Red Jade Inc. recently announced the appointment of RJ Mical as Vice
President of software. Mical will be involved in identifying technical
objectives for the company and will lead the internal and external software
groups, working on the device OS and built-in application software.
He will oversee development, Internet and distribution technology and
For those of you who might not remember, Mical is recognized as one
of the innovators in today's home entertainment systems beginning with
his time spent at Amiga where he played an instrumental role. He co-created
the Lynx Handheld Game System, worked as a lead software engineer for
Amiga/Commodore and was a special effects artist at Williams Electronics.
He co-invented the 3DO gaming platform and served as vice president
and fellow at 3DO, lending his expertise to the breakthrough 3DO console
before its demise.
Mical has more than 17 years of console and PC software development
expertise. He co-founded several companies, including Rjave Inc., a
design and consulting firm and Glassworks, an entertainment and online
system software company. We caught up with him recently to hear some
stories about Amiga, find out want went wrong with 3DO, and to see what
he's doing at Red Jade.
Tell us about your origins with Amiga, what projects and responsibilities
you had during the earlier days of that OS.
let's see, I started as Software Engineer at Amiga where I contributed
to the graphics library development. I created Intuition, the Amiga's
user interface and windowing/menu system -- what a haul that was: seven
months of 100-hour weeks to get it finished in time for the launch of
the Amiga! I was Director of System Software for a while too. I didn't
help develop the Joyboard (a joystick controller in the form of a skiboard),
but I was a user. We created a game for it called the Zen Meditation
game. The object was to sit in lotus-position on the Joyboard and move
as little as possible for as long as possible. The goal was to reach
Nirvana by accumulating bonus kharma points. It's a long story; I guess
you had to be there...
do you feel about the new Amiga OS announcements? Are you still involved
with the OS in any way?
there's an interesting question. First, nah, I'm not involved with the
Amiga currently. They have a next generation plan and there wasn't room
for me. Will they create a product with the Amiga name on it? Yes. Will
it be the Amiga? No, though it will have the same spirit as the original
system. Will they be successful? The computer technology world has hardened
into some very deep ruts these days, so they're in for a bouncy ride
to say the least. I surely wish them well, though, for all the same
reasons I wanted the original Amiga to succeed: They challenge our presumptions,
offer us a different and possibly better way. Power to the upstarts!
your experience in OS development, tell us what you think about the
development of operating systems for game consoles.
parts to the answer. First, developers will always hate it. Second,
system developers will always want it. The presence of an OS, if lean,
fast, and close to the bare metal, has a minimal impact on game performance
and makes game development vastly easier. Most importantly, an OS that
keeps the game from touching the hardware directly then allows the hardware
to be modified in the future without causing existing programs to fail.
For instance, at 3DO we were able to cost-reduce the CD drive dramatically
but the change required most control registers to be redesigned. We
were able to make this change in a way that did not affect game performance.
However, with game developers all of our arguments fall on deaf ears.
They want to control the machine directly and completely. At Red Jade
we have an OS for an even more important reason: Games, PDA applications
and low-level system communication software all can run at the same
time. We've found clever ways to let the underlying system run without
impacting game performance. Our users will get the best of both worlds!
What happened with 3DO? What went wrong, in your opinion?
Marketing, marketing, marketing. Lack of good marketing is what I mean.
Plus the initial price tag of $700 didn't help either, but mostly it
was the fact that the people who were supposed to market it either didn't
have enough money or didn't have enough knowledge of what it takes to
gain popular acceptance of such a next-generation entertainment device.
Happily, at Red Jade we've got those bases covered already!