Amiga 500 Mainboard

Amiga 500 Restauration, Part 3

After the test run was successful in the previous part, it's now time to put my Amiga back together.

Whitening

I've got the case parts and keycaps back from whitening at the CBM Museum Wuppertal. And the mandatory before-after photos proove that they did a great job:

Before whiteningAfter whitening

Sadly the PSU case is made of a cheaper material, and could not be whitened any further without risking the dreadened "nacre effect", so it stills look a bit yellowed. (I forgot to use a ring light for the photos, but I did my best to make both pictures comparable.)

Removing the Rust

Due to my careless storage in the cellar, the metal shielding got a bit of rust over the years. I removed the worst rust spots with a fiberglass pen. Then I polished the shields with Nevr-Dull wadding polish, which removed a lot of the rust film. The result is still far from perfect, but it's hard to impossible to restore the original look of the shielding, so I decided to keep it that way.

The upper shield after removing the rust and polishing.

PSU

I have already prepared the PSU in in the last part. Now that I also got the PSU case back, it's time to put it together. I've first replaced the power switch, as the old one got broken over the years. Luckily it's a standard switch that can still be found at electronic shops.

The RT-65B in its new housing. The photo shows an early attempt with swapped mains and power cables.

The Mean Well RT-65B fits into the case surprisingly well, almost as if it was made for it. I only had some difficulties to find a proper position for the wires. I tried different positions, and also tried to switch the sides of the mains and Amiga power cables.

The best result seems to be the original orientation of the cables (mains cable at the side of the power switch). With a bit of tweaking, I could finally route all the wires properly, make the RT-65B fit in, and close the PSU case.

I recommend to check the correct wiring (especially of the earthing) and the voltages once again. Also make sure that the terminals are firmly closed, and that no wires are overly bent, squeezed, or punctured.

GOEX Drive

The GOEX drive optionally comes with an OLED display that sits on top of the Amiga case and shows the currently selected file, and the current disk track. I can really recommend to order that display with the drive, as it makes selecting a file a lot easier. Unless of course you use the "GOEX on pills" version that offers a disk menu on the screen as OSD, but I wasn't sure how this version would interfere with the RGB-to-HDMI converter I am using.

The display is readily assembled, and already has crimp connectors at the end of the cable. The idea was to push them through an opening of the ventilation grille, but they just were too big for that. I had to cut them off, push the ribbon cable through an opening, and then solder new connectors to the cable.

HDMI Connector

Next problem was the HDMI connector. I use c0pperdragon's RGB-to-HDMI converter to connect my Amiga to a TV or monitor via HDMI. But where should I put the HDMI connector so I can reach it from the outside of the case?

My original idea was to cut a matching hole into the back of the Amiga case, but later I dismissed the plan and decided against disfiguring the case even further than I already did in the 1990s. A better idea was to print an expansion port cover with a hole for a HDMI cable, even though I disliked the thought that a cable would then loosely hang out of the case.

Then I noticed that the GOEX drive left a hole where the floppy drive's eject button has once been. And this hole is actually big enough for a HDMI connector, almost as if it has always been meant for that purpose.

The HDMI connector fits amazingly well!The holder frame (white) sits within the frame of the GOEX drive (grey) and does not need any screws.

I designed a 3D printed frame that holds the connector of a Delock 85463 panel-mount HDMI connector. You can find the STL file at Thingiverse for reprinting.

It looks a bit weird when a HDMI cable is plugged into that place where once the disk eject button has been, but it is working amazingly well, and saved me from cutting further holes into the Amiga case.

Completed

Now everything was mounted in its place. I couldn't close the upper shielding though, because the HDMI converter is in the way, so I decided to leave it out.

Everything is completed and in its final place.

And that concludes the restauration project. Welcome back, Amiga 500. With this hardware upgrade, you should be fit for at least the next decade.

Welcome back, Amiga!

The Kickstart Dilemma

Well, not quite. There is a Kickstart 2.04 ROM installed in this Amiga, and while playing some old games, I found out that a surprisingly large number of them crash on that version of the AmigaOS. It was indeed a big problem of the Amiga back in these days. In the previous generation of home computers, the operating system was static and was never updated, so programmers assumed to find certain routines at fixed positions. When the Amiga got popular, programmers continued to use the operating system like that, ignoring documented rules. Then in 1990, Commodore released Kickstart 2.0, a major AmigaOS upgrade. And suddenly, many poorly programmed games crashed, but instead of the programmers, the Amiga was blamed for it.

I still have an original Kickstart 1.2 ROM here, along with a ROM switch. Maybe I will use that board again. Luckily, I haven't yet closed the holes that I once drilled into the case, so I can use one for the switch again.

Amiga 500 Restauration, Part 2

In the first part, I dusted off and checked my old Amiga 500. I've also ordered all parts for the project, and they have been delivered by now. Let's start with the restauration!

Recapping

All home computers of the 1980s and 1990s have been designed for common households, and thus had to be cheap. Commodore did not expect that the Amiga would become an "old dame" some day, so they used standard components. A common problem is that electrolyic capacitors dry out over the years, losing their capacity. Some may even leak and, in worst case, damage the board. So the first restauration step is always to replace all electrolytic capacitors, even if they should still look fine.

As I don't want to repeat that process in a decade or so, I ordered premium capacitors with an expected lifetime of 10,000 h, which is probably tenfold of the standard caps' lifetime. At the bottom of this article, I have listed all the caps on my Amiga 500 Rev 6A board.

On the first sight, all capacitors seemed to be fine. Still, after removing one of them, I found traces of dried electrolyte on the board and at the bottom of the component. It really shows that a superficial inspection can be deceiving.

I also removed the wires of my self-made NMI button, and looked for cold solder joints and other potential problems. As final step, I carefully washed the mainboard with IPA.

Recapping completed!

HDMI Output

Let's start with the next construction site. As it gets more and more difficult to find TVs with a SCART connector (and I never liked them anyway), I want to connect my Amiga 500 via HDMI. Luckily there is a project by c0pperdragon that adds a pixel-perfect HDMI output to the Denise chip. The converter cannot be bought at shops, but you need to assemble it yourself. It consists of a few standard components that can be bought at good electronic shops, while the board can be ordered at PCB manufacturers. The assembly requires some fine-pitch SMD soldering though. If you don't feel comfortable with that, you maybe find a private seller for a readily assembled board.

To install the adapter, the Denise chip is removed from its socket first. Then the adapter is placed into the socket, and Denise into the adapter. A button can be connected for changing the configuration and taking screenshots, but that is not really required for operation.

The RGB to HDMI adapter. Denise is already plugged in, but the Raspberry Pi Zero is missing.

The RGBtoHDMI firmware needs to be extracted to a FAT formatted MicroSD card. Make sure to use release 20210322_f771e51 or later. Earlier releases will not work, but only show four colored rectangles.

Finally the Raspberry Pi Zero is plugged into the socket. Be very careful here! The pin header will also fit if not aligned properly, and may then damage your Raspberry or (even worse!) your Amiga.

It's easy to make a mistake here, so be extra careful that the Raspberry is properly connected.

New Power Supply

In the first part I found some liquid at the bottom of the power supply's PCB. I suspected it was capacitor liquid, but my contact at the CBM Museum Wuppertal explained me that it was just a lot of flux. Still, the old power supply would need a technical overhaul, which I can only recommend to people who know exactly what they are doing.

WARNING: Switched power supplies may still contain high voltages hours after they have been disconnected from mains. I strongly advise against attempting repairs yourself. If you decide to keep your old PSU, please ask a trained technician to restore it for you!

As I am not "trained personnel" myself, I decided against restoring the original PSU, but for replacing it by a Mean Well RT-65B. It has sufficient power, and also fits nicely into the original Amiga PSU case.

Before I removed the wires from the old PSU, I took notes on what color is connected to what voltage. Then I removed the wires, put crimp shoes on the wire endings, and connected them to the corresponding output of the new PSU.

My original PSU had a separate SEN wire. It is connected to +5V at the power plug, and is used so the old PSU could compensate wire losses and provide exactly 5V there. The replacement PSU does not provide a sense connector, so I just connected the SEN wire to the +5V line to increase the total cross-section and reduce losses, but it can also just be left open.

The "shield" wire must be connected to earth.

ATTENTION: There were different variants of Amiga 500 power supplies on the market. Your number of wires, and the wire color code, may be different. Do not just rely on my photos!

This is how it looked like after the wiring:

Mains power below, Amiga power above. Shield is connected to earth.red: +5V – black: ground – brown: +12V – white: -12V – yellow: +5V sense. Your colors may be different!Amiga 500 power connector pinout.

Do not connect your PSU to mains yet! First switch your multimeter to continuity test mode, and test if your earthing is connected to the PSU case, and to the shield and the shield pin of the Amiga power plug. After that, test if the power lines are properly connected. Now you can power up your PSU, and use your multimeter to check the voltages at the Amiga power plug.

ATTENTION: Please be very careful when you test the PSU outside the case. Make sure you cannot accidentally touch the live terminals. Also do not open the shielding of the PSU.

Test Run

After I made sure all voltages are correct, it was finally time for a first test run.

As I don't have many disks any more, I had ordered a GOEX drive as a replacement for the original floppy drive. It emulates a disk drive, but uses ADF files from a SD card. It even emulates the mechanical noises of the head stepper motor, which actually sounds much better than expected. I connected it to the floppy header of the mainboard, and used a cardboard box to make sure it won't cause short circuits.

Then I checked everything again. Is the mainboard okay? Is the HDMI converter properly connected? Is the GOEX drive connected? Is the Raspberry properly seated and the MicroSD inserted? Is nothing there that might cause a short circuit? Is the PSU protected against accidental touching the live terminators?

And then, after almost 30 years, it was finally time to wake up my Amiga 500 again.

My test setup, as the case is not here yet.My Amiga is still working! And a quick hardware test also shows no damage.

I first booted an Amiga Test Kit disk and checked the RAM and the CIAs. After that, I ran some demos. The picture quality of the HDMI converter is stunning!

Meanwhile I also got the case and keyboard back from the whitening service. I cannot wait to put it all back together, and enjoy my shiny new Amiga 500.

Capacitor List

The caps list of my Amiga 500 Rev 6A, and the replacement parts I used:

Qty Type Reference Manufacturer Number
2 3300µF 10V C401 C402 Panasonic EEU-FR1A332
1 470µF 16V C307 Panasonic EEU-EB1E471
6 100µF 16V C811 - C816 Panasonic EEU-FR1E101B
2 47µF 16V C821 C822 Panasonic EEU-FR1H470B
4 22µF 35V C303 C304 C324 C334 Panasonic EEU-FR1H220
2 10µF 35V C306 C712 Panasonic EEU-FR1H100B

Notes:

  • All capacitors are radial and have a lead spacing of 5mm.
  • C401, C402: Height should be 24mm or less to fit under the shielding.
  • C324, C334: Bipolar caps may enhance audio quality. I haven't tested that though.
  • You can use any fitting capacitors with the same capacity and the same (or higher) voltage.
  • Temperature rating should be 85°C or, even better, 105°C.
Amiga 500 Restauration, Part 1

My first Amiga was an Amiga 500. A classmate already had one, and when I visited him and saw the Amiga for the first time, I just had to have my own. So I pestered my parents until they gave in and bought one for me. With this computer I learned 68000 assembler, programming in general, and blind ten-finger typing.

A few years later, I bought an Amiga 4000 from the pay I got doing my civilian service. My good old Amiga 500 spent a few grace months in a closet, and was then stowed away in a box in the basement, forgotten for about three decades.

I would like to restore this machine, make it beautiful again, and give it a subtle technical overhaul. This project is a work in progress. I will report in my blog whenever there is something new. And in the end, I can hopefully share a feeling of success with you.

These are my goals for the restauration project:

  • The case has likely got a yellow tint over the years, like all white computer cases of that era. The yellowing has to go, the case should look as good as new again.
  • I will give it a technical overhaul. The electrolytic capacitors may have leaked and will be replaced. But after all the years, there may be even more technical problems that need to be fixed.
  • Since I have almost no floppy disks left, the floppy drive will be replaced by a drive simulator.
  • The old 1084 CRT monitor is long broken and disposed of (I hated these old flicker boxes anyway). I want to connect the Amiga to a modern TV instead, preferably via HDMI, so I will have a closer look at this Raspberry Pi Zero based converter that will be connected to the Denise socket.

After the restauration, the Amiga should feel (more or less) like it did when I got it in 1988. This means that there will be no accelerator card or harddisk controller. Apart from the HDMI output and the floppy simulator, the only acceptable "tuning" is the chip RAM extension to 1 MByte.

Okay, so let's get the computer out of the box and have a first look at it:

My Amiga 500 before restauration.

The case is not quite as yellowed as I had feared, nevertheless the ugly "nicotine yellow" has to go. On the right side of the case I had added four switches. At that time the Amiga was rather a commodity, and I didn't care much about it. Today I scolded my old self for drilling holes into that beautiful case. So there's one more item on my to-do list: fill the holes.

As for the case, I couldn't decide if I should have it dyed black, or have it bleached at the CBM Museum Wuppertal (CMW). I couldn't find a paint shop who would dye plastic though (they only offered varnishing), and the contact to the CMW turned out to be nice, so the case will now be bleached by the professionals there.

I have to admit: My fingers were itching to plug the Amiga into the wall socket and the TV right away. Fortunately I didn't do that. The circuit board of the power supply looks like it has been soaked in coke:

There is some dried liquid all over the PCB.

There are no traces of that liquid inside the case, so my guess is a leaked capacitor. Maybe it was this one:

There are also traces of liquid on this capacitor.

A homemade repair is totally out of the question if mains voltage is involved. Modern switching power supply modules are simply too cheap for that. So the next item on my to-do list is: get a new power supply.

Let's have a look inside the Amiga. The metal cage is a bit rusty here and there, but all in all still in good shape. The circuit board smells a bit of cellar mustiness, but everything is in its place and nothing seems to be damaged. It all certainly does look very good!

The mainboard looks good. The self-made PCB is for an NMI button and is connected to the IRQ lines of the CPU.

For recapping I inspected all the electrolytic capacitors and listed their values. After that I found out that someone else did that work already. I will replace all the capacitors with premium ones, which sounds more dramatic than it is for cent items. I chose Panasonic caps with a lifetime of up to 10,000 h. The old capacitors were standard types with maybe a tenth of that lifetime.

What's next? The case is now on its way to the CMW for whitening. I've also placed multiple orders for the new power supply, the capacitors, the HDMI adapter and the floppy drive simulator. So let's wait for the deliveries.

Restauring an old iRiver iHP-120, Part 2

In the first part, we have replaced the old Li-Po battery by a new one. In this part, we will replace the mechanical hard disk by a modern (and much larger) MicroSD card. Both parts are independent, this is, you could also replace the HDD but keep the old battery.

First of all, you need to install Rockbox on your player. This is an alternate firmware that will not only make your iRiver experience more enjoyable, but will also support larger hard disk sizes. The installation procedure is out of scope of this article, but Rockbox is providing a great installer tool that does most of the work for you.

You must install Rockbox before replacing the harddisk. The reason is that the original iRiver firmware won't boot from larger harddisks, but you need a running player to install a patched Rockbox bootloader via firmware update.

Your shopping list:

  • Toshiba 50-pin to CF card adapter – I use an HXSP-09CF69 adapter. I have tried an Adaptare 48012 adapater first, but always got ATA errors with that one. The adapter must be set to "Master" mode, usually by a switch or a jumper.
  • CF card to MicroSD card adapter – I use a DeLock adapter, but any other brand should work as well. You can also just use a CF memory card, but the combination of MicroSD cards and CF card adapaters is cheaper than CF cards of equal size.
  • MicroSD card – I use a 128 GB SanDisk Ultra MicroSDXC card, but any other brand should work as well. The card speed is not really a factor here. I couldn't find a maximum size that is supported by Rockbox, so maybe even larger cards will work.

As there are a lot of different adapters and MicroSD cards on the market, there is no guarantee that your combination will work. Remember that you use parts that have been totally utopian back in 2003. Also be warned that your hardware can be damaged by this modification. You do it at your own risk.

Before you move on, make sure that Rockbox is properly installed and started. Then connect your player to your computer via USB, and backup the .rockbox directory, and any other stuff on the old harddisk that you want to keep.

Also, please read the entire article first, before you start with the modification.

Prepare the MicroSD card on your PC. It must be FAT32 formatted and should be named like your player model (e.g. IHP-120). Copy the .rockbox directory from your backup to the MicroSD card. And while you're at it, use the chance and copy your music collection to the card. The access speed will be much slower once the card is in your player.

Now turn off your player, and open it again (as described in part 1). You only need to remove the back cover this time. No more disassembling is necessary.

Remove the harddisk by gently lifting it and pulling it out of the connector. Now try to insert the 50-pin adapter. For many adapters, a plastic nose on the connector will keep you from inserting it, so you may need to remove protruding parts of the adapter with a file.

It is normal that the connector has more holes than the header has pins. Just make sure that the position marked as "PIN 1" is properly aligned with the first pin of the header. This is what it looks like when the adapter and the CF card is correctly mounted.

The next step is important. The adapter might have a jumper for mode selection. If it sticks out, it may punctuate the battery when the casing is closed later, so bend it away (like in the photo) or just unsolder it and replace it with a wire bridge.

Now make sure that the CF card stays in place and won't touch the PCB even when the player is carried around. You can use some isolating tape, or a silicone mat cut to size. I constructed a small 3D printed piece that fills the space and keeps the CF card from loosening. You can put back the original silicone HDD frame on top of that, to keep the construction from vibrating or touching the battery.

It is a good idea to do a short test drive of your modified player now. It should boot up and start Rockbox. In the Rockbox file manager, you should see all the files on your MicroSD card.

You can close your player now. Be careful and don't use force if the back cover cannot be closed, but locate and remove the obstacle. Remember that the Li-Po battery on the back cover must not be damaged or punctuated.

Enjoy your new retro mp3 player!

Troubleshooting

If you should get ATA or "check HDD" errors, it can have a lot of different causes:

  • Make sure that your MicroSD card has a single primary partition, which must be FAT32 formatted. Other file systems (e.g. FAT16, NTFS) are not supported. Try a different formatter tool.
  • Check all the connections. Is the adapter properly aligned and connected to the header? Is it switched to "Master" mode? Is a header pin bent or broken? (A few pins may be a bit longer or shorter than the other pins though, that's normal.)
  • Remove the adapter and insert the original HDD. If your player still shows an error, the daugherboard may have been dislocated. Gently press it to the main board and try again.
  • Your combination of adapters and MicroSD card brands may be incompatible. Try to boot from a real CF memory card. Try other adapter or MicroSD card brands.

If you happen to have an iHP with a broken original hard disk, you can start with the replacement right away, but use a FAT32 formatted 16 GB or 32 GB MicroSD card first. The original firmware should start in this configuration, and allow you to install the Rockbox firmware, but this is untested. After the Rockbox firmware has been installed, you can use larger MicroSD cards.

Final words…

  • You do this modification at your own risk. It might not work, damage your hardware, and turn out to be an utter waste of money.
  • I cannot help you if your modification won't boot or won't run stable. I have already said all I know about it in this article. Maybe you can find help in the Rockbox forum.
  • I cannot print the 3D printed part for you. The stl file is available for free and can be printed by commercial print services.
Restauring an old iRiver iHP-120, Part 1

In a time before smartphones, people used so called "digital music players" for portable music. One of them was the iRiver iHP-100 series, which came to the market in October 2003. It had up to 40 GB of storage, which was really a lot these days. It had a playback time of up to 16 hours. It had a remote control with a separate display. And it is the only pocket-size player I know that is also equipped with an optical line-in and line-out.

I got my player in 2004, and I used it for many years, until the hard disk started to show first signs of failing. Then I stored it away to save it for "special occasions" that never came. Many years later, I did not dare to charge it again, as I distrust over-aged Li-Po batteries that have been discharged for a long time. So my player became a Sleeping Beauty, waiting for the day it would be rediscovered and properly restored. The day was now.

In this first part, I will replace the original battery. In a second part, I will replace the 20 GB hard disk with a modern 128 GB MicroSD card, which is a lot more than the size of my entire music collection. After more than 16 years, it will be a modern portable music player again. (Well, sort of… I know it's still inferior to a smartphone.)

Before we start: Li-Po batteries are delicate. A damaged battery can cause severe damage to your home and your health. Please be very careful. If you're not confident enough for the operation, please ask someone for help.

The player is opened by removing the eight screws from the top and the bottom cap with a T6 screwdriver. The caps are glued in place, but can be pulled off with a bit of force. After that, the back cover can just be lifted off. The attached battery cable is very short, so be careful when lifting.

This is a photo of the inside. To the left is the battery pack that we are going to replace. To the right, we see the 1.8" HDD. Yes, the iHP uses an actual hard disk, with spinning platters and arms and all. In part 2, it will be replaced by a MicroSD card.

The battery connector is on the other side of the PCB, so we have to disassemble more. First we remove the HDD, it just needs to be gently lifted and then pulled out of the connector. There is a screw on each of the two side panels, they need to be removed as well. Then we remove all visible screws on the PCB.

The display frame is glued to the front cover, so we need to use a bit of force to remove the PCB. Be careful, the display is very sensitive to scratches. Also we don't want to have hairs and dust caught between the display and the front cover when we reassemble the device, so make sure you work in a clean and dust-free room.

Now we can disconnect the battery from the main PCB. Sadly, the power connector is in the way, so we need to twiddle with the connector and use a bit of force to get it removed. If you use a screwdriver, take care not to slip off and damage the PCB. Also, take care not short circuit the battery cable.

In the next step, we can remove the old battery pack. It is glued to the back cover, so we need a lever tool (e.g. a plastic opening tool) and some patience to gently remove it.

Be very careful when you remove the old battery pack. Do not use blades or pointy tools, and do not use force. The battery pack may burn if bent, damaged, or punctured.

You got the old battery removed now? Please don't just throw it away, but make sure it is properly recycled.

Before we insert the new battery, we should have a look at the cable first. On my replacement, the cable was considerably longer than the original one, so I decided to align it with the other corner of the back cover. If your cable is shorter, or if you are not sure, use the same corner as the original battery. In any case make sure that the cable is at the bottom edge of the back cover. If there is some of the glue tape left, it will firmly hold the new battery in its place.

If you think it was difficult to disconnect the old battery, you will find out that it is even more difficult to connect the new one. Check that the polarity of the connector is correct, the black wire must be closer to the USB connector than the red wire. Take care not to cut or break the wires while inserting the connector. If there is absolutely no way to push the connector into the socket, you need to remove the USB daughterboard. It can be unplugged after unsoldering the wires on its four corners.

I was lucky. After a few attempts and some frustration, I finally got the new battery connected.

When reassembling, make sure the battery cable is correctly routed like in the next photo. It must not be pinched anywhere. Now the PCB can be placed back onto the top cover again.

This is the right moment to check if there are visible dust particles or hairs caught between the display and the front cover. If so, use a photo lens brush to gently brush them away. Do not use a cloth, as it may cause tiny scratches.

Now close the bottom cover for a test. The battery cable should fit properly and should be tension-free.

After that, you can reassemble the device in the opposite order. Congratulations, you have given a new life to this amazing piece of hardware!

In the next part, we will replace the HDD with a MicroSD card. It will not just conserve some battery power, make your player faster and keep it cooler, but also greatly extend hard disk space for your music.