SD card initialization and first test
The first thing to do is preparing the SD card. After a FAT32 formatting, I created a config file using the floppy emulator utility application.
As you can see in the picture above, you can configure many parameters, such as audio and LCD display settings, but the most important thing is the auto boot mode. By enabling this feature you can boot the Amiga with a custom application – AUTOBOOT.HFE – which allows you to browse the SD file system, select some disk images and assign them to a set of slots. After saving and rebooting you can select the disks assigned to the slots by pressing the emulator navigation buttons. If you wish to browse the SD filesystem directly from the HxC LCD display and buttons, just leave this feature off.
After configuring all the settings, the HxC application saves them into a HXCSDFE.CFG file. I chose to use autobooting, so i copied both HXCSDFE.CFG and AUTOBOOT.HFE (the Amiga version; there are also an Amstrad CPC and an Atari ST version) into the SD card.
Now the SD card is almost ready for the HxC emulator; it just needs some floppy disk images. The raw disk image format (adf) cannot be used, it must be first converted into the hfe format. I used the HxC utility software to convert a pair of adf files into hfe disk images and saved them into the SD card.
The last thing to do is connecting the HxC to the Amiga. I opened the case, removed the floppy drive and connected the drive and power cables to the HxC emulator, but after turning on the Amiga, the emulator doesn’t seem to work. There’s a problem with the floppy cable cause my Amiga model has got an inverted cable. I just reconnected the cable in the opposite direction and now the emulator works!
Integrating the HxC emulator inside the Amiga case
Now that I successfully tested the emulator, it’s time to install it inside the Amiga case. I’d like to put it in the floppy drive position, allowing the use of the floppy slot to insert and remove the SD card. I need first a floppy cable and a power cable of the right size, cause the original Amiga cables are too short.
1. Creating the floppy and power cables
I took two cables from an old desktop PC: a twisted floppy cable and a power cable. I will join the original Amiga power cable with the PC one to obtain a long enough cable.
I’m cutting the cables and then soldering each wire.
And now I can test the solderings.
Now I need to extract the three HxC control buttons and attach them into the Amiga case. I will desolder them from the HxC and mount them on a perfboard.
The little schematic below shows how to connect the microswitches once desoldered from the board:
Each microswitch has 4 pins but I connected only 2 pins cause the other 2 are redundant. Regarding to the orientation on the picture above, I connected a top pin of each button with a top node on the board and a bottom pin of each button with a bottom hole on the board.
3. Mounting the HxC inside the Amiga
I will install the HxC emulator in the position of the old floppy drive. I’ll try to leverage the floppy drive screw holes. I need to put the emulator board at the right height in order to allow the insertion of the SD card from the floppy disk slot. I’ll cut a little board of wood and use it as a platform for the HxC.
4. Mounting the LCD Display into the case
Looking at the pictures above, you probably noticed a gray rectangle in my Amiga case. It’s what remains from my first attempt at mounting the emulator display. My first idea, in fact, was to put the LCD near the Commodore logo, as I saw in one of the pictures I found in the Lotharek’s website.
Unfortunately, only after cutting the plastic cover with a hot kinfe and after hours spent smoothing the hole’s edges, I realized that there was absolutely no room for the LCD under that place.
After realizing that I cut the LCD hole in the wrong place, I tried to find some good way to fill it. I finally decided to use a plastic filler to fill it up.
As you can see, the filler did a good job but the final result was a bit ugly. Thus I decided to create a tag to cover the gray zone. I designed a little tag with some instructions describing the hoverhanging buttons functionalities.
Learning from the lesson of my previous mistake, this time I’m looking very carefully for another position where to put the LCD display. I finally found a place with enough room for the display near the upper left corner of the Amiga logo.
And now I need a cable for connecting the LCD to the emulator board. I decided to use a PC IDE cable. The 40 pin female connector fits exactly in the board’s LCD male pins. The problem is in the connection with the LCD female inputs. I bought some needle connectors and soldered them to the LCD cable’s wires.
After testing the cable, I finally installed the display into the Amiga case.
Here’s a video of the HxC in action: