Amiga 1200 030 has arrived

This week I received another Amiga 1200! This is my second A1200, but hear me out before you judge, there is a method to the madness!

I promised myself a long time ago that I would not stockpile multiple Amigas (or any other computer for that matter) - every computer has to be setup and in use. As a result I have only one of each type of Amiga system, and I love using them all.

I have seen some people have amazing stockpiled collections, with dozens (or more) of each type of Amiga. I see the frequent Facebook posts showing people with their latest "haul" of Amiga stuff that often just sits gathering dust somewhere afterwards...

I don't want my computers gathering dust in a garage or attic - computers are built to be used! If they fail, so be it. I got my use from them and have no regrets, it was their time to expire. 

I am not rich enough, have enough space, or live in a country with easy access to large stock of surplus Amiga systems to be able to do such things. Personally, I am glad I am not. I don't want to stockpile - I want to use my computers now. The joy and fun of using them brings me so much happiness and satisfaction.

Further to this, I have seen what happens when Amiga owners pass away, including some friends I know here in Australia. 

Often their beautifully maintained (and stockpiled) Amiga systems, magazines, boxed games and applications sold off on eBay or elsewhere to the highest bidder, given away or just thrown out...that is the future of these systems unfortunately - the next generation and our wives/partners sadly don't care about them at all. We do care right now, and that is what matters. Use them now!

I have had to replace a few Amiga 600 and Amiga 1200 systems in my time due to failures and being unable to fix them. It gets more expensive each time, and I expect soon I won't be able to afford to do it at all with the values getting very high second hand. Already it is impossible for replacing A3000 and A4000 be it. That's life.

There will be a day I guess when all my Amiga systems ultimately fail, and I will be forced into using emulated systems - I am prepared for this already with a number of FPGA and emulated systems already setup for that scenario. while that will be a sad day indeed, life is short and I want to enjoy the original system right now as much as I can!

Ok, I'll get off my opinionated soapbox now. Let's get back to my recently purchased Amiga 1200!

 One of the problems with upgrading your Classic Amiga to take advantage of cool things like Pistorm or the Vampire 1200, is that you lose some compatibility to run some types of software.

The big one for me is not being able to run Amiga demoscene demos designed for the 68030 50Mhz accelerated AGA systems. They run too fast, or don't run at all on 060 and Vampire upgraded Amigas.

Two demos I was involved in making for the local Adelaide demo group called The Experience (which was active back in 1997-2000), are called Terminal and TLA. They were written on and targeted for 68030 accelerated Amiga 1200 systems. I uploaded a youTube video of Terminal a few years back here.

Some of the amazing effects our coder Axon (RIP) did back then only work on that system configuration. I want to be able to run the demos I was involved in making again!

I could have swapped the accelerators and CF cards around every time I wanted to run one of these demos, but it is very time consuming to do, and increases risk of damage to my A1200 doing it.

So, this is why I decided to get another Amiga 1200 specifically for the purpose. Luckily for me I was able to locate one, recapped and already having a Blizzard 030 accelerator with 64MB memory and 68882 FPU installed!

It even came with the nice Amiga 1200 case cover, which I missed out on when they were available at AmigaKit.

The A1200 was received in perfect condition from its long journey from the UK, with no damage thanks to being extremely well packaged. Thanks to the seller for this!
The previous owner has installed a long IDE cable to mount the IDE to CF reader in the rear expansion port, to make it easy to remove the CF card.

Turning it over, the previous owner installed a expansion bay cover which allows the accelerator to breath and help prevent overheating.

This Amiga 1200 is the later French made ones from 1995, after Commodore went bankrupt, Escom bought them and restarted A1200 system production briefly.

There is no scan doubler installed in this A1200, so I used my external scan doubler temporarily to make sure the system worked as delivered. I am pleased to say it did!

Here it the Amiga 1200, taking the place of my Amiga 600 system, which allows it to be right next to my Vampire 1200 system!

This meant I have to re-jig my Amiga room setup a bit, moving the Checkmate A1500 case converted Amiga 500 system to share its desk with the A600. Luckily thanks to the small size of the A600 it all worked as I had hoped.

Next I removed the CF card so I could copy files to it. The CF card is 4GB and has a basic Workbench 3.1 setup with nothing else installed on it. The previous owner has cleaned out the CF card contents I guess prior to shipping. 
This A1200 has the original Commodore Kickstart 3.1 roms installed:

I used the opportunity to test out some AGA A1200 games that didn't work on the Vampired A1200 setup. I am pleased to see they worked perfectly, further validating why I bought this Amiga 1200.

I also booted the original Gloom from floppy disk (A1200 game), and it also worked great.

Playing these games passed the time while I was waiting for my games, demos and mods to be copied to the CF Card using a USB to CF converter on my Amiga 4000.

The next task is to fix the scan doubler situation. I hate using external scan doublers, except as a way to test the machine is working, as they use a lot of space on the desk and the output is grainy. It is good to test things though.

I ordered the Indivision AGA Mark 3 from Individual Computers, which luckily arrived before the A1200 did, so I could get to work installing it straight away:

I opened up the Amiga 1200 for the first time and was shocked to see something I haven't seen inside an Amiga 1200 for a very very long time - the original RF shielding is still installed!

The system is beautiful condition! I set to work disconnecting the floppy drive.

I removed the keyboard from the connector and hard disk caddy, and now could start to work on those annoying metal tabs that keep the rf shielding in place.

I finally removed the rf shield and could see the main board itself, very clean:

My attention was drawn to this yellow wire running on the board - not sure what it is for...haven't seen that before.

Here's a closer look at it - if someone knows what it is for please let me know!

Removing the Indivision AGA Mk3 from it's packaging, there is an instruction guide and the main Indivision AGA mk3 board, with already connected VGA/HDMI module to connect to the rear expansion bay, and a timing fix that sits over one of the other chips on the A1200.

Closer look now at the board and modules:

Being able to output HDMI or VGA (not at the same time) is an interesting feature. The older Mk2 CR  I have on my Amiga 1200 Vampire and Amiga 4000T outputs DVI only (VGA with a converter).

Here is the main Indivision Mk3 board that fits over the Lisa chip on the A1200.

This is the underside of the other part of the package that fits over the U7 chip ion the A1200, and a different chip on the A4000 systems if you install this in that system instead.

I got to work installing the main Indivision AGA Mk3 over the Lisa chip as per the instructions, which clicked in easily using my thumbs to push it in place.

The module tha fits over the U7 chip is easy enough to install, but I did note an issue to be aware of.

Once installed, the board at the top of it sits marginally over the top of the keyboard connector when closed, which means that if you remove the keyboard cable, it will push the module up, and will need to be pushed down again once the keyboard cable is reinstalled.

I think this problem could have been avoided by shaving the edge of the board a bit more from the factory..

Anyway, moving on. Unfortunately I ended up having to choose between having the IDE to CF adaptor in the rear expansion bay, or the VGA/HDMI output of the Indivision AGA Mk3. They don't both fit there.

I have nice CF to IDE adapter spare I could use to make the internal mounting look a bit nicer and avoid the need for IDE cabling in the case:

Here it is, now installed on the IDE port with the 4GB card attached, with the file copy now completed from the Amiga 4000.

This looks great.

Next I set to work attaching the VGA/HDMI module to the rear expansion bay area, using the supplied screw and nut to secure it.

I then flowed the ribbon cable carefully to allow for the floppy drive to sit on top of it.

Connecting the cable for the keyboard shows just how close the U7 module is...and the issue I showed with the keyboard pull up plastic section used to secure it, that will push up the U7 chip module every time you do it. Be aware of this!

Here is the VGA port showing in the expansion bay. I imagine someone will make a suitable expansion bay cover to fit it - I have one from AmigaKit but it is designed for the older Mk2 and doesn't work with this module installed as the holes don't line up.

I elected to use the VGA port as my TFT screens are VGA input. I could rotate the module if I wanted to have HDMI in the future. I might do that in the future if I use this system for streaming from as it will be easier to connect it up.

Powering on the individual computers display information on the screen initialisation is a lot more descriptive than on the Mk2. That said, it hangs around for far too long before disappearing...

Booting into the Workbench on the A1200, you can see the screen display information is still showing...

The pictures don't do it justice, but the display is very crisp and I like it. There are no vertical bars, this is just the iPhone....As usual though, some adjustment is needed to make the screen alignment perfect.

Playing around with the overscan settings helps a bit:

I switched the workbench to High Res Laced, and the output deinterlaced mode looks great also (again iPhone does not do it justice)

Was nice to enjoy some modules in Hippoplayer while reading the installation guide.

The guide mentions that apparently you can use high resolution screen modes like 1024x768 and 1280x1024 on the Mk3, with HighGFX and XTreme modes working with this newest scan doubler! Very exciting - normally you need a graphics card to use these resolutions, which is very rare to find one that can be used on a standard A1200 in a desktop case:

I am keen to try them out!

From my Amiga 3000 I downloaded the monitor drivers. Personally I really think they should include these on a floppy, along with the configuration tool that they used to include with the boards in the you have to download them and write out to floppy yourself.

On Aminet is the HighGFXnmore.lha archive which contains the HighGFX, Xtreme (and other drivers)

I downloaded, copied to a floppy disk and then extracted to RAM on the A1200.

The instructions with the archive explain I just need to copy the screen modes to the devs/monitors drawer on my system.

There are other drivers too, but the Indivision AGA mk3 only uses the HighGFX and Xtreme ones, so I copy those over to devs/monitors.

With that done, I rebooted the system, and ran Screenmode prefs to see the new modes now available.

I decided to try the HighGFX mode first, and adjusted to 16 colours instead of the default 4. Keep in mind that the A1200 uses a lot of Chip memory to display high resolution modes (in the absence of a graphics card), so it limits what programs/games/demos you can run if you use too much CHIP for the screenmode.

1024x768 displays, but the indivision AGA mk3 doesn't fit it properly to the screen size. Not sure why it fails to display the mode correctly.

You can it is using 1024x768 screen mode from the overlay, but the screen itself is too big to fit in the area..

The Xtreme graphics mode does not display properly at all when I tested it. I think the Indivision AGA mk3 doesn't detect the video mode correctly. I'll look into that more another time. I should check if there is a firmware update or something perhaps.

The Indivision AGA Mk3 has a feature that uses the U7 chip module to allow real time adjustment of the screen mode (without saving to flash). By pressing the Left CTRL, SHIFT and Tilda ~ keys together, the Indivision AGA enters Live edit mode:

In this mode the mouse moves the whole screen around so you can line it up with the top left of your display. You can click and hold the left mouse button, and move the mouse to the left to resize the display to fit the screen horizontally. You can also hold the left mouse button and move the mouse button upwards to resize the display to fit the screen vertically. 

You then press the Tilda key ~ once again to exit the live edit mode. 
This is a great feature, but not being able to save your edits to flash to keep it permanently is not ideal at all. You have to do this edit every time the screen mode changes (not only on reboot but every time the screenmode changes)...apparently you need the configuration tool to be able to save these edits. 
Not including the tool with the card is a terrible decision in my opinion - EVERYONE will want to do this config change to flash to get the display looking right for their screens.
I tried this Live edit mode on the highGFX screen mode, and was able to make it fit perfectly.

Having a 1024x768 workbench screen on an Amiga 1200 is really great. I love it.

The extra real estate on the workbench screen is very welcome.

Next I tried the live edit mode on a lower resolution PAL mode using boot no startup, which is what most games and demos use when running.

Unfortunately the live edit of the low resolution PAL modes makes the video output a lot blockier than I expected. Text in particular looks very blocky.

Not sure the iPhone picks up the issue well, but I thought I would show it anyway - maybe this is not a problem for most people:

Personally though, I don't like how blocky the live edit mode makes the text looks. Obviously stretching the low resolution display output will have that effect, so you have to decide if filling the screen is worth this compromise.

For me, it wasn't, so I rebooted, which puts the video output back to how it was originally, and enjoyed some demos instead!
I focused on some of my favourite 030 AGA demos I haven't been able to watch for quite a while:

CNCD's closer, and TBL's Captured Dreams - two amazing 030 AGA demos.

I will have to download the Indivision AGA mk3 config tool soon to fix up the display output to my liking, but for now I am just glad it works and I can enjoy it.
I set to work installing Picasso96 and Warp data types to display my favourite scene pictures on this A1200.

You need to install Picasso96 first (with uaegfx as the card), as it installs some files needed by the Warp datatypes to work. I show the error message you get if you don't.

So I installed Picasso 96 as below. I could then install the Warp datatypes successfully.
I purchased the Warp Datatypes a few years back and find they work great for displaying most image formats on the Amiga. You can purchase them from here. I know there are some free options for this too, but I prefer the support the remaining developers who continue to work to keep improving software on the Amiga.
I ran out of time for the weekend at this point, so I settled back to enjoy a few more classic Amiga AGA demos like Scoopex's awesome My Kingdom demo on my Amiga 1200 030 system. I am so glad I got it.

To finish up I put some ECS WHDLoad demos on the A1200, and they also work very well on this system. Some local content with the Hinch Demo.

I will do some more work some on this A1200 machine to fine tune the Indivision AGA mk3 display output when I have some time to download and play with the config tool (that should have come with the card - have I complained about that enough yet?)

For now though, I am so glad to have this A1200 system, and from my initial play the Indivision AGA Mk3 is an improvement over the Mk2 for sure, especially with the Live Edit mode and high screen resolution functionality. More to come!