PiStorm Brings Modern Muscle To The Amiga

The Amiga, well known as the best and greatest computer ever designed, is nonetheless a platform of yesteryear. Its 68K, and later PowerPC, architectures have both been abandoned by the mainstream, and its attractive grey industrial design no longer graces store shelves. That doesn’t mean the platform is dead however, with diehard shredders like [Claude Schwarz] working hard to keep it alive with projects like PiStorm.

PiStorm is a Motorola 68K CPU emulator, running on a Raspberry PI 3A. The Pi uses its GPIOs to interact with a CPLD chip, which acts as the logic glue to allow the modern single board computer to emulate the Amiga’s original processor. However, it’s more than just an easy way to replace or upgrade a CPU. It also offers additional features, like retargetable graphics acceleration, SCSI disk emulation, and the ability to run whatever Kickstart ROM you so desire.

While the initial work has been done on a Pi 3A, [Claude] has also demonstrated some of the basic functionality running on a Pi CM4 too. The benchmarks are more fierce than a Beyoncé Super Bowl half time show, so if you need grunt on your classic Amiga, this could be the way to go. As a bonus, files to build your own are readily available on Github, which should make it a mite more accessible than other Amiga accelerator boards.

We wonder whether this accelerator could be used to hook the Amiga up to Spotify, a la this previous build. Likely, time will tell. Video after the break.





40 thoughts on “PiStorm Brings Modern Muscle To The Amiga

  1. If only we could spend a half as much time living in the present as what we do living in the past then we would be spending considerably more time living in the present and with perhaps some spent looking towards the future.

    1. @steves I truly think you miss the point of this website and the activities of the individuals who participate in “hacking”. Whereas I do see your statement as a thinly disguised critique of someone’s personal hobbies, I will argue that this particular individual has a firm grip on the present and has improved something from the past in a very synergistic way. I will further emphasize your short-sighted comment by highlighting that many on this site work on extending the life of gadgets that are disposed of well before they truly should be. Our current throwaway society and practiced planned obsolescence are reduced by many presented here on Hackaday. Please take your ignorant elitist value system elsewhere; possibly a Philosophy 101 website.

      1. Hm, I feel like Steves was so impressed with the work that he wished the hacker/maker would have used all this creative energy and engineering to solve more of today’s problems.
        It’s more of an acknowledgement of the genius presented here rather than criticism of ones hobbies.

    2. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás (1863 to 1952).

      A good example is from the libre-soc using ideas that were never patented from the CDC 6600
      (ref: https://www.crowdsupply.com/libre-risc-v/m-class/updates/modernising-1960s-computer-technology-learning-from-the-cdc-6600 ). The future is always built on past knowledge, sometime be totally amazing ideas from the past. Intel, AMD, IBM, ARM have all overlooked this because it was not in the patent.

      1. This is so true. I can’t count how many times someone comes up with a “new” idea and it’s all been done before somewhere. You get lambasted if you say anything of the sort. We all stand on the backs of giants, but I draw the line when something is touted as being new when it is not.

      2. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás (1863 to 1952).

        “We study the past so as not to make the mistakes of the past, which lets us make all new mistakes.”
        – Hirudinea (None of your damn buisness).

    3. Someone clearly doesn’t understand this site at all. 99% of everything here is doing something new with something old. Call it living in the past if you like but if you think like that for this article, the rest of the site is gonna disappoint you something fierce.

    4. Living as enjoyable as possible in the present is sometimes done best if including something from the past… that’s why I still ride a ’87 Suzuki, as well as using my ’80-ish computers, including the Amiga.

  2. It is funny, for a half a second I was thinking How can you emulate a computer with four dedicated processors *penny drops* with one with 4 generic CPU’s. Coffee time.

    1. UAE has been available for ages. This is using a 68k c core and glue logic to have it directly communicating with the motherboard. It’s far more exciting as it’s a step to replacing custom chips with arm based emulation drop in replacements.

      Even the c64’s SID has an arm drop in

      1. Amiga is so much more than a particular looking case and custom chips.
        Any Amiga “emulator” is still an Amiga because of the experience it provides the user.
        This is a brilliant solution for those who want the experience of an accelerated Amiga but don’t want to rob a bank to feel it. I wonder how fast it can really go?

    1. When you have to use phrases like “almost as good as the Amiga” when describing a computer, I don’t think you’re describing a better computer than the Amiga.

  3. “”Its 68K, and later PowerPC, architectures have both been abandoned by the mainstream, and its attractive grey industrial design no longer graces store shelves. That doesn’t mean the platform is dead however,””

    Ehm .. no, amiga never had a grey case .. that was atari……..

    1. I remember A1500s as grey. The A4000s as off white/light grey and the A2000s as more beige. The A500/600/1200 were a fairly bright white originally, but most of them look beige now due to yellowing.

          1. Yes and a dark grey or at least mine is
            The A1000, A500, A2000 and A3000 are all beige as I owned a 1000, 500 and 2000. I have seen the 3000 but I cannot speak for the 4000 as I have never seen one.
            The 600 and 1200 were the grey white. Hope this helps.

  4. Loved my might, just booted up my A1200 after nigh on twenty years in the garage, and it still booted faster than my PC’s and laptop!! And the clock was correct too!! Enjoyed a nostalgic game of battle chess before I packed it away again.

    1. you probably just triggered the caps to start their inevitable death spiral leading to barfing contents over the board and ensuring the next time you power it up, your experience won’t be so wonderful… and if it has a real time clock that’s held time, the battery for that is definitely on borrowed time (google amiga varta death and let me know what you find…)
      I would get that puppy opened, de-batteried and re-capped ASAP.

    1. Wow 1980’s technology for the win! The more I learn about the Amiga, the more I’m amazed.

      Motorola 68882:
      80-bit Extended-precision floating-point format (1 bit sign, 15 bit signed exponent, 64 bit fraction)

      ARM with VFPv2 ot later:
      16-bit half-precision extensions (1 bit sign, 5 bit signed exponent, 10 bit fraction)
      32-bit Single-precision floating-point format (1 bit sign, 8 bit signed exponent, 23 bit fraction)
      64-bit Double-precision floating-point format (1 bit sign, 11 bit signed exponent, 52 bit fraction)

      1. Well the 8087 (Essentially design by the person that practically invented IEEE 754 floating point standard, William Kahan) was first to have the 80 bit extended format. Motorola then included it in the 68k series FPUs, and ARM supported it on some early FPU designs. The coldfire dropped support as did later ARM FPUs, and it seems to be highly discouraged on x86-64 as well since it is terrible for alignment or efficient memory use. Seems now people prefer to stick with 32, 64 or if needed 128 bit.

  5. This sounds too good to be true. If this was released at the start of the month I would definitely call BS, tell you the videos are all smoke and mirrors, and an April fools joke. As it is, I won’t be fully convinced until I see an actual classic Amiga mouse and keyboard used, or I contend all they’re doing is just outputting a pi to a CRT screen which is easy to do. They never show you all the connections in one video shot/scene.

    1. Well given it says it is running RTG graphics (so handled on the pi) with output on the pi (makes sense since handled there), and 128M 32bit ram on the pi, cpu emulation of 68EC030 on the pi, about the only things left to go through the CPLD to the actual bus in the amiga is access to ports, floppy drive (if being used) and audio (well any access to chip ram really). So it’s pretty much mostly running UAE it would seem, with just a few bits being sent to actual hardware. If it was only emulating the CPU it would probably be a lot slower since it would need to do all ram and rom accesses through the CPLD. At least based on the description it sounds like it is pretty much running UEA on a pi with a real amiga used as an input device to provide keyboard and various ports, and maybe audio output (I don’t think it said where audio was handled). So it sounds quite plausible. Not that different than what vampire seems to be doing, although likely implemented in a very different way.

      1. HAHA! I know. I’ve been following it closely online since and I’m finally installing mine this weekend, either on my A500+ or A1000. I haven’t decided yet.
        I just didn’t think those silly little pins on a Pi were up to the task.
        I’m happy to have been proved wrong.

    2. Well, I can assure you this is for real. I’ve been using the Pistorm on my CDTV for a couple of years now; initially with the original Musashi emulator which made it comparable to a 25 MHz 040 Amiga 4000, and later on with the Emu68, which skyrockets the performance – according to the testbench it equals a 68040 CPU running at at staggering 1 GHz (!) – and has close to 400 MB available as opposed to the 1 MB it was born with.

      It still needs work on some fronts, but it’s generally compatible with what it needs to be compatible with, it’s stable and it’s freaking fast! :-D

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