A weekend with the Amigas

Back in the 1990s I was very pro Amiga, my first internet connection in late 1995 was powered by a (t)rusty workhorse of an A1200 with a 50MHz 68030, 8Mb of expansion RAM and a couple of hard disks (one was SCSI and, along with a dual speed CDROM, was connected to the PCMCIA slot via a Squirrel interface) and I did pretty much everything with it from desktop publishing to building the first Cosine website.

That old Amiga came down from the loft a few weeks back along with some other bits and pieces and, since I’ve been meaning to drag the data off its hard disks, I’ve spent the last couple of days working on it. The poor beast really wasn’t in good health… the keyboard had stopped working down it’s left side and the internal Connor hard drive had shuffled off this mortal coil entirely. Cleaning the keyboard contacts helped a little but didn’t restore the left Amiga key, so instead I transplanted the Blizzard 68030 board into the already CF-ified A1200.

So now I’ve got one reasonably good if somewhat yellowed A1200 ‘030 (it even has screws in the case, that’s rare for me) and the workhorse, now with just a 4Mb RAM board and a shiny new CF card installed that, after a little messing about getting the Squirrel working, has a copy of the old external SCSI drive – that machine currently looks like this…

…since I’ve got it shipping the backed up data over to a FAT16 CF for transfer to a laptop. Once that’s done I’ll make a couple of further backups for good measure because I’m paranoid, and can “file” the original drives. Of course there’s still loads of work files to sift through.

Digging around

Okay, so I’ve been relatively busy lately (so “forgot” to blog) and one of the things I did was tootle down to Kent to see family and friends and a garage of my old stuff. So, along with taking some bits and pieces back with me, I also took a few pictures and this post might be just a tad photo heavy…

This is an ATonce board, which is a PC AT emulator for the Amiga 500 and 500 Plus. It boasts a startling 7.2MHz of raw 80286 power with CGA, EGA and mono VGA graphics goodness. Yeah, it’s basically a 286 PC on a board that uses the Amiga as I/O, I think it cost me about a tenner because the stock was being cleared, but I never actually got around to installing the thing into an A500.

The way the prices on eBay are going, anyone’d think the C64GS was rare… or is it just me with three knocking about? Well, there’s more than three but I only found the board for a fourth machine and suspect that the fifth might be in our loft here somewhere and there could be more (six VIC 20s turned up, twice as many as I remember owning). One of these machines is not like the others though, because…

…although we didn’t finish the work, a friend and I started converting one C64GS into a C64. The two points of interest, a six pin serial connection and a keyboard connector added to the motherboard that wouldn’t normally be there, are marked in red and this is the unit that came back with me and starred in this video loading from one of the TIB DD-001 drives that made their way to Leeds in February.

Ah, my (t)rusty old Compunet modem. I never got to use the service itself, but Sean Connolly and I used to trade work files back and forth – we’d do it on Sundays because the phone calls were cheaper! Ah, those were the days when you got 1200 baud one way and 75 the other, so user-to-user transfers had to go at the lower speed.

A Camputers Lynx… there isn’t much I can actually say about this beastie, I got it untested from a charity shop without any leads or PSU and have never got around to actually firing it up. I previously found a dead spider inside when I opened it, though.

This is a wafer drive for the C64 (similar to the Sinclair Microdrive) that connects to the cassette port. This particular unit kept eating the boot wafer so it never actually worked, but that’s not really surprising for something that cost a fiver at a computer show I suppose…

This graffiti is on a wall by Sainsburys in Canterbury… yes Pac, we do indeed miss you – come back! [Sob!]

And finally, here’s the Amiga 1200 with 4Mb of RAM in it’s trapdoor and a battery-backed clock that stunned me by still working after all these years! Since getting it up to Leeds, I’ve replaced the 500Mb 2.5″ hard disk with a 2Gb CF card, ordered the cheap and cheerful PCMCIA to CF converter which can be seen poking out of the side (with a 32Mb FAT16 formatted card so I can quickly swap data back and forth between Amiga and PC), registered the excellent WHDLoad and possibly installed the odd game or two… I’ll even put the top half of the case back on eventually!

Fun with Compact Flash

So what happens if you take an Amiga 600HD with an extra megabyte of RAM and a stuffed hard drive, a spare 32Mb Compact Flash card and a little 2.5” to CF adapter that cost 99p including shipping from eBay? The answer, apparently, is an Amiga that boots Workbench at an incredible speed and can load games almost as rapidly courtesy of WHDLoad!

So after an afternoon of “work”, I get to play Battle Squadron, Turrican, Wings of Death and other classics on a real Amiga… with a Megadrive pad. The next steps are to find a 2Gb or thereabouts CF card (and possibly an Amiga mouse, currently I’m using the keyboard to operate Workbench) on eBay, register WHDLoad and fill the card up with loads of shiny games! The A600 doesn’t appear to work with every game (I’m guessing they’re only really happy with an A1200 and converting my A1200 ‘030 to CF is now on the “to do at some point soon” list because I want Uridium 2 and Turrican 2 in particular) but enough good titles work to keep me happy and there’s always the option of transferring disk images and writing out to floppies.

I’d like to thank a couple of folks over at the Retro Gamer forums for making the entire thing possible; woody.cool gave me loads of pointers to get everything going and DPrinny for giving me the A600HD at Retro Reunited last year. Ta very much guys! =-)