If you have a computer on your desk today, the chances are that it has an Intel architecture and is in some way a descendant of the IBM PC. It may have an Apple badge on the front, it may run Linux, or Windows, but in hardware terms the overwhelming probability is that it will be part of the Intel monoculture. A couple of decades ago though in the 16- and early 32-bit era you would have found a far greater diversity of architectures. Intel 3-, and 486s in PCs and clones, Macintosh, Commodore, and Atari platforms with the 68000 family, the WDC 65C816 in the Apple IIGS, and the Acorn Archimedes with an early ARM processor to name but a few.
In the tough environment of the 1990s most of these alternative platforms fell by the wayside. Apple survived to be revitalised under a returning Steve Jobs, Atari and Commodore withered under a bewildering succession of takeovers, and Acorn split up and lost its identity with its processor licensing subsidiary going on to power most of the mobile devices we take for granted today.
Surprisingly though some of the 16-bit platforms refused to die when their originators faded from view. In particular Commodore’s Amiga has lived on with new OS versions, new platforms, and community-supported hardware upgrades. News of just such a device came our way this morning, [Lukas Hartmann]’s MNT VA2000, a graphics card for the Amiga 2000 using a GPU implemented on an FPGA.
The Amiga 2000 was an object of desire in the late 1980s, a 68000-based Amiga in a big box with a number of expansion card slots in Commodore’s “Zorro” format. Its graphics capabilities though while cutting-edge for 1987 were starting to show their age by the 1990s, and if you want to use one today you’ll find it something of a chore at anything but the lowest of resolutions. Third-party graphics cards were produced for them in the 1990s, but those that survive fetch eye-watering prices. [Lukas] decided to address this problem by creating his own Zorro card with a Papilio Pro FPGA development board on it, carrying a Xilinx Spartan 6 to do the heavy lifting.
His write-up of the project is both a comprehensive and interesting description of the hurdles he faced and how he overcame them. It includes some neat ideas such as using the Amiga itself as a logic analyser, and describes a few of the dead-ends and mistakes he made along the way. You may not be an Amiga enthusiast, but even so it should be well worth a read.
We’re pleased to see Amiga-related items here at Hackaday. Some of us even have more than one Amiga ourselves. In the past we’ve covered quite a few Amiga stories, including this A2000 still running a school’s HVAC systems. If you would like to try the Amiga experience without the pain of resurrecting ancient hardware though we’d like to point you to our coverage of AROS, an open-source rewrite of Amiga OS.
via [Dean Massecar]