back to article PiStorm turbocharges vintage Amigas with the Raspberry Pi

The PiStorm is an ingenious way to make real vintage Commodore Amiga hardware not only run again, but do it over three orders of magnitude faster – using cheap, open source hardware and software. The PiStorm project has gone through several iterations, and Andrew Hutchings demonstrated and talked about two recent developments …

  1. werdsmith Silver badge

    This is a project that was making a bit of a stir about 2 or 3 years ago.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      Yes it was... but that was the old, Linux-powered version.

      What's new is that Emu68 replaces Linux and Musashi and the result is some 2 orders of magnitude faster.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

    SunOS

    Makes me wonder if this could run other 68000 code like SunOS 3.x, assuming you could still get the binaries, and still had the tape drive. Why? Well I’m sure someone knows they want to.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: SunOS

      [Author here]

      I very much hope that this tech gets brought to some other 680x0 machines.

      I still have a Mac SE/30 in storage. It'd be quite fun if that ran at an effective 1.6GHz and had an HDMI output.

      1. fromxyzzy

        Re: SunOS

        This brings back nightmares, have you made sure the battery is removed? If those caps weren't replaced in the last few years they've definitely popped.

        1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

          Warning for Amiga 500 and 500 Plus owners while we're here

          Speaking of leaking batteries, and since we're on about the Amiga, a warning for A500 Plus owners; the real-time clock is backed by a NiCd battery that's soldered to the motherboard that can- and quite likely will- leak.

          If that hasn't already leaked and damaged the board after thirty years, consider yourself lucky- mine did a few years back (might or might not be repairable if the tracks can be fixed).

          I'd remove the NiCd cell from the board as a precaution regardless. (Though you're probably better checking from more knowledgeable and reliable sources than myself on how to do this safely).

          Though the original A500 doesn't have the RTC (and hence NiCd battery) built in, these were typically added as part of a "trapdoor" RAM expansion. I suspect that reduces the risk of a leak damaging the motherboard itself (though not the RAM expansion) but there's still the risk of it happening.

  3. phuzz Silver badge
    Meh

    This looks interesting, it might even prompt me to go find my A1200. The question is, if it's been sat in an attic for twenty years, how likely is it to work?

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      From reading other retro restoration blogs, replacing all the electrolytic capacitors before you power on is standard fair.

    2. Nick L

      Somewhat likely. The chances are that the capacitors will have leaked, Abe is they haven’t then they’re likely to soon after powering up. A fishy smell is the telltale sign. If they have leaked, you might find issues with the audio, or keyboard or generally just not working.

      There’s a few people around that repair them now. I think it’s worth it: you’d be surprised what they sell for on eBay!

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Apart from capacitors, take out the battery now if you had an clock board/accelerator with clock.

      And buy a modern power supply.

  4. MGJ

    If only I hadnt swapped my Amiga 600 in the mid 90's for 2 sticks of 8Mb RAM for use in a PC

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      If I remember correctly, the price I paid for my A1200 was 1 shrink-wrapped licence for NT 4 Workstation and a Compaq-proprietary server Fast Ethernet adaptor.

      1. ShortLegs

        My A4000/030 cost me

        a Seagate Barracuda 9.1gb UW SCSI drive, in 1997.

        It also came with a MacroSystems WarpEngine 040

        Ove the years it gained a P{icasso IV+ FFV, IO Extender, and some other goodies. How I wish I hadn't sold it in 2007!

  5. MattPi

    a totally non-Unix-like system

    I seem to remember Amiga being at least inspired by UNIX. It certainly wasn't POSIX or anything, but commands, libraries, and startup scripts, and configs were all just directories in the root of the filesystem.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: a totally non-Unix-like system

      [Author here]

      > all just directories in the root of the filesystem

      Perhaps so, but in what way is that uniquely or especially Unix-like? I'd think that were true of every OS ever written that supports hierachical directory layouts.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: a totally non-Unix-like system

        The alternative was Mac (don't worry your pretty heads about directories) and Windows (C:\WINDOWS, C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM, C:\WINDOWS\TEMP, and that's your lot), so... it was the most Unix-like?

    2. ShortLegs

      Re: a totally non-Unix-like system

      "I seem to remember Amiga being at least inspired by UNIX. It certainly wasn't POSIX or anything, but commands, libraries, and startup scripts, and configs were all just directories in the root of the filesystem."

      AmigaDOS was based on TRIPOS, no relation to Unix at all. It had a command line interface, but this was not a shell. That said, within a couple of years there were numerous *nix shell-like shells for the Amiga, Bourne Shell, csh, ksh, all can be found on the early Fred Fish disks.

      C= released a SVR4 Unix for the A3000 - or the A3000UX to give it it's marketing name. I never used it.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: a totally non-Unix-like system

        Limited release on some A2500's too. The tape archive can be found on the shadier sides of the net, and I believe the emulators are good enough to be able to run it.

    3. Jason Hindle

      Re: a totally non-Unix-like system

      It was the most Unix-like OS you could get for £400 (and came with Batman).

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: a totally non-Unix-like system

      The Amiga had my favourite case sensitivity in it's shell, which was, 'some'.

      If you wanted to, you could have FILE and file in the same directory (or any combination of cases)*, but assuming that just File existed, then you could use any combination of case to refer to it and the command line would just interpret what you meant.

      * I've yet to find a case when I'd want to have both FILE and file as separate files, but apparently it's important to *nix.

  6. Chewi
    Linux

    Distractions

    I have had PiStorm32-Lite since December, but I'm yet to actually try it. WHAT!? How could I resist!? Well, I'm a notorious tinkerer and perfectionist, and I've got too sidetracked trying to prepare my own unique Gentoo-based setup. Also I have young kids. I am getting closer though.

    Although a lot of the interest is in the bare-metal Emu68 now, I'm actually more curious about Musashi. I owe my software engineering career to the Amiga, but I've been a penguin-head for far longer, and I would love to mix the two in weird and wonderful ways.

    The first idea I've been working towards is using Sunshine to stream video from the Pi wirelessly, so that you can use the Amiga from anywhere simply by providing it with power. I have had Sunshine running on the Pi already, but it's currently far too slow. Convincing it to use hardware encoding is the first step.

    I will try Emu68 too though. Running the two from the SD card is currently considered to be a boss level procedure. I think I can some up with something easier. In fact, I have already prototyped a tri-boot solution where the Amiga can boot directly from the SD card without a Pi at all.

    1. Atomic Duetto

      Re: Distractions

      You should definitely try and get close to your kids…

      1. Chewi

        Re: Distractions

        That's a bit cold. Like I said, it's taken a while because I have kids. We were playing with some balloons together right before I read this. Thanks.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Distractions

      Someone has already done what you're trying to do for the A500, see the A314 here: https://github.com/niklasekstrom/a314

      1. Chewi

        Re: Distractions

        That is nice in that it doesn't require Linux underneath, but it only works with Workbench. Something like that isn't viable for most games.

  7. LBJsPNS

    OK, now the next logical step...

    ...is to emulate the hardware completely in software and make Amiga OS run on the RPi without needing an Amiga.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: OK, now the next logical step...

      Already done...

      Pimiga 4 - The Amiga tribute for Intel or AMD pc, Intel Mac, or RPI4/400

      Download link in the description.

      The best form factor is the wedge-shaped Pi 400.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: OK, now the next logical step...

        Ditto by installing FS-UAE (multi-platform) or WinUAE (well, obv, Windows only) on whatever hardware one happens to have available. It's also useful to have FS-UAE in a desktop/laptop anyway, since you can build your Amiga HDD image on it with all the convenience that comes with it, then write the HDD image to the SD card prepped and ready to boot your real Amiga using an IDE to SD card interface as the Amigas local HDD.

        1. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: OK, now the next logical step...

          UAE and it's derivatives are pretty amazing. Fired up Another World a couple of days ago; and found out the hard way that RAM expansions weren't very compatible with it. The temptation to max out the options "because you can" isn't necessarily a good one!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: OK, now the next logical step...

            This is where WHDLoad comes in as it can selectively downgrade every aspect to make a game playable *AND* from the hard drive rather than floppy.

  8. Dave559 Silver badge
    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
  9. Binraider Silver badge

    I've been curious about the PiStorm for some time; though some of the demos I've seen have generally involved two video outs depending on what video is in service at a time.

    The performance is appealing, but I am slightly more inclined I think to look at the TerribleFire accelerators for something slightly less frankenstein!

    1. ZXDunny

      There's a lovely little parallel port hack that gets you both RGB and RTG on the same monitor - the Picasso96 video driver for the RTG holds pin13 on the parallel port active while it's working, and an HDMI switch attached to the parallel port automatically switches between both inputs.

      It's a nice solution but requires some work. There's a new device in development (tentatively named "Mipidipidoo") that siphons the Amiga RGB signal off the relevant motherboard components and pipes it into the Pi's camera port where the videocore driver then composites it into the RTG display. That will only require one video cable to be connected; the one on the Pi.

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