Saturday, May 28, 2016

Digital Photography and Composites on an Amiga computer

Back in the mid '90s, I built a digital photography/compositing business around an Amiga 3000. There was even an interview with me published in Amiga Format magazine.

The Amiga 3000 was a great machine. I was using a desktop A3000 with a MicroniK case that gave me a lot more Zorro III and bridgeboard slots. At first, I used a video camera to capture still images, but that just wasn't high enough resolution for print. So as what I was doing expanded, I eventually ended up with a Phase 5 68060 accelerator and Cybervision 64 graphics card and a Polaroid digital camera that captured 1600x1200 tethered via the SCSI bus. Massive 128MB of RAM, a 1G Seagate SCSI, a 4G Fast SCSI 2 Micropolis AV drive on the Amiga SCSI bus, and a 4G Wide SCSI 3 Micropolis AV drive on the accelerator SCSI bus.

No Amiga drivers for the digital camera I was using (Polaroid PDC-2000), so I ran Shapeshifter and captured with Apple's Mac OS, System 6 (or 7, don't recall now). Since no Mac ever had a 680x0 greater than a 68040 and the PowerPC Macs at that time emulated the 68k chip, my Amiga was faster as a Mac than any Mac. How much faster? When I had the camera demo'd to me in Seattle on a PowerPC Mac, it took nearly 10 minutes to transfer an image from camera to computer. But my 68060 Amiga 3000 took about 15 seconds.

We went to sci fi conventions and composited people into custom backdrops in their costumes. I'd have an inkjet printing out a high res glossy, which took about 15 minutes then, while I had Real3D (a 3D modeling/rendering program) rendering several scenes or elements in the background, while working on a multiple layered graphic at 2400x3000 pixels in ImageFX, then I'd pop over to Shapeshifter to snap someone in their costume while my wife posed them. Printing and rendering continued uninterrupted, and everything ran smooth as silk.

The first Norwescon that we took this to, I had six different Microsoft programmers watch me and talk to me while I was working, and they'd suddenly say "Bill Gates ruined software!" after finding out that I was doing all of this on one computer running at 60MHz.

Between conventions, we'd work from home. I also repaired computers, especially Amigas, and other electronics. For a few years, we also had a science fiction collectibles store.

I had a Primera Pro dye sub printer that required an absolutely uninterrupted stream of data from the computer or the print would be ruined. If you were running Windows, it was best to make sure nothing was running but the print driver, and don't touch the mouse or keyboard. I talked to other people using this printer with Windows 95 on Pentium 100 and up who had prints ruined because they moved the mouse, and it might take 20 minutes to over an hour for the computer to process the file for printing.

It took my Amiga 3000 almost exactly 60 seconds between when I hit Print and the printer started. I tested it really hard one day - I hit Print, then quickly started Real3D and set three different high res 2400x3000 pixel images rendering, dialed into my ISP, started my web browser and opened a dozen tabs on different websites. The result? It took 2 minutes before it started printing, and the print itself was flawless. At no time did my typing or mouse pointer get jerky.

My old website is still up, although the digital photography business is gone. I never took orders online, so no shopping cart. Before you look at it, keep in mind that I never claimed to be an artist.

Hello, Hackaday viewers! If the above website doesn't link, please try again in a bit. Turns out there was a problem with the nameservers. I've fixed it, but it may take a few hours for the changes to propagate.

I’m inordinately excited – I was cleaning out my storage, and discovered that a friend of mine had given me an A3000, still in the original box! It needs a SCSI hard drive, and I think I have some RAM ZIP chips to max it out (it has 12M now, I think), and I am sure it could use a recapping… but… the battery DID NOT LEAK!
I have a 1G SCSI drive in a removable drive to install in it. I also found I have Kickstart 3.1 chips for it, and both Workbench 3.1 floppies and Workbench 3.9 on CD. I have a portable SCSI CDRom drive. I still have CD reader/burner software. Most of the other software is gone, however I kept a disk image of my original hard drive installation including Directory Opus and ImageFX 3.something.
I find I’m ridiculously excited about this.