The DraCo was the first licensed clone of the Commodore Amiga line of computers. It ran a modified version of AmigaOS, complete with Intuition, KickStart and Workbench. It was released by MacroSystems in 1994, and cost a whopping 15000 US dollars -- needless to say, it wasn't exactly meant for the garden variety Amiga user. The target market was video editing, and it was aimed at the niche of this market where SGI systems were too expensive, but 1994-era PCs were too shoddy.

Its hardware architecture was based around two modules, named the Rastaban and the Eltanin. Rastaban was the main module, providing a versatile expansion bus containing five Zorro II slots and three of MacroSystems' proprietary Dracobus slots, as well as two slots reserved for the Eltanin module -- in fact, these two slots were one Zorro II and one Dracobus. The Eltanin module was roughly equivalent to the motherboard of an x86 PC (except that it, in fact, itself was a daughterboard on the Rastaban module), and contained the system's RAM, CPU, SCSI I/O system and the Amiga ROM. The dual-module design was meant to facilitate easy replacement and upgrade of the "motherboard", since it itself was mounted in slots on the central bus. It was powered by a 50 MHz Motorola 68060 superscalar CPU, could handle up to 128 MB RAM (in 4 72-pin SIMM slots), and came standard with a SCSI-II hard drive and CD-ROM. One extension often used with the system was the addition of a 233MHz DEC Alpha, which would function as a powerful coprocessor. I'm not sure how they managed that particular feat, since the 68060 (like all m68k processors) is a 32-bit chip, and a DEC Alpha is 64-bit.

It did not use the famous Amiga chipset with its legendary trio of custom chips Denise, Agnus/Alice and Paula. Instead, it had an Altais graphics card and used CybergraphX RTG software to control its display, and used an emulation layer for the Amiga software that depended on the old custom chips. In those days, assembly programming wasn't the black art it has become today, many programmers had a very intimate familiarity with their machines (Linux history buffs will recall that Linus Torvalds started developing Linux to get to know the x86 architecture). Amiga programmers were some of the most notorious assembler hackmeisters and would typically pound extensively on those custom chips; I wouldn't be surprised if those freaks dream in m68k assembly.

One major advantage the DraCo had over the original Amigas (discounting its vastly faster graphics hardware and the fact that a 68060 came standard) was that it used a unified memory architecture. Standard Amigas usually had 1-2 megabytes of chip RAM (which was slow, but accessible by the custom chips) and any amount of fast RAM up to the limits of what the bus could handle (which was fast, but could only be accessed by the CPU, limiting its application).

The DraCo was released in two distinct models, the original DraCo in its full tower case, and the later DraCo Vision which came in a cube server case (which looks suspiciously like the PC cube cases made by Yeong Yang if you ask me). While definitely a decent machine for its day, the DraCo never really caught on. The model was apparently discontinued in the late 90's, but every now and then, these things are still spotted in the wild, typically pulling light server or workstation duty, often running NetBSD .


  • Numerous drool-stained ads and hardware analysis pages on the Amiga magazines of my wild youth