archæology

So, flushed with my success with getting that Mac doing something interesting, I started messing around with my Amiga 1000 again. This is the machine I traded in the Mac for, back in the day. I still have it, and as of a year ago, it still worked: I was still able to play Lemmings on it, displaying to my big tv. But, the last time I turned it on (about six months ago) the magic smoke escaped. Eeek! Turns out that some component of the SCSI controller in one of the two external 20M (yes, M, not G) hard drives I have had turned to dust. I don't remember what was on that disk, but I'm pretty sure I have floppy backups of everything.

Anyway, that was sad, but I got my Lemmings fix by getting UAE, the Amiga emulator, running on Linux. It works really well! Though I think it really ought to also simulate the distinctive groooonnnnk sound that Amiga floppies made: it just doesn't seem the same without it. It's like the music in the game has been replaced with the "no-disk-noise remix."

I've found that to get the Amiga to boot, I sometimes have to smack the top of the floppy drive when it's about halfway through reading the Kickstart disk. This isn't terribly surprising, since it's all tricked out; it's got 2M of RAM on a daughter board that sits on a riser between the CPU and its socket, and there are hand-soldered ground wires going all over the place, because at some point in the '80s I read that the grounding on this board was sketchy and that it would crash less if you soldered together pin 7 of all of the RAM chips. Plus at some point I had to replace the floppy drive (I bought a box of 20 drives and found 2 that worked) but it didn't quite fit, so I had to take tin snips to the shielding, and jam in a big screw to replace the missing "eject" button. It's quite the little Frankenstein.

So, since my A1000 is apparently disintegrating before my very eyes, I figure now's a good time to get the bits off those floppies and onto a network-connected machine. It's apparently impossible to actually read Amiga disks in PCs, in much the same way that you can't read old Mac floppies. I was hoping that perhaps this meant that old Macs could read Amiga disks, and I could use this ClassicII to do it, but I haven't found any evidence of that being possible either. (Three different incompatible breeds of floppy drive controllers? Who knew.)

So now I'm digging through my Giant Box of Cables, in hopes of getting a serial link going between the Amiga and Linux, and transferring files with Kermit or something. I'm finding all kinds of interesting (and sometimes unidentifiable) things, besides the usual tangle of power supply cables, speaker wire, and RCA cables, like:

  • More SCSI cables than I had any idea I ever had;
  • Hundreds of feet of coiled TI Explorer Lisp Machine ethernet cables. These are as thick around as an insulated outdoor extension cord. There's a tiny custom jack on one end, and a DB9 on the other end that went into a thick-coax stinger-tap transceiver. (I can't find any pictures of these, but back in the caveman days, we attached our computers to the network by screwing a box directly into the cable: it had a needle on the end that would pierce the insulation to make contact!)

  • A 60' cable with both DB9 and 1/8" stereo jacks on each end, swaddled under electrical tape. I vaguely remember making this thing: it's a serial cable I used so that I could take my terminal out on the deck and work outside, and plug in my headphones, too;

  • About 20 wall-wart transformers, some 8" long;

  • An optical mouse for a Perq 1;

  • Four spools of DB25 ribbon cable;

  • Some kind of crazy-ass Cisco connector -- this one is a mystery, because I've never owned or dealt with any Cisco stuff until, like, a year ago;

  • A roughly 8" ball composed of glued together pennies. I'm guessing around $15 worth. I think this dates back to 9th grade.

But the one thing I can't find is a null-modem adapter. And I'm pretty sure I've even used one within the last five years, so I can't imaging where it's got to.

Update: Found a nullmodem, turns out one of the unlabelled serial cables was rolled.

  • Words I never thought I'd say again in my life: "I'm downloading Kermit."
  • Words I never thought I'd read: "Recent versions of Kermit include FTP and HTTP clients as well as an SSH interface, all of which can be scripted and are aware of character-sets. It supports built-in security methods, including Kerberos IV, Kerberos V, SSL/TLS, and SRP, FTP protocol features such as MLSD."

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17 Responses:

  1. zztzed says:

    You can read Amiga disks on a PC with a Catweasel card. It doesn't even require a wacky Amiga drive. Unfortunately, it costs about $100. So it's probably not worth it unless you're planning on transferring an imperial fuckload of Amiga disks or something.

  2. deadprogrammer says:

    TV Guide Channel (a scrolling program guide used on some cable systems) used to be based on Amigas. They were all replaced with pcs, special controller cards and video decks, but untill recently there used to be a guy who was in charge of keeping those Amigas flush with spare parts. I asked for one of the boxes when they stopped using them, but never got one. Maybe on my next trip to Tulsa (I work in the New York office of TV Guide) I'll try to find that guy.

  3. friendlyheretic says:

    Sigh... Amigas... those were the good old days! I learned "C" and assembly on the Amiga 2000. And a year or two ago I taught 68K assembly using POSE. It's sort of weird I learned this stuff almost fifteen years ago...

  4. nothings says:

    I'm pretty sure that back in '93 my roommate and I exchanged PC-formatted floppies between his Amiga and my 486, although perhaps his was specially tricked out. More info on this possibility can be found in this google search.

    • thedward says:

      You could read PC floppies on the Amiga (if you had a High Density drive), but not vice versa.

      • nothings says:

        Not vice versa in the sense of "not read Amiga floppies on the PC", yes of course. The question is whether the Amiga can write PC-formatted floppies. If so, jwz can copy Amiga data onto PC floppies on the Amiga, then bring them in on the PC and save them elsewhere. Kind of roundabout, but better than nothing.

        • thedward says:

          Well. Yeah. I suppose that would work. :) Also, if a null modem cable is lacking, but a parallel cable is available one could use Easylink.

        • jwz says:

          Yeah, I'm gonna try and write PC floppies on the Amiga next. I did manage to find a nullmodem (one of the unlabelled serial cables turned out to be rolled), and actually managed to transfer a file with Kermit, but I had forgotten just how painfully slow 9600 baud is...

          Batch uploads would be hard, because I find that I'm unwilling to leave the machine turned on when I'm not in the room. Now that I've seen the Magic Smoke escape once, I'm just not convinced that it won't go and burst into flames if I leave it turned on overnight.

          • waider says:

            Hah. It's not painful until you have to run X Remote (or whatever that was called) over it.

            Man was I happy with the upgrade to 14,400...

            Hmm. The '4 yorkshiremen' computing sketch was done in the 70s, wasn't it?

          • ivorjawa says:

            You can do this with a standard double-density (800k) FAT-formatted floppy under Workbench 2.0. You had to have a third-party utility to do it under earlier versions of the OS.

            I have an A3000 that I desperately want to find an ethernet card for. (It's actually an A3000-UX, which has the distinction of being the first machine shipped with SVR4.)

  5. gaultt says:

    Lemmings!

  6. ch says:

    a real h4x0r would solder up a custom cable on the fly. swap pins 2 and 3 and run signal ground to signal ground.

  7. jon says:

    Damn, you've got some really random stuff in there! My box of cabling is no match, although I do have a lot of serial stuff (including a bunch of null modem cables).

  8. jerronimo says:

    If you have a PC floating around somewhere, I highly recommend Cloanto's "Amiga Explorer". Just hook up an Amiga with your PC via a null modem or parallel cable, drop the Amiga explorer boot floppy into your amiga, boot it up, then any amiga devices (floppy, rom, etc) appear on your PC.

    They make it simple to copy your .rom file over, or copy over your amiga floppies... either as .adf files, or by exploring into the disks themselves.

    It works really well, if a little slow.

    I transferred over about 30-40 floppies to ADF files using it a year or so back. It worked well.

    • jwz says:

      Hmm, that doesn't sound like it would really be much easier than just uploading them all with Kermit... (Though I haven't yet looked into how one creates .adf files for the emulator.)

      • jerronimo says:

        well, if you want to do it the kermit way, you'll need to grab the amiga executables from the UAE package, drop them on your amiga, then run the program which generates the .ADF files, then transfer them to your other machine.

        With Amiga Explorer, just run it on the amiga, and your amiga drives show up on your other machine. I transferred all of the disks that I mentioned without any sort of monitor or mouse on the amiga.

        just drop in a floppy, and it appears on your pc.

        I'm not from Cloanto, I just like that program a lot... it made transferring the disk images VERY simple and very non-interactive. :)