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Retro.Workshop

Amiga 1200 Black Edition

When I found this Amiga 1200, I felt pity for it. The case and keyboard was very yellowed, but what was even worse was the screwed up attempt to fit a Gotek drive into the case. The previous owner obviously tried to open the floppy disk area with some kind of cutter pincers, essentially ruining the case.

The Amiga 1200 was very yellowed. The floppy drive was coarsely cut out, to make room for a Gotek drive.

My initial plan was to whiten the case and keyboard, clean the botched cut at the floppy drive with a rotary tool, and nicely close it again with a 3D-printed part. But then I got a better idea. 😁

The Mainboard

Let's have a look inside first. There is a Rev 1D.4 board in good optical condition. I replaced the electrolytic capacitors, and upgraded the ROMs to AmigaOS 3.2.1.

 The recapped mainboard.

On the bottom of the PCB, I found a copper wire for a so-called "floppy fix". When Escom was producing the final batch of Amiga 1200 systems, Amiga floppy drives were not available any more, and Escom had to find a way to use regular PC floppy drives instead. However, many games and demos with own trackloaders fail to load on machines with this modification.

The original floppy drive of this machine was not existing anymore, and Gotek drives can perfectly emulate Amiga floppy drives, so I decided to undo the floppy fix by removing the botch wire. To restore the original RDY signal, I instead put a wire from pin 34 of the internal floppy connector to pin 1 of the external connector.

The "floppy fix" cuts pin 34 from the original RDY line (not visible here), and instead connects it to the CHNG signal at pin 2. To undo the fix, remove the wire, and then connect pin 34 of the internal port with pin 1 of the external port, to restore the original RDY signal.

Since I was working on the bottom side of the PCB, I should also remove E123C and E125C, to enhance the stability of accelerator boards. However, on this machine these capacitors were not populated, so there was nothing to do.

It was finally time for a first thorough test run. Everything went fine, but then I noticed that the right mouse button was not working on both ports. I wrote a separate blog article about the cause and the fix, but to make a long story short, all I had to do was to replace four resistors with ferrites.

My work on the board was completed after that, and it passed all tests.

The Extras

As with my other refurbishments, I'm not only cleaning the machine, but I also futureproof it with some extras.

First of all: The yellowed case with the ugly cut. I was sure that even with a skillful repair attempt, the case would never look really beautiful again. Also I always wanted to have a black Amiga, so I decided to rehouse the machine into a brand new, black a1200.net replica case instead.

The floppy drive was missing, but instead of the Gotek drive that was there as replacement, I decided to use a Centuriontech GoEX drive. It uses an SD card instead of an USB stick, and comes with a dial encoder, which makes selection of a floppy image much easier. There is also a matching OLED display for it, but for my new Amiga I preferred to use a tiny display that is not that noticeable.

The display itself is one of those 0.91" OLEDs one can find in virtually every maker shop. However it is important to swap pin 1 and 2 when soldering wires to it, as the power pins are swapped on this display type compared to the original GoEX display module.

I then printed an A600 display module case, which luckily also fits on an A1200. I used hot glue to assemble the module, but in retrospect I should have used standard glue instead, since the hot glue softened the PLA of the print. The module is then just clipped into the cooling vents of the Amiga, no need for gluing.

The OLED display with new wiring. Pin 1 and 2 need to be swapped. The backside of the display module, before closing it. The display module put on the Amiga case.

To use this kind of OLED, a file called FF/FF.CFG needs to be created on the SD card, which contains this line:

display-type = oled-128x32

I also added an Indivision AGA MK3 for a pixel-perfect picture on modern TVs via HDMI. While doing so, I found out that the a1200.net replica case seems to have different measures than the original case, so I created a modified trapdoor and holder for this kind of case.

A black trapdoor for the HDMI connector. A holder keeps the HDMI board in place and prohibits that it pivots around the screw.

The computer came with a Marpet Developments M1207 RAM expansion in the expansion port. It got a fresh button cell, and now provides the machine with 4MB of additional Fast RAM, a 68882 FPU, and a RTC.

Assembling

What's missing? The black keycaps that are matching the black case! After many years of waiting they were finally available, and I got a set delivered right in time before Christmas.

The black replica keycaps look awesome! It took a while to replace the original caps with the new ones.

The black case does not include badges, but I found a nice black one from Badgeman.

After that, the Amiga was finally ready for the final assembly.

Everything is in place.

If Commodore had given the choice of the case color back in the 1990's, I would have chosen a black Amiga. And now here it is, an all black Amiga 1200 with a completely new outerior, and modernized interior.

The completed Amiga 1200 Black Edition. Power, floppy, and harddrive LEDs in custom colors. Of course the Amiga 1200 badge is black, too.

Amiga 1000 Restauration, Part 3

In the previous part, I refurbished the keyboard of the Amiga 1000. It was in a bad state, and truly deserved to get its own part. Now I will replace the floppy drive with a Centuriontech GOEX on pills floppy simulator, and then put everything back together.

Floppy LED

The floppy LED of the Amiga 1000 is not connected to the mainboard, but to the floppy drive. The GOEX drive does not provide a similar connector, so I had to come up with a solution. Fortunately, the Amiga made it faily easy.

On all Amiga models, the floppy LED represents the state of the drive motor. It lights up as long as the motor is powered. On the Amiga 1000, the motor of the internal drive is controlled by a /MTR0 signal on pin 16 of the floppy connector. If it is LOW, the motor is powered, and the floppy LED is supposed to light up. The 7438 buffer inside the Amiga has a maximum output current of 48mA, while the LED has a forward current of 30mA, so in theory the LED (and a 120Ω series resistor) could be connected directly to the /MTR0 line and +5V. But I wanted to be on the safe side, so I added an inverting switch using a standard PNP transistor and two resistors.

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I used a BC557, but any other standard switching PNP transistor will do as well. For the LED, I preferred to have a green floppy LED instead of the original red one. I used a Dialight 521-9266, which has the same dimensions as the original LED. There should be a pullup resistor on the /MTR0 line, but it's also working without, so on my system I left it out for space reasons.

On the GOEX board, +5V can be found on an unused pad next to the voltage regulator. GND can be found at an unused header for an optional encoder.

The base resistor is connected straight to pin 16 of the header. +5V can be taken from a pad next to the voltage regulator. GND is available at the unused encoder header. A bit of hot glue fixes the wires to the board. I replaced the original red floppy LED with a green one, just because I like it better. 😉

On Screen Display

The GOEX drive needs some kind of display, to show the floppy disk file that is currently selected, and other options. My first plan was to glue a tiny OLED display to the front of the case.

However, the "GOEX on pills" model comes with an OSD connector. It reads the CSYNC signal from the Amiga, and generates a pixel signal that is overlaid to the Amiga RGB signal. Depending on the color component the pixel signal is connected to, the OSD text is either red, green, or blue (with the corresponding complementary color as background).

The CSYNC signal can be taken from pin 12 of U6A. The pixel signal is connected to one of the 75Ω resistors: R25 (red), R24 (green), or R23 (blue). The wire must be soldered to that end of the resistor that is closer to the monitor connector, otherwise the OSD overlay will not be visible on white screens.

The CSYNC signal is taken from U6A pin 12. The RGB signal is connected to R24 for a green OSD color.

The other end of the two wires are connected to the respective CSYNC and RGB pins of the OSD header of the GOEX drive. It is also possible to control the GOEX drive with the Amiga keyboard, but I didn't want to do more hardware modifications, especially if it involves soldering wires directly to one of the CIAs. I prefer that I still have to touch the floppy slot for changing floppy disks, even if it's just virtually.

Reassembly

A trained technician should definitely overhaul the PSU, to avoid damage to the hardware or spectacular explosions of safety capacitors. @DingensCGN of the a1k.org forum did an excellent job there. He replaced all electrolytic capacitors, and did a full load test including checking the temperatures of the components with a thermographic camera. A big shout-out to him!

The PSU was overhauled by @DingensCGN at a1k.org. Result of the thermographic camera check: The load resistors are getting rather hot, but that's normal. The other components stay cool.

This Amiga has a separate piggyback board, which I had removed for cleaning and re-capping. It is connected to the mainboard by some headers at different places, which makes reseating it a bit tricky. It is crucial that all headers are properly connected.

The piggyback board must be carefully reconnected.

For the GOEX drive, I designed a 3D printed frame for the Amiga 1000. It holds the drive in its correct position, and also holds the original eject button so the hole in the front is closed. My intention is that the GOEX drive should be as invisible as possible, so the original look of the Amiga 1000 is maintained. I guess I managed that.

GOEX drive on the Amiga 1000 mounting frame. The best place I could find for the grounding. The GOEX drive inside the Amiga floppy frame.

And that's it. The system is fully assembled now.

The fully reassembled system.

I mounted the top shield, attached the front plate, closed the case, and connected the 256KB memory expansion to the front slot.

And then came the moment of truth. I flipped the power switch. The system started up. I expected the 230V PSU fan to be rather noisy, and was very surprised that it is almost inaudible, and could easily compete with modern ultra-silent 12V fans of the same size.

Then the famous Kickstart screen appeared, together with the FlashFloppy OSD.

The famous Kickstart screen, with the magenta OSD from the GOEX drive.

I loaded the Kickstart ADB file from the GOEX drive, and after that I changed to the first disk of the famous Red Sector Megademo. The Amiga just dutifully loaded it.

Red Sector Megademo is loading, here with green OSD because of the dark background.

Everything ran smoothly! The green color of the OSD certainly adds a lot to the 1980s retro feeling of that machine. It looks quite like those OSDs on old TVs or VCRs. 😆

Configuring FlashFloppy

There were two things that were bugging me. The first was that I'd like to run a cold start of the machine as simple as possible, so the GOEX drive should always select the Kickstart ADF first when the system is powered up. The second was that the OSD was shown on the screen for much too long. It should disappear a few seconds after disk inactivity.

Both is easily configured. First, a directory called FF needs to be created on the SD card. Then a FF/FF.CFG file needs to be created, having this content:

image-on-startup = static
display-off-secs = 5

A second file called FF/IMAGE_A.CFG contains the file name of the Kickstart ADF file on the SD card.

Welcome!

And that's it! I am, and have always been, a big fan of the Amiga. I learned a lot on my Amigas, and they were the foundation of my career as professional software developer.

The fully restaured Amiga 1000.

I always considered the Amiga 1000 to be the pearl of my Amiga collection, and I am happy and proud that I got the chance to own such a beautiful machine now.

Amiga 1000 Restauration, Part 2

In this second part, I will take care about the keyboard. I expected that it would be the usual procedure: Cleaning the key caps and case, whitening the yellowed parts, dusting off the keyboard frame.

The Amiga 1000 keyboard, before cleaning and whitening.

However, this time it wasn't that easy.

The trouble started when I pulled off the key caps, but also pulled out the plungers of three keys. Fortunately this can be repaired, as the switches are easy to maintain. More about that below.

Keyboard Cleaning

The key caps were cleaned in an ultrasonic bath with a drop of rinse aid, and then brushed with a soft toothbrush.

Below the key caps, there is the keyboard frame where the switches are mounted. I found the usual filth that you would expect there after almost 40 years, but there was also flash rust, a crusty dirt layer, and… dead insects. I went outside and brushed off the insects and all the other loose dirt. Then I went back inside, and sprayed the frame with IPA, in an attempt to clean off the crust. The room immediately filled with an unhealthy stench of dust, dirt, and insect excrements. 🤢 Also, my attempts to remove the flash rust with a fiberglass pen wasn't really successful. There was too much of it.

Yuck! Rust, crusty filth, and dead insects. My attempts to clean the frame in place were futile.

I wanted to avoid that I had to refurbish the frame, because it can only be removed after unsoldering all 91 switches (and one LED). But there was no other way to do it. So I unsoldered everything and removed the frame. On the PCB, I found dried stains from a liquid (maybe from a soft drink that had been spilled over the keyboard), and more dead insects. It confirmed that it was the right choice to go all the way.

Under the frame I found liquid stains, and more insects.

I sanded down the old paint and the dirt crust from the frame (outside, and wearing a good filter mask). Then I spray-painted it in a matte black. It's looking so much better now.

The frame, after sanding it. Freshly painted with matte black spray paint.

Refurbishing the Switches

The next bad surprise came when I was about to reassemble the keyboard. I tested all 91 switches for continuity when closed, but found only about 40 of them actually working. When I depressed the other keys, they either did not close the contact, or the plunger got stuck, or both.

The switches that are used in the Amiga 1000 keyboard are Mitsumi Type 2 tactile switches. They are out of production by today, but they are easy to maintain. After trying the best approach with a couple of switches, I found the following procedure to be most successful.

The switch can be opened by putting a kind of blade (like the head of a flat screwdriver, or flat pincers) into the latch on both sides, and then carefully removing the cap with a blade or another screwdriver. The switch consists of four parts: The cap, the plunger, the switch plate, and the base.

Insert a screwdriver or pincers, then carefully pull the cap from the base. From left to right: Cap, plunger (with spring), switch plate (with metal lever), base.

I cleaned the switch plate with contact cleaner spray. I also bent up the legs of the lever a tiny bit, so it will give a bit more pressure on the switch when the key is depressed.

Spray a bit of contact cleaner on the copper part in the center. If the contact does not close properly after cleaning, bend up the legs of the lever a tiny bit.

Finally, I applied a bit of silicone grease on both small sides of the plunger. It is important to use a very very tiny amount! If too much is used, the key will feel sluggish or might even get stuck.

Apply a very tiny amount of silicone grease on the bottom half of the small plunger sides.

After that, the switch was reassembled and tested again. If it was still getting stuck or didn't close the contact properly, the process was repeated.

It was a lot of work and a monotonous task, but at the end I could make all the switches work again.

Cleaned and refurbished keyboard, before putting on the keycaps.

Whitening

The keyboard case was cleaned in soap water. After that, the case (and the yellowed space bar) were exposed to the July sun for whitening.

The result is quite good, but on some parts a bit of yellow is still visible. I guess there would be an even better result if I would use peroxide, but I have no experience with that, and am not too keen to gain it with this rare keyboard.

The labels on some of the keys are still yellow, and wouldn't get any whiter in the sun. I guess that I will have to replace them with new labels some day.

Reassembling

With every parts cleaned and whitened, the keyboard was ready for reassembly. I pressed the key caps back on the keys, mounted the shielding, and then put the keyboard frame back into the case.

Take care when closing the case: One of the four screws is a bit shorter, and maybe also has a different color. This single screw must be used for the upper right hole.

One case screw is shorter, and has a different color. Use the shorter screw for the hole at the top right.

The keyboard restauration is completed now!

The Amiga 1000 keyboard is completed.

In the next part, I will reassemble the main unit, and have a first test. Is the Amiga still working?

Amiga 1000 Restauration, Part 1

When the Amiga 1000 was launched in 1985, it was too expensive as a home computer, but rather targeted the professional graphics workstation market. The sales figures were correspondingly low. Only 27,500 units have been sold in Germany. Nevertheless, and without a doubt, the Amiga 1000 is the jewel of every Amiga collection. Now I finally had the lucky chance to get my own one.

The Amiga 1000, as I got it. The keyboard is a French/Belgian AZERTY type, with labels for the German keyboard layout.

The overall state is fine, considering that the machine is almost 40 years old. The Amiga itself is only a bit yellowed, but has some heavy scratchmarks at one edge. The keyboard has a French/Belgian AZERTY layout that was changed to German layout using stickers, like it was usual for the first machines that were sold in the EU. Its case and the space bar are much more yellowed. The stickers are also yellowed, and one is missing.

The expansion slot at the front contains a 256KB RAM module. The original mouse and the disks have been lost, but I can use any other Amiga mouse and make new disks myself.

What's Inside

Inside I found a Rev A mainboard and a piggyback board. That extra board stores the Kickstart that is loaded from disk when the machine is powered up. Later revisions used Kickstart ROMs, and didn't need this piggyback board any more.

The mainboard, and the piggyback board on top.

Usually all piggyback Amiga 1000 were produced for the US market. They could not run in Europe without modifications, due to different power frequencies and TV standards. My machine was produced in early 1986, presumably for the US market. One year later, it was modified for the European market. The original Agnus chip was replaced by a 8367R0 that is able to generate PAL video signals. The crystal is still the original 28.6363 MHz NTSC one though, so the video signal is not truly PAL.

The system has a Denise 8362R6, which is the first revision that is also capable of displaying the EHB mode.

Altogether, it is an early Amiga model, and very likely one of the first that have been sold in Germany.

The PSU

Generally I don't recommend to power up an old computer straight away after many years of storage. Without a visual inspection and the necessary refurbishment, the power supply could damage the computer, or components inside could blow up.

A first visual check of the PSU seemed to be allright, with no obvious damages, and no bulged or leaked capacitors. But then I found tiny cracks in one safety capacitor.

A look into the PSU. This RIFA capacitor shows signs of fatigue.

These RIFA X class capacitors are actually infamous for blowing up after many years. Their insulators are made from paper. The material gets brittle from age and thermal stress, letting in moisture, which amplifies the problem. Eventually the capacitor can crack open and go up in fumes.

It was good that I kept the PSU disconnected from mains. It is now being refurbished by @DingensCGN, a member of the A1K.org forum who has a lot of experience with Amiga PSU restauration.

The Mainboard

I recapped the mainboard and piggyback board. For the seven 22µF capacitors, I used a bipolar type instead. Those capacitors are used for filtering the audio and RGB signals. Using bipolar caps here might improve the signal quality, and won't hurt otherwise.

To be honest, this time I had doubt if I should replace the old capacitors. This Amiga 1000 will not become a workstation, I have other Amigas for that. It is rather a collectible. Still I want it to be in a good technical condition. When I started to collect retro computers, I promised myself not to keep machines that are broken or otherwise not fit for use.

After that I removed all the dust, and gave the boards a thorough wash with IPA.

The mainboard, with fresh electrolytic capacitors.

The mainboard is now ready to get remarried with the piggyback board, and then move back into the case.

Whitening

The first thing I actually did was to disassemble the entire machine. The plastic parts of the case were cleaned in soap water and carefully scrubbed with a dishwashing brush. After that, I used the sunny July weather, and whitened all parts in the sunshine. I did not use any chemicals, just the sun. After two days, the Amiga was almost white again.

All case parts are whitened and ready for reassembly.

That's it for the first part of the Amiga 1000 story. The next part will be about the restauration of the keyboard. There is a lot to do there.

Atari ST

At the end of the 1980s, I wavered between the Atari ST and the Amiga 500 to become the successor of my ZX Spectrum. Eventually I decided to get an Amiga. In retrospective it was the right choice. The AmigaOS laid the foundation to my later career as a professional software developer. Still I stayed curious about the Atari ST. Well, now is the time to get one. 😀

I found an Atari 1040STF for a fair price. The outside is in a very good condition. No modifications, no yellowing, even the warranty seal was still intact. Also on the inside, there was just a bit of dust around the case vents.

My new Atari ST. Outside it's in a good condition. Even the protective film is still on the Atari badge. Just a bit of dust inside.

Even the keyboard wasn't really filthy, considering that the machine was in use for many years. It was still in for a thorough cleaning though.

The keyboard needs a cleaning. The keyboard's PCB, with the rubber domes. Cleaned keyboard. It looks much better.

The Atari ST has an integrated power supply, unlike the Amiga 500 with its separate PSU on the floor. On the one hand, it permits to plug the unit directly to the mains. On the other hand, it makes the machine heavier, and makes modding more risky due to the presence of hazardous voltages inside the case.

WARNING: Switched power supplies may still contain high voltages hours after they have been disconnected from mains. I strongly advise against attempting repairs or modifications yourself. Please ask a trained technician for assistance!

Inside my ST, I found a Mitsumi SR98 PSU. It looked okay, except of a bulged capacitor. However this type is said to be of poor quality, so I decided to replace it with a modern MeanWell RD-35A.

The original Mitsumi SR98 PSU. The filter capacitor is bulged.

The MeanWell sits very nicely on the original frame of the Atari ST, almost as if it was made for that purpose. In order to mount it, I removed the original PSU and the insulator sheet below, and drilled two screw holes into the frame.

The terminals of the PSU can be either on the left or the right side. I decided for the left side, so the mains and mainboard power lines are cleanly separated and won't cross each other. I had to extend the wires to the mainboard for that, though.

I also took care that the PSU, the frame, and the shielding of the Atari ST are properly grounded. For that I had to add a ground wire from the metal frame to the ground terminal of the RD-35A.

A MeanWell RD-35A as replacement. Mains and output wiring is cleanly separated. It sits perfectly on the original frame. Wired properly. A terminal cover prevents touching the mains terminals.

To be honest, I like this modification much better than the original open frame design. With a 3D printed terminal cover, all hazardous parts are now sufficiently protected against accidental touching.

The machine was sold as "LED lights up, but otherwise untested". I usually refrain from using old and unrefurbished PSUs for testing, as they might damage the computer or might even explode in worst case. With the new PSU, it was now time for a first check if there are other damages. But I was lucky. The machine just booted up without problems. The only minor issue was that the Atari logo was black, which showed that the machine still had the original TOS 1.02 ROMs.

The about dialog, with a monochrome Atari logo.

The TOS came in two strange 96KB ROMs. In order to do a TOS upgrade, I had to replace them with six (!) 27C256 EPROMs. This requires soldering in four more sockets, and changing three solder pads. But I was going to change the electrolytic capacitors anyway.

Time for recapping.

Recapping is a routine procedure for me when refurbishing home computers. Some people think it's not necessary unless one of the capacitors is actually bulged or leaking. However electrolytic capacitors also dry out over the years, and are losing their capacity. The result is that the system is still working, but might be unstable, or the audio and video quality might be degraded. The used components have usually been of a simple quality, since home computers were designed to be used for a few couple of years only, and production had to be cheap.

For soldering in the sockets, I first had to open the pads. Since I was on it, I also opened the pads for a Blitter socket as preparation for adding a Blitter chip. I no longer pursued this plan though after I found the prices of NOS Blitters. 🤑 According to the feedback of Atari enthusiasts, the Blitter isn't really necessary anyway thanks to optimized CPU based routines. This is possible because, unlike on the Amiga, the Blitter is blocking the CPU during operation.

The Rainbow TOS 1.04 image was first split into an upper and lower half, and then each half was split again into three sections. I used my pynaroma tool for that, and then burned each section to an 27C256 EPROM, giving six EPROMs. When changing from two ROMs to six EPROMs, it's also necessary to set three solder pads from the "1M" to the "256K" configuration.

Recapping is done, and there are new sockets for the TOS EPROMs. Six 27C256 EPROMs. The three solder pads need to be changed as shown.

And that's it. The machine booted up again, and finally showed the Atari logo in rainbow colors.

Rainbow TOS 1.04

Since I never had an Atari ST before, I don't have any diskettes, and I'm also not too keen in making some. Fortunately Centuriontech GOEX drives are also available for Atari ST computers. It is a drop-in replacement for the original drive, but uses .st files on SD cards instead. The diskette file can be selected via an encoder and a tiny OLED display. The ST itself won't notice that there is no real floppy drive connected to it.

The floppy power cable turned out to be a bit too short on my machine, so I had to replace it with a longer one.

The OLED display is fixed to the case top with double-sided tape. The ribbon cable is then hot-glued inside, so it will sit nice and tight.

The Centuriontech GOEX drive. The OLED display cable is hot-glued on the inside. The cable will then sit nicely tight on the outside.

And that concludes the refurbishment of my new Atari ST. I'm happy to have it in my retro collection.

This is my refurbished Atari 1040STF.