No doubt some purists in the audience will call this one cheating, since this Amiga 500 from 1987 isn’t technically connecting to Spotify and playing the music by itself. But we also suspect those folks might be missing the point of a site called Hackaday. With all the hoops [Daniel Arvidsson] hopped through to make this happen, what else could it be if not a hack?
This one starts, like so many projects these days, with the Raspberry Pi. Don’t worry Amiga aficionados, this classic machine hasn’t been gutted and had its internals replaced with a diminutive Linux board. But thanks to an expansion card known as the A314, you could say it’s received a penguin infusion. This clever board allows an internally mounted Raspberry Pi to communicate with the Amiga 500 through shared memory, making all sorts of trickery possible.
In this case, the Raspberry Pi is actually the one connecting to the Spotify Connect service with raspotify and decoding the stream. But thanks to a few pipes and an ALSA plugin, the audio itself is actually pushed into the Amiga’s sound hardware. In the video after the break, the process is demonstrated with tunes that are befitting a computer of this vintage.
The Amiga will be forever loved for bringing serious multimedia capabilities to the home computer market. However, these machines are now showing their age, and keeping them running can take a bit of work. [Drygol] isn’t one to shy away from the task, however, and set about repairing a few Amiga 600s that came his way.
First up on the docket is replacing the many electrolytic capacitors that tend to leak over the years. They can cause corrosion, destroying traces and other components, as well as failing themselves. [Drygol] is an old hand at this now, whipping out the hot air station and some copper shielding to protect delicate connectors from melting. A simple recap was enough to get one machine up and running, but the other was more recalcitrant. When swapping a dud CPU out, a pad was destroyed on the PCB. This necessitated some careful tracing, followed by a drill hole through the PCB to allow a bodge wire to run the signal from the other side of the board.
There’s also plenty of upgrades to be done; S-Video outputs instead of the crummy old RF modulator, and special interrupt switches that help when cracking games and doing assembly programming. Thanks to a rich aftermarket and vivid community, researching and performing mods is easy thanks to writeups and parts available online.
It’s a great example of the basic techniques one must master to keep old hardware on the boil. Learn to recap, refit, and hunt for problems, and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining your retro fleet for years to come. We’ve seen [Drygol]’s work before too – this vampiric A500 is a particular treat!
Dance and house music exploded in a big way at the end of the 1980s. Typically the product of well-equipped studios with samplers and mixers worth thousands of dollars, it was difficult for the home gamer to get involved. That was, until the advent of the glorious Amiga, as [cTrix] ably demonstrates.
The video explains the history of both the music and the hardware, and highlights just why the Amiga was so special. Packing stereo audio and a four-channel sound chip, it had the grunt to pump out the tunes. All it was lacking was an audio input – which is where third-party hardware stepped in. Parallel-port analog-to-digital converters hit the market in a big way, letting users sample audio on their home computer without breaking the bank.
[cTrix] then proceeds to demonstrate how one would go about producing a dance track on an Amiga way back in 1990. A home stereo is used to play records, hooked up to a Stereo Master parallel port sampler. With a bunch of drum, piano, and synth samples recorded and saved on disk, a tracker is then used to assemble the track. It’s then compared with other music from the era as a great example of how things used to be done.
In the modern world, we take certain tools for granted. High-level programming languages such as C or Python haven’t been around that long in the grand scheme of things, and Java has only existed since the ’90s. Getting these tools working on machines that predate them is more of a challenge than anything, and [Michael Kohn] was more than willing to tackle this one. He recently got Java running on a Commodore Amiga.
The Amgia predates Java itself by almost a decade, so this process wasn’t exactly straightforward. The platform has a number of coprocessors that were novel for their time but aren’t as commonplace now, taking care of such tasks such as graphics, sound, and memory handling. Any psoftware running on the Amiga needs to be in a specially formatted program as well, so that needed to be taken care of, even loading Java on the computer in the first place took some special work using a null modem cable rather than the floppy disk an Amiga would have used back in the day.
The last Amiga personal computer rolled off the assembly line in 1996, well over 20 years ago. Of course, they had their real heyday in the late 80s, so obviously if you have any around now they’ll be in need of a little bit of attention. [Drygol] recently received what looks like a pallet of old Amiga parts and set about building this special one: The Vampiric Amiga A500.
The foundation of this project was a plain A500 with quite a bit of damage. Corrosion and rust abounded inside the case, as well as at least one animal. To start the refurbishment, the first step was to remove the rust from the case and shields by an electrochemical method. From there, he turned his attention to the motherboard and removed all of the chips and started cleaning. Some of the connectors had to be desoldered and bathed in phosphoric acid to remove rust and corrosion, and once everything was put back together it looks almost brand new.
Of course, some other repairs had to be made to the keyboard and [Drygol] put a unique paint job on the exterior of this build (and gave it a name to match), but it’s a perfect working Amiga with original hardware, ready to go for any retrocomputing enthusiast. He’s no stranger around here, either; he did another extreme restoration of an Atari 800 XL about a year ago.
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.
The Amiga has 512 KB of so-called chip RAM, accessible by the custom chips and CPU for all tasks. There’s also commonly an additional 512 KB in a trapdoor under the machine, though it is limited in the ways it can be used. With these limits in place, [Hoffman] was overjoyed when the rest of the team allocated him a full 200 KB of memory for the soundtrack. In order to make the most of this precious resource, hacking ensued.
[Hoffman] does a great job of explaining all the tricks involved in creating a compelling 5 minute soundtrack in just 200 KB of RAM. There’s discussion of compression, sample sizes, and the vagaries of the ProTracker format. Smart hacks such as prioritized sample loading and pre-rendering drum loops also help to get the project over the line.
It’s a great write-up, which clearly explains the strategies used to help build a world-class demo soundtrack. [Hoffman] promises that the tricks used by the rest of the crew are equally as impressive, which we’re sure helped Eon to win the Amiga Demo Compo at Revision 2019. We’ve featured Revision winners here before, too. Demo video after the break.