The Amiga 600

So I recently bought an old Amiga 600 off ebay. It’s probably an odd purchase given I already have two Amiga 500’s and if anything “I always wanted an Amiga 1200, not a 600”. But I guess my son’s interest in more ‘kid size’ computers got the better of me, and I thought a 600 might be more his size.

In some ways the 600 is just a smaller A500, but key differences to me are;

  • you can put a hard drive in it. Sure, these were designed for very tiny 2.5″ IDE drives from the early 90’s, but in 2015 a Compact Flash adapter and a small CF card offer a lot of storage for an Amiga.
  • It is a little easier to add more RAM to the 600, given that the chipset supported 2MB of chip ram.
  • Having a hard drive means things like WHDLoad are possible … which in some ways is more convenient than a gotek drive.

The negatives of the 600 are;

  • Kickstart 2.x is in some ways worse than the 500’s more common 1.2 or 1.3 kickstarts … as lots of games won’t load (or more possibly the cracktro’s won’t load and hence the game fails to load). Though I have now discovered relokick to address this.
  • It feels more cheaply made than the 500.
  • No AGA

I guess a goal with the 600 is to get some creative software like Deluxe Paint and maybe AMOS onto the hard drive so we can try and create some cool stuff with it.

So the 600 I bought came with PSU, some floppies (originals), a few manuals (including a deluxe paint III manual), three joysticks (only one worked), a mouse without a ball! and a 1MB chip ram expansion (to take it to 2MB). And the floppy drive was broken (the ad did indicate this). The RAM expansion didn’t work at all when I first tried it, but some reseating of the simms on it and it seems to go … sometimes. It’s one of the Marpet expansions that (according to various forums) is quite unreliable anyway. I know I’ve had quite a few Guru errors when it was in, that seem to go away when its removed. For now I’m leaving the ram expansion out. The case seems to have been opened and closed a lot and some of the plastic clip bits that hold the back of the case together are broken … and the entire upper part of the metal shield inside is missing. It is certainly not ‘pristine’, but the case has definitely not yellowed (I guess they used a different plastic for the A600 … or I need to wait a few years)

For the CF card adapter, I followed a tutorial video to prep it using WinUAE. That is quite a clever/fast way to set it all up. I had a little initial trouble trying to get the CF card to ‘pass through’ into WinUAE properly. You really need to destroy the partition table of the CF card first if it was already MBR partitioned.  I actually did this prep before my A600 turned up in the post .. so I was pleasantly surprised when it all just booted off the CF card and went to Workbench.

WHDLoad is a bit of a puzzle so far. It allows you to run games off the hard drive … but requires individualised installation for every game you put on. So you need to 1) Find the ADF for the game 2) find the WHDLoad tiny lha installation file set for the game 3) Run the installation files … which will prompt you for the disk (this is where you insert the ADF in WinUAE). Often you need a specific ADF release for it all to work … so it takes some hunting around to find the right game image. And you also seem to need lots of RAM. If a game ran in 512K or a 1MB, chance are that you will need 2MB or more just to load it via WHDLoad. At the moment, using floppies or the gotek seems more convenient.

So I have three Amigas now (two A500’s and now the A600) and up till a few days ago I had no 100% working mouse for any of them. I have an old tank mouse that I have cleaned a lot but still gets stuck a lot. I found a ball that fitted in the A600 one and it worked a bit … but still got stuck a lot. So on my list of hacky things to do was to make up a PS2 to Amiga adapter using a PIC 16F628A chip. I had two 16F628A’s but no PIC programmer and I assumed I could easily hack a PIC programmer together. This turned out to be harder than I thought until I found a German site on using a FTDI usb serial adapter to program a PIC chip. Interestingly this approach only lets you program the PIC chip once … since it has no ability to apply a 12 or 13V programming voltage. Fortunately I had two chips … and after a test run, I programmed the 2nd one with the PS2 to Amiga code. I’ve now set this up inside  an old PS2 ball mouse and it works great (I think optical mice generate too much data for the poor Amiga to cope).