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Amiga short takes: upgrading my Amiga 1200 (posted 2020-11-01)

My Amiga 1200 went through a long series of upgrades back in the 1990s when it was my main computer. The biggest of those upgrades was a Blizzard 1260 accelerator card with a 50 MHz 68060 CPU and 16 MB RAM. Give or take a few MHz, that’s the fastest 680x0 CPU ever made.

The 72-pin SIMMs are no longer widely used, but they were for long enough that you can still get them without too much trouble, and for not much money. So I upgraded to 64 MB.

I already talked about the Indivision AGA MK3 that I installed into the A1200 a few weeks ago.

With both the accelerator card and the Indivision using up extra power, along with the fact that I already had an Amiga 1200 power supply fail on me at some point, I decided to get a new, beefier power supply.

I already replaced my harddrive with a CF card some years ago, but now got a bigger 16 GB one and a new IDE-to-CF adapter that keeps the CF card out of the way of the Indivision.

Networking

At some point in the 1990s I got an I-Card PCMCIA Ethernet adapter. These days, you can use a lot of cheap PCMCIA Ethernet adapters with the cnetdevice driver.

Not really an upgrade, because I’ve had it lying around for a decade and a half, but I recently discovered that the old PCMCIA Wi-Fi card that I used with an old Compaq laptop is supported by the Prism driver. So I can now connect my Amiga 1200 to the network wirelessly.

However, the speed and security options are very limited. I had to set up an old Wi-Fi base station with only 802.11b (11 Mbps) wireless and WEP security because I couldn’t get the old card to talk to my more recent Wi-Fi stuff any other way short of turning off all security. (Although the driver can do WPA/WPA2 with a good number of other cards.)

Mouse adapters

The original Amiga 1200 mouse isn't great. However, the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 is. So I thought if I could get an Amiga mouse port to USB mouse adapter, I could connect the Logitech unifying wireless receiver to that and use a wireless mouse with my A1200. However, with the Ryś MKII adapter wired USB mice work fine but not with the wireless one. Recently, I got another USB mouse adapter, this one based on the open source SmallyMouse2 project. That one didn’t work at all.

Rapid Road USB adapter

Rather than spend more time on this type of solution, I placed yet another order with Individual Computers, this time for a Rapid Road USB adapter. This is a little board that connects to the "clock port" in the A1200. Although originally intended to connect a real-time clock, this is actually a general purpose I/O port on the A1200 mother board. And many expansion cards, such as the Buddha, include such a port for further expansion.

The Rapid Road comes with two USB ports. I ordered it with the cable that provides two separate ports, with the idea that I'd keep one inside the 1200 and use it to connect the Logitech unifying receiver, and put the other port next to the Indivision's HDMI port to connect external USB devices such as USB flash drives.

I of course tried plugging in various USB devices, and most were recognized. However, the Apple 10/100 Ethernet adapter didn't work, probably because the clock port just can't keep up. When transferring files to/from USB flash drives, I got 700 kB/sec, which is well below what's needed for 10 Mbps Ethernet, so it looks like Ethernet frames get lost because the Amiga just can't read them from the adapter fast enough.

Interestingly, I got some read errors on a USB flash drive I've had for a number of years. That has never happened with other devices, although my Mac will often claim that a USB stick was removed even when it was, so maybe there is some underlying issue that generates these different problems.

Wired mice and keyboards of course work fine, although I didn't spend the time to figure out which PC/Mac keyboard keys map to which Amiga ones. An interesting thing with mice is that over USB, you get to use all (or at least most) extra keys and... the scroll wheel! (However, you can also use the second mouse/joystick port to read the scroll wheel.)

You can actually set up custom actions for the extra buttons in the Poseidon USB stack that comes with the RapidRoad. (Well, it's a download, no software is included in the box.) So I programmed a mouse button to make the window under the mouse button the active window and come to the front; a big timesaver when you have a lot of overlapping windows and you want the bottom one at the top. I installed FreeWheel to get even more out of my USB mouse.

I do find it useful to keep a mouse connected to the normal mouse port, mostly for when the wireless mouse stops working. This happened with some regularity early on, but not as much anymore. You can fix this by power cycling the device from through the Poseidon stack, either with the mouse (heh) or with the command shell command PsdRestart, which restarts the whole stack.

But it is actually possible to use a USB mouse with (certain?) games and even the boot menu by making the Poseidon software survive resets. However, for some reason the memory on my accelerator card isn't compatible with that, so this costs me 600 kB of chip memory.

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