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 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 systems...so 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
My attention was drawn to this yellow wire running on the board - not sure what it is for...haven't seen that before.
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.
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).
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
I switched the workbench to High Res Laced, and the output deinterlaced mode looks great also (again iPhone does not do it justice)
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!