previous page: 52 What are the popular development tools?
page up: Amiga CD32 FAQ
next page: 53 Pinouts

30 Jargon


This article is from the Amiga CD32 FAQ, by Stuart Tomlinson with numerous contributions by others.

30 Jargon

AFAIK As Far As I Know. The CD32 expansion connector pinout is only available to registered CD32 developers, AFAIK.

AGA Advanced Graphics Architecture. The name given to the latest custom chipset for Amigas, which allows 8 bit (256) and HAM8 (262144) colour graphics from a palette of 16.7 million. The CD32 uses AGA chipset as do the Amiga 1200 and 4000 computers.

Akiko This chip handles the data coming from the CD drive and includes the functions of the CIA chips in other Amigas.

It's also more famous for chunky to planar conversion. Chunky and planar are two different methods of storing the screen in memory. Chunky is often used for 3D games. Planar is useful for scrolling games, and it's the method used by the CD32. This chip quickly converts from one t' other, helping developers to port code across from other platforms that use chunky.

Alice The replacement for Agnus in older Amigas. Contains the Blitter and Copper, amongst other things.

AmigaDOS The part of the CD32's operating system that's on CD-ROM (or floppy or hard drive). Developers must obtain a license to distribute even a small part of AmigaDOS on their CD-ROMs - it's copyrighted.

Audio CD Your normal CD that holds music. Given a different name for computers because there's so many different types of CD about. The CD32 can play these.

Blitter BLock Image TransfER. Special part of the graphics chip hardware which speeds up many operations, by moving blocks of chip RAM around with DMA, while performing logical operations on them. Lines and area fills are among the most popular uses for the Blitter.

Boot Putting the CD-ROM in the drive and automatically launching a program without having to go through the operating system (eg. Workbench, MS-DOS, Finder, etc...) and all the messing around with keyboards and mice that it entails.

CDs will only boot for the computer that they were written for, even though the files on the CD are readable on all CD-ROM machines (ISO-9660).

If you intend to use the CD32 as a CD-ROM for other computers and you don't have other storage devices (such as floppy or hard drives) available, you must find CD-ROMs that boot up and load communications software (such as Parnet, Sernet, or Twin Express).

Bootblock A small piece of copyrighted code that must be on a CD-ROM in order for it to boot. Developers must have a licence to use the bootblock.

C-Cube This is supplied in the FMV cartridge. It decompresses the MPEG-1 picture from the Video CD and puts it on the screen. It's also found in the CD-i's FMV cartridge.

CD+G Compact Disc + Graphics. A standard music CD with the addition of graphic pictures that can be viewed with an appropriate player. CDTV and CD32 both play CD+G discs. CD+G discs were never plentiful, and may not even be produced any more.

CD-i Compact Disc - interactive. System for multimedia developed by Philips; made available to the public shortly after CDTV was. Not expandable to a popular computer platform such as CD32 is expandable to an Amiga. CD-i software titles cannot be played on a CD32 and vice-versa.

There is a new cut-down version of the CD-i (smaller box, less connectors) that looks remarkably similar to the CD32...

CD-i Digital Video CD A Video CD for the CD-i. The difference is that the they also have bookmarks of interesting parts of the film on them. These can also be played on the CD32 with FMV cartridge, but the bookmarks are missing.

CISC Complex Instruction Set Chip. Contains lots of nice instructions, but it ain't so good in the speed department.

CD+MIDI Similar to a standard music CD, but it also holds information for driving MIDI instruments.

CD-ROM Compact Disc - Read Only Memory. A 5 inch polycarbonate disk with aluminium coating, laser etched with holes for storing computer data. ISO-9660 CD-ROMs can also hold music tracks that can be played with a normal music CD player as well.

CDTV Commodore Dynamic Total Vision. The previous CD based machine by C=. It wasn't exactly a storming success, mainly due to poor marketing. Many CDTV discs will work on the CD32, but some need a mouse and others need a keyboard.

Microcosm was originally a CDTV project. C= gave Psygnosis some financial backing to develop it, but the CDTV version never saw the light of day, except for some promotional demos.

CDXL C='s attempt at getting motion video on the CDTV before low cost MPEG decoder chips became available. The CD32's version of CDXL can cope with more colours and cover more of the screen.

CDXLs can be about two-thirds of the size of the screen (although they can be scaled up slightly to fill more, but the side effect is that they look blocky) and they can also hold mono or stereo sound.

Chip RAM Random Access Memory available to both the CPU and Amiga custom chipset inside the CD32 (and all previous Amigas). The CD32 ships with the maximum amount of chip RAM that the AGA chipset can handle - 2M.

Copper CO-ProcEssoR. All Amigas feature a special co-processor as part of their custom chipset, which allows some graphic chip functions such as colour palette manipulation to happen asynchronously to other tasks, freeing the CPU for other work.

CPU Central Processor Unit. The brains for managing data and its manipulation inside a computer. Amigas, CDTV, and CD32 have all used the Motorola 68000 series of CPUs.

Datatype Allows the OS to support any graphic, sound, text, or animation format, once the datatype information is copied to the proper folder on the Workbench disk or hard drive. Programs can ask the OS to load the file for them without knowing anything about the file format themselves.

This can come in very useful if you want to read ISO-9660 CDs generated on other computers (once you've upgraded your CD32 to a computer, of course).

DMA Direct Memory Access. Allows other chips apart from the CPU to access the RAM, at the same time as the CPU. This frees up the CPU for doing other work, whilst the Blitter is copying memory for example.

Fast RAM Random Access Memory available to the Amiga's CPU, but not the custom chipset, thus faster for compute intensive tasks as no time sharing between the custom chipset and CPU is involved. Adding fast RAM should almost double the speed of the CD32 for non-graphics intensive work.

The CD32 ships with no fast RAM, but third party expansion boxes may allow for up to 8M of fast RAM expansion if you do not have the FMV cartridge, or 4M if used with the FMV cartridge.

Flash RAM RAM which can have data stored such that it survives being powered down. CD32 uses flash RAM to allow saving high-scores or game position information for the next time you play. Also known as NVRAM (Non Volatile).

FMV Full Motion Video - just what it says. Full screen moving pictures.

Often mis-used by journalists to mean any picture, including those that have 10 colours and are around the size of a postage-stamp, that's spooled from the CD-ROM.

FMV Upgrade A plug in cartridge that gives the CD32 capability to play MPEG-1 encoded CDs such as CD-i Digital Video (Star Trek VI, Top Gun) or Video CDs.

GIF Graphic Interchange Format. GIF compression is a standard for storing still pictures with 8 bit colour (256 colours on screen at once) and no loss in picture quality.

HAM6 or HAM An earlier version of HAM8, found on A500s, A2000s, and A3000s, that remains for compatibility. This allows up to 4096 colours on screen at once.

HAM8 Hold And Modify - 8 bit. An Amiga screen mode which can have up to 262144 colours on screen at once by changing some colour registers on each succeeding pixel on a given scanline. This is most useful for static pictures or predefined animation sequences, as it is difficult to constantly compute the best pixel colours in constantly changing action games.

HAM8 is often used to display JPEG format pictures or predefined animations (CDXLs) with better than 8 bit colour (256 colours), often up to near 18 bit (262144 colours) quality.

IFF Interchangable File Format. Developed by Electronic Arts and put into the public domain. Any IFF file can be read in by any program that understands the IFF format (if it's suitable - there's no point in a graphics package loading in an IFF sound file, for example).

Took off on the Amiga in a big way, so much so that any program that doesn't understand IFF is guaranteed not to sell. Didn't do so well on the PC for some reason (perhaps it was too good an idea...).

IMHO In my humble opinion. The CD32 is the best inexpensive multimedia delivery platform, IMHO.

ISO-9660 The different computer manufacturers got their act together and agreed on a standard format for CD-ROMs, unlike the mess that we're still left with today for floppy disks.

You can read any CD32, CDTV, Mac, or PC CD-ROM in any of the others. Although the files are readable, the file formats are still different for each computer (unless it's the CD32/CDTV), but if you have some conversion programs or datatypes you can display the graphics, play the sounds, or show the text from the CD-ROM.

ISO-9660 CDs are also cunningly compatible with Audio CDs, so you can play tracks 2 onwards (track 1 is computer data) in a hi-fi, and computers can mix the music from the Audio CDs with the sound output.

JPEG Joint Photographic Expert Group - JPEG compression is a standard for storing still pictures with 24 bit colour (16.7 million colours on- screen at once).

Kickstart The part of the CD32's operating system that's in ROM.

It contains all the code needed to access the CD-ROM and multitask, as well as other things that will never see the light of day unless you add a keyboard and some kind of storage (floppy or hard drive).

Lisa Handles the screen display. There's a palette of 16.7 million colours - each colour made of one of 256 shades of red, green, and blue. From that any power of 2, up to 256, or 4096 (HAM6), or 262144 (HAM8) colours can be displayed. The resolution can be most combinations of 320, 640, or 1024 across and 256, 512, or 1024 down (although there are other modes available).

MPEG Motion Picture Expert Group - they've decided the format of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 compression.

MPEG-1 is the accepted standard for video compression on CDs... It uses a variety of techniques to achieve staggering compression ratios while still maintaining good picture quality. Other parts of the MPEG standard include synchronized digital audio to make the format useful for movies on CD-ROM.

MPEG-2 isn't used on CDs but it looks even better.

NTSC The television standard used in America.

NTSC screens cannot be as deep PAL screens. This can lead to problems when some software written in PAL countries is run on a CD32 using a NTSC screen. The software may use the bottom section of the screen that NTSC owners cannot see.

This is entirely the fault of software companies, there are enough ROM routines in the CD32 to tell the program what TV standard it is running under and the program should make allowances.

PAL The television standard used in most of Europe and Australia.

Parnet/Sernet Freely distributable networking solutions for Amigas. Uses the parallel ports (Parnet) or serial ports (Sernet) to allow one to mount drives on multiple machines. In this way the CD32 can access the keyboard and hard drives of another Amiga, and the Amiga can access the CD32's CD drive.

CDTV was often used as an external CD drive for Amiga computers via Parnet.

A version of Parnet is now available for PC computers, allowing you to link from CD32 to PC.

ParNFS An Amiga only update to Parnet. This new version is faster and has some bug fixes.

Paula Gives you four channel stereo sound. Each channel can have 64 volume levels and can play either waveforms or sound samples at almost any pitch or octave from RAM. This chip is used to create sound effects, or play music from memory often when the CD-ROM is tied up for some reason (a CD-ROM cannot be used to load game code AND play CD music at the same time).

Photo CD Transfering pictures taken from a camera onto CD. These can be read by the CD32 if you can find a CD-ROM with a photo CD reader on it, use it as a slave drive, or expand it to a computer and download the proper (freely distributable) software.

The Communicator is bundled with a Photo CD reader called Photolite - this is available seperately too. Also Weird Science's Network CD has a Photo CD reader on it.

RAD RecoverAble RAM Drive. An area of RAM that doesn't lose its data when reset. Any area of RAM can be used as RAD. Games can use it to save data in, so it's possible to play a game of Liberation, save your place in RAD, reset, play another game, then return to Liberation later. Some games don't like RAD being there though.

RAM Random Access Memory. Specialized computer chips that can store information for as long as they powered on or the CD32 isn't reset. RAM chips and be read and written to by the CPU or the AGA chipset.

RISC Reduced Instruction Set Chip. A CPU that contains only a limited set of instructions. The idea is that each instruction is so simple that it doesn't take long to execute and any of the more complicated ones that are missing can be built up out of the simple ones.

ROM Read Only Memory. Specialized computer chips that store data and instructions for computer operation and cannot be erased or written over.

Shovelware Taking an Amiga game, putting it on CD-ROM with no improvements whatsoever, and usually charging more than the original disk version.

Slave drive Connecting the CD32 via serial or parallel link to another computer and using networking software such as Parnet, Sernet, or Twin Express so that the other computer can read the CD-ROM in the CD32.

Spool Quickly taking data from the CD-ROM and shoving it on the screen or sending it to the audio output, or both. Eg. CDXLs or the Microcosm tunnels.

3DO Three Dimensional Objects (I think). Another CD-ROM based multimedia/ games system developed by Electronic Arts and former Amiga people. This also is not expandable to a regular computer system. Slightly more expensive for the both hardware and software than the CD32. It has more limited screen resolutions. Only just released in Europe.

Twin Express A program to transfer files from one computer to another through a serial link. The front end works similar to FTP. There are versions of Twin Express for the PC and Amiga.

Video CD If you have a FMV cartridge you can play these. There were 100 films available in August '94, much more now.


Continue to:

previous page: 52 What are the popular development tools?
page up: Amiga CD32 FAQ
next page: 53 Pinouts