An Amiga 500 For The 21st Century

There was a period in the late 1980s when the home computer to own did not come with an Apple logo and was not an IBM, Compaq, or any of the other clones, but instead sported a Commodore logo. The Amiga 500 was an all-in-one console-style cased machine that maybe wasn’t quite the computing powerhouse you might have wished it to be, but gave you enough of the capabilities of the more accomplished 16-bit machines of the day to be an object of desire while also having a games catalogue second to none.

A500s have survived in reasonable numbers, but inevitably working A500s haven’t. Fortunately there are decent emulators, and it was for one of these that [intric8] has produced an extremely well-done installation of a Raspberry Pi 3 in an Amiga case. The intention has been throughout to avoid modification or damage to the Amiga case, and eventually to have all Amiga internal peripherals including the floppy drive in a fully working condition.

The result has a Tynemouth Software USB adaptor for the Amiga keyboard, and a set of nicely designed 3D printed backplates to bring the extended Raspberry Pi ports to the back of the case. The floppy isn’t yet interfaced and there isn’t a socket for the quadrature mouse, but otherwise it’s a very tidy build. He might be interested in one of the several USB to quadrature interfaces we’ve featured over the years.

You might ask why so much effort should be put in for an emulation of an A500, and in a sense you’d be right to do so. The Pi will run the emulator from any case or none. But if you happen to have a spare A500 case, why not give this one a go!

26 thoughts on “An Amiga 500 For The 21st Century

  1. “There was a period in the late 1980s when the home computer to own did not come with an Apple logo and was not an IBM, Compaq, or any of the other clones…”

    ATARI! :-)

  2. “You might ask why so much effort should be put in for an emulation of an A500, and in a sense you’d be right to do so.”

    Emulation gains one something important in this age of high-priced software. Capable, but older software for the price of a download.

    1. And all the fancy ‘hardware’ upgrades you wanted but that were too rare and/or too expensive way back when. Now how about emulating the Catweasel floppy interface? Those were made for Amiga and PC so that both could read Amiga, Macintosh, PC-DOS and many other floppy formats. Dunno if it enabled writing to any of the ones not native to the computer the Catweasel was connected to.

      There’s a subject for a HaD article, hardware like the Catweasel and Central Point Option Board, and software like 22 Disk, that enabled various computers to read, and sometimes write, one or more floppy formats not native to the system.

      1. Right from Workbench 2.1, Amigas could read double density (720k) floppies formatted in MSDOS format.
        Back when I was at school, this meant I could download software from Aminet on a pc, copy it onto a floppy (sometimes splitting the file into multiple parts), and finally take it home and load it on my Amiga.
        However, due to the way the Amiga read and wrote disks (you could fit 880k on the same double density floppy), you couldn’t read an Amiga disk on PC.

  3. I had an A600 (the one with the half keyboard and not compatible with most software) that I found in a public bin (in an industrial estate). Well I ended up putting that in the recycling because of a bad keyboard flex and due to the software support over the half-keyboard issue even though it booted to the insert disk logo.

    I wish I still had the main board and the FDD drive from the A600 as now I scored an A500+ at the boot sale for a tenner. Aparently the person powered it up (bad move I hear) and the board needs a little TLC (RTC battery leakage).
    Now if only I hadn’t chucked the A600, I’d try and hack in the A500 keyboard and use the A500 case, especially as there is supposedly a downloadable soft-core clone of the 6800 CPU of the A600/A1200. Then I’d flash a clone of the A1200 firmware to a modern flash-rom and map that in for to support the keyboard. Thus I’d have a hacked together A1200!

    1. Everything you just said is gibberish. The A600 is not incompatible with “most software”, and definitely not due to having a “half keyboard” – it has a normal ECS chipset and kickstart 2.0 rom, the very few incompatible titles are all early self booting game releases that were badly written, and the cure is just to boot from kickstart 1.3 on disc instead. Not that it was ever a common problem in practice. The A600 was mostly disliked for needing different accessories than the A500, like hard drives.

      Likewise neither the 600 or 1200 use a “6800” processor, and you can’t get the 1200s capabilities out of a 600 by using it’s kickstart or a keyboard with a number pad. For one it wouldn’t fit, two the 1200s capabilities come from its newer graphics chips, better processor, and excellent expansion slot. What you can do is put an A600 kickstart 3.1 in, and all that really does is make it slower.

      1. Yep, You’re perfectly correct, Wikipedia is full of lies :

        I must be talking absolute gibberish considering straight from their page is thew first sentence:
        “The A600 shipped with a Motorola 68000 CPU, running at 7.09 MHz (PAL) ”

        P.S. Yeah, I missed a zero, Oh well, it’s gibberish.

        I was also on about the software being hindered or unusable for the ones that need the number pad that if you look at both the A600 and the A1200, the A600 doesn’t have a number pad.

        Simply put it:
        No num pad and software need num pad means not good!

        Also for your last paragraph:
        I said about modding the A500 case with A600 board and wiring (i.e. emulation, bus hacking, etc) the A500 keyboard to the A600 and performing the mods to make the A1200 firmware ROM boot… even if that is a mess of wires…

        Simply put:
        Bodge A500 Keyboard and A600 PCB with A1200 board to make a franken A1200.

        Next you’ll say Hackintosh is impossible and the Hackintosh community are talking pure gibberish.

        Now I wish even more I’d kept the A600 parts just to build and write up what I’m explaining so I could submit the franken A1200 mod to HackADay tips line, Just to rub it in ;)

        1. A1200 is vastly superior to A600 by any regards: CPU, RAM and graphics capabilities. So even though you might boot A1200 rom on a A600 (no idea about that), you don’t have hacked together a A1200. It’s like saying that if you boot a PS4 rom on a PS3 you have hacked together a PS4.

        2. I genuinely cannot think of a single piece of software that requires the Amiga’s numberpad. If one exists, it’s very obscure, and likely anyone who could demonstrate it would only be doing so to prove it exists, rather than to actually use it for anything.

          As I have already said, you’re not going to hack the A1200 Kickstart roms into the A600. The reason is simple: The version of the Amiga OS that the A1200’s roms contain was already ported to the A600 by commodore themselves. You just unplug the old rom and plug the new one in. You can buy one new for €15 right now.

          Neither do you need to do any “Bus hacking” to get the A500 keyboard to work on an A600. You just piggyback the DATA and CLOCK lines from the keyboard’s cable to the keyboard controller on the A600 Motherboard. You can even do it without soldering the A600 board, just put a qfp chip socket upside down on the controller chip. Like all the A600 CPU boards do.

          The idea that you can turn a 600 into a 1200 with a rom upgrade is lunacy. They’re miles apart in specification.

    1. Normally I would agree, but I have never seen such nice new 3d printed brackets in such a modification. For me making new brackets to fit the new stuff to the old case is not something I have seen yet.

    2. Darren, Jan, Bart, eccentricelectron, zerg…I think you guys should collaborate and write a blog, I mean you guys are like futurists (in your own mind) who have seen everything and always seem the “lameness” of every project. I for one would love to see your projects because I am sure they can at least solve the riddle sphinx, right?

      1. I actually made a compliment about his nice use of 3d printing and so did Jan, So why am I on the same heap as the naysayers? Maybe read comments before calling others out

      1. I would love a modern multi-core version of the 68000 series but alas, the entire ‘desktop’ section of the industry are prisoners of Microsoft and Intel.

        For a long time now, anyone who’s attempted to escape has been shot in the back. Usually by members of ‘their own side’ desperate to prove they’re not involved…

      2. Except you have to buy a vampire board that you can’t even purchase. And there is no Apollo core code available to the public.

        Everything is very proprietary and id you are not in Europe, you may as well forget about it.

        All in all they look like one of those shady shoestring operations that can’t even maintain product stock.

        1. You can readily purchase a Vampire in several of the major Amiga shops and generally they’re back in stock within a few weeks, if not being put in line on their website you can secure one in a queue at a cheaper price if you want to wait. While the A600 version may be out of stock at the moment, but those should be ready in the near future…

          As code not being open, From what I remember reading Gunnar expressed interest in opening his core up once he solidifies the final core, but for now it’s still an on going development.

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