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Amiga Hardware Hacking

New Plastic For Old Amigas and Commodores 128

Ichijo writes: Several years ago, Slashdot reported that the Amiga community had developed a way to restore old, yellowed ABS plastic to like-new condition, and they put the recipe for the gel, dubbed Retr0bright, into the public domain. Since then, it was discovered that the effect of the gel is only temporary, and plastic treated with the gel soon reverts to its original yellowed state even when efforts are made to block it from additional UV light.

Now, Amiga enthusiast Philippe Lang has created a new Kickstarter campaign to design and build new, improved molds for Amiga 1200 housings and do a licensed production run using anti-UV ASA plastic in the original color plus black, transparent, and 9 other colors. His team is also investigating the feasibility of producing new Amiga 1200 keyboards if this campaign succeeds. This follows a successful production run by Commodore 64 enthusiasts of new C64c housings using the original injection molds and new C64 motherboards designed to modern standards and production methods. And a new Amiga 1200 clone motherboard is also in the works.
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New Plastic For Old Amigas and Commodores

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  • I'm sure we'd all be O.K. with HDMI out instead of RF video. And, you could include an Atari 800 and whatever other emulators you want in there, too.

    • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @11:09PM (#50756081)

      If you read the kickstarter, the new molds will include mounting holes inside for a Raspberry Pi, as well as another keyboard controller board.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yep, they also added a bunch of other cutouts and stuff.
        For most of them they aren't visible from the outside and only act as guides if you want to cut out holes for extra connectors.

        The change I don't like is the hole made for the IDE-CF-adapter that adds an extra cutout over the PCMCIA slot.
        I prefer an internal SSD and don't use that expansion, that hole will just be ugly without providing any extra benefit. This means that I prefer to stick with my old case.
        I still consider throwing some money towards th

    • by glitch! ( 57276 )

      I really miss Populous on the Amiga. If I could buy an emulator and the original game, I would be happy to spend the money. I tried (really!) to like the Playstation version, but I could not. It has to be the original Amiga version.

      • by damnbunni ( 1215350 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @12:21AM (#50756263) Journal

        I'm not sure about where to get Amiga Populous legally, but you CAN buy an emulator: http://www.amigaforever.com/ [amigaforever.com]

        Of course you could just download WinUAE by itself, but Amiga Forever includes licensed ROM and Workbench disk files for most versions of AmigaOS. It's also got a wizard for setup; handy if you're not used to fiddling with emulators. WinUAE has a lot of obscure, arcane, and weird settings. (Amigas had a lot of obscure, arcane, and weird hardware to emulate.)

        If you just want the original Populous and don't much care that it's the Amiga version specifically, GOG.com has the PC port of the original game for $6.

        The Playstation game was a later sequel, not a port of the original. Give the GOG version a shot.

        • WinUAE does include a free ROM that comes from the AROS project. It's not 100% compatible but many hardware-banging games will be OK.
      • You can - Populous is available here [exotica.org.uk] (with the permission of the publisher), and a number of Amiga emulators are also available there. If you don't have a legal set of ROMs and Kickstart/Workbench disks, I would recommend Amiga Forever [amigaforever.com], which is not expensive and will have everything you need.
      • I really miss Populous on the Amiga. If I could buy an emulator and the original game, I would be happy to spend the money. I tried (really!) to like the Playstation version, but I could not. It has to be the original Amiga version.

        What's wrong with the DOS version? As far as I can tell, it's not really any different. Ditto for Populous 2. I have an A1200 with Pop2, and I have Pop2 for DOS, and if there's a perceptible difference I can't remember what it is. I don't have Pop1 for Amiga any more so I can't compare those.

      • > I really miss Populous on the Amiga.

        The PC VGA version was pretty good too.

        I wonder what ever happened to my Populous Level Name Generator ... it would print out all the World Names for every level. :-) Was quite handy because when you beat a level you would jump +2 or +3 levels ahead.

    • I haven't used RF video on any of my Amigas in about 20 years since it's pretty rubbish and far better options were available as standard.

      As others have said though, this case also works for the Raspberry Pi and Pi 2.

  • The original commie keyboards really, really sucked, so that part is good. I sure wish there was an updated SX-64 keyboard because I have 4 SX-64s that could all use one.

    But really, how many Amiga guts are out there to house in these new cases? Will this make all-original Amigas that still run really really valuable to collectors over time?

    • You have *four* SXs? What's wrong with the keyboards? You mean they're missing? I guess that's why you got 4 of them, without the keyboard they're pretty cheap. You can plug in a 128D keyboard, it works, but they're just as hard to find. Some monkey on eBay is selling each key separately it seems.

      • I'm pretty sure they all have partially functional keyboards. I really need to tear one down (*carefully*) and see what I would need to do to fix them. I got four SX-64s when the place I worked finally scrapped them out from the lab where they were used for actual lab testing computers.

    • But really, how many Amiga guts are out there to house in these new cases?

      Probably a lot, because people tend to be passionate about Amigas and don't want to throw them away. I've been dragging around an A1200 that I don't use through several moves. I was going to send it to someone but it was too much hassle to find a box and by the time I got myself worked up to actually do it I'd forgotten who they were. ISTR it's not too hard to hack a different keyboard onto the Amiga, but it's been a while since I've done any Amiga hacking so I might be misremembering.

      Will this make all-original Amigas that still run really really valuable to collectors over time?

      Over enough time, sure

  • by Anonymous Coward

    we'd all 3D print these at home with digitally downloaded anti-Luddite files?

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      we'd all 3D print these at home with digitally downloaded anti-Luddite files?

      Which is a very apt comment, as people just like you were writing off home computers as toys thirty years ago. 'What can you do on them? Oh, play games you say? What's that little blob chasing the other little blob and firing dots supposed to be? What do you mean they're tanks? What a load of crap. They'll never amount to anything.'

  • Case signatures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pipedwho ( 1174327 ) on Sunday October 18, 2015 @11:29PM (#50756141)

    Remember the signatures of the designers that were molded onto the inside of the original Amiga 1000 enclosures? Well, I see an update on that kickstarter page that the new A1200 boxes will get a similar treatment with at least one signature.

    I still fondly remember the day back in the mid '80s when I opened up my first Amiga and found those signatures. It showed the designers really cared about what they'd created.

    Kind of like the 'easter egg' hidden in a later version of Workbench that after a magic disk/in/out/mouse/press/etc incantation, would put up the message "We made Amiga, they f*cked it up". Implying they == Commodore.

    I must dust off my old hardware and check out this kickstarter page in more detail.

  • I'd kind of like an ATX-compatible clone of an Amiga 2000 case. Or an Amiga 4000 Tower.

    I have a Sam440ep-flex board that I'd love to put into something that looks more Amiga-ish than the generic black case it's in now.

    And putting a gaming-grade PC in one would have amusement potential as well.

    • The Amiga 4000T uses a standard AT form factor motherboard. Both Commodore and ESCOM shipped it in an Enlight full AT tower case. If it wasn't for the Commodore/Amiga branded on the front, it looked like a run of the mill PC clone!
      • It's not really any easier to cram an ATX motherboard into an AT case than an Amiga 2000 case.

        Either way, you have to hacksaw a big hole in the back and fabricate mounts.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @12:10AM (#50756241)

    I have a C64-Reloaded board with one of the newly produced transparent C64C cases. I have to admit it looks pretty cool.
    I only had to find a broken C64 to salvage the keyboard and chips from it. ...and that's kinda of a problem. For all the replacement boards and cases for these retro projects... there are no replacement KEYBOARDS or chips.

    For this A1200 replacement board and case, there are no replacement keyboards. You have to rip an old one apart to put one together - or find a broken one and refurbish it.

    It's a pity that we can't completely rebuild these computers part for part without salvaging broken units.
    Indeed in the case of the C64, the chips are hard to replace or replicate exactly (particularly the SID sound chip, which is highly sought after by electronic musicians)

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @12:30AM (#50756291)
    My experience says that electrolytic caps dry out after 20-30 years, which is the age of these machines. Not sure what else goes bad, I haven't worked on old hardware for about 20 years now.

    Did /. really change 'Reply', which tells me I'm replying to the current article, with 'Post', which tells me I'm creating a new story? Dafuq Dice, are you driving anybody with more than 12 happily co-existing neurons out?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The electrolytics are few and easy to replace. Bring your Amiga to the next Amiga meetup and someone there could help you replace them.
      Most people who still uses an Amiga are pretty apt at soldering.
      Some replace them with new electrolytics, but these days there are ceramics within spec.

      Much more important is to check the clock battery, it will fail and leak acid over your MB way before the capacitors start to act up.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well they usually change those caps. youtube is full of vids. bigger risk is batteries for RTC leaking all over the mainboard really, ruining it.

      but people seem to forget that they would turn yellow in 2-4 years when they were new too so it's not that surprising retrobrighted stuff is turning back yellow I'd think.. not really that much of a problem imho. and I'd wager theres more amiga cases going around than amiga motherboards(simple mathematics)

      • The thing is, it's sunlight/UV that turned the cases yellow in the first place, and the Retr0brited stuff is turning back yellow far, far faster than the initial yellowing - and it's doing it even if the computer was stored in an opaque cardboard box.

        Weirder, if the original yellowing was uneven - say, if there was a sticker on the case that blocked light, so that spot was less yellowed - Retr0brite would make the whole case the same non-yellow color.. and when it re-yellows, the 'less faded' marking is bac

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Monday October 19, 2015 @01:03PM (#50759433)

          The thing is, it's sunlight/UV that turned the cases yellow in the first place, and the Retr0brited stuff is turning back yellow far, far faster than the initial yellowing - and it's doing it even if the computer was stored in an opaque cardboard box.

          No, it's not the UV that's doing it directly.

          It's the flame retardants put in the plastic that make it yellow, specifically, Bromine-based retradants. The plastic is mixed with it, and over time the bromine compounds change and brown the plastic, encouraged by UV breakdown of the plastic.

          Modern plastic doesn't do that because we don't bother with fire retardants anymore - if you want to see a story that played out like tobacco, lead and now climate change - the big chemical companies did the whole "without flame retardants your house will burn up instantly" thing. Complete with family-friendly lobby groups funded by the chemical companies. In the end, it turns out the health of the children won out especially since the flame retardants, while they worked, didn't really do all that much in the grand scheme of things. Because when the room's on fire anyways...

          • by Agripa ( 139780 )

            In the end, it turns out the health of the children won out especially since the flame retardants, while they worked, didn't really do all that much in the grand scheme of things. Because when the room's on fire anyways...

            The flame retardants also make the combustion products significantly more dangerous then the natural fibers or even some plastics alone.

    • That's... not entirely correct. I have a wooden-cased NorthStar Horizon [wikipedia.org] (with massive linear PSU including massive electrolytic caps) which works perfectly when I fire it up. That machine was made in 1978.

      • The capacitors in a linear supply aren't really as critical. A switching supply, esp. one from the Amiga era, is going to just not want to spin up with badly leaking capacitors. A linear supply will power up with ripple and the caps will often form up gradually. Plus the quality of components in a 1978 machine is likely to be higher. The real problems with aluminum electrolytics started with the race-to-the-bottom PC clone market that came later.

        • Plus the quality of components in a 1978 machine is likely to be higher. The real problems with aluminum electrolytics started with the race-to-the-bottom PC clone market that came later.

          I really thought that 1980's vintage caps were just as good as 1970's.

          Regarding the Amiga switching power supply: this thread, I thought, wasn't really concerned about that very specific case, but the electrolytic capacitors on the boards themselves? Maybe I should re-read the whole thread. I mean, even if the elkos in the Amiga switching PSU go puff, it's the easiest component to replace - we have all kinds of PSUs for peanuts, nowadays.

          • I meant more than just a machine-to-machine comparison. A 1978 computer of relatively high capability was a big expensive thing. The owner probably paid $1000 for the 32K memory card. So it probably has a high quality OEM linear power supply made by one of the companies that specializes in making high quality power supplies. Power One, or Kepco, or Thoradson. One of those big 12 ga. aluminum block linear supplies that were popular in that era.

            The Amiga has a power supply on a single-sided phenolic boar

        • by Agripa ( 139780 )

          The real problems with aluminum electrolytics started with the race-to-the-bottom PC clone market that came later.

          Capacitor quality has not gotten worse. What changed is that the ripple current requirements are much higher with switching power supplies and the capacitors are selected for ESR to minimize switching ripple instead of capacitance to achieve a minimum holdup time between power line cycles. In the later case, the capacitor's ripple current rating will not be the limitation but in the former cas

    • I had to recap an Amiga 4000 desktop that I acquired. I would be far more concerned about any leaking batteries though. Leaking Ni-cad batteries do FAR more damage to PCBs than the caps usually do.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 19, 2015 @12:42AM (#50756319)

    But how can we use this to encourage more women to join STEM fields?

    • by robi5 ( 1261542 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @02:39AM (#50756547)

      I'm gonna whoosh on this but there was something about the approachability of computers for kids in the Commodore era. Kids of course including girl kids too. You took out a keyboard-sized device, plugged it in the wann and a tv, switched it on mechanically, and you were instantly greeted with a REPL prompt. There was no facebook or web or 'online', so you had a chance to explore what it does, do some programming initially with a book or magazine article on the side, and of course gaming.

      Now, a kid has to wade through lots and lots of unappealing layers (the OS, installing some language, selecting its application etc.) and alternative diversions (social, slashdot etc.) and the programming part, to a beginner, can feel really artificial, they can't create anything like what surrounds them on the desktop.

      So, in the past, using a personal computer typically meant programming, and the meaning first shifted to using Lotus / Excel / Word, then to just browsing. From programming, to content creation, to content consumption.

    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      Excellent pun sir, well done.
    • If you want to get more girls into computing, then it would have to be a BBC Micro - curse of Sophie, and all that...

    • Well, in french, a boy is called a "gars" (pronounced "ga", pretty much), so I suggest coming up with an Amiga clone called "Amifille".
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @12:45AM (#50756329)

    I owned a Commodore and an Atari, there were some great games for each of them.

    My Atari was outfitted with the "Happy Drive", does anyone remember that? :) You could copy any game with one of those, and I do mean any game, regardless of all the funky copy protection schemes they came up with. Missing sectors, duplicate sectors, "fuzzy" sectors, sectors written outside the normal cylinders, etc etc.

    My old Atari has been stored in a box for so long I'd be afraid to turn it on for fear of something blowing up (like the electrolytic caps). I have tons of cartridges and loads and loads of floppies, all lovingly stored away. I have no idea if the floppies could even be read now, but who knows. Sectors were gigantic back then so they might just still be recoverable.

    I know there are software emulators out there for it, but a new Atari hardware gadget or re-make or whatever would be something I'd probably pony up some bucks for.

    • I have tons of cartridges and loads and loads of floppies, all lovingly stored away. I have no idea if the floppies could even be read now, but who knows. Sectors were gigantic back then so they might just still be recoverable.

      I've found ancient C64 floppies that still work today. If they've been well cared for, or just left in a well protected environment for years, you might still have some success. Do the Atari community a favor and try to preserve some of your software, especially if it's rare and undumped.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, you could just have one 3D Printed now...

  • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @01:33AM (#50756415) Homepage
    I would like mine yellowish.
  • by countach ( 534280 ) on Monday October 19, 2015 @04:23AM (#50756715)

    Why????

    • Why not? Some people like using their Amigas for some retro gaming fun. I regularly have some Sensible Soccer tournaments for example. While my Amigas aren't that yellow and I'm not that bothered about their appearance, it would be nice for some people to be able to roll out their Amigas with a brand new case. Think of it like people buying new panels to replace battered or rusty ones on their old cars.

    • The people hanging onto these old systems are doing so not just for nostalgia but for posterity. They're interested in keeping them in original condition so future generations know what they were really like. Including the color.

      Did you know the Statue of Liberty wasn't originally green?
  • Well how about the Amiga500 which sold much MUCH more units than the 1200 (which was as I recall the last available version)..
    • I'm not sure, but I'd say the A1200 might be more popular these days. It's much easier to expand and more powerful, which means it can run a lot of games better. Also, you can add a CF card as an SSD for about €10 and slap all your games on that for instant retro goodness without having to deal with floppy disks or floppy emulators.

      Another possibility is that the A1200s were white whereas the A500s were beige, so maybe the yellowing is worse for the A1200 and most A500 owners are happy enough with the

  • I hear they have this stuff called "paint" now. If you're going to all the trouble to remove the plastics, just take them outside and shoot them with some Krylon Fusion. Your PC can be any color you like. Granted, it can't make things transparent, but it can handle the other colors. If the color you want doesn't come in fusion, use it as a midcoat. It'll give normal spray paint adhesion.

  • I loved my Amiga's. I owned a 1000, 500, 2000, 1200 and a 4000. When the writing was on the wall of its demise in the mid 90's, I held on too, hoping that it wouldn't die, but in 1999 embraced Linux, and sold everything Amiga. Isn't it time to say goodbye?
  • Anyone else just get an email from .. Software Hut?! What is this, Amiga Nostalgia Day?

    (This might be a first, BTW: I'm usually annoyed by unsolicited email, but this one made me smile.)

  • After you remove the oxidized layer, you have to protect it from being yellowed again. That's why those headlight renewal kits have a liquid you wipe on afterward-- it's a clear coat. I'd try using whatever that stuff is on your case after you "clean" it. Or, you could try something mundane like polyurethane spray, but it'll likely add a sheen to the case and you'll probably want to remove the guts first or at least plug up the ports and the vents from the inside.
  • clean the plastic with a rag and Brasso copper cleaner, afterwards use another rag to wipe it clean, use spray paint to repaint. (anyone having a commodore should be able to type blindly)

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