Modding

Turning on my old Amiga

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I’m in Sicily, at my parents’ home, for Easter holidays. It’s time to wake up my old Amiga 500, which has been sleeping under a cellophane in the garage for the last fifteen years.

It’s everything where I left it: the Amiga 500, the original two button mouse, the Commodore 1084S RGB monitor, a joystick, the power supplier and all my floppies inside six disk boxes safely stored into a cabinet.

I picked up everything and connected all the cables. Now I’m ready to test the hardware.

  • First test: I turned on the power supplier and the monitor. The screen shows the boot sequence colors: dark gray, light gray, white, followed by the familiar hand keeping the workbench disk. OK.
  • Second test: I inserted a disk into the floppy drive. The drive starts making it’s typical loading noise, then makes a rapid noise burst and finally stops; the screen shows again the hand with workbench. I tried with another disk: same story. I tested all my floppies but no one worked; only a cracktro was loaded but not the game.

I have two ideas about this problem: it could be caused by the floppy drive heads or maybe the disks could be demagnetized. I hope for the former, cause the latter would mean that I lost all my old projects data.

Cleaning the floppy drive heads

Let’s try cleaning the floppy drive. I opened the case, removed the motherboard shield and extracted the drive.

The Amiga 500 motherboard

Then I removed the drive from its container and reached the heads. I cleaned them with cotton sticks and alcohol.

Floppy drive cleaning

Heads cleaning

After the cleaning I reassembled everything and tested again the drive. No changes, again the disks are not recognized.

At this point I’m afraid it’s a problem with my old floppies, but I still hope it could be a drive malfunction that my cleanings didn’t fix.

Next steps

I’ll try to find some way to test the disks and extract my old data. I found on the Internet a floppy disk controller, the Catweasel, which can allow a PC to read a great number of old disk formats using a standard PC floppy drive. It could be a good solution but I would need an IDE bus and a PC floppy drive which I don’t have. Plus, the catweasel is not very cheap and I would use it only once.

A better idea would be buying an external Amiga floppy drive (I found one on ebay for 25€) and use the Amiga itself to extract my data. Problem: I still need a primary drive in order to boot the system and load some data recovery applications (the Amiga can’t boot from the external floppy). Solution: I need to replace my internal floppy drive; a floppy drive emulator would be the perfect solution. After searching on the Internet, I found the HxC Floppy Drive Emulator, an open Amiga compatible drive emulator available both with USB and SD interface. I just ordered a SD version on Lotharek’s website.

And now I only need to wait for the external floppy and the emulator to arrive.

Resources

7 thoughts on “Turning on my old Amiga

  1. Paul Brown

    An alternative and cheaper solution to this problem would be to upgrade the Kickstart ROM. I assume this particular A500 has either a Kickstart 1.2 or 1.3 ROM. If you replaced this with a Kickstart 2 or 3 ROM, then you’d get additional features, including a boot menu which you can bring up by holding down both mouse buttons while the Amiga reboots. It would then allow you to select an external floppy drive as the boot drive. I think there also used to be adapters for sale which enabled you to do this even with Kickstart 1.3 or 1.2. If you could find a circuit diagram of one of these, then you sound like you could make one.

    Reply
    1. Giuseppe Post author

      Nice, i didn’t know about the boot menu of OS 2 and 3. Actually I’m planning to install a kickstart switcher to be able to experiment with different kickstarts while keeping the original 1.3 rom. This could be useful for installing an internal hard disk which needs a kickstart different from 1.3 for autobooting.

      Reply
  2. Alexander

    Wow, you’re lucky you kept your 500! I sold mine years ago
    Now i miss it, and wish i never sold it.
    Nice webpage, good info.
    Have fun with your A500! 😉

    Reply
  3. Sapa Holliday

    I have two Amiga 500’s in pieces. One of them has a 52mb HDD in it and on it is my dissertation from 1995 and all my essays. I want to retrieve the dissertation because it’s the only surviving copy. I use elementary – xenian – ubuntu linux self customised.
    The HDD is wired to the old Amiga for power and has an IDE socket. Do you think I can just connect it and retrieve the files as text files? I’ve done this with old hdd’s that have had other opsys’s on them like win98 and other linux versions.

    Reply

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