Getting into Amiga – The Missing Pieces

So, I now had an Amiga 500 of my very own, but I only had the computer itself. I’d need a few more things to be able to turn it on, never mind actually use it.

First and foremost, I’d need a power supply. It’s not too difficult to find original Amiga power bricks on eBay despite them often going for quite a bit more than I personally think they’re worth. Regardless, this is one component where I’d prefer to go with something more modern as I’ve read that these 30 odd year old power supplies fail frequently, and I’ve personally seen enough other power supplies fail in my life to absolutely believe those claims. While a failure would most likely just mean having to deal with the expense and inconvenience of hunting down a replacement, I’d rather not risk frying my Amiga or, worse, burning down my house.

Thankfully there are quite a variety of third party power supplies out there that are made specifically for Amigas. Unfortunately none of them come close to matching the Amiga 500’s design, and there’s just something about that original chunky, beige brick that feels essential to the aesthetic of the whole setup. There’s also the question of the quality of these newer power supplies. Obviously, I wouldn’t be doing myself any favors if I ended up buying something that was just as likely to fail after all. Fortunately I stumbled onto a solution that satisfies both of these concerns.

Amiga 500 Sleeper PSU!

For years Amiga hobbyists have been gutting their dead power bricks and replacing their innards with more modern power supplies, and I stumbled upon someone on eBay who was selling just that. An original Amiga 500 power supply that had been “upgraded” to a Mean Well PT65B. Mean Well is a company that specializes in switching power supplies for a variety of applications, mostly industrial, and several of their models make nearly perfect Amiga power supplies right out of the box. The PT65B should be quieter, cooler, more efficient, and provide me with way more wattage than I’ll ever need regardless of what upgrades I end up throwing its way. I even managed to track down a video of one of the seller’s earlier attempts to build one of these on YouTube. I do have some minor concerns about how well it will handle having too low of a load, but overall I’m quite satisfied with this one.

Next comes the mouse. Amiga mice use the old Atari joystick specification which, despite often using the same DE-9 connector, works entirely differently than serial, so no digging through my PC parts bin for an easy fix, sadly. Again, eBay had a few of the original “tank mouse” style mice that came with the Amiga 500 but there was a surprising amount of competition around those auctions and all of the more reasonably priced ones seemed to disappear right around the time I started searching. While I was determined to have an original Amiga mouse, I wasn’t necessarily all too concerned about which one, and the tank mouse looked like it would be fairly uncomfortable anyway, so I ended up grabbing the cheapest Amiga mouse I could find.

Alfa Data Amiga MegaMouse

You’d think this would be one of the easiest things on my shopping list, but in my haste I did a bit of a half-ass job researching varieties of Amiga mice and from its appearance and seeing what looked like a genuine Commodore stamp on the bottom of the mouse, I’d assumed this was some variation of Amiga 600/1200/4000 mouse. When it arrived in the mail, I opened it up to give it a good clean and had to scratch my head upon seeing no other signs that it was actually a Commodore mouse. In fact, the more I looked into it, the less sure I was about what I’d actually purchased. I did some digging, and it turns out that this is actually Alfa Data “MegaMouse” and not a genuine Amiga mouse at all. A bit of a bummer that I can rectify sometime in the future, but for now I have something that should work at least.

Next up is the 512KB RAM trapdoor expansion card I mentioned in my last update. The A501 was the first party 512KB RAM expansion most people had, but given that they also included a real time clock with a soldered barrel battery that is prone to leaking everywhere, most people opt to replace them with one of the numerous third party RAM expansion cards these days. Mostly because it was conveniently available from Amiga on The Lake, I ended up with this Kipper2K card which adds an additional 512KB of “slow” RAM to an Amiga 500 (or 1MB to an Amiga 500 Plus) and leaves the real time clock optional. Installing it is simply a matter of inserting it into the “trapdoor” expansion port on the bottom of the A500. Simple and cheap.

Installing the Kipper2k 1MB Amiga 500 Plus RAM Expansion

Last but definitely not least, I’d need to worry about how to connect this thing to a monitor. I’d originally mentioned this issue as one of my specific reasons for deciding to not acquire an actual Amiga, and now it was time to face that music.

The Amiga’s horizontal refresh rate is the main problem. I always keep my 486 setup on my desk which includes a 17” CRT monitor, and I’d prefer to use a CRT anyway for authenticity’s sake, but while CRTs typically support a wide range of refresh rates and resolutions, very few go as low as the Amiga’s native 15.75khz horizontal refresh rate. One solution could be to seek out a monitor that does, perhaps an Amiga specific monitor like a Commodore 1084 for instance, but I really don’t need another CRT in my office, and going with a classic model like that would introduce a slew of additional old age concerns to go along with the ones I’ve just avoided with my new power supply.

To use this monitor, or even a newer flat panel monitor for that matter, I’ll need some sort of a “flicker fixer” or “scandoubler” to, well, double that “scan rate” to something my monitor could handle. I knew there were a lot of solutions for connecting Amigas to modern monitors, from internal modifications and open source boards to expensive commercial devices, but what I wasn’t expecting was how unavailable most of them currently are. I have a few models of these things set as “saved searches” on my eBay account that still haven’t shown up once in over a year if that tells you anything. Many of the boards and devices made specifically for Amigas are no longer being produced, and even then, in-depth technical reviews of them usually reveal that few of them are anywhere close to flawless.

Corei64 GBS-8200 Scan Doubler

In the end I went with something of a stopgap solution, opting for decent and cheap, and easy to acquire at that, the infamous GBS-8200. I saw quite a lot of people selling these online, not always disclosing what they were, but ended up going with one sold by Corei64 that comes in a nice little case, pre-wired for the Amiga’s RGB port, and pre-programmed for both NTSC and PAL Amiga video modes. How satisfied I’ll be with this remains to be seen, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for superior solutions.

So with all of that out of the way, does it work?

First power on of my new Amiga 500!

Yes, it works!

Next time, a couple of big upgrades…

1. My sleeper modern PSU. Looks just like the real thing!
2. The mystery mouse. Can you blame me for thinking it was an actual Amiga mouse?
3. Tossing another 512KB RAM into the trapdoor.
4. My GBS-8200 from Corei64 in all its 3D printed glory.
5. I made it to the Kickstart screen! Don’t mind the weird grey void outside, my camera just hated the lighting here.

Getting into Amiga – The Big Twist!

What’s a good story without an unexpected twist?

After already deciding to go the FPGA route and even placing orders for a MIST and everything I’d need for it (a power supply, some SD cards, and a dedicated USB keyboard and mouse, mainly) a thread about Amiga emulation I’d previously started on Zer0net resulted in Frank (AKA Netsurge of The Diskshop and SciNet) generously offering to send me an NTSC Amiga 500 for the cost of shipping it from Canada. In spite of the numerous reasons I’d concluded that I didn’t want to dive into the deep end of collecting genuine Amiga hardware just yet, how could I possibly pass up what was essentially a free Amiga?

The Amiga 500 might not be the most sought-after model of Amiga, sure, but it is the classic model that most people picture first when they think of an Amiga computer, and really the model that kicked off Amiga’s most successful years. It’s the most common model so there’s a wide array of peripherals, compatible software, and modifications. The Amiga 500 also has the added benefit of not typically needing to be “re-capped” quite as desperately as most other models, which is always a concern when dealing with such old hardware. On top of all of that, it is indeed the Amiga I most pined for as a kid. Of course I accepted Frank’s offer!

My Amiga 500 Just Unpacked

I picked up the package one afternoon after a long day at work and, despite my exhaustion, wasted no time ripping open the box like a kid on Christmas morning. After almost 30 years of wanting one I finally had a Amiga 500 sitting in front of me. Along with the incomparably talented and influential Ungennant agreeing to do the ANSI art for Darkness 2.0, getting my hands on this Amiga 500 was one of the happier moments I’ve had with this hobby in my adult years. I was seriously giddy.

I could immediately tell from the Commodore logo sticker, and verified by the mushy feel of the keyboard, that this wasn’t one of the more sought-after “chicken lips” variations of Amiga 500 with one variety of mechanical keyboard or another, but I really wouldn’t expect Frank to let one of those slip through his fingers so easily. No major damage, and surprisingly it had all of its expansion covers and even all of its rubber feet still intact. Frank hadn’t done much with it yet, though he had tested it, cleaned it up a little, and even used it in an article he wrote about “retrobrighting”. The keys on the keyboard could probably use another round, but overall the machine was in great shape.

Inside of My Amiga 500

Naturally, the idea of installing some more exotic upgrades, accelerators and the like, had occurred to me, so I wanted to verify the revision of this Amiga as soon as possible to see what my options were. I opened it up and found the inside to be nice and clean with no obvious signs of weird hacks, bulging capacitors, or anything else amiss. According to the printing on the board itself and serial number sticker carelessly slapped on top of it, this Amiga is a revision 5 manufactured in 1988. Good! This shouldn’t pose any compatibility concerns going forward other than some issues with newer Kickstart ROMs (the so-called “oops” bug) which I’m not too concerned with for now.

This is about where you’d expect me to plug it in and turn it on, of course, but the one compromise in acquiring this Amiga (there’s always a compromise!) was that, while it might have been cleaned and freshly retrobrighted, it would arrive lacking a power supply, a mouse, or the 512KB trapdoor memory expansion that most Amiga 500s either came with or were quickly upgraded with. Very minor problems, I think, and given the cost of the computer itself, the price to hunt down these components is easy enough to justify.

That comes next!

1. My new Amiga 500, freshly unpacked. Thanks Frank! ❤
2. Getting a little artistic with a shot of the mainboard. Beauty, eh?

Distortion Improvement Project (2020)

Summer is here and change is in the air. I’ve just completed a lengthy list of, for the most part, long overdue updates and changes to my BBS, Distortion. While realizing my task list was growing quite long, I jokingly dubbed it the “Distortion Improvement Project”… and here we are. Yeah, I realize I’ve yet to really post much about Distortion here, and I’ll correct that soon enough, but the chronology of this blog comes down to wherever my mind is at the time, and you should know I struggle with ADHD. 😉 While this information is mostly only interesting to Distortion users (and I know there’s a few of you reading this blog!) I’d also like to document the process of doing some of these changes, particularly the modding work, so if anything in this list jumps out as interesting to you, please leave a comment or drop me a line some other way and I may accommodate you in a future post.

D1st by Radman and Mattmatthew

  • SSH is now available to all users on TCP port 22. SSH is gated back into telnet over Distortion’s local network so that door games and other externals will still work properly. Viva la encryption!
  • Replaced our locally hosted fTelnet terminal to use the latest embedded, hosted version. You can access this via if you’re ever in a spot where you don’t have a good ANSI capable client around.
  • Added Mystic’s spellchecking functionality to our full screen editor. Auto-suggest is not turned on but you can always manually view suggested words by hitting CTRL-W over a misspelled word. Now you illiterate bastards have zero excuses. 😉
  • Added Mystic’s draft message feature to the message menu. This is just too damn useful not to have on. Try it with “D” from the message menu next time you find yourself disconnected in the middle of a huge message.
  • Private messaging is now available on the inter-node menu (after previously only being an option after receiving a node message from someone else for years. Kind of a dumb oversight, I admit.)
  • While we’re adding nifty Mystic features, I’ve finally caved and added some long, long requested convenience features as what I’m calling the “modern” theme vs the “classic” Distortion theme:
    • Scrolling ANSI/bulletin viewers
    • Lightbar file and message area selection
    • Lightbar/ANSI message reader
    • Lightbar message index viewer
    • Lightbar file lister
    • Lightbar archive viewer

    Distortion by Firestorm

    Everyone will start out in “classic” which should work more or less the same as you’re used to, but you can toggle your theme or enable and disable specific pieces of this via the “J” option under the user configuration menu.

  • While updating bulletin files to work with my new bulletin viewer, I’ve made numerous updates to them. nothing too exciting, but worth mentioning. I also removed some old bulletins from the extended bulletins menu (which has been redesigned) and added local game scores.
  • Speaking of games, I’ve made several changes to our doors:
    • Legend of the Red Dragon has been reset!
    • Legend of the Red Dragon also has the Barak’s House IGM now. Woot!
    • Legend of the Red Dragon 2 has also been reset!
    • Planets: TEOS has also been reset, and boy did it need it. blah.
    • Planets: TEOS has had the landfill IGM added to it.
    • I’ve added The Brandy Bunch Adventure mini-game (via REFDoor.)
    • I’ve removed Darkness 1.0b and replaced it with direct links to the Darkness 2.0 games hosted by DoorParty and BBSLink.
    • I’ve removed the BBSLink submenu and replaced it with a link directly into BBSLink’s own menu.
    • The Darkness testing link has been changed – it will now run Darkness directly out of my development directory, though it will only be made accessible when the release of a new version is impending (otherwise you’d need to deal with me resetting the data files all the damn time, which would get seriously annoying.)

    Apologies if anyone was actively playing any of those games, but I’m going to be joining each of them now that they’re reset, so if nothing else maybe we’ll get some new blood in them.

  • SciNet and ArakNet message networks are now publicly available. We’d been members of SciNet long ago before Netsurge’s return, but left it private after getting back on it. Likewise, I’d left ArakNet private while working out some kinks. Check them both out – both are great message networks!

    Sorry if your new message scans get flooded with new messages in these echos – I’d recommend manually resetting your new scan date after you scan the old areas.

  • I’ve removed the old mandatory announcements message area and replaced it with a news bulletin reader mod. You can choose to mark the news as read and it won’t show up for you again until the next time the news file is updated. Note that the display of the news reader will be affected by your bulletin viewer theme settings.
  • Numerous artwork changes:
    • I’ve added some new screens here and there, such as additional welcome and goodbye screens, a second user stats screen, etc. The two pictures on this article are two of the newly added screens. The ASCII by Firestorm is perhaps one of the oldest non-Filth pieces we have, while the logo is a much newer joint featuring Radman of ACiD fame. How many people have ANSIs drawn by Radman?! Too cool.
    • Also, even though few telnet/SSH terminals have major issues with end of line wrapping nowadays, I’ve teleported back to 2001 and removed the 80th column from a few screens that still had it. Rejoice, mTelnet users! 😛
    • To balance that out, I also extended numerous menus and other screens from 23 to 24 lines, most notably, the original long lost 24 line version of our matrix has been discovered and re-implemented!
  • Numerous minor changes to the new user creation process, including a welcome email replacing the old mandatory message, and a new screen with advice on appropriate ANSI-BBS compatible telnet/SSH terminals.
  • Finally, and perhaps least significantly, our original address from 20 years ago “” is back online. Why? Because why not?

There’s more coming, but that’s it for this batch of changes. Enjoy!

1. rad2m-hotmess.ans by Radman and Mattmatthew from Blocktronics: Acid Trip (2013)
2. fm-dstr.asc by Firestorm from ACiD Acquisition #54 / Remorse #7 (1997)