For those of us with penchant for older technology, there’s something special about operating with older hardware. Whether it’s a decades-old camera, a vintage keyboard, or a home computer from the 1980s, the modern equivalent just doesn’t quite compare. But working with older parts definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted, as the passage of time has taken its toll on their reliability. Is it time to recognize that the supply of replacement vintage parts is not infinite, and to switch from using original hardware to more modern alternatives? [Retro Recipes] poses this question after a particularly difficult-to-find Amiga fault, and discusses it while evaluating a replacement Amiga made entirely from modern parts.
The new Amiga in question is a recreation of an A1200 with a re-manufactured case and keyboard, and the guts of an A500 Mini retro console taking the place of the Commodore board. He goes through the process of making an Amiga hard drive image on a USB drive using the image from his original drive in his teenage years, and boots it both on the 500 Mini based machine and on the UAE emulator on a Mac laptop. You can follow him in the video below the break.
We can see the logic in treating original hardware as a precious resource that’s not to be run up for fear of breaking it, but by the same token we’re still standing by that first sentence. But should the enjoyment of an older machine be limited only to those who have an original? We think not, so if enjoying an Amiga without an Amiga can be as good as the real thing then we’re all for it.
Of course, for those whose original Amigas have already broken, there are other ways to bring them back.
Continue reading “Retrocomputing, Time To Hang Up The Original Hardware?”
With the rise of the gamepad courtesy of several generations of game consoles, the joystick has become an almost forgotten peripheral, sidelined into the world of flight simulators with its design tending towards copying that of aircraft joysticks. Classic joysticks from the 8- and 16-bit eras were far more workaday devices, more suitable for Space Invaders than Microsoft Flight Simulator, and it’s one of these that [Rob Smith] has recreated in 3D printed form.
The design he’s come up with bears a strong resemblance to the Zipstik, a classic stick that he already owned. It’s a fairly simple device that uses microswitches for all contacts, and is thus very tough. He’s produced a 3D-printed shaft but didn’t trust its strength, so copied the original by using a metal shaft with a pair of circlips. We remember our Zipstik as having a steel shaft; he replaces that with aluminium. A handy jig and a hacksaw allows him to create grooves for circlips, resulting in a sturdy ZipStik clone that should satisfy any retro gamer.
The stick is wired for an Amiga and includes a 555-based rapid-fire circuit, but that’s not the end of the electronics as he’s also created a USB interface for Amiga joysticks to go with it. Not everyone has a classic machine, so now everyone can enjoy the retro peripheral experience! Both builds can be seen in the videos below the break.
This isn’t the first Amiga joystick we’ve brought you, but it’s more sophisticated than some previous designs.
Continue reading “Odd Inputs And Peculiar Peripherals: A Joystick Like They Used To Make”
There was a time when high-performance disk drives used SCSI — the Small Computer System Interface — and everything else was kid stuff. Now, advanced forms of SCSI are still around but there are other high-performing disk interfaces, too. But some old gear really loves their classic SCSI ports, and [Adrian] decided to try hooking some of them up to some modern computers. You can see how he did in the video below.
The key to the attempt is a USB to SCSI adapter which was unusual but not unheard of, and [Adrian] came across one from 1999. Of course, you have to wonder if a modern computer will support the device or will be able to load the drivers from the old CD.
Continue reading “The Return Of SCSI”
Some of the most popular vintage computers are now more than forty years old, and their memory just ain’t how it used to be. Identifying bad memory chips can quickly become a chore, so [Jan Beta] spent some time putting together a cheap DRAM tester out of spare parts.
This little tester can be used with 4164 and 41256 DRAM memory chips. 4164 DRAM was used in several popular home computers throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including the Apple ][ series, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and many more. Likewise, the 41256 was used in the Commodore Amiga. These computers are incredibly popular in the vintage computing community, and its not uncommon to find bad memory in any of them.
With an Arduino at its core, this DRAM tester uses the most basic of electronic components, and any modest tinkerer should have pretty much everything in stock. The original project can be found here, including the Arduino code. Just pop the suspect chip into the ZIF socket, hit the reset switch, and wait for the LED – green is good, and red means it’s toast.
It’s a great sanity check for when you’re neck deep in suspect DRAM. A failed test is a sure sign that the chip is bad, however the tester does occasionally report a false pass. Not every issue can be identified with such a simple tester, however it’s great at weeding out the chips that are definitely dead.
If you’re not short on cash, then the Chip Tester Pro may be more to your liking, however it’s hard to beat the simplicity and thriftiness of building your own simple tester from spare parts. If you’re a little more adventurous, this in-circuit debugger could come in handy.
Continue reading “Simple DRAM Tester Built With Spare Parts”
In 1986, a group of NASA engineers faced a difficult choice in solving their data processing woes: continue tolerating the poor performance of PC architecture, or pony up the cash for exotic workstations. It turns out that the Commodore Amiga was an intriguing third choice, except for the fact that, paradoxically, it didn’t cost enough. Oh, and Apple wanted nothing to do with any of it.
Steeped in history, NASA’s Hangar AE is a hub for launch vehicle telemetry and other mission communications, primarily during prelaunch phases for launches at Cape Canaveral. Throughout the late 20th century, Hangar AE supported NASA launch vehicles in all shapes and sizes, from the Atlas-Centaur evolutions to the mighty Titan family. It even supported user data from the Space Shuttle program. Telemetry from these missions was processed at Hangar AE before being sent out to other NASA boffins, and even transmitted worldwide to other participating space agencies.
Coming down from decades of astronomical levels of funding, the 1980s was all about tightening the belt, and NASA needed budget solutions that didn’t skimp on mission safety. The Commodore Amiga turned out to be the right choice for processing launch vehicle telemetry. And so it was still, when cameras from the Amiga Atlanta group were granted permission to film inside Hangar AE.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Amiga Pips The PC For Mission-Critical Computing At NASA”
Back in the late 1980s, Commodore pulled the masterstroke of selling several models and generations of Amiga that were all powered by essentially the same speed 68000 and associated chipset. Sure, there were differences in the RAM and other options you could fit and later models had a few extra graphics modes. Still, the entry-level A500 did substantially the same as the high-end A2000. No matter, we the fans all wanted a 2000 anyway, though we typically found ourselves unable to afford one. It’s 2021 now though, so if you never achieved the dream of owning your own A2000, now you can build one of your own! It’s the task [Drygol] has taken on, with an A2000 made entirely from new components, save for a few salvaged Commodore-specific chips and connectors.
At its heart is a beautiful recreation of the original PCB that we’re guessing will be of great interest to owners whose NiCd batteries have leaked and corroded their originals. It’s all through-hole, but the sheer size of a motherboard still makes it a daunting prospect to solder by hand. There are a huge quantity of decoupling and ESD components that all have to be held with tape before the board is flipped over for soldering, and then all the chips are socketed. A Fat Agnes address generator was fitted on a RAM expansion daughterboard, leading to some significant problems as it proved not to be compatible and had to be removed.
The whole is put in a very low-profile PC case with appropriate risers for the Zorro slots, and then in goes a set of upgrades probably not seen in the same place since about 1993. We don’t recognize them all, but we can see accelerators, a floppy emulator, an HDD emulator using a CF card, and is that a network card we spy? This machine is still a work in progress, but we can guarantee it would have been an extreme object of desire thirty years ago. See it in action in the video below the break.
If rebuilding an Amiga interests you, we took a look at the state of the remanufactured parts scene for the platform last year.
Continue reading “The Amiga 2000 You Always Wanted”
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.
Continue reading “PiStorm Brings Modern Muscle To The Amiga”