View Full Version : Just pulled my Amiga out the loft, looking to upgrade it a bit...
07-05-2005, 03:34 AM
Greetings and salutations, fellow Amiga owners. I was amazed when I stumbled across this site yesterday to find such a massive community of Amiga devotees - I thought the Amiga was very much a forgotten relic of the pre-Windows era.
Well, I decided to pull my old amiga out of the loft yesterday and fire it up - it was actually growning mould so first I took it apart, put the keyboard keys and chasis through the dishwasher and cleaned the insides and to my great relief it started up straight away. I put Treasure Island Dizzy in the disk drive and made the appropriate "aaahhhh yes! I remember this!" sounds with a nostalgic grin of satisfaction that can only come of being reunited with something you loved when you were younger.
My best friend had an Amiga when I was a kid, and I bought this one off a foolish buddy who wanted some alloy wheels or something equally less worthwhile than an Amiga about 8 or 9 years ago - I used it for about a year and then it found it's way into the loft due to space constraints where it has remained ever since. I don't even know what it is (A500, A600, A1200 etc.) because it doesn't say anywhere on the main unit and I don't have the box.
It has a Quickshot joystick (those were the best ones right?), a mouse and quite the ugliest Philips monitor you've ever seen. It used to have a second disk drive but I think that's vanished into the ether. It also has this metal riser thing that sits on top of the Amiga to hold the monitor. The VGA cable is has a scart connector on the other end so my next point of call is to see if I can connect it to my TV. And of course I have the obligatory three double-width disk boxes filled with an assortment of games, cover disks and utilities variously labled and unsorted.
So then I though, what next? It occurred to me that I have no idea how to use an Amiga any more other than to put a game in the drive and just hope it works. A quick glance around these forums tells me that the majority of this community is rather more up to speed on what you can do with an Amiga than I am. I don't want to use my Amiga as a functioning PC or anything - I have a laptop and an iMac for that - my interest in Amiga is strictly for nostalgic purposes. That said, I would like to supe it up a bit, get some more of the games I loved when I was younger and make it look like less of a museum piece in my Ikea-style living room.
So, questions. I have many but I'll start with the basics. Upgrades...
First off, how do I tell what Amiga I have? If I've got a shoddy old model, should I get a better one?
I know it doesn't have a hard disk because I've opened it. Can I / Should I get a hard disk? What will it do for me if I get one? How big? Can I get an internal one?
Memory upgrades / Other upgrade modules. I think there is some sort of upgrade module alredy in it - the panel on the bottom where you can plug something in has a circuit boad attached of some kind, how can I find out what it is? Can I / Should I get a better one? Is there anything else cool I can buy for it?
Should I be able to run an Amiga through a TV using Scart? How about through a TFT monitor? What's the best screen solution, because I simply have to got rid of my Philips dinosaur monitor and I want something stylish (speaking of which, if anybody wants an old Philips Amiga monitor and can pick it up from London, you're welcome to it).
Can you get any other new-fangled gadgets for an Amiga? How about an optical mouse for example? Is a second disk drive worth having? I seem to remember when I had one before that I never got it working.
What's the deal with Workbench? I've read about there being a version 1.3 and a version 3 - how do I know which one I have, how do I use it and if I have an old version, how do I upgrade?
Please forgive my newbie ignorance, I will pick things up and get to grips with my Amiga again - I just need a little help.
07-05-2005, 04:07 AM
Ok. 1st thing.
If its a "Wedge" style amiga, its proberbly an a500.
Does it have a C= logo (top right) or Commodore / Amiga ?
07-05-2005, 04:09 AM
And if you have taken the case off.. it normally says on the motherboard what model it is.
Welcome to A.org :-D
First off, how do I tell what Amiga I have?
If it's wedge-shaped with only two lights on the right (floppy and power) then it'll be an A500. The A600 has no numeric keypad. If it says "A1200" then it's one of them 8-) Desktop/tower Amigas should say the model on the front of them.
If I've got a shoddy old model, should I get a better one?
The A1200 is probably the most useful model (it can play AGA games) although you may run into trouble with very old games on it - nothing that cannot usually be worked around, though. An A4000 will be similar in the games it can play, but be far more expensive. An A500/600 should suffice for most older games.
Can I / Should I get a hard disk?
I've no idea how easy it is to fit a hard disk into an A500. An A1200 has space for a laptop-sized harddrive, although with care a full sized one can be added. This isn't needed for many old games (in fact, they won't often install without an extra program like WHDLoad) but is a must if you want to do anything a bit more serious.
Should I be able to run an Amiga through a TV using Scart?
Yep. For an A1200, get a composite (the yellow socket) to SCART converter. IIRC the A500 only has a monochrome composite output, so you'll need something that connects to the monitor output (you could use a modulator, although the quality is terrible and that wouldn't be SCART).
How about through a TFT monitor?
You probably won't be able to run games without something called a "scandoubler" - the Amiga's screen resolutions are at too low a refresh rate to work on monitors without a "TV in" otherwise.
What's the best screen solution
(Assuming that you mean "resolution") this isn't really an issue if you're only using games since they'll be using PAL/NTSC resolution. The most flexible display type is probably a "multiscan" monitor which can display TV signals as well as higher resolutions, although these are quite pricy.
Can you get any other new-fangled gadgets for an Amiga?
Sure - you can get PCI slots and a soundblaster if you're willing to pay for it :-D You won't really need anything else for playing classic games, however.
How about an optical mouse for example?
With the right converter, yes. Most optical mice seem to be USB nowadays, and while you can give your Amiga USB, it might not be worth it if you can find a decent non-USB mouse. Don't be tempted to plug an old PC serial mouse into the Amiga's game port though.
Is a second disk drive worth having?
They're great for games with multiple disks (e.g. the old LucasArts adventures, although many of these can be installed to a hard drive, which is even better).
What will it do for me if I get one?
You can prevent disk-swapping by installing games and apps, and it'll make the Amiga far nicer to use as a more serious machine.
You cannot use more than 4Gb without a much newer version of the OS, although you wouldn't need this unless you want to use the machine for what you'd use a PC for, IMO.
've read about there being a version 1.3 and a version 3 - how do I know which one I have
Turn on the Amiga and wait - it should say (if there's a hand holding a disk, it's an old version, if its a disk being inserted into a drive its newer).
how do I use it
Insert your "workbench disk" (if you can only find the master copy, make a backup ASAP). Wait a while for disk activity to stop, and you'll end up with a screen like any modern OS - double-click on icons to open them. Insert a disk (you can remove the WB one now) and it's icon will appear. AmigaOS menus are activated by holding down the right-mouse button and moving the mouse to the top of the screen. For instance, to rename a file, click it once, go to the "icon menu", "rename" (still holding down the right button) and then release it. Extra tools and utilities are held on the "Extras" disk. Note that you won't need WB if you're only using old games.
how do I upgrade
You'd need to open up the Amiga and insert new ROM chips. All your old games should work on 1.3, and if you've got an A1200 it'll have at least 3.0 which'll do fine. 3.1/3.0 (or at least 2.0) is fairly essential for serious stuff (e.g. with a harddrive).
Edited 11:18 UTC
07-05-2005, 05:04 AM
There are two types: wedge and desktop types:
Wedges are usually the A500, A500+, A600 or A1200.
The A600 is distinctive as it has no numeric keypad.
A500, A500+ is the largest and the oldest shapes.
The A1200 is newer and is much narrower than the A500.
It may tell you what model it is due to legend on the top right near the floppy drive.
When you boot up, it will ask for a Workbench disk and possibly the Workbench version required e.g. 1.3, 2.0 or 3.0 or 3.1.
The A600 and A1200 have a small IDE port inside, so you can easily add a 2.5" or a 3.5" (with some modification) drive.
I stuck with 2.5" as they fit nice and smuggly and don`t require extra power. They also have PCMCIA Card slots on the left hand side.
An A500 has no hard drive controller, so they usually are added via an extra box on left hand side via expansion port.
They are difficult to get hold of now.
Let us know which model you have so we can advise further.
07-05-2005, 11:42 AM
What a great list of responses just in the time I've been at work! Thanks guys! Ok, let me reply one at a time.
It has a C= logo in the top right corner and it's wedge-shaped. Presumably that means I have an A500.
Thanks for the clarification.
It has a C= logo in the top right corner and it's wedge-shaped. Presumably that means I have an A500.
Yep - here's an A500 (http://www.geoff.org.uk/museum/images/Amiga500.jpg) (for comparison, here's an A500+ (http://www.abc80.net/pics/a500_plus1.jpg) - notice the different sticker)
07-05-2005, 12:22 PM
Sure does :D
Proberbly Kickstart 1.3 / 1.2, one of the older desktop amiga's.
Is there anything in the "trapdoor" slot underneath it?
07-05-2005, 12:29 PM
Thank's very much for the incredibly detailed response, it is very much appreciated. Ok, on the basis of what you have said I have determined that I have an Amiga A500 with Workbench 1.3. I have two original disks for Workbench and a disk marked Workbench Backup Copy so that can't be bad, and I tried one of them - it seemed to work.
The cable which connects to my monitor goes from the VGA port and stereo phonos on the back of the Amiga into a scart socket on the monitor so I assumed I would be able to plug that straight into my TV but that didn't work so in order to connect via scart to a regular TV I suppose you're telling me I need to get an A1200 which has a composite socket. So what do most people use as a display for an A500? Presumably a TV and an RF connection? Or some old monitor like the one I have.
It sounds as though a better setup would be to get hold of an Amiga 1200 with a hard disk and a second floppy drive - a quick look on eBay tells me I could pick up the A1200 for about £25 + postage or maybe £70 all in. Having said that, as all I want to do is play old games, the only thing I would get from an A1200 might be the ability to plug it into a regular TV via scart.
Thanks again for all your advice, its certainly given me some food for thought.
07-05-2005, 12:31 PM
There is indeed something in the trapdoor underneath it, although I wouldn't like to try and tell you what it is. It's about 3" squared circuitboard but beyond that I have no clue...
07-05-2005, 02:53 PM
Most games run on your setup.
A500 (with a little more memory) is perfect for running most games.
That is you should at least upgrade your rom to 2.04 or even better 3.1(vesalia.de or amigakit.com).
And you should get your hands on a A590 or similar which off course can be expensive.
You could go for the 1200 which you should buy with harddisk otherwise it will not be easy to find yourself a small and reliable harddisk which will work correctly with te 1200(size not bigger then 4GB and powerconsuption not to high and must spin up fast so you should,t reboot at cold start).
07-06-2005, 01:39 AM
The small circuitboard in the trapdoor is most likely a memoryexpansioncard. Most trapdoor RAM-expansions were 512 KB, effectively doubling the amount of ram your A500 has. Many of them also hold a realtime clock (including battery).
If you just want to play games: stay with what you got, although an extra (external) diskdrive is very nice to have. Not only for playing games, but also for making the highly important backups of the disks you have.
You don't need extra ram, new roms, a harddisk or whatever if your just playing games. Al those things _can_ make life easier, but most games will not make any use of them.
Things to consider:
- make sure what type of Amiga you have. It appears you have an A500, but make sure it is;
- chances are the ramcard in the trapdoorexpansion has a battery backedup clock. Chances are the battery is leaking and thus damaging the circuitboard. Check the battery for leaking and remove it if it does;
- get an extra (external) diskdrive.
07-06-2005, 01:59 AM
The cable which connects to my monitor goes from the VGA port and stereo phonos on the back of the Amiga into a scart socket on the monitor so I assumed I would be able to plug that straight into my TV but that didn't work so in order to connect via scart to a regular TV I suppose you're telling me I need to get an A1200 which has a composite socket.
No, a cable like the one you have should be fine. The problem with these cables is that they are not always completely wired - so it may be sending out RGB through the scart, but not composite. Most TVs only have one scart capable of RGB, so if yours has more than one scart socket, try the other one.
The other option is to get a new scart lead (you should be able to make one up or adapt yours using the information here (http://www.cc86.org/~pjf/hwb/ca_AmigaScart.html)), or buy a new TV. :evilgrin:
07-06-2005, 02:23 AM
The ULTIMATE old gaming amiga system would be:
an A1200 with an internal 4+GB HDD , a 68030 accel with some 8+MB fastmem and a registered copy of WHDLOAD... perhaps u can get os3.9 and a pcmcia network card to transfer files between the amiga and the pc... I can't believe noone suggested it... why spent money on kickstarts/a590 and such things, when u can get a nice 030 a1200 ??? :-?
07-06-2005, 02:37 AM
Totally agree with Keropi
An A500 blows...to costy to upgrade with a harddrive, fast ram etc and you can't play any AGA games on it.
Imho the ultimate gaming machine is an A4000 with a Cybervision 64 gfx card, flickerfixer/scandoubler and a network card so you both can have nice resolution and pass thru for the native screenmodes.
And you can d/l games directly thru your amiga since you can connect to the internet..but this is not the cheapest solution but the price isn't too hefty
07-06-2005, 03:11 AM
Is there anything written on that Expansion card?
07-06-2005, 03:33 AM
How much memory does it say you have when you boot Workbench?
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