A Visit to SEAL
- From: RobertB <rbernardo@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 01:40:45 -0700 (PDT)
n the Road: A Visit to SEAL
by Robert Bernardo, Fresno Commodore User Group,
The East Anglia train sped past the various
English towns – Shenfield, Billericay, and then
onto Wickford, my destination for the South
Essex Amiga Link meeting. Over three hours
earlier, I had left Haywards Heath, south of
London Gatwick Airport. From the train to the
Tube to the train, I had lugged my
SLR/videocamera case and a 25-30 pound, large
box which held an AmigaOne computer, a computer
I had bought two years earlier, a computer
which was stored by a British friend for all
this time until now when I could pick it up.
Now I had the computer, unopened by me. The
only assurance that it was not a box of bricks
was that my British friend had tested it out
two years earlier before it was put into
storage. It was to have its premiere
unwrapping at the June 13 SEAL meeting.
I arrived at the Wickford Community Center at
about 6:45 p.m. on a typical English evening –
cool, cloudy, and breezy. The Wickford
Library next door closed at 7, and I was alone
in front of the center. After several minutes,
I noticed music coming from the back of the
building. Walking back there, I found two men
guarding the front door; they knew of no SEAL
Having received no satisfactory answer from
them, I wandered down the road a bit and
looked in the window of the Chinese
all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. 9.85 pounds
for a Friday night – nearly $20 US – I was
hungry but not that hungry. I wandered back
to the front of the community center and sat on
the steps. About 7:10 an old man inside the
center unlocked the front doors.
“Are you here for the computer club meeting?”
“Yes,” I replied as I walked in.
“Second door on the right.”
I walked in, turned on the lights, and waited
some more. About 10 minutes later, a
blonde-haired woman entered. We conversed;
I found out her name was Liz.
“Have you been to our meetings before?”
“Once before... in 2005.”
“Why is that?”
“It's hard to come all the way from America to
We laughed. She said that Robert Williams and
Nigel Derbyshire had never been so late before.
More people arrived. Finally, just a minute or
two before 7:30, Robert finally popped in.
“Good seeing you, Robert,” as he shook my hand.
“Good seeing you, Robert,” I repeated.
Some talk about my flight (turbulence the first
hour into it) and some talk about music in back;
it was a bar, and I could buy liquid
refreshments from there and bring them into the
meeting. Robert told me that Nigel would be
absent tonight. More SEAL members entered. We
moved the AmigaOne box from the side table to a
back table, and then Robert set up the video
projector in front. He soon returned to the
back, and we unwrapped the AmigaOne.
What a sight to behold! A cream-colored
mid-tower, half-done with well-worn cherry-red
paint and finished with blue metallic flake in
back. Several of the rear access plates were
gone, but that was o.k. since the power supply
had no obvious exterior vents. On the left
side was a transparent window that revealed
the entire A1 motherboard. The 800-MHz PPC
chip itself was covered by the standard
heatsink and fan which came with the
Robert connected his Sony VGA LCD flatscreen to
the A1, and I pressed the front button to power
it on. The system roared to life, the noise
coming from a top-mounted fan that lit up in
blue and red and from two fans cooling off the
hard drive. The case interior lit up in a neon
blue, controlled by a knob (which made no
difference to the intensity of the light) and a
3-position slide switch – left position:
flashing (Robert said that it was very bad to
have flashing neon/florescents around computer
electricals), center position: light off, and
right position: continual light on.
The VGA screen did not light up! Robert
checked its settings and checked its
connections. I switched the A1 off and on.
Still nothing showed up on the screen.
Stumped and not without fear that something
had broken, I urged Robert to tend to the rest
of the 15 or so gathered members.
He finally began the meeting and with good
humor all around from the members, he
introduced me and the machine in back, talked
about club elections, went on with news, and
got to a lively members' discussion of software
and hardware problems.
Meanwhile, I was taking photos and video of
the roaring A1 box. As soon as the meeting
winded down to members chatting among
themselves, Robert returned to the back and
the A1. This time he and member Mick Sutton
tried their hands at getting the A1 to boot
up. Robert took off the transparent side
panel, and we found it was very homemade with
1/2 inch thick, heavy plexiglass. I joked that
it was a scaled-down version of bulletproof
glass used in American banks and convenience
stores; this one would stop a 22-caliber bullet!
Robert first changed the A1 clock battery for
another; a non-working battery would mean a
non-working computer. No success. Then he
re-seated the 256k PC2700 memory board.
Success! The A1 fired up into the standard
800 x 600 screen – a beautiful sight to see.
Immediately, Mick started investigating how
old the operating system was, because I had
bought it before final version of OS 4.0 was
released. He determined the OS was from 2006 –
kernal 51.32 of January 23 and asl.library
51.33 of January 18. He tweaked a few items in
the start-up, and he and Robert tried to test
the SoundBlaster soundboard. Whether it was
due to the older beta OS not having the sound
fully functioning or whether they just could
not find the right settings, they could not get
the A1 to make any sound, apart from its
As an A1 newbie, I asked Robert and Mick
plenty of newbie questions. Did I need more
than 256k? Not really... no application
required that much. Was there an
application/utility that was left out that the
A1 really needed in order for it to run well,
an app/utility to be found at OSDepot4.0? No.
Did Opus Magellan work with it? The older
version 4.0 would work with it. Did I have to
replace the fan on top of the PPC chip? Your
house has air-conditioning?... then you don't
need to replace it. This and other questions
they answered, and if I had any other
questions, I could always contact OS 4.0
experts, Bill “Tekmage” Bosari of The Other
Group of Amigoids or Steven Solie of the
Calgary Amiga Group.
It was getting late. Most of the SEAL members
had already left. We dismantled the set-ups,
and I repacked the A1 in its shipping box. We
piled into Robert's car and drove off into the
night. Robert dropped off Mick and then
another member, and then we headed to his
parents' house in Benfleet where I would spend
the night. When we got to the house, I was
introduced to his parents and even got a full
English breakfast from them, even though it
was past 11 p.m.! Most unexpected!
In the morning they gave toast, yogurt, and
muesli for breakfast. Most unexpected! Then
Robert rushed me to the train station, and
with heavy A1 in tow, I caught the train for
the long trip back to Haywards Heath.
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