AT THE DEATH!
Alive! Magazine considers the (unsurprising?) demise of the Milan II...
Warning! This article picks up on large extracts from the official statement
issued by Ali Goukassian on behalf of the Milan Team. This is machine-
translated from the original German, which means it is readable, but not
brilliant. The full and unabridged original comes courtesy of Atari Active
Magazine, and can be seen there. (Thanx Carbon!)
Firstly, the official press release gives a brief history of the ongoing
design and problems of the Milan II.
The Milan II
The targets of the Milan system were clearly outlined: It had a new board
Design on base of the Milan I ago, which continues proven items in addition,
brings substantial improvements with itself. So e.g. a AGP port or also the
support of SDRAMs.
A first prototype of the Milan 060 was to be seen on the fair in Neuss.
Against expectations, technical problems crept in again and again, for whose
resolution additional hardware designers were engaged. The integration in
particular of the AGP port, in addition, the SDRAMs prepared hardware-
technically under-waited difficulties, which could be solved however after
viscous advancing in the late summer 2000. Just in this moment occurred what
had to occur:
The manufacture one of the two important log IC chips of the Milan (he takes
over the complete emulation of the not existing Atari hardware) was adjusted
despite contrary promises on the part of the manufacturer and is available
neither in smaller numbers of items than remainder nor in large numbers of
items than special production.
A shock for the Milan team, because a scarce year work was in this chip. An
adequate, counterpart didn't exist at the market, which could be adapted
Together with the selling company AXRO the situation in the late summer 2000
was discussed. Together with our distribution and interlocutor it came to
the result that a small computer company, which does not manufacture
quantities in hundred-out one hundred and abverkauft this problem could
flower on a long-term basis again and again.
Alive Comment:- This is the overt reason for cessation of the Milan II
project, a failure of a custom chip manufacturer to come up with the goods.
I did read through the rest of the article, and it is interesting to note
the Milan Team's declining enthusiasm with 'obsolete' 68060 technology. One
senses they were moving in the direction of a PPC hardware platform, perhaps
where they should have gone in the first place?
It seems that the design phase dragged on too long, as technology advanced
regardless. Shades of Phenix anyone?
This second extract goes into a little bit more detail about the second part
of Milan II, the O/S. This seemed to be a project which was not going to be
a feature of the Milan II, but was going to come into its own, with the
future PPC Milan?
The new OS
In this moment a project was taken from the developer drawer, which Uwe
Schneider, Ali Goukassian, Michael Schwingen and Thomas Gottsch had already
prepared in November 1999 and had conceptionally held. It was only going be
implemented in one of the future stages of hardware production, in order to
It consists of a dual dependency on hardware and an independent layer. This
step had to be carried out, in order to bring Atari programs on the new
(future PPC?) Milan hardware to a runnable state.
While the independent layer takes up the instruction e.g. for the access to
sound, diagram or fixed disk, this instruction is interpreted and depending
on the hardware layer, which then transfers the actual access.
Thus it should be ensured that easy modifications in the hardware (Milan I -
Milan II) can be made at a low cost.
MagiC Milan again was changed so much opposite the standard designs the fact
that it does not make any own access more on the Milan hardware but its "
transfers " desires to the hardware to the Milan TOS. This step made the
MagiC Milan development again independent of the Milan hardware.
Depending on hardware sections of the operating system Milan TOS by our
developers against a Linux core one exchanges at present. This part of the
operating system is not under any circumstances Atari specific, but works
excluding the interpretation of the hardware accesses on the part of the
operating system or the software.
And Linux is so far established today that drivers for the access to USB
interfaces, fixed disks, Firewire interfaces, network cards etc. are always
available shortly after appearance of the respective hardware or hardware
For the Milan crew it had meant previously they had to develop specific
drivers for the hardware. For example, for responding to the Milan USB port.
But owing to the new concept the Linux core is embodied with the independent
part of the Milan TOS. This places the Milan TOS or the software, which runs
under it, a request of an interface, then this is transferred over a
standardized interpreter to the Linux core, which is only a few KB large.
This already has all the necessary drivers, which are freely available
world-wide, in order to tie in any modern hardware, or hardware standard, to
Alive Comment:- Not much to add here, this seems to have been kept back for
a future stage of the Milan project, but with the death of the Milan II
hardware, was brought forward somewhat. The idea of using a Linux core to
carry out all the deep and dirty hardware specific stuff, is interesting.
The idea of a wholly portable, hardware independent O/S is developed
further, later on in the statement.
So what happens now? The next few paragraphs give you an idea.
The perspectives look today on the one hand fine, on the other hand
disappointing: The Milan II was put on ice. Months-long work, which
swallowed thousands of D-mark is dashed, like the hope of many Atari users
to be able to call a fast Milan II their own. This is to be charged
primarily to technical problems.
In addition, the months-long attempts to draw venture Capital societies
(holding companies) from Germany into the Milan boat, in order to supplement
the capital clearly failed.
But this means the end of the project with nieces. Milan computer system
will offer, to all who would still like a Milan, the Milan I with 040er-
Prozessor. And also the Upgrade card on the 060-Prozessor are to be had.
In fact at present nothing stands in the way of the possession of a Milan
with an 060- Prozessor.
Alive Comment:- If I were Ali, I would be talking up the prospects of the
'060 upgrade to the existing Milan hardware a hell of a lot! At this
moment, all people are thinking about, is the failure of the Milan II
hardware to appear. They take this as typical of the current Atari market,
and decide to lose interest. Milan urgently need a rescue plan for right
now, never mind the possibility of new hardware in a year's time! It'll be
too late by then!
There is also the question, totally not discussed in the press release, of
where the software developers who signed up with Milan, are going now? Is
there any attempt being made to keep these on board? Is there even anything
of substance from the developers as yet?
Finally, I'm not sure to what extent family members should be involved
('project with nieces'?) but that is probably a translation inspired
And after that? Well keep reading..
The step, which is now done, is to be looked toward Milan III. And but at
present two scenarios are to the selection, which build all together on the
fact that the Milan TOS (and thus the essay MagiC Milan) already soon it is
almost hardware independent could:
One decides for an Linux core adjustment on e.g. AMD hardware (Athlon,
Duron) and standard board peripheral device. In the course its is selected a
board, which imports only in this country be acquired must. Conditions are
fulfilled like a large Flash EPROM. This can be still a TOS based computer,
which starts directly from the chip.
The arithmetic performance became with this solution proportionally to the
assigned. And with a 400MHz-Chip the performance of a 060-Prozessors very
far ue bersteigen already grows processor. One begins (if necessary own) a
PPC G3/G4-Board, which is ago the 68060-Prozessor still naes, so that
starting from 350 mc/s more than one doubling of the arithmetic performance
achieves w ue rde here. So that the TOS uft also under these processors l
ae, a 68k-Interpreter is integrated, which uft differently than Windows or
MacOS based emulation, even ae ndig natively l ae and a high arithmetic
performance erm oe resembled. F ue r version b) was opened a license
partner, that toward start of 2001 h oe chstmoderne G3-PPC-Boards to
manufacture at present and as OEM product at Milan sells to w ue rde. Here w
ae RH gew ae hrleistet that the computer altogether approximately 1700 DM.
Alive Comment:- Gawd, that last paragraph was a mess, wasn't it? Still, they
seem to be talking about Milan III as a PPC based design, with the
aforementioned Linux core Milan O/S, controlling the hardware accesses. They
also seem to be discussing the 68K emulation built into the PPC chip as an
option. The 1700DM end user price, is very similar to the proposed Milan II
But wait, here's some more about the new Milan O/S, it seems it can go
hardware independent now!
The entire operating system, approximately 2 MB, can be operated on
processors such as AMD, Intel, PPC or even, RISC, Aplha and Toshiba at a
comparatively small expenditure.
Thus the Milan TOS with MagiC Milan becomes one of the smallest portable
operating systems, with which the software (differently than e.g. with
Windows CE) does not have again to be compiled, in order to run on different
processors. First versions of this new operating system symbiosis already
had to be seen in October.
Alive Comment:- Hey cool! If they can do anything with this, how about
existing TOS machines too? I've got a nice Falcon, hopefully soon to be a
CT060 based machine, which could make use of this. We're really spoilt for
choice for O/S's in the Atari world these days!
But a reproach, which one cannot make for Milan of computer system is that
that in this house the things not finished w ue rden. Because as only
manufacturers Milan of computer system succeeded in bringing an executable
040/060-Computer to the price eligible for financing in circulation. With
this step Milan succeeded in proving that here uncoordinated technique
Freaks at working is not the only way, but that concepts and clear lines can
be transferred up to readiness for the market.
Herein the enterprise differs from numerous companies, which let intelligent
and talented people operate senselessly for many years, without supplying
Alive Comment:- That last paragraph, can you bottle irony and sell it as an
aftershave?! The Milan II failure seems to be just such a 'senseless
operation'? The onus is on Milan Computers to quickly snatch success from
the jaws of failure. The perceptions of Milan, by the average Atari user,
and potential core customer, are not good at the moment?
Ali really has to do something good, and very quickly, to turn things
around, before they can start acting pleased with themselves, in the manner
shown in the last two paragraphs!
Some slagging off of the original Milan II hardware now follows.
The Linux core idea, which trusted to transfer itself the team not promptly
to be in order not to stop the Milan II according to schedule, seems the
only load-carrying solution. It nevertheless gave concern whether it could
succeed on an 80MHz-Computer to intersperse and also whether it would be
enough to use a main processor which had become outdated technologically
hopelessly as the 68060.
These concerns are extinguished with an impact.
Alive Comment:- Well, if you will keep waiting too long, it's not surprising
that hardware specs become obsolete. Moral, we don't want it super-perfect,
we want it yesterday!
The Milan could live on already soon on efficient platforms and let the
operating system on competitive hardware, loved by us, continue. In
particular the perspective to receive G3/G4-Boards wakes nevertheless many
hopes, because such a computer would not only underline the breath of the
non-standard one - it would arouse much world-wide interest. And this way
seems also economical to be more lucrative, because nevertheless now no
hardware production connected with high risks must be carried. The
developers can itself on an area - which operating system - concentrate.
And so it is only one question of the time, until the new Milan III can be
on our desks. This 1. to 2 would know realistic estimates to the
consequence. Quarter 2001 the case it is. But as said: Then, as super modern
And up to then there are the Milan I - 060 for all those, which would not
like to do already today without speed. We ask for your understanding for
the fact that we decided us not to produce an outdated hardware standard in
the long run but the expenditure on capital assets amounts to some million
German Marks. And even if you, dear Atari fans and we know that 80MHz are
sufficient, in order Atari software with highest speed to operate - one will
be able to put this not close to the mass of the computer people.
Alive Comment:- The mantra of the hardened Atari user - "Yeah, right, we'll
believe it when we see it!"
That last paragraph, are they making the Milan 1 '060 upgrade or not? It
really isn't clear from this translation? A case of MHZ numbers snobbery
taking over and killing it off? I think they are talking about their reasons
for not producing the Milan II at the same time, but don't make it clear
If one intersperses the Milan TOS (project name TOS 6) in the future however
as " Easy Computing Environment " - thus a working environment for simple
computers which can be served -, in which it runs on a variety of platforms.
Additionally another strand refers to hardware on the basis of a non-
standard power PC system, then one has a real chance to be considered by the
world public of the computer-interested users and media. We could learn that
in the course of the passed months. In the future we will inform you - now
we know the route of march of the Milan once more - regularly about events,
both in the Internet, and in the paper publications.
Ali Goukassian and the Milan team
Alive Comment:- I'm not quite sure what to make of this in the end. Milan
seems to have pretensions to being a world-class platform, if not up there
with Windows, certainly running alongside Mac or Linux. Ali has taken a
hard-nosed commercial decision to downplay the Atari heritage, and opt for
current hardware standards, and an O/S which is hardware independent. If
Milan can bring a new machine to the market and soon, this may be a good
long-term decision for them.
At the same time, there seems to be a certain amount of poor decision making
on display, evidenced by the fact that Milan II took as long to gestate as
it did, only to be killed off in the final hours before birth. The loss of a
key custom component may well have proved insurmountable, but this has to be
set against growing doubts from inside the company, about the hardware
philosophy as a whole, gradually undermining the project? Will this repeat
itself if either the new PPC Milan III, or the new portable Milan O/S run
into unexpected problems?
I fear the majority of Atari scene people, and a lot of long term general
loyalist users will have made up their minds about this story already,
considering this the latest failure, in a long and eventful history full of
CiH - Alive Magazine - Oct '00