A New Motherboard For Amiga, The Platform That Refuses To Die

If you go out and buy a computer right now, how many choices do you really have? Generally speaking, there’s PC or Mac. If we were being generous you could consider Chromebook and perhaps even mobile, but let’s be honest, computing is a two-party system with the ability to dump the OS and run Linux as the obvious third-party disruptor. It wasn’t always like this.

In the early years of personal computing there were a slew of serious contenders. A PC, a Mac, an Atari ST, an Amiga, and several more that all demanded serious consideration on the general purpose desktop computer market. Of all these platforms, the Amiga somehow stubbornly refuses to die. The Amiga 1200+ from [Jeroen Vandezande] is the latest in a long procession of post-Commodore Amigas, and as its name suggests it provides an upgrade for the popular early-1990s all-in-one Amiga model.

It takes the form of a well-executed open-source PCB that’s a drop-in replacement for the original A1200 motherboard. CPU, RAM, and video are broken out onto daughterboards, with PCMCIA replaced by an SD card slot. The catch: it does require all the custom Amiga chips from a donor board.

The original Amiga 1200 was a significant upgrade to the architecture of the 1980s originals, and this certainly provides a much-needed enhancement to its underwhelming 68EC020 processor. It’s fair to say that this is the Amiga upgrade we’d all have loved to see in about 1996 rather than waiting until 2019. It’s still a delight for a retrogaming enthusiast; many of those who keep it alive remember the Amiga was the best multimedia platform that could be had for a few glorious years.

We’ve brought you a host of Amiga projects over the years, including the resurrection of an A500 and of course another A1200 PCB.

Thanks to [Eric Hill] for the tip.

34 thoughts on “A New Motherboard For Amiga, The Platform That Refuses To Die

    1. Not just for decoupling the power lines, they had a load for EMI filtering on every connector, and also for cleaning up various clocks and strobes that were notoriously noisy.

  1. How is this better than the original? What CPU is used? If you are sticking with the long lost 68k family there aren’t many options. Looks to me like the RasPi Amiga might be the best choice. No information about this in the article or the site it links to. One would think this would be front and center.

  2. Cool Amiga! I miss that brand too.

    Unrelated: I never really understood why a Mac isn’t considered a PC. Is it not a personal computer? Does PC apply to any personal computer running any OS except MacOS for any good reason?

    1. Because IBM called their first personal computer “The IBM PC” and that’s what all the “PCs” in the modern vernacular descend from. Basically IBM (unintentionally?) co-opted the originally generic term.

      1. More particularly, previous to the ‘PC’, IBM had always been known for selling ‘big iron’–mainframe computers the size of a room that cost more than your whole house; something so large and expensive that generally only governments and businesses could afford them or the horrendously expensive environments that they required. With the introduction of the 5150, they turned everything on its head by offering a business-class computer that could fit on your desk and was affordable enough for a small business (…or even a single person!!!) to be able to buy one–a true ‘personal computer’. As almost the entire focus of their marketing was aimed at business and education–where the majority of mainframe sales came from, they were speaking to those who had previously been shackled to only having computer power at work or had to rent time on someone else’s mainframe because they couldn’t afford to buy their own. IBM’s repeated mantra of ‘personal computer’ eventually inserted the idea that a ‘PC’ was an IBM into society’s psyche, much like any small, portable cassette player without a built-in speaker would later be called a ‘Walkman’, no matter which company had actually made it.

    2. PC refers to an IBM PC or compatible. Macs were not “PCs” until they switched away from using Motorolla chips to instead use PowerPC and later Intel chips. The term is a bit archaic now because most modern computers merely desend from the IBM PC. It was a marketing term that became a generic once all personal computers became PCs.

      1. Not quite. Before the introduction of the IBM PC, PC was just a short hand for personal computer in general. In say, 1980 if someone asked you “What PC do you have?” a valid, perfectly reasonable response might have been “An Atari 800”.

        1. Mnem, is 100% correct, even the Commodore Vic20 and C64’s were Personal Computers, while IBM did brand theirs as the IBM PC, it was not meant to own the name and exclude all others, it was honestly about form factor and physical size, later versions of the Commodore Computer range use the term Home Computer, even though the machines were marketed at Small to Mid level businesses as well as the home users.
          Mac’s were and are still PC’s in the sense that fit the role as Personal Computer in the same manner that IBM (now best to say Intel or AMD) PC’s and Commodore, Atari, Amstrad and others have done.

          if I had been asked in the early 80’s what PC I had it would be answered with Commodore 64.

    3. Shortly before Apple switched to Intel CPUs, the PowerPC CPU and the Open Firmware which did the bootstrap routine and stored some parameters (much more like a PC BIOS than the ToolBox ROM Macs had from 1984 until the intro of Open Firmware) A Mac was pretty much the same hardware as a PC.

      Intel introduced the PCI Bus, which Apple would adopt to replace NuBus. Intel and others introduced USB, which Apple would (much later) adopt to replace Apple Desktop Bus (ADB, 4 pin Mini DIN, you can use S-Video cables for your old Mac keyboard and sit across the room). The PC industry produced AGP for better video performance, which Apple would take its own sweet time adopting, shortly before switching to PCI Express pretty much at the same time the PC world did.

      Apple was also a laggard at using PCMCIA and CardBus in their laptops. Few models had it. IIRC Apple may have been an early adopter of ExpressCard but like the previous laptop expansion slots few Apple laptops had it.

      Firewire was pretty much the only newer interface Apple not only adopted first but also supported extensively. they put FireWire ports on most of their computers, even on models that really couldn’t take advantage of them. One was the base iMac DV model that had a puny 10 gig hard drive and didn’t even have a DVD-ROM drive, let alone a DVD burner, and the slowest G3 CPU available at the time. How the hell was that a “Digital Video” computer? But it had a FireWire port! Woohoo!

      So when Apple got fed up with IBM/Freescale/Motoroloa’s inability to tame the furnace heat output and power hunger of the G5 PowerPC CPU (especially due to the impossibility of a G5 Powerbook), they switched to Intel CPUs, despite AMD’s CPUs of the time putting out less heat at full speed than Intel’s did at idle.

      Mac had become PC by adopting all the various bits of hardware that PCs had first. Even the Mac motherboard form factor was very close to the BTX form factor.

      Apple had hedged their bets, having had a parallel Intel / AMD development program for OS X from Day 1, which is how they got version 10.4 out the door so quickly for the new Intel CPU Macintosh computers.

  3. Not sure why we get a history lesson about “the personal computer here” ….

    It’s not about “the new Amiga for the future” this project …it’s a drop-in replacement board with extras. It’s better than the original because it’s made in 2019 with as many new parts as possible because no hardware lives forever. Without being detrimental towards the original we obviously all love. It’s just a different approach.

    Can those original chips be replaced by FPGA ? Probably … it’s open source so start working on it.

  4. This reminds me I should try to fix one A500 I got from a friend, or make my mind and put it in the trash. No use to keep the thing non-functioning taking up space as one of those “some day …. ” projects

    1. There’s also an A500++ board in development, similar story – take a broken old Amiga, transplant the custom chips onto a brand new board. Search twitter for #a500plusplus

      1. I think this makes more sense for an A500+ replacement (And the A1000 replacement as well) as one of the common failure modes of those boards is the internal battery leaking and destroying it. the 1200 doesn’t have an internal RTC and battery though.

        1. You’re correct in that the A1200 doesn’t have an internal battery to destroy it. Instead though what kills A1200s is leaking surface-mount electrolytic caps if they aren’t replaced in time. It kills less, the damage is more often repairable (by skilled hands) but it’s still a real problem.

      2. First I need to conjure something from available materials to use as a display. Can´t justify buying a new display just for trying to fix this machine.

        Need to research about adapting some cheap vga display, or making a “glued together” scan doubler

        1. The A500 has a standard mono video out on it via RCA jack. Not the output you’d want for everyday use, but it’s certainly good enough for purposes of troubleshooting the computer.

          1. but as mono it would get in the way of the diagnostics that involve coloured screens, no ? Like green screen means this, red screen means that, etc.

            Also, I would need to find something that accepts a input of that kind. At current time, I´m wondering if an automotive gps ( that has an input for the rearview camera ) would work ….

  5. I’d love to see a ITX based Amiga with modern PCI or PCIe interface and 68060 standard socket. An option to use FPGA emulation for the custom chips would allow people w/o access to an old Amiga to use the computer.

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