePPC" with all the tools and know-how available in 2022?
* * *
Thank you very much, amiga-news.de, for reporting about this!
And for providing more information: amiga-news.de's post about the UltimatePPC from back in the day: http://amiga-news.de/en/news/AN-2012-05-00055-EN.html
* * *
PLEASE NOTE: "phase5" refers to the company that was developing Amiga compatible hardware from around 1992 to 2000. At the time of writing no new, working Amiga-related hardware products from any later holder of the trademark name are known to exist.
You are one toxic anti-Amigan.ReplyDelete
Can you please point out the passages (or whatever) you think are "toxic anti-Amiga"?Delete
Me looking at his very real 1GHz G3 (ok ok... overclocked) processor sitting currently in his A3000... <<ReplyDelete
really? nice. :) what is it?Delete
Old telecom cards in PrPMC form factor on a PCI carrier. Boasting a 800MHz 750FX. Software overclockable. See sonnet Amiga PCI project.Delete
Running Q3, RTCW, JK2ReplyDelete