Building a Frankenstein Amiga: A Journey of Restoration and Customisation

Today, I’m diving into another exciting project: creating a Frankenstein Amiga from various parts I have lying around. Most of these parts come from a job lot of leftover spares I found on eBay. You might be wondering why I’m doing this. Well, I’m challenging myself and also building an Amiga for a charity auction organized by a friendly man named Lee from the YouTube channel More Fun Making It.

The Challenge Begins

There’s something a little strange going on with this Amiga 500 Revision 5. It seems that not all the RAM chips are managing to output TTL logic levels. Based on what I’m seeing on the scope diagram, it’s giving me random green and blue flashes. So, I’m going to pull all the RAM out and socket it. Having the RAM in sockets will be a much better solution for the new owner, especially if any of the RAM I’m installing goes bad in the future.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The first thing I desolder, ignoring my marks, is the resistor pack. Well, let’s just style that out and pretend no one noticed (lol). Now, all the RAM has been removed, before we can solder in any of the new sockets for the RAM, we need to tack back in those resistor packs—the ones I unsoldered for no reason. Not that I’m planning to put any of the original RAM back in, but let’s go ahead and test it to see if it shows up as bad. Amazingly, all of the RAM tests good. I suppose the heat from desoldering the chips might have revived it, or maybe the logic levels I saw are enough for the tester but not for the Amiga. Or perhaps the RAM isn’t the issue, and we’ve got something else causing the Amiga not to function.

Progress

Time to start putting the sockets in: 16 * 16 pin DIP sockets, that’s 256 solder points plus the resistor packs that I unsoldered for no reason. I tack in one socket and solder it up to make sure I’m happy with the temperatures before I go ahead and install all the rest. I tacked in the rest using the two voltage pins, 5 volts and ground. The followed up by soldering the rest of the pins and clean up the flux. That’s all the sockets installed. Now they just need chips.

Installing the RAM

I remembered someone saying they hated turn pin sockets because they’re hard to line up with the chip pins. So I thought I’d showcase how I do it. This is just how I do it; it’s not advice. I’m not a chip insertion instructor. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. I’m just saying it works for me. Basically I insert one row of pins and then gently apply pressure to the other side while running my tweezers across the chip pins this locates the pins in the socket, it usually takes a couple of strokes for all the pins to align then the chip just goes in without issue. This is similar mechanics to picking a lock…

All the RAM is installed and looking lovely. I took the liberty of fixing the ROM socket so it will take a 27C400 EPROM or a later mask ROM. This is another future-proofing step for the next owner should they want to upgrade to a later Kickstart version.

Final Touches

We have life! I’ve cleaned up the flux and covered the bodge wires from the ROM socket modification. We have a working board, but we need more than that to build a full Amiga. In the same job lot of parts, I have several bits of keyboards. This is where it gets even more Frankenstein. The keys aren’t laid out in the same way as my other 500s. I think this is from an earlier keyboard. The controller is from a Rev 6 Green Power Light. If you can properly identify the original revision any of these parts came from, then please comment on the video.

Testing and Tuning

Hooking it all back up with the keyboard and making sure it’s happy before we swap out DiagROM for Kickstart and try booting the Amiga into Test Kit. After confirming all is well with the Amiga, the next step is to get it to boot into Workbench and see if we can load StarTracker from the external GoTek drive. The plan is to load a module and play it, which will give I/O, graphics, and RAM a fairly good workout.

Going the Extra Mile

Since we’ve opened Pandora’s box, I thourght why not see if we can get that 512K of RAM in the trapdoor to be chip RAM? Having a total of 1MB chip RAM opens more games and options for the next owner. We just need an 8372A Agnus some little modifications. JP2 needs to be swapped, we need to cut a trace from Gary to the trapdoor, and we need to cover pin 41 on Agnus to keep it in PAL and prevent it from switching to NTSC.

While you weren’t looking, I’ve sprinkled a little cosmetic customisation over this Amiga 500. All we need now is a case.

Part 2 coming soon!

Building this Frankenstein Amiga has been a labor of love, filled with moments of frustration and triumph. I hope it finds a good home at the charity auction and brings joy to its new owner!

A DIY Journey with a 555 Timer


I want to share my recent journey in reviving my beloved Amiga 2000 using a bit of modern tech and some creative engineering. It’s been quite the adventure.

The Power Supply Hack

It all began with the power supply. After my Amiga’s original power unit gave up, I decided not to settle for an expensive or hard-to-find replacement. Instead, I went for a modern solution—transplanting an ATX power supply. This not only gave my Amiga a new lease on life but also made it more robust and reliable.

Crafting the Tick Generator

The next step involved the heart of the Amiga’s timing mechanism—a tick generator. Using a simple 555 timer IC, I initially hacked together a basic circuit to fulfill this role. However, the DIY spirit in me wasn’t satisfied with just a makeshift part. I wanted something better, something that looked the part.

Enter JazzTick – Just Good Enough for Jazz

This led to the creation of “JazzTick” my reimagined version of the original 555 timer hack. This new circuit wasn’t about creating a perfect solution but rather a good enough one that was both simple to assemble and effective. The design was straightforward, incorporating multiple resistors to fine-tune the resistance, thus adjusting the frequency more precisely.

I experimented with various resistors, aiming for the optimal frequency. In the UK, where PAL systems like the Amiga operate at 50 Hz, getting this right was crucial. After some trial and error with different configurations, I settled on a combination that gave me just under 400-ohms of resistance, and a 49.6Hz signal.

PCBWay: A DIYer’s Best Friend

A project like this could have been daunting, but thanks to PCBWay, it was a breeze. They offer PCB fabrication for as little as $5 and have a vast library of shared projects which is incredibly helpful. For those who are a bit shaky with a soldering iron, PCBWay also provides assembly services. Their CNC Machining and 3D printing services further enhance the possibilities for custom DIY projects.

The Final Swap

With the new JazzTick board ready, it was time to swap out the old hack. Replacing it with the new, neatly designed board was satisfying. Not only did it fit perfectly, but it also stuck to the power supply almost like a tick—a neat and tidy installation that I was very proud of.

Looking Ahead

The best part? This setup is flexible enough to be adjusted for a 60 Hz NTSC signal, should the need arise. For now, my Amiga is running smoothly, and the tick generator is ticking away without a hitch.

Reviving the Amiga 2000: A Journey of Restoration and Problem-Solving

I’ve taken on the challenging yet rewarding task of bringing an Amiga 2000 back to life. If you’ve been following along, you know the journey hasn’t been smooth. The last update left the Amiga half-assembled with a problematic CPU slot and an overheating hard drive. As if that wasn’t enough, the power supply decided to give up on me.

Upon deeper inspection, it was clear that more work was needed. The power supply was non-functional, leading me to replace a suspect capacitor, though these fixes didn’t solve the problem.

Delving deeper, I decided to replace the voltage comparator and the strobe controller—fortunately, these parts were inexpensive. I installed new sockets and integrated circuits, hoping this would fix the issue.

Despite all these efforts, the power supply still failed. This led me to completely recap it, which seemed promising until it catastrophically failed again after just 15 seconds. I realized that some parts were either unknown or impossible to find.

I obtained a COMPAQ HB 146 SNQ power supply that mirrored the Amiga 2000’s requirements, I decided to adapt an ATX power supply, ensuring it matched the original’s settings. This required making it a permanent 230-volt input and using the original Amiga 2000 switch to activate the ATX’s PS-ON signal, effectively integrating it with the original system.

Testing the new setup, I used an old SCSI hard drive as a load to ensure stable voltage outputs. The results were satisfactory, with the 5V line perfectly on target, although the 12V line was slightly low—a point some might contest.

With the power supply sorted, I turned my attention back to the Amiga itself. I cleaned up acid damage on the board, replaced the battery with a more reliable one, and swapped out the old hard drive bracket for a 3D printed back plate, enhancing the setup.

However, issues persisted. Testing revealed unexplained memory discrepancies, and further investigation showed a short across two address lines on the board—a likely artifact from replacing the CPU slot. After removing the offending sliver of metal, I restored proper functionality to the memory and Zorro boards.

The journey didn’t end there. The Amiga’s ZZ9000 card, used for flicker fixing, lacked a crucial tick signal. I cobbled together a 50 Hz generator using a 555 timer and various components, which not only worked but improved the ZZ9000’s output.

This project has been a testament to the challenges and triumphs of hardware restoration. It’s a continuous learning process, filled with setbacks and victories.

Vintage Vibes: GOTEK Drive’s Nostalgic 80s Upgrade

In my latest quest to enhance my Amiga tech setup without succumbing to the often-inflated prices attached to Amiga-branded tech, I decided to embark on a project that not only tickles my nostalgic senses but also brings modern efficiency to my beloved Amiga setup. I’ve always had a particular disdain for the aesthetically displeasing, modern external floppy drive enclosures that seem to populate the market today. They often come with compromises, such as a lack of the vintage 23-pin D type connectors, essential for that authentic connection, or the absence of a pass-through feature on the back, which I find incredibly useful.

Determined to maintain the vintage aesthetic while upgrading the functionality, I turned to an original external floppy drive enclosure from the glory days of the ’80s and ’90s. The charm of these enclosures isn’t just their look; it’s the functionality they offer – the 23-pin D type connectors, the pass-through capability, and the drive enable/disable feature on the back, all of which are sorely missed in their modern counterparts.

For this project, I chose a CUMANA 3.5-inch floppy drive enclosure, a brand that resonated with my school days, being the provider of all floppy drives during my education. The aim was to convert this enclosure to house a GOTEK floppy emulator, a device that replaces the traditional floppy disk with a USB flash drive, thus bringing the convenience of modern storage to vintage hardware. The GOTEK itself is pretty standard, equipped with a seven-segment display and basic firmware, but perfect for what I had in mind.

The upgrades planned were significant but straightforward: replacing the seven-segment display with an OLED display for better visibility and aesthetics, and adding a rotary encoder for improved navigation and selection of the USB files. The OLED display choice was the compact 0.91-inch version, which fits perfectly without overwhelming the vintage enclosure. The rotary encoder, a simple but effective analog device, adds a tactile navigation method that feels right at home with the Amiga setup.

One of the interesting challenges was ensuring compatibility with the Amiga’s unique floppy disk format. Modern GOTEKs are designed with industrial applications in mind and don’t naturally support the Amiga disk format. However, with the Amiga community being as vibrant and inventive as ever, custom firmware solutions like FlashFloppy have emerged. This firmware enables the GOTEK to read and write Amiga disk formats, effectively mimicking an original Amiga floppy drive.

The actual conversion process involved some soldering and a bit of creative cable management but was overall a rewarding experience. It involved installing a jumper, soldering a right-angled six-pin Dupont header for the rotary encoder, and making minor modifications to the GOTEK’s case to accommodate the OLED display. The end result was a GOTEK emulator that not only fit perfectly within the vintage enclosure but also functioned seamlessly with it, providing a modern solution to a retro problem.

Testing the setup with an Amiga 500 and Kickstart 2.4, I experienced a seamless boot to the Amiga Test Kit, followed by successful loading of Workbench 3.2 from the install disk image. This confirmed the successful integration of modern storage technology into the vintage Amiga ecosystem, all housed within an enclosure that keeps the aesthetic of the era alive.

This project, sponsored by PCBWay, showcases the perfect blend of retro aesthetics and modern functionality. It’s a testament to the enduring legacy of the Amiga and the innovative spirit of its community. For anyone looking to replicate this setup or seeking assistance with similar projects, PCBWay offers comprehensive services from PCB prototyping to assembly, making them an invaluable resource for hobbyists and professionals alike.

In conclusion, this venture into blending old with new has been an immensely satisfying journey. It reinforces the idea that with a bit of creativity and community support, we can preserve the essence of vintage computing while enjoying the conveniences of modern technology.

Venturing into the Future of Vintage Computer Storage

As I sit down to embark on a journey into the future of vintage computer storage, I can’t help but feel a mix of excitement and trepidation. Today’s task involves upgrading my system from its traditional spinning rust drive to a more modern solution using Blue SCSI technology. Armed with determination and a bit of DIY spirit, I dive into the process.

The assembly seems straightforward, with minimal fuss required.

A quick glance at the components and a reassuring nod to the provided sticker, and I’m ready to begin. But first, a shoutout to our sponsors, PCB Way, whose support makes this venture possible.

PCBWay

My plan involves using turn pin wire wrap headers, a technique that seems promising. With some careful trimming and alignment, I set to work, hoping to achieve the desired outcome.

As I delve deeper into the project, I encounter some challenges. The drive from my Amiga, though beloved for its nostalgic hum, poses thermal issues incompatible with modern demands. However, armed with a 128GB SD card and determination, I press on, eager to overcome these obstacles.

With power connected and firmware updated, it’s time to create a Blue SCSI image file. A momentary setback caused by missed jumpers is swiftly rectified, and soon, the board is configured correctly.

With bated breath, I load the freshly created image into my emulation setup, and success! The system boots flawlessly, a testament to the fusion of vintage charm and modern innovation.

As I wrap up this phase of the project, I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. The journey into the future of vintage computer storage has been challenging, but immensely rewarding. With one milestone achieved, I eagerly anticipate the next chapter of this technological adventure.

ZZ9000AX

Join me for my installation journey as I delve into the realm of getting 16-bit audio into my Amiga 2000 and even managing to play MP3s from a ZIP disk. The star of the show? The MNT ZZ9000AX, an audio expansion that promises to elevate my Amiga experience.

https://youtu.be/6KlQT7dI-eI

First things first, unpacking the MNT ZZ 9000 AX reveals a meticulously packaged product including the card itself, a stainless steel slot bracket, and all necessary cables. MNT never fails to impress with their attention to detail.

Installation begins with the removal of the ZZ9000 from my Amiga 2000 case, its change in location from original installation, prompted by concerns about heat dissipation from the hard drive. The hardware installation proves straightforward, guided by comprehensive instructions and aided by full-colour illustrations.

The heart of the ZZ9000AX lies in its Analog Devices ADAU1701 SigmaDSP audio chip, promising high-quality digital audio processing. With everything connected, it’s time to put the Amiga back together, though I’ve learned not to seal the case until I’ve verified functionality.

Booting up reveals a successful installation, and with the ZZ 9000 AX recognized, installing drivers is a breeze. The package even includes hardware MP3 decoding, opening up new possibilities for media playback.

With the hardware sorted, it’s time to test the ZIP drive. Copying over some MPEG 3s, I encounter some initial noise issues attributed to interference from the internal audio cable. Disconnecting it resolves the problem, albeit with some sacrifice pass-thru PAULA audio.

A workaround involving auxiliary inputs maintains audio quality, albeit at the expense of convenience. Regardless, the Amiga is now capable of pristine MPEG 3 playback, a feat worth celebrating.

However, the installation journey is not without its challenges. Addressing heat issues caused by the hard drive leads to unexpected connectivity issues, hinting at future troubleshooting endeavors.

In conclusion, the journey to integrate 16-bit audio into my Amiga 2000 was both rewarding and educational, showcasing the ingenuity of the MNT ZZ 9000 AX while highlighting the quirks of vintage hardware.

IOAMIGA

In 1994, amidst the bankruptcy of Commodore, a groundbreaking technology emerged: the Iomega Zip drive. This innovation revolutionized storage by allowing users to store a whopping 100 Megabytes of data on a single disc, eliminating the need for juggling multiple floppy disks to transfer files between computers. With its high capacity and fast transfer speeds, the Zip drive quickly became the preferred solution for both professionals and home users, offering a convenient way to handle larger files.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmjO12MW9Nk

For Amiga enthusiasts, the Zip drive presented an exciting prospect. Available in three versions – parallel port, SCSI, and eventually USB – it promised compatibility with nearly three decades worth of hardware. However, while the SCSI versions offered straightforward connectivity on big Amigas, the parallel port posed a challenge for owners of Amiga 500, 600, or 1200 models due to slight differences in the port’s specifications.

Enter Bruce Abbott, a visionary who in 1998 introduced the PPA Zip solution. This hardware and software package bridged the compatibility gap, enabling Amiga users to utilize a parallel port Zip drive by leveraging additional signals from the joystick port. Inspired by Abbott’s work, I embarked on my own project to build a similar solution.

My version of the solution involved designing a buffered circuit board that neatly integrated behind an Amiga 500 without obstructing other ports. After completing the construction and testing phase, I successfully connected the Amiga to the parallel Zip drive, demonstrating its functionality with ease.

Installing the PPA Zip solution on Amiga OS 3.2 proved relatively straightforward, involving the placement of relevant files in designated folders. With everything set up, I proceeded to test its capabilities by transferring files, starting with a simple text file and eventually copying a game from my Amiga archive on my PC.

The entire process went smoothly, showcasing the effectiveness of the PPA Zip solution and opening up new possibilities for Amiga enthusiasts.

Amiga 2000 ZZ9000

Join me on an exciting journey as I attempt to upgrade my Amiga 2000 with the stunning ZZ 9000 card. My goal was to enhance its capabilities, but as with any project, things didn’t go entirely as planned.

The ZZ 9000 card promised to bring modern features to my classic Amiga, including RTG graphics, Ethernet networking, and USB drive mounting. However, I quickly ran into a snag—the card didn’t fit properly in my system, and initially, it didn’t work at all.

https://youtu.be/XVvWwRjnjlk?si=MB1O37E845jAVAfa

After troubleshooting, I managed to get the ZZ 9000 up and running. But the fitting issue persisted, requiring me to strip down the entire case to address it properly. Along the way, I also fixed some other issues, like securing the crystal on my accelerator card.

Once the card was functioning, I decided to add more RAM. This process didn’t go smoothly at first, as I encountered what I thought where compatibility issues with the RAM chips. However, after some trial and error, I managed to get the RAM upgraded successfully.

With the ZZ 9000 installed and RAM upgraded, I tested the system’s capabilities, marveling at the flicker-fixing abilities and crisp graphics. I also took the opportunity to clean my keyboard, bringing it back to life.

Despite the challenges, I’m thrilled with the upgrades to my Amiga 2000. But the journey doesn’t end here—there’s still more to explore with the ZZ 9000’s networking and USB capabilities, which I plan to delve into in future videos.

Stay tuned for more exciting projects in 2024, including Zip drives on an Amiga 500 and 600, gaming content, and restoration projects.

SEGA for Christmas

My mission was to restore a Sega Mega Drive so my wife could enjoy playing Sonic the Hedgehog before Christmas. I acquired the cheapest Sega Mega Drive 2 I could find on eBay, though it had some issues. It rattled and didn’t work properly, so the first step was disassembly.

https://youtu.be/8XezjXYjvXE?si=FMT46XufPp7eETsy

Upon disassembling the console, I discovered that someone had previously tinkered with it, evidenced by a loose screw. Additionally, the power barrel jack was poorly connected, almost as if it was secured with chewing gum. After some meticulous cleaning and soldering work, I managed to rectify these issues.

However, the problems didn’t end there. Despite fixing the power connection and reflowing the cartridge connector, I encountered difficulties with game cartridges. Some required jiggling to work, indicating a tired cartridge socket that needed replacement. This meant more disassembly and careful soldering work to install a new cartridge socket.

After successfully replacing the cartridge socket and ensuring everything was properly aligned and secured, I tested the console, and to my relief, it showed signs of life. With the console now working, I turned my attention to cleaning the controllers, which were sticky and in need of some TLC. I even borrowed a spring from an Amiga 1200 keyboard to repair the power button.

Following a thorough cleaning process, including the outer casings and buttons, I polished them to give them a factory-fresh look and feel. With everything cleaned and restored, it was time to package it all up for my wife to open on Christmas day.

Despite the challenges and setbacks along the way, I’m proud to have restored the Sega Mega Drive, making it ready for some nostalgic gaming sessions. It’s moments like these that remind me of the joy of tinkering and the satisfaction of bringing old technology back to life.

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