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T h e   r i s e   a n d   f a l l

o f

t h e   M i l a n   II   C o m p u t e r 

                                  The Paranoid

Atari.Org is a very nice service and it is being contributed to by lots and
lots of people. So one day, when i was checking wether a news-article has
been posted, i stumbled over a short message by an unknown author saying
that the Milan II computer is dead.
I couldn't quite believe it and so i went to the Milan homepage and looked
for an official announcement - and even if it didn't really affirm that
every Milan related development has stopped, it did feature quite stunning
news for all those that had hoped for the arrival of the new Atari compatible

What the official statement of Milan Computer GmbH said was more or less

The Milan II/500 computer development has been put on ice. One of the
vital chips of the Milan II motherboard design is not being produced
even though the manufacturer of this chip promised us until very
recently that he did.
There is no way of solving this problem easily as there is no similar
chip serving the same purpose to integrate.
They fear that incidents like this could happen all the time to small
computer manufacturers like Milan Computer so it should be considered
if the development of hardware for alternative computer platforms is
sensible at all.
Besides that, the crisis in the computer market has scared off a lot
of potential investors and Milan Computer GmbH is slowly running out
of money so it's doubtful wether redesigning the Milan II motherboard
is a wise move when funding is no longer given.
Therefore, the Milan Computer development has stopped as far as it
concerns producing the Milan II.

There are currently 2 options about how to continue the Milan development
1.) Attempts to port the MilanOS and its benefits to other platforms so
the MilanOS and its applications do not rely on specialised hardware
2.) Focus on rather long-term hardware development by reducing the
specialised hardware even more to standard computer hardware and
devices and probably use G3 or G4 processors then

Both options are being evaluated currently.
Besides that, the Milan 040 is still available and can still be upgraded
with a 060 card for enhancing it.
The software solution to enable the usage of Milan related applications
on other hardware by porting the MilanOS seems as the best solution at
first so Milan Computer will start evaluating this option first.
More statements refering to this may follow.

Quite a shock when i read this at first, but it explains a few things
that i wondered about quite recently.
Like for example why one of the most important people at Milan Computer
can go on vacation while the Milan II was supposed to be produced and
delivered to the developers.
Or why Axro announced its appearance on the UnConventional 2000 party
when actually no one even did the slightest attempt to really appear
Or for example why Epic marketing and related developers more or less
officially gave up developing for the Milan II - and why Milan Computer
never really supported any of them.

Even though Milan Computer does its best in the official statement to
sound like "nothing is lost yet, development will continue", i'm quite
sure we will never see any kind of Milan computer that's a symbiosis
between Motorola, Axro and Milan Computer after all.
It's not only tough for us, who considered buying a Milan II, it's
also especially tough for those people that invested a lot of time into
the hardware and the driver software (mainly located in the CPU BIOS)
of the Milan II and people that more or less relied on selling and
supporting the Milan II, for example Axel Gehringer, who has already
given up and closed down his shop or Sascha Roth of MuCS Hannover,
who once told me that he'll focus on Milan-related soft- and hardware.

So let's face it: There'll never be another Atari compatible computer
for you to buy. The Phenix is dead and Rodolphe Czuba has obviously
focused on producing another Falcon-accelerator, namely the ct060.
The Hades more or less vanished when MW Electronic got into real
trouble and decided to more or less stop everything they did until then
and the last shop that supported the Hades, well, Axel Gehringer's
is now history, too.
Computers Direct in Canada, selling their own version of the Hades
has given up quite a long time ago as well.
With the Milan II, the last hope of a lot of people that were hoping
to get new Atari-compatible hardware and were even willing to invest
money into this while most other people move over to either buy PCs
or Macintoshs, is gone.

So one not really important question remains in my eyes:
What's Ali Goukassian's role in all that ? Even though i might sound
rude, so far he has really screwed everything up he was involved in.
In case you are not familiar with this name, he's the official
spokesman of Milan Computer GmbH.
He has also been responsible for the ST Computer magazine until
quite recently (now Thomas Raukamp has taken over the job),
before that he has managed his own magazine, the Atari inside
and really no one can say he did a good job as main editor.
Articles have been delayed and not printed or in the wrong order,
series have been aborted for no given reason, the layout was
usually a mess, there were a lot of misprints, it looked like no one
ever proofread or at least checked the layout of one single page
and besides that, it was usually delayed by at least 1 week.
(In the summer issue of 1998 he even managed to misprint the
 name of the month this issue on the title page)
Additionally he had started to sell hard- and software under the
Falke Verlag label and for example distributed the Electronic
Cow software in Germany. With respect to this business, he has
been famous for not paying bills and not delivering in reasonable
times and if delivering at all, he tended to deliver the wrong
The only reason he ever got spokesman of Milan Computer GmbH is
that he, at that time, had the only printed magazine available in
Germany and because Ali does look competent and very professional
when he tries to and really no one else in the design team at this
point wanted to do this job.
This is how Ali Goukassian got to play a key-role in the future
of the Atari market without doing or knowing at least something
better than others did - on the contrary.
Right after Ali had been promoted to this position, the printed
magazine became a 100%-Milan-advertisement magazine.
It's almost a miracle to me now that the Milan 040 ever made it,
but this project was probably already in such a progressed state
when Ali entered it that it simply wasn't possible for the project
to fail anymore, even with Ali aboard.

Sounds kind of rude but it's the way it is. And the funniest part is
that it's not even the lack of devotion or motivation that ruins
everything Ali is involved in - he is dediacted as well as motivated
to do his best for Atari without a doubt.
And if you ever get to meet him, he automatically impresses and looks
like someone 100% competent, reliable, responsible and someone who
has everything in control, is in charge and to be trusted.
But i can assure you, as soon as you turned around he instantly forgot
who you were, what you wanted, what you had said and even if you just
ordered a complete series of Milan040 boards, he will have forgotten
about it.
There's one exception though, the Atari fairs he organized. This is
the one thing that he more or less solely organized that actually
ever worked out and seeing the Milan II-desaster now, i'm even more
surprised that i actually took part in 3 Atari fairs as exhibitor
(once for Solution Software, once for Titan Designs and once for
Axel Gehringer) that really happened.
But when looking at the things that obviously went wrong at Milan
Computer, i am quite sure that it's all his fault:

- it's absolutely 100% his fault that the Milan 040 is not
  available in the UK and in France anymore since it was him to
  support the foreign retailers and it was him who never replied
  to emails and other enquiries.
- it's highly probable that the lack of support that software
  developers complained about was with respect to the Milan II
  was his ressort and therefore got screwed up
- i assume it was him to fix contracts with the manufacturers of
  the custom chips used by the Milan II. I have no proof for that
  and it's very rude to say so but i somehow have the feeling that
  this was his job
- He endangered the work of a lot of people by the way he works.
  If you don't believe me, ask Michael Schwingen, Bernd Maedicke,
  or Axel Gehringer.

So now that i have written all this i should maybe reactivate a few of the
old contacts i had to the commercial Atari community and find out a few
things more about all this.
However, this is not important now and even irrelevant since it doesn't
change one single aspect of the failure of the Milan II-project.

Again, this incident shows us, this way or the other, how thin the ice
has become for Atari related hardware development. One (major) project
fails and the whole future of Atari seems lost.
Without the Milan II, the development of all new software is about
as uncertain as the development of more PCI-drivers, USB-connectivity
and other up-to-date devices.
Without the Milan II, even though i never really thought about buying
or focusing on one, the future does look a lot paler.

The only way out seems to be supporting those that are still developing
hardware for Atari computers, like Mario Becroft, Rodolphe Czuba,
Sven Karlsson, the people behind the Phantom accelerator and
others. We ought to bear in mind how easy fragile all the Atari scene
is and how easy it is to cancel a project but how hard it is to continue.

Besides that, not everything is lost. I spoke to Sven Karlsson just
the same day that Milan Computer announced its news and the future
of Tempest is still looking bright. He has raised money to produce
the 0-series, the first batch of prototypes that are manufactured
industrially so the development can get into the final stages.
According to the DHS BBS, Rodolphe Czuba has collected over 100
orders for a Centurbo 060 to produce it and he also has changed
the board design and concentrated on a pure accelerator.
Mario Becroft is also busy, having finished his IDE controllers
for several types of Atari ST computers and is still developing
on the ethernet adapter.
Even though nothing really new, the Phantom accelerator shows that
there is always room for a surprise and that development is being
continued when there is demand.

So let's show our demand to the developers and keep Atari alive.

                                             The Paranoid
                                      Think you can handle it ?!
                                       from the Lunatic Asylum

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